Ep #146: How to Accelerate Your Executive Presence in Just 15-Minutes a Week
Have you been told you need to work on your “executive presence”?
I’ve spent most of my career avoiding this term for two main reasons:
1. It’s almost exclusively said to women by their male bosses 🚩🚩🚩
2. And it’s the kind of advice that’s easy to say but hard to actually turn into action 🚩🚩🚩
All too often: ‘You need to work on your executive presence’ = ‘You need to act more like the rest of the people in the room’.
(⚠️ And spoiler alert: the rest of the people in the room are men.)
But I’ve been reflecting on this word lately, and I’ve come to realize that I DO believe in executive presence…
…but not the way you’ve been taught about it.
So in this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I am going to show you the real way to accelerate your executive presence using an easy-to-follow step-by-step process so you can finally get the opportunities, money, recognition, and title you deserve.
And the good news is, all it’s going to take is 15-minutes a week.
Let’s get started.
Want to receive the recognition you deserve, step into a higher leadership position, get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy? Then you need to get your hands on a copy of Promotions Made Easy. Get your copy here.
What You'll Learn:
- The implicit gender bias in traditional ideas of “executive presence”
- The connection between executive presence and trust
- Why 50% of executive presence is communication
- How thinking like an executive leader helps you build a deeper level of confidence
- How to use 15-Minute Ally Meetings to build your executive presence
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- My episodes about 15-Minute Ally Meetings:
- Follow me on Instagram
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Join my group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time, so you can also access my 8-week intensive on executive presence and my 15-Minute Ally Meetings process
- Get your copy of my book, Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite
- Go to StacyMayer.com/Strategies to join my email list and receive my email series, Seven Promotion Strategies that Your Boss Won’t Tell You
Hello corporate badasses. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and super excited to be here with you again this week.
Before I get into today's episode, I want to share with you something that keeps coming up over and over and over again, which is destructive feedback that some of my bosses are giving the corporate badasses, either in Executive Ahead of Time or inside The Leadership Table.
And what's happening is, you're so used to taking advice or actually really taking orders from your boss, that you take everything at face value and you either get very disappointed by this feedback or frustrated by this feedback, or even let's say it's positive feedback and your boss says, Hey, you're on the right track, just keep doing what you're doing. And you take it at face value and you literally just keep doing what you're doing and come promotion time, no rewards.
So next week's episode, I'm going to be talking to you about this sort of horrific feedback cycle that we get into with our bosses and we make it mean give it too much weight. And a lot of the work that I'm doing inside of Executive Ahead of Time is on our weekly coaching calls, someone will bring into the discussion: my boss said this, and then I will interpret it for them and explain to them, Well, it sounds to me like your boss is actually saying this.
And how am I able to do that? One is because of the number of executive leaders that I have spoken to in my life. And when I ask the deeper question so they will give me feedback on my client and say something like, Hey, this is what they need to work on, and then I will digest it and go a little bit deeper and really figure out, get to the core of what that leader actually wants to see in my client.
And two, because I know what it actually takes to start to build trust with your boss and with the executive leadership team. And sometimes it's not the literal words that are coming out of their mouth.
And I'm going to talk about it in a lot more detail next week, but I just wanted to share that with you because it also leads into today's episode. And I think it's really important for you to know where I'm coming from and how I see the corporate world.
So a lot of people will tell me: Stacy, how did I get so much out of your program in just two months and I spent the whole last year and a women's leadership development program sponsored by my organization for an entire year and didn't get what you have taught me in just a couple of months.
And the reason is literally the interpretation that I have of what's actually being shared with you, what's actually being told to you. And I guess I could do another episode on that to how to interpret what you're learning inside of your leadership program.
But for today's episode, I want to focus on a term that gets thrown around a lot and is in particular given to women, because I think it's an easy thing for men to say and then not have to back it up. So if you have a male boss and they tell you this, or actually a female boss, that doesn't even matter, and you'll just tell your employee or your direct reports that they need to work on their executive presence and and then be done with it. Go figure that out. Go work on your executive presence and then and then we'll talk. Or you're not getting promoted because you need to work on your executive presence.
And normally I kind of shy away from this term executive presence, but as I've dove deeper into it, I realized that my interpretation of executive presence is so vastly different than what you might be thinking about what executive presence means that it is really worth diving into for a whole episode, and maybe in the future, a whole series of episodes about what executive presence really means and what the leader is saying to you when they say you need to work on your "executive presence".
Now, the first thing that I want to point out is executive presence is by far, and I wish that we had actual data and research on this, that if the term executive presence existed before women entered the workforce in the magnitude that we are in executive leadership right now, before women really started to climb the corporate ladder, I'm really curious if executive presence was thrown around nearly as much as it is today as being the requirement for advancement and inclusion in the conversation. Because I doubt it. Mostly because my clients who are men and this was back before, I guess I started working exclusively with women in the last couple of years, but in the first five or six years of my career, I also worked with men and none of them would tell me that they were told they needed to work on their executive presence. None of them would tell me that they needed to work on their executive presence. I don't think that this is advice given to men.
And I have a theory about why that is. And this is literally what I think is that when somebody gives you the directive to go work on your executive presence and come back, what they're actually telling you... now this is not what you really need to do, because I'm going to spend today's episode telling you what you actually need to do. But what they're telling you is you're different. You're not like everybody else in the room. So you need to be more like an executive. So who are the executives in the room? If your leadership team is full of a bunch of white male leaders, they're not going to tell another white male leader that they need to work on their executive presence, because I think that term inherently has a gender bias.
When somebody is telling you and this is often the reaction that you will have, this is another reason why it feels so uncomfortable to be told you need to work on your executive presence. Is there telling you a couple of things? You're not like the other executives in the room and you're beneath me. So if an executive is telling you this, they're saying you need to step it up. You need to be more like us. If you want to hack it here, you have to be more like us.
So that's one theory. And then I've got another theory in terms of networking and the way that men tend to build relationships at work and build trust. And that tends to happen sort of the in-between times. So going out for bicycle rides here in Silicon Valley, that's a huge way that corporate executives network. And the women tend not to join those bicycle trips or going to the bar after work or going to the golf course, or we have camping trips that some of my female executive leaders do not get invited to. And maybe that makes sense. I don't want to go on the camping trip with a bunch of men anyway.
But then how are women supposed to network? Well, go listen to my past episodes, about 15-Minute Ally Meetings, that's how. But but when you build that trust in between meetings, so to speak, then you're showing them that you are an executive leader, that you belong. They trust you. And so that doesn't always happen for people of a different gender. People who are not like the rest of the room doesn't always have to be a gender. You could be a male leader and just not be like the rest of the room for whatever reason, cognitively, racially, culturally, anything.
So the first thing is they'll tell you you need to work on your executive presence. It might even feel like a gut punch. Because it's like, well, first of all, how do I do that? And then also that feels a little shitty and unspecific. And rightfully so. So how do I interpret this?
So I'm going to interpret it for you in today's episode, but I just want you to know that if you've been told you need to work on your executive presence, I don't want you to make it wrong and feel bad because inherently, when you're given this advice, it's set up to make you feel bad. It's just terrible.
So what are they actually wanting you to do? There's the: what am I telling you? And then what? What is beneath that? What is the interpretation of executive presence? And what they're really saying to you is that I don't believe and I don't trust that you're ready to lead at the executive level.
So you need to work on your executive presence. But really, at its core, it's trust. So when you build trust in other ways. So the golf course, the camping trip, whatever, you have this inherent trust. And then you just have to sprinkle on some executive leadership traits. It's icing on the cake. And then they're like, Oh yeah, such and such. He'd be an awesome on our team. Bring him on. That's great.
But for a woman who already is at a disadvantage, one because they don't have that trust built up because they haven't done the work at the 15-Minute Ally Meetings, they're sort of relying on the camping trips that they're not going on to build that layer of trust. They don't have that trust. Then double whammy. They don't look at think like the rest of the room, so they don't have trust that way.
So what do we have to do as women? We have to show the executive team that we can think and communicate like an executive leader.
Now, I want to be very clear that this is actually my definition of executive presence. When you look online and you try and uncover for yourself what executive presence means, what you're going to find more is communicating like an executive leader. And that's pretty much where the conversation ends in terms of executive presence.
So you'll see different things like: executive communication, learning how to manage up the way you dress, the tone of your voice, managing your emotions, different things like that. So that you literally communicate and speak and sound like an executive leader. So going back to the gender bias, you can understand the difficulty here because when we're supposed to sound like an executive leader, it literally means sound like somebody else. Sound like somebody who is not us, but more like an executive leader.
And this outside in approach works up until a point. It totally works.We hear 'fake it till you make it' was not made up out of nowhere. It was made up because in a lot of ways it does work. And until you really build up the internal confidence, there are ways that you can start to communicate differently externally so that other people perceive you differently. That is an actual thing. And when I'm giving you my definition of executive presence, it's actually 50/50. So I say you need to learn how to think and communicate like an executive leader. 50% of that is executive communication. So what's our body language, our presence, our tone? What are the words that are actually coming out of our mouth, the whole entire first module of Executive Ahead of Time when I'm talking about getting out of the weeds, I'm actually sharing with you how you can communicate out of the weeds. Instead of communicating to the details, I give you actual language that you can start using this week.And that information does start to build up your executive presence.
Do you see where I'm going? I'm not saying that to completely dismiss that aspect of executive presence, but I'm I'm saying if we totally focus on that one, what we're going to do is we're going to create a leadership table that is not our authentic self. We're going to be bringing someone else. We're going to be acting our way to executive leadership. And at the end of the day, once we're sitting at the table, we're going to realize we don't have an actual voice. We don't actually we're not actually allowed to share our opinions. We were just able to fake it until we made it. And then now we don't even like what we've made. So if you only focus on the external in terms of executive presence, then you're missing out on being able to bring your whole self to the leadership table, which is literally, I have zero interest in creating more leadership as it already exists. I don't care if women get promoted into executive leadership, if we're just going to be perpetuating the same bad habits that we already have at the leadership table right now.
So if you can't bring your whole self to the leadership table, I'm not interested. This podcast is not for you. This podcast is here to teach you how to bring your whole self to the leadership table. And that's why for the remainder of this episode, I'm going to be talking about the thinking side of executive presence. And I think this is overlooked so often because it is lumped into one giant category called Confidence.
And you'll see in articles written about executive presence, books written about executive presence, it will say things like: they just exude confidence when they walk into a room, like as if it's this magical thing that just happens to them. And I am talking about something more than confidence.
So if we take the external approach, fake it until you make it. What ends up happening is we create confidence. So essentially, in my mind, confidence is also an external job. So we do the external actions and that creates confidence. Suddenly we feel like we belong, like we understand, we start getting feedback that we belong. We're like, Oh, I'm an executive leader. I believe it. I feel confident.
But when you truly think like an executive leader, versus just acting like an executive leader, that's when you develop what I call a grounded level of confidence. Confidence that is just that utter knowing that person that just understands what it means to think and communicate like an executive leader. They don't have to constantly work at it. They don't have to constantly ask Stacy, what should I say? They automatically have those good habits to be able to click into what it means to think and communicate like an executive leader.
So that is that part of confidence that you're getting when you do something like Executive Ahead of Time, is you're walking away after six weeks with the tools to create that grounded level of confidence. And yes, some of it is the external approach. What do I say? Then we start to create that confidence and now we move into: how do we truly think like an executive leader?
And this is the internal game and it's nothing like overcoming imposter syndrome or mindset work. You just have to believe harder in yourself. You just don't believe that you're ready for executive leadership, because I don't buy that because every single woman that I meet, they're like, Yeah, I deserve a seat at the table. I have no problem understanding my value. The problem that I have is communicating that to other people. So they believe in their selves. So if you believe in yourself, you have a certain level of confidence because you've learned how to communicate like an executive leader.
What's missing and the missing piece is really infiltrating yourself in executive leadership. So if you're at the director level, you are not surrounded by peers who are executive leaders. You are surrounded by bosses and executive leadership that are executive leaders. But your day to day action is with other leaders who are at the same level as you. And so what you're going to start doing in order to get more executive presence is put yourself in the rooms where executive leaders are present.
Now, if you can get invited to executive level retreats, that's ideal. But many of you are not going to be invited to those executive level retreats yet. So it's this catch 22. How do I really understand and embody and get surrounded by other executive leaders until I am an executive leader myself? And the answer, my friends, is 15-Minute Ally Meetings.
When you start doing 15-Minute Ally Meetings with the entire executive leadership team, with your CEO, with people who are levels and levels and levels above you, that's when you're going to start to hear what it means to to think like an executive leader, how they make decisions, how they think about their professional development, what are the problems that they're dealing with at their organization. You're listening to the question behind the questions. Why did they ask that question? What is it that really builds trust in their team? You're listening to all of this information and then you're putting together the clues to your own executive leadership.
You're starting to understand what matters to you, what matters to them. And then you learn that beautiful combination of communicating like an executive leader. You start to be able to practice it because it's part of you. It's part of your every day.
So we're working on the internal world of executive presence through taking the action of being in meetings on a regular basis with many different executive leaders. And I say using my 15-Minute Ally Meeting process because that process is specifically designed for you to learn how to think like an executive leader. So think about what your conversations are, if any. So first of all, you may not be having any conversations at all with executive leadership right now, and that's the first problem. But let's say you're having regular one on ones with executive leadership. What's usually happening is, one, they're work related. So you're just delivering a presentation, you're delivering a project, you're talking about what you're working on. Again, none of that conversation is going to teach you how to think like an executive leader or they're such mentor heavy conversations, meaning that you're talking about your own personal problems, you're talking about your own challenges, your offering, you're trying to get advice from them to you personally, what you should do about your career, what you should do about the situation.
And when they're offering you very direct advice, they're also not teaching you how to think like an executive leader. They're just teaching you how to be a mentor, how to be a good coach. But they're not teaching you how they think. So the actual process of 15-Minute Ally Meetings is put together so that you can learn how to think like an executive leader.
This is one of the skills that I mastered very early on. I have had coaches in my life. I've had I've been getting coaching for God 20 years now. I found a life coach and and from then on I was hooked. I think I worked with her for almost five years, and then once I started my business, I started having business coaches and so on and so on. And even with that very first coach. Oftentimes I was asking myself, why was she asking me that question? I was looking at how she was showing up as a coach. I was looking at how she was doing sales, how she was prospecting. I wasn't just getting coaching from her, getting advice. I was thinking about how does she communicate like a business owner?
The same applies to you. You're going to start thinking about how you're communicating as an executive leader. So the process to getting more executive presence is to begin thinking and communicating like an executive leader. Some pieces of that are going to be really easy for you to find online.
Follow me on Instagram, Follow my podcast. I'm going to always give you very direct advice inside of Executive Ahead of Time. I give you actual scripts that you can start to use in your communication, so you can just, until the cows come home, start faking it until you make it. But at the end of the day, that's never going to be enough unless you start to learn how executive leaders think differently than you. Then when you start shifting your executive presence, when you show executive leadership that you can think and communicate like an executive leader, that's when the opportunities start coming your way. That's when you start getting paid more money. That's when you start to get that recognition. You get the higher titles, you're actually included in the conversation. And if that doesn't happen for you at the current organization, that's when you go out and get it.
Because every executive leader, somebody who is truly thinking and communicating like an executive leader, is not going to stay at an organization where they are not valued. They're always going to be interviewing. They're always going to be thinking about what is that next opportunity, not because we have a short attention span and we don't care, but because we do care. Because our contribution to every organization that we work for matters. And if we're not doing the work that we're meant to do, if we're not included in that conversation, we're going to go out and find a company that will include us.
Because we are executive leaders, we know executive presence and we know how to think and communicate like executive leaders. This is the exact process that I teach inside of Executive Ahead of Time.
Right now, we are halfway through an eight week live training. If you join us right now, before the end of the year, you are going to get access to all of the recordings where I coached in depth on each of the core training modules that set you up for more executive presence.
No matter what level you're on, you can start this work individual contributor, director level, vice president level. We all need to learn how to think and communicate like that executive leader. We all need that executive presence.
And if you sign up right away, you're going to get the remaining four weeks of the live training where I'm going to be going into this 15-Minute Ally Meeting process. Really setting up for you how you're going to learn and create that thinking for yourself so that it becomes that internalized, grounded confidence. And you never have to look back.
I call it your baseline. From now on, your baseline is executive leadership, and then from then on, the sky is the limit.
Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you next week. Bye!
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.