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What You Don’t Learn in Executive Presence Training

Let’s face it, executive presence training focuses more on erasing gender differences than on teaching women how to assert their presence by taping into their own strengths.

Is there a real need for executive presence training?

Almost everywhere I go lately, I hear about the need for women to go through executive presence training in order to reach the highest levels of decision making. Well, maybe women do need to learn a thing or two about the way the game is played in their organizations, the politics, and the unwritten rules. But the problem with the notion that they need to go through executive presence training is the implicit belief that women lack executive presence altogether. That by attending executive presence training they will learn how to imitate the group that currently occupies the majority of the executive positions, namely white middle -aged men.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning—how to diversify your network and how to manage a relationship with a potential sponsor, how to negotiate and delegate, how to improve your communication style, and so on.

The difference is that when you talk about executive presence training you are educating people to look and sound all the same. Rather than encouraging your team to discover and hone their own style you’re asking them to emulate someone else’s style.

The thing about my hair (and why executive presence training would not work for me)

Case in point: When I first started my career as a speaker, my then career coach —a very successful executive man— told me that I would have to do something with my hair. “You’ll have to straighten it or pull it up. It doesn’t look professional.” (Code for “it doesn’t project executive presence.”)

Early-on in my career I was told to "do something" with my hair. I refused. It's always been part of my brand | What You Don't Learn in Executive Presence Training #executivepresence

Early-on in my career I was told to “do something” with my hair. I refused. It’s always been part of my brand.

I remember clearly how my stomach churned at the comment. My immediate response was, “I will wear smaller accessories. I will wear a jacket and a skirt. But I won’t change my hair. It’s my brand.” I was sure of it. I knew that if I did anything to my hair I wouldn’t look or feel like myself and something important would be lost in the process.

Through the years, that decision has served me well. Not only because my hair is indeed a big part of my brand and the way people recognize me, but mostly because it helps others see that it’s possible to succeed while being yourself. That you can be taken seriously “even” with big, curly hair. That you can get a seat at the table even when you look very different from everyone else.

It's important to focus executive presence training on building confidence and projecting gravitas. | What You Don't Learn in Executive Presence Training

It’s important to focus executive presence training on building confidence and projecting gravitas.

Why we need more women supporting women’s styles rather than offering executive presence training to force them to imitate someone else’s style.

Very often it is women managers and executives who feel the need to bring executive presence training to their organizations without exploring what the focus of the program is. And it is often women who don’t realize their role in perpetuating a homogeneous workforce that they are allegedly trying to diversify. Managers who make their staff feel inadequate when they wear a dress instead of a pantsuit to work at a financial institution. Or who frown at the sight of red shoes or curly hair.

It’s time to start watching carefully how you provide feedback to men and women

In a recent study of how men and women are given feedback during their performance review, a startling statistic emerged: 71% of women receive negative feedback vs. 2% of men. In addition the feedback women receive is almost always loaded with negative criticism focused on their personality traits (you are too abrasive, aggressive, strident, etc.) rather than on their performance.

And although the gender of the managers didn’t make a difference in terms of the feedback they provided, it’s worrisome that when it comes to their female staff women managers still focus on personality or style much more than on performance and accomplishments.

Carefully review the executive presence training before you offer it to make sure it encourages women to embrace their own styles. | What You Don't Learn in Executive Presence Training

Carefully review the executive presence training before you offer it to make sure it encourages women to embrace their own styles.

Executive presence training is valuable when it instills a sense of confidence and provides insights on how to project gravitas and credibility. When it helps women remain calm in the face of adverse situations so they can exert their leadership. But how can you ever be credible if you’re imitating someone else’s style, values, and behavior? If the only way in which you can be taken seriously is by being someone else?

So before you bring executive presence training to your company consider your goals. Are you trying to create leadership opportunities for more women or are you trying to get women to adopt the reigning leadership style? Are you inadvertently setting them up for failure? Answer these questions first and you’ll choose a meaningful executive presence training. One that actually helps your female staff leverage their female traits to move forward.

You can always test your team’s executive presence by asking them to take our Executive Presence quiz.

 

What is Executive Presence? Do you need Executive Presence Training?

Executive presence training

A note by Mariela Dabbah

Following the conversations held during one of our RSM events, several participants emailed us wondering what is executive presence and if there is any executive presence training available.

The answer is yes! In the context of their leadership development programs the Red Shoe Movement offers executive presence training for women interested in continuing to grow in their careers. But what is most important is that you can start training yourself by observing leaders you admire. Observe both men and women. Zero in on the following

  • How do they speak when they address a large group? (Focus on how they end their sentences.)
  • How do they react when faced by an emergency or at a critical juncture? (Focus on how they manage the people around them, the media, etc.)
  • How do they present their ideas to persuade others of their value? (Focus on the way they organize their thoughts, words, slides…)
  • How do they dress in various situations?
  • Are they good listeners or do they tend to speak more than everyone else?

Just by polishing your observation skills, you’ll be on your way to incorporating those traits needed to exude the executive presence needed to grow into leadership positions.

What is Executive Presence? Do you need Executive Presence Training?

by Abigail Kuhn

“Executive Presence: Overcoming the Stigma that Women and Youth Don’t Have It” was an exceptionally popular topic at a recent Red Shoe Movement event in NYC.  Women and men from a wide range of professional levels and a diversity of companies held a lively discussion around the definition of executive presence, what women and younger people should take into consideration when looking to project executive presence and regarding executive presence training. Here is a recap of the session.

So, What is executive presence?

What is Executive Presence? Got Executive Presence? or do you need Executive Presence Training? All your answers are here! Click and Find out!

What is Executive Presence? Got Executive Presence? or do you need Executive Presence Training?

Danielle – It’s hard to define, but a person who can command the room has executive presence, and it is not just based on gender.

Karina – Executive presence is a total package. It is having knowledge about a topic, expressing yourself effectively, maintaining eye-contact with the room, and dressing appropriately for the setting.

The Stigma: What are some of the reasons behind the stigma that women and youth don’t have executive presence?

Several experts agreed that there is a general perception that women are emotional and young people just don’t have enough experience to project executive presence.

Barbara – In a group of people, women will stay quiet, while men will be aggressive.

Jen – Women will think about all of the things that they don’t know (they overanalyze), whereas men just go for it.

Overcoming the Stigma: How can women and youth overcome the stigma?

Yolanda – Dress for the job that is two levels above you.

Janice – Preparation is key, especially if you want to be noticed in a positive way.

Lily – You need to be confident in your own skin and not feel intimidated. Don’t dress for the job that you have, but dress for the job that you want.

Clementine – You need to exude confidence. You also have to dress the part to be recognized before you even open your mouth. Your presence won’t even be noticed if you don’t dress the part.

Karina – Be confident.

What advice would you give to a young woman?

Angela – It is crucial to have mentors.

Jen – Learn how to ask questions.

Kyle – An amazing resource to use is Lavoleague.org (Especially for someone leaving college).

What is Executive Presence? Do you want to find out what are some the qualities that women with executive presence have? Click here!

What is Executive Presence? What are some the qualities that women with executive presence have?

How do you make a point without sounding aggressive?

Amy – Be knowledgeable about what you are talking about.

Karina – Maintaining eye-contact with your audience is very important.

Yolanda- You need to know your part in a meeting. We go back to how important preparation is.

Danielle – We need to treat everybody as equals. After all, at the end of the day, everybody is human.

What are some the qualities that women with executive presence have?

  • Confidence
  • Knowledge
  • Knowing that they might not hold all the answers
  • High self-esteem
  • The ability to listen
  • Calm under pressure
  • The ability to make decisions on the spot (In these situations, over analyzing becomes a handicap.)
  • A firm tone of voice
  • The ability to give directions with clarity