May 11, 2015 / Leadership

Ask Mariposa | Attire and Career Success

Janelle asks: I’m interested in making a career move within my company. Though our office is business casual, most of my peers dress fairly casually and it doesn’t seem to be an issue. I want to show management I’m serious about the next step up but don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb by dressing up. In today’s business environment, especially in a casual company, how important is attire to career success?

Tawny Lees, COO, responds :

Great question! How you present yourself can be very relevant to being seen as promotable, even in a casual office. In addition to having requisite talent, managers and leaders need to inspire confidence, and this is largely conveyed through presence. Others make judgments based on how you present yourself. Dressing with a certain amount of style in a casual environment says you are serious about your career and projects confidence. Consider the image you want to project. You might start by observing how your leaders dress, as they set the tone for acceptable behavior and attire. Evolve your work-wear by integrating some of those details, such as wearing a blouse or collared shirt instead of a tee shirt or a nice pair of shoes instead of sneakers. You can likely find a way to feel like yourself, while taking it up a notch to project your desired image. Nuance is key – don’t go overboard and be the sore thumb you mentioned!  If you are totally baffled, try a personal shopper at any major retailer; they can help you pick out some perfect pieces, and usually at no extra charge.

Good luck!

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September 12, 2014 / Coaching Skills / Influencing Skills

“Can you help him have executive presence?”

execpreseAs coaches, we receive this request frequently.  And most often, when we ask our clients to describe what they mean, it’s clear that executive presence is one of the least defined leadership qualities.  We know what it looks like in action, but it can be hard to describe and the definition of executive presence can shift a bit from company to company, depending on the culture.  Yet, executive presence is a critical quality for successful leadership in any company.

In a previous post, we mentioned the importance of observing other leaders who are advancing and attempting to define what sets them apart from their accomplishments.  As a place to start, this helps put your company’s leader profile into focus, and from there you can begin to deduce the intangible leadership traits and behaviors that will make you more effective and fast track your success.  Likely, your observations will fall into one of these categories:

  • Confidence:  Confidence can be communicated via body language or the way you talk.  But it’s also about sharing your point of view, regardless of the audience.
  • Courage:  Leaders who have courage stand up for what they believe in, and take a well-measured risk to initiate and drive change.
  • Credibility:  Credibility is living up to commitments and walking the talk. It’s also about appearance and “looking the part.” (see leader profile comment above).
  • Connection:  Effective leaders achieve results through the strength of their relationships up, down and across the organization. By actively listening to their colleagues, they let them know they care and are supportive of their peers and direct reports.  Emotional intelligence plays a role in establishing connection with others, as does empathy.
  • Clarity/Crispness:   The ability to communicate complex information so it is easily understood by others is an important leadership quality.  Crispness is also about getting to the point quickly and avoiding unnecessary details unless asked.
  • Calmness:  During a crisis, who would you likely follow:  an even-keeled leader or one who emits panic and stress?  Calmness when in the midst of a storm communicates trust.

Try defining your company’s leader profile and then on a scale of 1 (low competence) – 7 (high competence) assess yourself in each category.  Then, create a plan.

What actions do you need to take to increase your Executive Presence?

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February 18, 2014 / Coaching Skills / Leadership

The Introvert CEO

Michael asks: I was just named CEO of a small software startup company. I have a fairly introverted personality and realize this new role will require me to move more out of my comfort zone. Any tips?

Therese Tong, PCC, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Congrats!

Let’s start with a few assumptions around how your introversion might be showing up:

  • Telling yourself you cannot handle certain situations or leadership roles as well as an extrovert
  • Wanting to say something but not finding the words in the moment
  • Feeling that you need to be more at ease with all the networking and external conversations that come with being CEO

Reasons For and Motivation
Remember the reasons that motivated you to take this role. To make a bigger impact in the company’s success? In the industry? In people’s lives? Every time you catch yourself hesitating or worrying about stepping ‘out of my comfort zone’ – shift your thinking from ‘my comfort zone’ to these motivations and to the ‘others’ involved. See your desired outcome and take the step.

What you are doing here is observing your interpretation

[thinking, head] about an action, retraining your mind to focus differently and also getting in touch with the motivation [feeling, heart] that propels action [will, body].

Use the Gifts of Introverts
As an introvert, you have insight and have thought through issues with clarity and depth. Perhaps you are not as gregarious as the extrovert in selling your idea but you care about others and have great support with close friends and colleagues. From this foundation of insight and care, give voice to your thoughts and what you believe can happen. You can also use your gift of curiosity – when struggling for something to say in a social situation, just get curious and ask a question.

Return to Now
In a room full of too many people – imagine yourself talking to one person in the room, feel the connection you have with this one person; gently and slowly include two, three, four … other people in your dialogue. If you notice any discomfort or anxiety arising, take a deep breath, wiggle your toes. Return to the here and now – your body and the one person you want to share this idea with. Returning to the sense you have in your body, for example, your breath or wiggling your toes can be practiced anytime, especially when stepping out of your comfort zone.

Set Expectations and Allow Quiet Time
As CEO you will have a schedule full of conversations, big and small. For your sanity, you will need to protect adequate quiet time to decompress and reflect. Be clear with your administrative assistant, your direct reports and/or family at home that you must carve out alone time in order to thrive.

Give the above a try and let us know how it has helped you be more courageous to step into some different actions.

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June 25, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Jamie asks: I’ve been northwest regional sales director of a national grocery store chain for the last ten years.  I just found out that there will be an opening for a new vice president of sales, and I want to apply. Because I’ve been a director for so long, I don’t think I’m being considered the position. What can I do to be considered as the best candidate?

Simma Lieberman, Executive Leadership Coach and Mariposa Strategic Partner responds:

You need to stop being seen as the  “perennial director,’ and be seen as a vice –president.

Now is the time to speak up and stand out from the crowd to make your presence known and garner the respect that you deserve.

Let your desired career path be known by the appropriate people. Tell your boss you have aspirations to continue climbing the corporate ladder.

Volunteer for projects on a national level where you can play a visible role and take leadership, where you can interact with people who are at your desired level and above. Meet with those people, tell them your ideas for the project, and get their feedback. CC them on all emails that document your progress.

Change your self-image form director to vice president.

 

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March 12, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Developing Executive Presence

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Susan asks: I’ve been told I need to develop “executive presence”.  What does that really mean and how do I go about it?

Edie Heilman, Executive Leadership Coach responded:

Quite often the missing piece in successful leadership is the nebulous “executive presence”.  A very bright person with impressive technical accomplishments can often get stalled professionally if there’s the perception that s/he isn’t looking or sounding like other leaders at the company.

A great place to start is to look at the leadership team and those who are advancing and ask yourself “what differentiates them besides their work record?”  Most successful business people have strong social intelligence skills.  These skills include self-confidence, great communications skills, the ability to read others and empathy.  Even these days, there can also be expectations about attire.  Once you get clear about the leader profile at your company, you can determine how to further develop your own authentic “presence.” Engage your boss (or whomever gave you the feedback) in the process by telling them about the specific things you are trying and ask for on-going observations. Experiment, get feedback, try again!

To learn more, explore Daniel Goleman’s writings, like the classic HBR article “Social Intelligence Biology”.  I also recommend Executive Presence by Harrison Monarth.

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