THE FUTURE LEADERS THAT ALREADY WORK FOR YOU

Every year, organizations invest untold amounts of money in the relentless search for executive talent. Recruitment is big business, and many will tell you reams of tricks and tips for hiring top talent, but what if the talent already works for you? Your current employees already have the business knowledge, organizational wayfinding and corporate culture to hit the ground running for you, so why are they being overlooked? Because they sometimes don’t fit the standard experience of executive presence. Often times, they are women, minorities and introverts that don’t get the consideration they deserve.

In my corporate program, “The Invisible Leaders: How to Find Them and Let Them Shine,” I show how companies can uncover the hidden leaders in their organizations and gain a competitive advantage by leveraging high-value, underrepresented talent. Promoting from within saves time, money and recruiting costs while improving employee retention.

Start helping your hidden leaders develop their executive presence by focusing on the 3 most common traits they lack.

Confidence

  • In my trainings, I often help participants break down the components of what CEOs and senior executives say when they refer to “executive presence.” One consistent element we identify, time and again, is confidence. Leadership hopefuls are expected to speak with poise and conviction, and a self-assuredness that feels genuine and natural. Your hidden talent likely has every reason to possess such confidence but may have trouble expressing themselves with the gravitas expected. This could stem from culture, upbringing, or a quieter, more introspective nature. Make sure they get the coaching they need to think, speak and act with conviction, and they will soon be closer to the executive track.

Authority

  • Your hidden talent may also need a boost in demonstrating assertiveness and persuasive communication. Top leadership is drawn to those with strong communication skills and the ability to be prepared, concise and convincing. Ensure your untapped potential leaders are given the training and the opportunity to master these skills and deliver with conviction, even when questioned. People are sometimes uncomfortable when challenged by authority figures and may have been taught that is always better to defer to superiors, even when they are incorrect. Offer your potentials the tools to build on their own ways to be respectfully assertive and to speak with conviction.

Reputation

  • Many individuals working for you have already done a great deal of excellent, attention-worthy work, but no one knows about it! Many of us have been taught to avoid boasting and cockiness at all costs, and that understating your accomplishments is far preferable to being seen as a loudmouth or a braggart. Many are uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion and hope that their work will speak for itself. Your hidden talent will benefit both from workshops and training on respectful and positive ways to take credit for accomplishments, as well as a good deal of advocacy and reputation building you can do on their behalf. Make sure senior management knows of all the great work they’ve done to date.

If you supply the training and tools for building confidence, demonstrating convincing communication, and strengthening reputation, many otherwise overlooked individuals can assimilate executive presence into their existing competencies. Just because they don’t fit the expected characteristics out of the gate doesn’t mean they can’t develop elements of executive presence within their own style and personality. With coaching and guidance from you, your hidden talent can become shining stars of the organization.

About the author

Joel Garfinkle is a sought-after speaker and corporate trainer that has delivered more than 1000 workshops, speeches and keynote addresses. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, and Starbucks. He is the author of 7 books and over 300+ articles on leadership.

Joel Garfinkle will be teaching four programs for IMS in 2019. He is at IMS Los Angeles in June. In August he will be in Chicago, St. Louis and Houston.

Carol Kinsey Goman

I have been speaking on the topic of leadership presence for several years, but only lately created a program designed for women – and the question I get most often is, “Why focus on women?” My answer is, as they say in the commercial, “Because we’re worth it!”

We’re highly educated. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women make up more than 56% of college students nationwide.

We increase innovation. An economist from Carnegie Mellon found that teams that included at least one female member had a collectively higher IQ than teams that had just men.

We make organizations more profitable. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, recently published a paper called The Case for Investing in Women detailing the huge difference that women make in the workforce. One of their findings is that in Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors, the return on invested capital jumped over 66%, return on sales went up 42%, and return on equity increased by 53%.

But here’s the rub. Leadership presence doesn’t automatically come with your education, your talent for innovation, or your business results. Instead, leadership presence is entirely subjective. It depends on how others perceive you. And it’s different for women who face external challenges when it comes to being perceived as leaders.

One of the most pervasive obstacles is Unconscious Bias. Few people would consciously think that a woman can’t be a leader. But Unconscious Bias appears in numerous studies. For example, when researchers ask both men and women to draw a picture of a leader, they’ll almost always draw a male figure.

Women also face unique internal challenges. The Impostor Syndrome is the fear of being exposed as a fraud, of feeling unworthy of your success. While both genders experience it, a female’s self-doubt is more likely to negatively impact her career when she doesn’t exhibit the self-confidence expected in a leader. For example, internal research by Hewlett-Packard found that women only apply for jobs for which they feel they are a 100% match; men apply even when they meet no more than 60% of the requirements.

To complicate matters further, women fall into verbal and nonverbal communication traps that rob them of presence. Here are three of those traps:

Trap #1 – Sending nonverbal submission signals

Sometimes it’s as simple as the tilt of your head. Tilting your head to one side is a warm (“pro-social”) signal that you are listening and involved. As such, head tilts can be very empathetic and inclusive. But they are also subconsciously processed as submission signals. (Dogs tilt their heads to expose their necks, as a way to show deference to the dominant animal.)

Continue using head tilts when you want to demonstrate your concern for and interest in members of your team or when you want to encourage people to expand on what they are saying. But when you need to project power and confidence — asking for a promotion or giving a presentation to the executive team or board of directors — keep your head straight up in a more neutral (and authoritative) position.

Trap #2 – Looking less than you are

Here’s how most women sit around a conference table in a business meeting: Legs are crossed, elbows into waist, hands together on lap, shoulders slightly rounded. In other words, women condense their bodies. If you find yourself in this posture, realize that it could be depleting your leadership presence by making you look less confident, less professional, and less powerful than you really are.

Confidence and authority are nonverbally demonstrated through claiming height and space. If you are sitting, you can still project power by sitting straight with both feet on the floor (which makes you look and feel “grounded”), by hooking one arm over the back of your chair, by making more open arm gestures, or by spreading out your belongings on the conference table to claim more territory.

Remember, also, that if everyone is seated, standing when you speak gives you instant status by becoming — for the moment – the tallest person in the room. And if you move around, the additional space you take up adds to that impression.

Trap #3 – Staying invisible

The head of Human Resources told me that the saddest comment he hears when executives are evaluating potential candidates for high-level positions is, “I have no idea who she is.” I think this happens with female candidates because we are more likely to adopt a “good student” mentality – in which we believe that if we just keep our heads down and do good work, that others are bound to notice and reward us.

Apparently, that’s not the case.

Research with senior leaders in Silicon Valley found that the top criterion for promotion was visibility. One savvy female executive stated it this way: “It’s not enough to be a legend in your own mind. You need to make others aware of your talents and accomplishments.”

Are the executives in your company aware of your talents and accomplishments? If not, you need to increase your visibility by volunteering for key projects, offering to give presentations, publicizing your team’s accomplishments, and taking an active part in your professional associations. You need to broaden and deepen your network and look for mentors and sponsors who will guide and help promote you. Because as gifted as you may be, your leadership presence can only be built by getting out there and letting others see you in action. 

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is the president of Kinsey Consulting Services. She’s an international keynote speaker and an authority on the impact of body language on leadership effectiveness, and her passion is helping talented women build their leadership presence. Carol’s clients include over 200 organizations in 25 countries. Her programs for women leaders have been presented at events including European Women in Technology, Amazon, Women@Google, Expedia – Global Women’s Conference, Executive Women’s Forum, Stanford University, and UNC School of Government – Engaging Women in Public Service.

Carol is a leadership blogger for Forbes and the author of twelve business books including The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead. She has been cited as an authority in media such as Industry Week, Investors’ Business Daily, CNN’s Business Unusual, PBS Marketplace, the Washington Post’s On Leadership column, MarketWatch radio, and the NBC Nightly News.