Your executive brand (or your unique executive value of you) is communicating something about you as a professional, all the time, whether you are conscious of it or not. It may be working for you, or against you.
Whether you want to get promoted, negotiate for a raise, land that dream job, start your own entrepreneurial adventure, or lead your industry’s most prestigious organization, your executive brand is the key to your success or failure. Unfortunately, you aren’t graded on your executive brand out loud. Your customers, co-workers, bosses, partners and vendors are grading you constantly in the little bubbles over their heads and rarely will you get the opportunity to know what they are thinking about you until it is too late to do anything about.
The following percentages generally represent where others are placing emphasis during a live conversation with you:
7% to words
33% tone of voice
55% non-verbal body language
Basically, as you are communicating, others are more focused on your tone and how you are looking back at them (or not looking) than they are the words you are using. For that reason, you can lose standing quickly, with who you want to influence the most, if your tone of voice and your “resting face” or body language indicates a disinterest or harsh nature.
For those of you familiar with DISC behavioral styles, Drivers can come across with a harsh and dismissive tone and intense body language under stress. Influencers can come across as unfocused and “too jovial” under stress. Supporters, could be too quiet or even shy when the situation may call for a more assertive tone or body posture. Calculators, on the other hand, may look away when someone is talking to them and seem uninterested which could come across as arrogant when that is not their intention at all.
The great thing about your executive brand is that building it is within your control. Repairing it, if it is damaged, is imperative if you want to advance. How do you know if you have an issue with your executive brand? A good place to start is by doing some self evaluation with these 3 questions:
- How quickly do your emails, phone calls, or texts get returned by others and especially those that you want to influence and connect with the most?
- In meetings, do the people you report to, your partners, or peers listen to you when you speak or do they talk over you and rarely “give you the floor” to present your thoughts, concepts, ideas or vision?
- How often are you asked for your opinion on high level decisions in your organization or department?
Research indicates that there is a wide range of opinions on what creates the optimal executive brand. One of the simplest models focuses on 5 key areas of executive presence, or brand as many of us call it.
“Communication is the business currency of today”, says Raymond A. Mason in his video webinar: Attaining an Executive Presence. Building your skills in listening for information rather than confirmation is essential. Most people I study are listening for others to prove that what they believe is accurate and on track. The highest level leaders I have worked with and coached listen for information. They want their beliefs, thoughts, concepts, and data to be disputed and debated so they can be sure they are solving the right problems, at the right times, using the smallest amount of resources.
Raymond breaks down communication in these 6 ways:
- Active Listening
- Speaking, presenting, delivering
- Verbal communication
- Cross Cultural Sensitivity
- How are you perceived?
Know your stuff. Read. Read books, articles, and white papers on your industry and new technologies that will be effecting your industry 5-10 years from now. Be knowledgeable about what you have been assigned to do within your organization. Competency and standards build trust. Executives that put forth little effort to be well educated and up to date in their field can quickly fall out of favor. The challenges facing most organizations today are robust with complex issues. Being well read and studying topics at hand, before group meetings and key one-on-ones will put you way ahead of your internal and external competitors… and trust me, you are ALWAYS COMPETING with someone whether you are aware of it or not. You are rarely the only one that can do your job or hold your position.
This is about being appropriate for your organization and industry. If your boss wears a suit to work every day it’s highly possible you are expected to. Ask about dress codes. Ask others, that you respect and who will give you direct feedback that you may not like sometimes, what they think about your attire, your hair, and if you’re a woman…or want to be one…about your make-up choices. I feel like I’ve seen this enough to have to say it: Holes in your clothes – even small ones, wrinkles in your shirts, highly scuffed and worn out shoes, ungroomed hair, can all be a non-verbal sign to those you report to or work with that you “don’t care.” Don’t fight the appearance aspect of executive brand. Let the rebel in you dress however it wants on off hours.
Refer to a previous article I wrote on emotional discipline.
What does your office look like? If you Skype, what’s in the background? What does your conference room communicate to potential hires, to vendors who call on all your competitors, to peers from your industry, and most importantly, to your customers?
One aspect of executive presence/brand I would add to this list is originality. Copying other’s original ideas, thoughts, and concepts, without giving them credit, as opposed to building on them, will not lead to optimal outcomes. You are smart, capable, and probably more creative than you give yourself credit for. Collaborate, don’t copy.
TEAM EXERCISE FOR THIS WEEK:
Assign team members to read or watch any of the following webinars, videos or articles and have them report out on what they learned about creating a strong executive brand for themselves. Each member could choose a different one and then report out at a session you schedule together.
Have each team member answer the following questions at the meeting:
- What was your biggest take-a-way from what you read or watched?
- What were the top 3 themes from what you watched or read?
- What is one aspect, of your executive brand, you would like to focus on to improve?