Case Study 11

Becoming Presidential – Not Just in Title but Also in Substance

(Note: Names and other identifiers were changed to protect the confidentiality of my client.)

Rebecca worked in a male-dominated industry and earned a great promotion to President. But soon after her executive appointment she was delicately informed that her overall presence did not communicate a distinctly presidential demeanor. Because her boss had read about one of my leadership presence seminars in a business publication he gently suggested that Rebecca attend it and seek out my assistance. She took the hint, signed up for my next event, and after I gave my presentation she approached me to introduce herself.

She revealed to me that while she was a bit embarrassed by the conversation with her boss and his evaluation that she lacked professional polish, she could not really disagree with him. She felt that he had her best interests in mind and that he was confident in her abilities and would continue to be supportive. But it was up to her to prove herself if she wanted to keep her new position.

Rebecca wanted to have a more powerful professional presence and knew that it would be an invaluable asset and would help her gain the respect of her male counterparts and the lucrative business of other companies within the industry. She wanted to know how to manage executive levels of stress with confidence and grace, how to lead more productive teams, and how to become known as a developer of top talent within her organization. She also needed to increase her visibility and value. As she put it, “I want to become irreplaceable within the company.”

But the root of the problem, she confided to me, was that she didn’t feel like a real executive leader. She didn’t have a naturally outgoing or commanding personality. What Rebecca needed was a new way to view her role so that she could genuinely own it, and that required a positive change in her own internal perspective. I knew that if we could accomplish that transformation from the inside-out she would automatically begin to dress, speak, and convey the kind of authentic presidential presence she strived for in her new role.

Over the next year we collaborated to create a plan of action that identified what was not working, what did work, and how to put it all together to remedy those challenging areas that her boss had observed. We solicited his feedback on a regular basis and Rebecca communicated both verbally and through her performance to let him know that she was proactively developing herself as a multi-dimensional high potential leader.

I coached her to claim this new position, recognize her value to the organization, and feel proud of her accomplishments. We worked on utilizing various communication techniques to motivate and inspire each member of her team, and honed her authentic ability to converse with her male colleagues and communicate up the corporate ladder with confidence.

As her responsibilities grew and she ascended higher on the corporate ladder her brand would need to evolve and become stronger, but since we based it on her authentic strengths and personality it was easily scalable. Every brand needs a visibly memorable outward component, so we also addressed Rebecca’s executive wardrobe.

She had to do more than just dress the part, though, because people were now looking to her as a role model for the company. Her style and wardrobe had to set the standard for the organization and represent her brand as well as the company’s culture and image. She also needed a versatile travel wardrobe for both business and business casual occasions, but even when she dressed more casually she had to still be perceived as the leader.

Rebecca had another interesting problem that most of us would love to have. She looked almost too young to be a senior executive. We took that into consideration when designing her wardrobe and I also gave her tips on more authoritative body language. As she learned to command a room with greater confidence and ease, people reacted to her differently. That served to reinforce her feeling that she was, indeed, the person in charge and was deserving of the position.

Rebecca also recognized the vital importance of balancing her family commitments with her hectic schedule as a rising star within the corporate world. As we worked on her role as President we simultaneously designed a healthy routine beyond the workplace to ensure her quality of life and personal fulfillment. Within just a few months of collaboration Rebecca became a highly successful President who also felt like the CEO of her personal and professional destiny. She continues to make substantial contributions to her organization and to the people within it that she mentors, develops, and leads.

He said he was the invisible person in the room, unable to get his contributions noticed and his ideas appreciated. Bob had difficulty being assertive and felt a total lack of visibility. He sensed that his career was being sidelined, while others around him made rapid advancement.

That left him feeling less confident, which only made matters worse. After all, today’s competitive business arena typically rewards those who aren’t shy about promoting themselves and who show no lack of confidence at the conference table.

“When your own boss doesn’t believe in you,” Bob explained to me, “it’s not that easy to continue to believe in yourself.”

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