BLOG: Extraordinary Leadership and High Functioning Teams

Inspiring Women at the WEN Conference

Posted by Alison Valli on Thu, Apr 16, 2015

cc_team_008Congratulations to the Women's Energy Network for organizing and hosting an OUTSTANDING and INSPIRING conference last week in New Orleans! WOW! My colleague Conni Todd and I were invited to contribute to the conference by leading an interactive leadership development workshop: Extraordinary Female Leadership—Vision is the Difference.

We also had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion around personal branding and networking: When Your Name is Your Bond—Building and Maintaining Your Bond in the Energy Space and Beyond. What an engaged and motivated group of women with which to spend 3 days! Not only did we have the opportunity to lead 2 sessions, we were incredibly inspired by other fabulous speakers like Peggy Montana, CEO and President of Shell Midstream Partners, and Marilyn Tam, CEO, Marilyn Tam & Co. 

The conference offered women in the energy industry four "tracks" of workshops, including: Energy Policy and Strategy; Career Game Changers—Operational Expertise, 2015 Industry Outlook—Insights and Trends; Energy Leadership—from STEM to the C-Suite. We elected to attend the Energy Leadership track precisely because of our work and our passion for leadership development. Despite the diversity in tracks and speaker’s topics, the following themes consistently emerged:

  1. Vision is a differentiator and the skill most lacking in female leaders.
  2. Confidence is KING in a predominantly male industry like oil/gas/energy.
  3. Self-Awareness is one of the most important components of career success—feedback is a must!
  4. Women have skills and brain trust that when included on teams positively impacts company performance OR women outscore men on numerous leadership competencies.Clearwater_vision_001

What was overwhelmingly apparent was the incredible power of leveraging the collective experience and wisdom of a group of dynamic women across multiple industries and organizations. Best leadership practices and a sense of hope and validation were shared, and owning one's femininity emerged as a competitive advantage to be embraced and celebrated!

We were thrilled to be able to further the leadership development of WEN conference participants not only at the conference but also moving the work forward into their businesses and workplaces by offering them a complimentary "Work of Leaders" assessment that will further their visioning, execution and alignment skills. We are looking forward to guiding them through their results in an upcoming webinar later this month.

We'd like to thank the amazing women of WEN, especially speaker committee chair, Emily Thomas, for giving us the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible forum for sharing and learning. We'd also like to congratulate Katie Mehnert, Founder and CEO of Pink Petro, on the recent launch of her business and website, "The business social channel for women in energy, where we unite, connect, develop and grow women." We were surrounded by visionary female leaders at the conference and we look forward to following the incredible journeys and success of these women in the years to come!

"Leaders of the future will have to be visionary and be able to bring people in - real communicators. These are things women bring to leadership and executive positions, and it's going to be incredibly valuable and incredibly in demand." - Anita Borg

Tags: leadership development, extraordinary female leadership, Career Development

3 Key Ideas for Consistency and Creativity in Leadership Development

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Apr 14, 2015

clearwater_office_004In our recent survey “How satisfied are you with your organization’s learning & development”, the majority of first responders are only "somewhat dissatisfied." They express concern over a lack of consistency in learning & development approaches at their organizations and emphasize the need for greater focus on mid-manager development.

What most managers/future leaders react negatively to is the program du’jour—the periodic introduction of the next best idea for leadership and talent development. You can hear the groans and see the eyes rolling. One—More—Model that no one will apply or remember the day after tomorrow. 

Let’s cut to the chase. This is not rocket science, but consistency does take some creativity. Here are some methods for creating both in your organization:

1.  Be picky: Select one or two leadership themes for a period of time (one quarter, 6 months, one year) and consistently support their development. For exampleif great leaders are open minded, everyone works on listening skills for this period of time and it becomes not only a shared vocabulary, but a shared practice acknowledged in meetings, in performance reviews, with peers and customers. 

2. Offer multiple formats for engaging: We each have different learning styles—auditory, visual, experiential—but the most productive formats for learning combines elements and provide the opportunity for real world application in safe spaces beyond the classroom.

If you kick off the process in person, keep lecturing to a minimum (15 minute increments or less, interspersed with activities) and lay the path for discovery clearly—that there will be other opportunities for the participants to engage with the material and with each other including: CC_team_001-resized-600

a. Video Lecturing: If the instructor is engaging, the visuals are supportive and the content useful, video shorts can be a terrific way to revisit key concepts or take a deeper dive into material presented earlier. Keep it short (5 to 15 minute videos). 

b. Individual reflection or assessment: Anything that helps us understand ourselves better can be a useful tool and will keep us engaged (because it’s all about us!) On paper or online. 

In a recent mooc sponsored by MIT, we had daily access to an online questionnaire about our listening styles. It was extremely effective on two levels. One, keeping me aware each day of which style I was using (or over using!) and two, helping me track change over time in a super simple, creative manner. I still have the visual posted on the wall next to my desk at work as a gentle reminder. Am I habitually downloading information (reconfirming old opinions and judgements), am I listening for new facts (that could confirm or disconfirm what I think I already know), am I empathetically connecting with the speaker and topic, or am I listening for what is possible?

c. Group interactions: In the classroom, whole group or sub groups interaction can offer very creative and effective ways to explore the topic, discuss their current challenges or solutions, to share and engage with each other not only helps anchor in the learnings, but builds bridges across silos within organizations. 

d. Peer coaching circles outside the classroom: Give them the responsibility and creative opportunity to support each other; key to success her is to provide a set of questions and process that is easy to follow 

e.  Case studies on video: Offer 5 to 10 minute videos or 3 to 5 minute audio recordings that highlight individuals or coaching circles sharing insights, practice ideas, how they have applied the material and succeeded in some challenge specifically related to the theme you are focusing upon that quarter

f. Highlights: For text attentive participants, short emails with tips and ideas for implementation related to the leadership topic are effective, with links to articles or white papers or blogs that continue to build insight

cc_team_0103. Mind the Mid managers: If mid-managers have been ignored yet that is the pool for your future leaders, consider a Mentor Program that builds alliances between senior and mid-management in a very unique and personal way. It’s a double win. Senior leaders become more engaged in the ultimate goal of creating future leaders while making an immediate contribution to their development. And mid managers get exposure to senior leaders they otherwise would not and have a chance to show how effectively they can stretch into leadership opportunities. Pilot a program with a kick off session that sets expectations, defines roles and starts to introduce leadership training elements (topics you can later expand upon in a full blown learning and development program). While this is not traditional L&D, it is a creative way to start the conversation, the practice and the interaction.

Leadership starts with self-awareness and grows through action. What can you do today in your organization to forward consistent and creative leadership development? Who can be your allies? What small and immediate step can you take? It’s not too late to have your voice heard. Take our short survey and tell us how satisfied you are with leadership development at your organization.

Tags: definition of leadership, leadership development, Building a Leadership Bench

5 Keys to Building Leaders for the Future

Posted by Rebecca Dannenfelser on Tue, Mar 31, 2015

"Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders." - Tom Peters

CC_leaders_diversity_003-resized-600It seems like every time we open an annual survey about the state of organizational development we see the same trends or headlines: disappointing news about the state of leadership. And, that is not surprising, nor is it new.Take our short, 2 minute survey and give us your opinion. Despite billions of dollars being spent to develop leaders, companies are still frustrated with the leadership capability of their future talent. Our work with several clients over the past decade has shown similar areas of concern:

  • Leaders in the pipeline are not ready to lead at the next level
  • Leaders do not know how to develop their talent
  • Leaders lack coaching ability
  • Leaders who don't seek, give or receive feedback
  • Companies who emphasize results at the expense of people produce cultures of burnout and low engagement levels

Case in point: We were recently brought in to help a company increase the coaching ability of their mid and senior level leaders. At one of the coaching practice sessions, one of the leaders told us he didn't really believe much in coaching because asking his people “what do they think” was not going to produce any earth shattering pieces of wisdom. In his opinion, he knew everything that anyone could serve up to him. He simply could not learn one thing from his direct reports that he didn't already know! Needless to say, this guy is certainly going to have an affect on his talent’s development down the road!

Deloitte recently released their Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report that shows "areas such as culture and engagement, leadership, and development have become urgent priorities." And, when looking at the report results in details, it shows the gap widening between what respondents listed as important and their feelings of readiness to face those issues. For instance, most people responded "important" or "very important to the issue of Learning and Development (up 3x from last year), but only 40% of respondents feel ready to face that issue which is down from 75% last year.

"In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Max de Pree

So what should organizations do to develop their talent and improve their bench capacity?Reactive_Proactive_Chalkboard1-300x199

5 Keys to Building the Leadership Pipeline

  1. Identify the level of leader you want to focus onsome organizations start with the entry level; managers or emerging leader, some start at the top with the senior leader ranks. Determining the level of leader can help build your content strategy. 
  2. Build the coaching capacity of ALL leaders in the companythis is the skill that all leaders need: the ability to develop people and help mitigate difficult conversations. Our work with hundreds of leaders shows us that although people think they know how to coach, they rarely know how to coach well. Build content that encourages regular practice of this imperative skill set. 
  3. Model feedback for everyone—make the case for seeking, giving and receiving feedback at all levels in the organization. Make it safe for people to leave feedback sessions with hope for future success. 
  4. Tie enhancement of leadership to results by creating case studies and tracking specific metrics like: retention, sales increases, productivity or engagement levels. 
  5. Create senior leadership ownership of the program by involving them through opportunities to teach the material, kick-off the programs, and modeling the skills. 

So how satisfied are you with your current leadership development efforts? How would you rate your company's efforts to build future leaders? Take our quick 2 minute survey to let us know about your efforts to build future leaders. We'll post the results in the next few weeks.

Tags: employee engagement, leadership coaching, Building a Leadership Bench

5 Types of Dysfunctional Teams

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Mar 10, 2015

clearwater_office_question_001-resized-600Are you a leader or member of a dysfunctional workplace team? Which one of the following reality TV shows does your dysfunctional team represent?

1. The Housewives of Any City

This team has strong personalities who believe they're the star and everyone else orbits around the sun of their presence. Other people exist only to stroke their ego, do their bidding and generally, make them feel like the most important person in the world. They excuse their own poor behavior but they're very quick to let others know when their feelings have been hurt or you've disappointed them, because they deserve better.

2. The Bachelor

You’re a nice team, really. Team members believe it’s more important to be sickly sweet and nice to get the leader’s attention. If someone asks for an opinion, team members are too bland and uninformed to offer a decisive perspective and besides, they wouldn't want to differ from the leader's opinions. Everyone would rather take the high road and revel in their sanctimonious behavior than actually do anything that might possibly cause them to lose their “nice person” moniker with the team leader.

3. Hell’s Kitchen

This is the opposite of #2. Yelling to get your point across is considered normal on this team. Dissention and differing opinions are unwelcome. It’s the team leader's way or the highway and anyone who doesn’t agree is automatically labeled an idiot. You secretly think you’re the only person on the team with any intelligence and demean anyone who makes the slightest mistake. Support and collaboration are foreign words to this team.

4. Survivorcc_collaborative_leadership_002

Everyone gets along on this team until it’s time to place blame and look for the sacrificial lamb. Then the finger pointing starts and how people really feel about each other is exposed. Back stabbing is common. Team members live on a diet of paranoia and distrust. You could receive a reward one day and be cut loose the next. Ultimately, people on this team look out for their own interests and use others to get what they want.

5. Amazing Race

This team is fun and adventurous, but ambiguous. You receive little direction or instruction. You’re expected to just figure it out on your own. All of your hard work and effort could go to waste because of someone who can't understand your simple instructions.Rewards are only for first place finishers and, if you're falling behind, you're cut loose so you're not a burden to the others on the team.

Is Your Team Dysfunctional?

Tags: high functioning teams, team building and accountability, DiSC assessments

Defining Success: The Meaning of Grit

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Tue, Mar 03, 2015

cc_collaborative_leadership_001It’s the first week of March. At the end of 2015 as you look back, what do you want to have attained or accomplished professionally? What's your definition of success? What are you driven to achieve? What matters so deeply to you that you are willing to dedicate time, energy, and emotion to its fulfillment? How do you stay motivated and engaged in the months ahead so that at the end of the year you are celebrating and smiling?

A recent TED (technology, entertainment, design) RADIO program on success highlights insights from several high achievers including:

  • MacArthur Genius award winner Angela Duckworth (“Is Having Grit The Key?")
  • The ever so intense Tony Robbins (“How Can Drive Make You a Success?”)
  • And Ron Gutman (“Can you Smile Your Way to Success?”) 

In every case, from slightly different points of view, the speakers all acknowledge internal motivation as a key to success, and they disarm the purported power external carrots have been said to have for changing our behavior from couch slouch to passionate producer.

In particular, I was fascinated by Angela Duckworth’s research on grit.

She defines grit as: "The disposition to pursue very long term goals with passion and perseverance.” Clearly requiring stamina. "Living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Some of her metrics include the questions:

  • I finish whatever I begin
  • Setbacks don’t discourage me
  • I am diligent

In her research, she found that grittier kids were more likely to graduate from school, even when matched on family income, test scores, or how safe they felt in the environment.cc_leadership_012

She found no positive correlation between natural ability and grit, contrary to our expectations.

She also found that “When kids read and learn about the brain and its growth in response to challenge, they are more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe failure is a permanent situation.”

Her advice to us all - learn to be excellent in the things you choose to do. To focus in areas that matter to you.

In our leadership development work, we use the work style profile DiSC and are often asked, are most leaders “D” style?  Driven, results oriented, challenging, direct.

Our answer: ANY style can lead; they just look different when they do it.  

  • “D” styles are more direct, like to dominate the conversation, are defined by “drive” and focus on results. 
  • “S” styles on the other hand, are the relative opposite of a “D". They take note of their environment and help create safety and stability for others, a particularly useful skill during dramatic times of change (merger/acquisition, economic unrest, etc.). They often appear to be more reserved than D’s and we could easily be misled to believe they do not have leadership qualities.

clearwater_disc_001So, perhaps this is where grit comes in to play - independent of the natural profile of behavior that describes us as D, I, S or C.  I recently met an emerging leader at a professional services firm. She is a blended style, combining “S” and “I”. The “i” style enjoys collaboration, working with others to solve problems, figuring out how to influence change (versus demanding it, which can be more of a “D” trait).

This young woman has a lot of grit. She moved here on her own from India, leaving behind her parents and 2 younger siblings, to go to college in a field dominated by men. She later brought her younger brother over so that he could graduate from high school in the United States and attend university here. When the company she worked for was acquired by a larger firm, and no one gave her direction for the first year at the new company, she proactively sought project work by going to every director and asking how she could help. She built the reputation as a dedicated, focused, hardworking, passionate professional, building strong relationships with her clients, and looking for opportunities to become even more successful. Her focus this year is on public speaking and presentation skills, which do not come easily or naturally to her. I have no doubt that with her grit and determination, she will excel.

One day she will lead a team, and then a department and then a company. She has grit. She has what it takes to succeed as a leader.

Request a FREE Leadership Consultation


Tags: leadership secrets, DiSC assessments, Emotional Intelligence, Career Development

4 Key Priorities for Leadership Development in 2015

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, Jan 29, 2015

In a recent survey, we invited you to share your own professional priorities for 2015, identifying areas needing attention to develop your leadership in the months ahead

Topping the list for participants are 4 key topics:

  1. Articulating the vision of who I can be as a leader - knowing where I am heading
  2. Strengthening my network of allies and contacts
  3. Developing executive presence (listen to our free call on executive presence: link)
  4. Influencing others

2015_Survey_LDF_V1How do your professional priorities compare to these? If you haven’t completed the survey, follow this link  then come back here to see what else we found.  

We found interesting differences depending upon whether you consider yourself a leader in all areas of your work, or if you are a leader in only some areas. 

Those with more leadership responsibility (consider themselves leaders in all areas of their work):

  • Are focusing on developing the skills of influencing and inspiring others in 2015.  
  • They are also more inclined to prioritize finding a sponsor to support their development. 

Those with less leadership responsibility (leading in some areas of their work but not all):

  • Are twice as likely to need to focus on tackling tough conversations
  • And are more focused on building confidence regarding the next steps.

2015_LDF_survey_Slide_3Changes in roles can prompt a review of priorities and new skills to develop. One person acknowledged that she had “always been a successful, confident leader, but with job and role changes, I have become less influential with peers.” Another person added that a priority for him in 2015 is the art of balancing strategic perspective with implementation: “I want to continue to lead and mentor with attention on both an overall strategic vision and tactical excellence.” 

Join Us at the upcoming Leadership Development Forum

Whatever your priority, join us for our next Leadership Development Forum, a 4 month program starting mid-February, focused exclusively on your leadership priorities and intentions for 2015. This is a great way to stay focused on what really matters to you this year in addressing your own professional development. Or call us to discuss creating a forum within your company

“This was a safe way to really take a look at what I want to do to develop myself at my organization. The positive reinforcement coupled with the 4 modules built on great tools was a supportive way for me to stretch myself. “

virtual leadership development forum

Tags: Career Development, Leadership Development Forum

Get Excited About Leadership Development

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Tue, Jan 27, 2015

cc_leadership_018When you think of leadership development do you get excited about it? Do you dread it or fear it? Are you unsure whether you think it’s for you or lack the confidence to know what to do? Have you participated in training programs that left you wanting more?

Consider the following real-life quotes and ask yourself if you’ve ever said one of them regarding your career development:

“This was a really big benefit to me. It allowed me to actually prioritize taking time for my career!”

“It has given me new energy in so many ways.”

“I am so much more self-aware. It has really helped me approach things in a new and different way.”

“It was terrific to learn that others are struggling with some of the same things.”

“This was a safe way to really take a look at what I want to do to develop myself at my company.”

“The positive reinforcement coupled with the 4 modules built on teaching great tools was a supportive way for me to stretch myself.”

“My favorite part was learning more about how to leverage feedback for greater career success.”

“I am more energized around my growth and development and I’ve made invaluable connections with program participants.”

“It helped me step up to own my career while increasing my confidence in my ability to deliver results at a higher level.”

These quotes are from people who are just like you. They want to get ahead but they’re not sure where to look or what to do about it. Make 2015 the year you take your career in your hands and drive it in the direction of success.cc_team_010

Register today for our next Leadership Development Forum (start date February 18th). Become excited about your career development, learn tools to get ahead and gain the confidence you need through a supportive and informative program.

The Leadership Development Forum is a series of 4 teleclasses over 4 months that helps you:

  •          Articulate your professional vision
  •          Enhance your executive presence and power
  •          Learn how to use feedback effectively
  •          Strengthen work relationships and build allies
  •          Create a specific action plan that delivers measurable results

Are you dedicated to your professional success? Then register today for the next session and join with other like-minded professionals to help you get excited about your career.

virtual leadership development forum

Tags: leadership development, Extraordinary Leadership, Career Development

5 Ways to Jump Start Your Career in 2015

Posted by Kristin Dressel on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

cc_mentors_0021. Ask to be placed on a new project

Experience across different departments and functions is one key skill companies look for when deciding who to promote to the next level. Take the initiative this year and ask for additional responsibilities by working on a new project, preferably in an area you haven’t worked in before. If your boss doesn’t have any ideas, seek out other team leaders or discuss it with the HR department. If you can’t find an internal business project, consider heading up a new recycling effort at your company, sign-up more company volunteers for a local charity, or lead a company-wide fitness challenge. Any effort on your part to take a leadership role and develop new skills will raise your profile among the leaders at your organization.

2. Define your brand at work

Are you the person other people come to for advice? Do your colleagues value your collaboration skills and always want you on their project? Or, are you known for only doing your work and not helping others?

Determine what your current brand at work is, decide what you want it to be, and then focus on what you can do to improve it. Ask for feedback from your colleagues on what you do well and have them suggest one area you could focus on to improve. Commit to working on your brand every day and improving how you are perceived by others at your company.

3. Expand your network               cc_team_011

Too often, we have our heads down and focused on our own work, our own team and our own department. Start networking with people in other areas of your organization. Ask someone in the HR department to get a coffee with you or invite someone from the accounting department to join you for lunch. Stop and compliment the marketing department on their latest efforts or talk about the latest sporting event with someone from Sales.

By building those relationships in other departments, you’re expanding your network and raising your profile at work. It also shows you are interested in how others are doing and how it relates to the success of the company. Networking at industry functions, professional organizations and other external associations will also help widen your view and help you gain valuable insight as to what works well for other professionals in a similar function or industry.

4. Seek a mentor or sponsor

We all need someone to help us along our career. Do you have a mentor or sponsor you can seek professional advice and support from? Who can you discuss your career with to gain insight and guidance?

It’s wonderful if you have a supportive boss who looks out for you in the company and wants you to be successful. Some leaders take great pride in seeing their team members promoted. Unfortunately, many bosses simply don’t think of helping their employees get promoted or don’t take the time to do it when they already have numerous responsibilities on their plate. That’s why it’s important for you to seek out your own mentor or sponsor, either in the company or outside of it, who can offer you the type of career advice, encouragement, assistance and direction that everyone needs to be successful.

cc_team_0115. Join a leadership development forum

Some companies may offer leadership training, but many do not. Either way, it’s important for you to take the initiative to develop your leadership skills. It’s your career, your future, your responsibility, so don’t wait around for your organization to select you for training. Find a leadership training program to help you gain an advantage at work.

Clearwater offers a virtual leadership development forum to help you become more influential in your organization and accelerate your career. The next 4-class session starts February 18th. Register for this program and learn how to take your career to the next level, or in the words of a previous participant, “I would highly recommend this program to any leader wanting to lead at a higher level.”

virtual leadership development forum

Tags: leadership development, Career Development

Work Life Balance: Become More Mindful

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Wed, Jan 21, 2015

Scott_Eblin_OverworkedLast year, Scott Eblin wrote Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Of course, who wouldn’t resonate with that title?! It targets business people and, specifically, business leaders. He states: “One of my favorite definitions of leadership is that it’s a two part job—the first is to define reality; the second is to offer hope.” And what gets in the way of clearly understanding and dealing with reality are distractions and limiting patterns of belief and behavior that lead us to overwork and land us in a state of feeling overwhelmed: grouchiness, insomnia, poor decisions, lack of follow through, you name it.

So, how practiced are you at defining reality? Your reality? The reality of those on your team? The reality of your industry? And how wide is your lens? Do you incorporate the reality of your community, country, or globe into your assessment of the current situation? Certainly, the recent events in France at Charlie Hebdoe entered everyone’s reality along some dimension: emotional (compassion, outrage), judicial (right of free speech), integrity (believing and practicing a commitment to respect for all religions), personal (friends or colleagues who live in France; who are members of Islam; who are journalists). There’s much to considerand if we don’t stop long enough to ask ourselves what we believe, pausing for a moment to check in with ourselves to see what toll this has taken on us and others, then we continue to barrel along, oblivious to the impact.

Here’s a favorite visual of oursthe Human Function curveused for decades as a graphic for the impact of stress. We often include it in a leadership training or coaching session, asking: "Today, in this moment, where would you plot yourself on this curve?"  As stress increases (the horizontal dimension), our creative engagement increases (dubbed as good stress) but only to a point. Then our performance, our positive output, our hope (!), our clarity and our health all start to diminish as over time we allow ourselves no break.


We are in Such a Rush to complete the project, meet the goal, stake our claim that we forget to be mindful of the impact world events on the macro level and our choices on a more immediate level may be having on us (lack of sleep, poor selections in nutrition, grouchy moods). We forget to ask others how they are doing in the midst of earth shaking news or simply in the midst of a challenging work day. And, when we do ask, do we truly taking the time to listen? The reality is that none of us can sustain the pace or practices that keep us “over the hump" in fatigue and distress. That’s reality. But, there is hope!

As Eblin points out: We must do something to break cycles that keep us from being mindful, from being fully present, so that we are clear in each moment about our choices and actions. Being intentional about our desired outcomes. Having a simple way to keep ourselves focused. Tracking the progress. He’s not talking about a to do list, but a thoughtful inventory of self. Working with a coach, joining a group of peers to share insights and commitments, identifying rituals or practices that restore your energy—all of these can fuel your mojo. 

Personally, I believe if we each commit to tune in more regularly we can address the fundamental questions: Where am I in this moment on that Human Function Curve, What is contributing to this current reality, What can I do right now to create a more creativehealthyproductivepositive situation, and Who can I ally myself with so that I am more likely to keep that positive momentum? 

Best wishes this new year for deleting from your repertoire “overwork” and “overwhelm” and replacing them with the experiences that inspire and sustain

Tags: clarity of vision, leadership secrets, work life balance

Executive Presence: 3 Practical Steps to Accelerate Your Brand in 2015

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, Jan 15, 2015

cc_leadership_014You know you need to focus on it, but where to start? What IS it? What should you do next? These are the questions we hear from clients grappling with executive presence and developing their brand at work.

We recently hosted a free call on Executive Presence: 3 practical steps to accelerate your brand. Listen to it HERE.

At the end of the call several excellent and intelligent questions were posed. Here’s one.

Q: How can I, a petite African American female, establish executive presence in a culture and company in which I am surrounded by 6 feet tall white males?

Great question. Worthy of more than a short blog, but we’ll share a few thoughts. According to 2004 research by Timothy Judge & Daniel Cable (discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink, and by Howard Ross in Reinventing Diversity) there is a measurable bias in American industry and culture for the tall, male leader. 60% of CEO’s at the time of the study were more than six feet tall, but only 15% of American males are over six feet.

So, given these cultural phenomena, how would one build a brand that is noteworthy, an executive presence that is powerful?

In our work with established and emerging leaders, creating a positive impression can be as tactical as:

  • Dressing one step above everyone else—establishing a consistent level of professional appearance.
  • Practicing the skills required to be poised under fire—this is one of The Most Noteworthy characteristics of executive presence, primarily because most of us fall apart when the situation gets dicey, especially in public. Take a breath (and count a beat) before responding to an attack or in a conflict situation. When the 5 foot tall female is unflappable, that is noteworthy to her 6 feet plus counterparts.
  • Being approachable—saying “yes” to tough assignments, open to new ideas, receptive to others’  input and incorporating that into your presentations and content garners respect and encouragement.cc_leadership_018

The longer term initiatives revolve around enrolling and engaging others in the development of your brand:

  • Establish and share a clear vision of who you are, what you have to offer, where you want to go with your professional career; and find allies to help you establish that reputation and open doors to help you stretch are all key components.
  • Understand your audience—who you are presenting to and meeting with, how best to approach them, preparing in advance and practicing delivery; and relating to what they value so that they are more receptive to what you are asking. It’s a sign of respect for them and shows how smart and committed you are to shared success. 

And finally, get serious about being believable—believe in yourself!

  • The impression of confidence is best fed by Actual Confidence…not acting a part, but believing in oneself. Knowing that you have the facts, information, background you need to defend a point or stake a claim. Do whatever it takes to create a belief in yourself, your skills, your value, your contribution.
  • Manage your emotions—avoid the tendency to confront arrogance with arrogance. Well-crafted statements of accomplishment speak volumes by sounding more born of humility than hubris. 

We are passionate about the topic of presence. It is a recurrent theme in working with leaders at a variety of levels across organizations and industries and a key to successful leadership. We very much appreciate the callers who joined us on Tuesday, and the brave souls who asked questions and wrote us later with their commitments.

Join us in an upcoming Leadership Development Forum designed specifically for intentional and focused work on your goals, including developing executive presence.

Tags: Extraordinary Leadership, Executive Presence, Career Development