Be A Duck

Alan (name changed to protect the innocent or guilty depending upon how you look at it), showed up to the meeting 6½ minutes late. He sat down with a gust of force that caused his chair to fall over. His, “I’m sorry,” with a tone of dismissiveness and a lack of eye contact came across as insincere and unaware of the people around him. He opened his folder only to realize he had grabbed the wrong file. He apologized again without looking up or any tone of sincerity and tapped feverishly on his phone asking his assistant to bring him the correct information. He was shaking his head back and forth while this was occurring and mumbling something incoherent under his breath. He turned to the person leading the meeting as if to say, “Why don’t we begin with someone else,” but before he could get the words out, the meeting facilitator said, “Let’s begin with Maria.”

Alan had barely said two words in the span of 3-4 minutes, but he communicated one hell of an impression.

We talk about communicating effectively, presenting oneself with confidence, establishing gravitas, and commanding the room as aspects of Executive Presence. There are numerous tools, templates, and models to outline what it entails and how to develop it. However, the difficult part isn’t knowing what it takes to establish it; rather, the challenge is that it is so easy to lose. We might get tripped up on a question, or react in frustration and lash out; we may show up late and unprepared for a meeting. Executive Presence is earned in drops over time, but it can be lost in buckets in an instance.

When working with executives, I like to use the “duck on the pond analogy.” We discuss how to maintain your presence, composure, and confidence like a duck gliding effortlessly across the top of the lake all while our feet are moving frantically under the water to keep us going. People want to see the duck on top of a pond, not the chaos and freneticism underneath the waterline.


The Executive Advisory