The “it” factor: As a women entrepreneur with big plans for growth, you’ve got to have “it” — Executive Presence, that is. Your company’s upward trajectory can be stopped in its tracks if you don’t look, sound, and act like an Executive (yes, with a capital E).
People judge a company by its leader. “Women [and men] who have ‘it’ have discovered the right formula of conveying their business expertise using a combination of competence — business knowledge — and warmth — their ability to connect with others,” said Rosina Racioppi, President and CEO of WOMEN Unlimited, which trains talented women to develop needed skills and mindset shifts to become leaders.
1.) Look the part
Like it or not, the first thing people judge you (and your company) by is how you, the leader, looks. As the head of the company, your clothing, hair, and makeup say something about your company. Make sure your personal style conveys the image that you want your company to portray.
If you’re a funky company, dressing like Cyndi Lauper may work, but for most women entrepreneurs, her look won’t do. Be intentional about the impression you want to make and be consistent with the company’s brand, said Racioppi. If your company’s image is professional, you may want to dress up a bit even if you’re at a conference where most people dress casually.
Dressing appropriately is the easiest way to for you and your company to exude Executive Presence.
2.) Mind what and how you speak
More critical is what you say and how you say it. Too many women want to tell people everything they know. Instead, “communicate in a clear and concise manner,” said Racioppi. “Do not give a dissertation as an answer to a question or in a presentation. To have a positive impact in your communication, deliver information in headlines.”
Engage people in conversation. Don’t talk at them, talk with them. If you have expertise in a specific area, make two or three points. Don’t overload people with all the details.
Speak from your experience and in a voice of authority. Avoid phrases like “I think,” “it might be.” These phrases diminish the power of what you have to say, according to Racioppi.
3.) Use your Emotional Quotient (EQ)
These days it’s not just about being competent. Key to Executive Presence is to be seen as approachable and engageable.
Women tend to put their competences upfront and hide their warmth. “Being an effective, charismatic leader is as much about IQ as it is about EQ,” said Racioppi. “Women who are successful in business understand that they need to have a style that allows others to engage with them effectively. People (men or women) who have a style that is off-putting will be challenged to build successful relationships with others.”
You need to be interested in the capabilities and perspectives of others including your clients, employees, investors and vendors.
4.) Get feedback
It’s also important to know how others see you and how you fit into the competitive landscape, that is, how do you compare to the leaders in your field? When you’re an employee, you can turn to your boss and colleagues for feedback. Entrepreneurs have to look harder for useful feedback.
Racioppi recommends that entrepreneurs form an advisory board of people who will tell you what they think, not what you want to hear. You want people who will tell you about your blind spots. Also, make sure it’s a diverse group including age, gender, ethnicity, business expertise, etc. You don’t want a group mentality. You want people who will reflect what’s going on in the market and who look at the market from different vantage points. Don’t assume you know all the answers. Be open to what your advisors have to say.
Once you know your areas of weakness, you can get the training or coaching you need to improve.
How will you build your Executive Presence?
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