Episode 34: Delivering Intentional Impact with an Executive Presence


What type of experience do you want people to have? How you show up and perform matters. Your entrance, tone of voice, and even choice of words design an experience for others. As a leader, your presence carries the weight of cultivating a certain experience for employees and clients. How do you facilitate the type of experience you intend for them? Join Jennifer Owen-O'Quill today on Voltcast as she talks about designing an executive presence that will maximize results in challenging environments. Jennifer, along with her colleague, Jeff Smith, coaches CEOs and leaders on their executive presence.


Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development. Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.


Jeff: Welcome. It is Jeff Smith. I am glad to be here. Shout to Lee Hubert and his guest Steve last week for hosting while I was doing some traveling and the week before that I was on a cruise ship. Hadn’t been mainly live the last week. I am here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill. Jennifer, welcome back.

Jennifer: It’s good to see you Jeff.

You’re missing it. Jennifer is in her bright green tall, pink shoe. She is full-on spring.

Jennifer: Full-on spring today, it’s beautiful today.

Jeff: She’s in here at the office with me. We’re excited. We’re going to be talking about executive and leadership presence today, and both what it is, how to grow it. And how do you utilize it in today’s workplace? So that’s the topic de jour. Jennifer, all I can say is Tuesdays with Jeff and Jennifer and Lee, we know how to cook up beautiful weather.

Last week since I wasn’t here, it was raining on Tuesday. I was in New York City and it was pouring out rain. If you’re in Roanoke on Tuesdays, it’s going to be beautiful. If you need good weather, come hang out on Voltcast.

I will get some emails so let’s pass that around. It’s jeff@voltageleadership.com. Our website is voltageleadership.com. You can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. Connect with me on Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting or Jennifer Owen-O’Quill on Voltage Leadership Consulting. And if you’re in that Twitter sphere, you can find us @VoltageLeaders

Jennifer: Well it strikes me we talk a lot about leadership, and practices, and delegating, and time, and drama, all of things are how to get the work done. But how you show up has so much to do with what gets accomplished. There is an impact zone that we have, that’s come up more and more in the conversations I’ve had with clients in recent weeks. And I thought, “Okay well there’s something out there, there’s something we need to pay attention to.” So that’s really what brought it up.

Jeff: Impact zone, is that like when I run into you in the hallway?

Jennifer: One of the things that for our audience out there to know about Jeff is that he is a fast mover, you’re a runner. But you have a lot of speed in your day and moment. And through your day, you’re very efficient in your work. It’s something I really admire about you and I’ve learned a lot from over the course of our time together.

And it’s also brought my awareness to the impact that pace has on a workplace. There’s a pace of the leader is the pace of the team. And one of the jokes that I have back and forth with Jeff because he’s a runner is that I’m chasing and I’m going to catch him one day.

But it comes up and that pace issue and how the people on teams match the pace of their leader. And then what happens because of that is just a piece of wrestling that if you’re looking at it intentionally and trying to figure out what to do about it, it’s a little bit easier to simply know how to look at executive process and the implications.

Jeff: This executive presence, leadership presence. I hear it, I see both covers, I know we teach it. But our audience might be, maybe we’re not working on the same definition. So why don’t we just start from what’s your definition maybe of- let’s start with the executive presence.

Jennifer: I’m going to talk in a couple of different directions.

Because there is the differentiation that some people make between leadership presence and executive presence. Leadership presence being how you make people feel, how you land on people. Executive presence in some of the literature talks about how you look, the tone of your voice, the impact that you have, your physical presence people can see, hear, smell.

What comes through in the five senses, let’s say it that way. So that’s one definition of executive presence. There’s another definition that comes out Sylvia Ann Hewlett, she talks more about executive presence as all those things right. It’s the number one factor being Gravitas.

Jeff: Gravitas, I just love that word.

Jennifer: Gravitas, is how you land on people. It’s how you come across it. It’s the heft with which you bring your presence to the occasion, not that you’re plain heavy because that really isn’t you land on people. People take you seriously, people listen to you, when you come into an engagement.

And some of that has to do with the gravitas that you bring in. and then there’s the way that we communicate. That’s the next big piece of executive presence. It’s how you show up, but then it’s the way that you communicate. And the last thing is appearance, how you look. I like to remind people about that.

People think executive presence, what do you look right, are you wearing the right outfit? And this comes up more for women than men. But it’s not important really, how you appear. It really has more to do with how you behave, and how attentive you are to how other people experience you.

I’ll just let you catch your thoughts for a moment, one that really stuck to me was, going through a program with Jennifer, we asked our people to just give sort of initial impressions of the people in the room.

Jeff: And do they over, were they too big, were they not big enough, and all that. I would encourage you just to start that simple. Just grab a couple of people around you and just get some real quick feedback on what they say. And it doesn’t matter if they get your presence exactly right.

You might just sort of say, “Hey whether it’s leadership brand, executive presence to leadership presence, let’s not get hang-up on words.” But just asking someone and saying, “Hey is it that you view me?” A couple of folks in the room really felt like I underleveraged my presence. And I didn’t come into the room and work through nearly like I could have.

And what was interesting about that for me when I received that feedback was, since I’m the leader of the organization, there are probably times where I’m not creating enough of a wake for Jennifer, and for others to be able to step forward as confidently.

And it made me really change the next couple of times I went to some networking meetings and some speeches where we were involved, that I had to show up a little bit more. And not just go to my two or three comfortable people but make my way around to make sure I could connect. Jennifer knows this about me, but I love connecting people and it’s-

I love connecting people and I found true joy in connecting. And I think I had just gotten so busy or sliding at the last minute, that I’d stop thinking about that. The feedback really made me stop and ponder and say, “What is my presence? How am I showing up?” and I just hadn’t really even thought about it until the feedback came.

Jennifer: I’ve had some feedback over the years too and I’ve always been glad when I’ve asked. I would encourage you to take Jeff up on his suggestion of asking a couple of folks that are working closely with you but also a couple of folks that you really have cultivated trust with. And ask them to travel back to their first impression of you.

That’s a very helpful question, for a number reasons. One is that I now have an awareness of the things that I’m always working to overcome right. They made some assumptions about me and they were very candid, “You’re blonde and you’re from California. I assume that you are not very smart, you wouldn’t have anything to say.” I mean that’s a bias right, it’s a real bias.

But it didn’t take very long for them to learn that wasn’t the case.

It was helpful to know that when I walk into a room right, what I say and if I have too much fun, people that don’t know me are going to make even more assumptions about that.

But people that know me, know, “Oh there’s Jennifer, we can take her seriously.” But if I’m in play mode, it’s not going to come across that way. So how I show up in the contextual environment I’m in, it allows me the power of choosing, the power to choose what lane I need to be in for this group given my role.

Jeff: Let me just kick off this question, and we may start here and may finish it before break may continue. We get a lot of requests for, “I really need to improve my executive presence, and showing up more and more in IDP’s Individual Development Plans, Development Action Plans,” whatever you call them in your organization. But we’re getting a lot of requests.

Yeah saying, “I really need to work on my executive presence.” So, as you diagnose and start to dig a little deeper under that, what’s really showing up? What are you seeing as sort of common patterns or themes around this executive presence? And it’s always, “I need more executive presence,” like there’s zero and 100 somehow but yeah.

Jennifer: One of the things that is inside of that for me is how people carry their authority. And that has something to do oftentimes with how they feel about authority. They can either be too aggressive and full of themselves and confident about their authority in the world, or they can be underwhelming. And how do you pay attention to the role? And they can be also flat.

They can perform at the same level all the time no matter what room they’re in, without the ability to adjust. I think really when people end up hearing that they need the executive presence, that’s a lot of, “I’m not adjusting, I’ve picked a way that I’m being, and I just do that all the time.” And that’s not effective. How I go home and how I parent my son is not how I have a conversation with you, it isn’t how I skid alongside a CEO.

It isn’t how I’ve equipped the frontline person to engage their team. Those are different ways of being. And it’s important to be able to have an awareness of what is going on over there, for this who that I’m with right now. That’s the magic of executive presence, of the great master of executive presence is going to have that other awareness.

Jeff: It’s already chance enough that I’ve got to tailor my leadership style.

Jennifer: And I agree it’s interesting, I had a coaching call yesterday morning. And this is a gentleman, he is working on his executive presence. And we’re talking about he’d been out with some other executives and I just asked, “Ken what was your voice? How did it show up? And how much did you put in the room?”

And he’s very honest and he said, I probably didn’t put in enough, knowing who was in the room. But there’s this whole story that came with it, and like, “Well it was really sort of a presentation and everyone’s questions that were being asked had already been answered in the presentation. And quote honestly I didn’t want to speak just to be in the room and speaking.”

And I said, “Okay but let’s talk about how did other people view you at the end of that session, when you were there for over an hour, and really didn’t put two words into the room? What were some of their impression?” he was like, “Oh I didn’t really think about it about it from that perspective.” Right.

I think that’s something when you have to think about like how do we make sure that the presence is appropriate for the right room and not just trying to be like the master obvious guy, and just restating what’s already been said? But also making sure that what we’re bringing is valuable. So when we come back from break, I think that’s the place for us to start.

Jeff: So Jennifer Owen-O’Quill will be with us all day, so we’re going to have a great conversation. It’s time for our first break so we’ll see you in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back. I am here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill and I’m so happy to have her. She is a fantastic facilitator and coach and speaker and loves to work with folks in pertinent issues. One of the places I’ve really seen her make a huge difference is with women leaders around this particular topic around strategic planning and executive presence, leadership presence, with all leaders.

But with a real attraction to being able to help leaders find their voice and claim it. So just a reminder if you want to send an email, jeff@voltageleadership.com. We’ve gotten one in so we’ll pull that one. Let’s continue with the conversation first and then we’ll get back to that question in just a moment.

How do I know the right percentage of time to put my voice in the room? What am I saying, is it valuable, not valuable? What happens if I don’t put my voice in the room? What does that say about my presence? Jennifer, you want to start, your thoughts and then I’ll add in too.

Jennifer: I would ask the listeners to think about when was the last time you thought about those questions? So those are important questions to ask because they have to do with your impact zone, so even thinking that you have one. Oftentimes we are thinking about the time that something is taking, if it’s already been said, I don’t want to repeat what’s been said.

We’re thinking about the person who is facilitating the meeting and us if we’re not facilitating the meeting, as opposed to other people in the room and the audience of those people. So those are questions to really wrestle with. What do you want? What’s your desired outcome for your impact in that group? And what do you want to leave elite people with in their experience of you. And how do you want to engage?

And knowing that in advance will clear out how you need to participate. I have an example of that is, I coach a leader who is really wanting to influence, but also not wanting to take the time. She’s a high calculator, talking about Disc assessment. And just the decision that got made of I’m going to pay attention and try to contribute 20 minutes in. Because there’ll be enough time after I have something to say for people to respond.

But I won’t be taking up too much time, I’ll hear other people’s thinking, so my thinking will be brighter and more relevant, so I’ll wait. So, we thought it through when during the conversation will be the best place to have the best impact so that she could be wise with her contributions. And that’s really hadn’t been impactful, but it ensures that her worth is still around.

Jeff: This particular scenario that I was relaying you before the break, I think what was missed was this person had expertise that could’ve changed the conversation. By holding back and waiting. And in that it’s a relatively large group let’s say 10 or 12 people, didn’t get the benefit of that wisdom. And instead a post meeting has conversations with one or two people.

And I’ll say my first impression is I don’t know 100% sure if I’d invite the person back. If someone is not speaking up in a meeting, and not being able to come forward with some ideas, then I’m questioning why they’re in the meeting. This is an introvert-extrovert, understand for folks that don’t know my wife and two of my daughters are big at it introverts.

No, this person had expertise. I wouldn’t have put them on the spot. But I think that they missed the chance to shape a conversation. And then behind the scenes they’re sort of trying to have a one on one. I think that it was a missed opportunity, in making sure that your executive presence could’ve led to their group making a better decision right.

One the other hand, I’ve certainly been with folks that I call them the MOTOS, the Master of the Obvious. And they’re going to take let’s say Jennifer said something. I’m just going to say it louder.

Where you’re going to like, “Well,” but I’m probably not giving you credit either.  I may be stepping on you. I don’t think is appropriate right. I think I go back to your word and that’s what’s the intention. As you are thinking about it, as you’re coming into a meeting, what is your intention? And where do you think your voice will need to be heard?

And how do you want to show up? My final thought is I’m working with a CEO from out west is by nature quieter, he’s likely to be a high five rev-you-up kind of thing, kind of leader right. And that’s fine, he’s very comfortable though in his competence in leading the company and being able to do things. When he gives a compliment, it may not change a whole lot in tone.

But the fact that he took the time to recognize, to give a really specific why this is an impact, I can tell you that people feel like he said it with like horns behind him and with high-fives right. Because it’s really thought out well, it’s intentional.

And he looks directly at the person and says what value and impact they have. I’m probably likely to high-five them and have brought in gifts and cards and things like that, that’s more my personality. But it works. People are loyal, engaged and want to help him.

Jennifer: The pace of the leader is the pace of the team. So that’s his pace, and people can respond. It’s his voice is louder because he isn’t, and it matters what he says.

Jeff: Let me get the pace one and then I saw you writing down some things. So, this is from one of the listeners, pace. We have some leaders that just run so fast that they outrun the team.

What? Or disappear, and this confuses them. How do you give them feedback? And there’s really some truth to this, like I tend to be one that a) thinks that everyone moves at my pace and then b) thinks everyone understands it when I’ve just basically said the sky is blue, and clearly it feeds to like you know exactly what actions I meant you to take right.

There’s certainly some feedback in here that’s coming right at me that I understand. But it’s true though that, some of these they just go so fast in their presence, like you just got to be like this, fast all the time with them like how do you handle that?

Jennifer: Well that’s tricky I think. It is a question of coaching up, implicit in this. It’s a question of coaching…

How do I slow down and how do you craft a series of curious-it’s a conversation that needs to take place that signals what you need and what’s missing in the absence of a slower pace at times? And I think it’s not an either/or an and. We have what we have and we’re at a great pace. And if we slow down, you and I for a moment and we had a little extra time, I think you get better thinking for me.

Can we arrange that? And at what interval can we arrange that. It’s creating and shaping the conditions for you to be successful and shine, but also to understand that that person is busy. I think back to the different paces you and I ran at when I came to Voltage. And you were running, because you had a full book and business and you were busy.

And I was not but I had all these questions, but the speed with which I asked them didn’t match your needs. And there was just a difference. So that thought solved over time with experience I can look back now and say, “Oh that’s what was happening then.” And I also didn’t know how to request and confine the things that I needed. So it’s not everything needs to slow down, but you need a slow segment.

There’s also all like warning systems I’ve proven. There are leaders that are just running at a quick pace that don’t slow down, don’t notice that they’re losing people by burning people out. And that the emotional wake that they’re leaving behind them is costing. So that’s another conversation.

Jeff: Yeah and I think what’s interesting in that is, this can come across as if we’re just using sort of executive presence, it can look like they’re charismatic. And from the outside you might be like, “Oh my gosh I want to go work for that person, they’re amazing and looking at that pace. And they’re charming and they answer lots of the questions and they’re thinking quickly.”

Now on the inside sometimes of the company, it’s that they’re so fast that there is no time to submit. Like what are the next action steps, and then we declare victory, and have we done the right things right. I think there is for the listeners is that just like Jennifer alluded to in our first segment, hey there is a presence that might be our external face.

There’s an executive presence when I’m a church leader, there’s an executive presence that I have when I’m coaching in a baseball or basketball team for my kids. By the way when I’m CEO of Voltage, I am a different presence. But even there, am I the coach today? Am I giving a speech? Am I at a networking event? Like all those are different right.

So, what I would just have folks really stop and think about is what role are you playing right now? And what is the way that you need to show up to be the most effective, in the role, in the space that you’re going to be in in that next hour.

Jennifer: The other question if you’re the leader and that you would think that my question might be about you, what’s my current pace costing me? What’s the pace that is my habit? If I’m at always at 90 miles an hour or if I’m always at 85 and I want to drive the organization, how do I discover what that’s cost me, and what people think if we were to change a little bit?

And being curious about that, not to change it but be curious what if I change the pace a little bit? What do you think the outcome would be? You’ll find out some things that people will really think about how fast you’re going. It’s a different question then, is it okay that we go this fast? Because it allows people to share. The kinds of questions you craft to find out how people really experience you are important. How am I doing? Not so helpful.

Better than the question that says, “What would it be like if I change my pace? What suggestion would you have of what I could add that would be beneficial to the team?” And then you’d get a better answer.

Jeff: Yeah and I think I’d go to some of the simple, what is the one thing that I’m doing right that helps you do your best work? What is the one thing that if I could do differently would help you do your best work more often? Right and I think pace and things like that can start to really come into being. I’m curious about this impact zone.

Right so we’ve touch on it a little bit. Can you continue in some of this discussion around impact zone? So maybe we’ll start it here and continue after break on impact zone.

I think it is a great concept, I think in sort of baseball and things like that. But we start with this feedback, but what are some of the other things that you’d want me to know about impact zone and to know what is my impact on others? What would you have me go do?

Jennifer: I think be curious. And I say not just curious questions but creative questions. To find out what your impact is, you can’t again to say again, “How am I doing or how was that? Or did I do a good job in the presentation, or do you like to report?” Okay, yes, no, asking a different question. How would you present this material in a more engaging way?

It’s a more complex question, it’s a more creative question, but it gives people again permission to tell you the truth. And as you elevate in leadership, you are robbed more and more of the truth. We have a phrase inside the business say the last 10%

And I was coaching someone today and I said, “Yes, it’s important to have that habit inside the culture early, because then when you elevate in your role people will start telling you something and you’re going to start getting 80% not 90% and then 70%. And then when you get to the C-suite right, you might get 50%.” So that’s just a way to make sure that you’re continuing to hear what needs to be said.

Jeff: More on the other side of the break. We’re going to take a two-minute break and we’ll continue this conversation. Thank you, Jennifer.


Jeff: Welcome back. It is just fantastic that you’re here with is today. We want to give a nice thanks to folks from all around the world. I’ve gotten notes in the last couple of weeks from many countries and really appreciate. Even from here and if you’re listening to this not live but in a workout, don’t fall off the treadmill.

And really appreciate the notes and the leadership lessons that you’re sharing with us. And you do help to shape the show. So please continue to give us ideas, and audience and authors or speakers that you’d like us to bring on the show, we’d love to hear from you as well. So, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill is here, she’s our own in-house wizard expert and expert in executive presence, leadership presence.

And really being able to help facilitate groups and get them to reach their full potential. So, Jennifer, you and I were talking a little bit on break about how is it that you go about working with people to help them have a better understanding of their own executive presence and their leadership voice and leadership presence? What are some of the tools, tips, ideas that you have for folks?

Jennifer: Okay so beside asking questions which I love, there’s a couple of tools that I like to use. We often hear if you’re the leader you shouldn’t be speaking 60% of the time, you should be speaking 30% or less of the time. It’s better to put less of your voice in the room and be a better listener. And active listening is certainly a skill that could come under the caption of executive presence, work on this active listening. I encourage people to keep conversation maps as their-

It’s a conversation map. When they’re in a meeting or they’re having a conversation right, to notice what happens. I write the names of all people that are in the room around on a piece of paper. And I just note when I speak, and when everybody else speaks with a little hash mark. And when somebody asks a question, or I ask a question, question mark goes there.

And you can map the conversation. It’s a helpful tool to hand back to someone when I am coaching to say, “I want you to think about how you’re showing up, and this is what I saw.” Right and it shows very quickly how they were showing up in the room. It’s a little bit easier to ask somebody else to keep the conversation map if you’d like the feedback.

It’s hard to do on yourself and then you sort of forget they’re doing it. But if there’s a blank space after your name, why are you being silent? And to your point earlier, what do you leave people with? What’s your experience of you? I don’t have any impression of you, of who you are, your reputation. It’s a new team, it’s a long-time team but you’re not showing up.

Or I’m showing up all the time, and I’m dominating in the conversation and no one else gets a word in their choice right. And we’ve coached all sides. And the people in the middle right, people that are contending for a voice, to speak too much or to be silent doesn’t show the time. It doesn’t show their thinking. And it’s not the other people are not engaged, you’re not giving them the opportunity.

The other thing executive presence was to facilitate everyone’s room. You can also ask the question of, “I’d really like to hear from everyone. Can we go around, I’m curious to see if your thinking is different from mine.” This is my thing. And it allows you even if you’re not facilitating the meeting, to get everyone’s voice in the room, if that’s something that you feel is important at that moment. So that’s just another term.

Jeff: Yeah so great to use around right. I’m chuckling I remember doing this exercise with you in our group. And we had someone that as a group I think there was four in the group. And this person said everyone has spoken about 25% of the time, we’ve been equal. And then they said, “Well it’s not really how I experienced it.”

And this person they said spoke about 75% of the time where he kind of said everyone spoke about 25. And everyone in the group kind of agreed that he spoke about 75% of the time. So that’s one of those where sometimes our means our self-ordinance just can trip us out. This is a great one to yes self-ordinance is good.

I like the map, we do it. I also like sometimes checking that self-ordinance with asking somebody else because he was sworn he only spoke 25% of the time. And we watched that group, it really was he spoke about 75% of the time.

Similarly, what roles do we take when we come in? I’ve observed recently a leader that consistently is the one in a group setting that volunteers to take the notes, to go to the whiteboard. And that’s fine except this person has a big title and is very much a thought leader in all other parts of the business.

But he gets in the meeting and the comfort zone is, “Let me be the administrative person.” And it’s like that’s giving up some of your presence, and some of your ability to take a step back. And this person whenever they take their notes, they don’t speak.

It really gives off their input into the room, because they’re so diligent and great. They’re a great note taker by the way. But taking the notes but will lose their thought leadership and their voice in the room. I think be really cognizant of what role are you trying to accept in the room.

Jennifer: It’s very important and intentional about what that’s going to communicate.

Jeff: Yeah. Okay so conversation maps, asking for some feedback, think about your intention. Looks like you got this great worksheet that you brought in.

That I’ll just remind people, if you are interested in getting more information and tips throughout the weeks, follow us on any of these places but also go out to voltageleader.com, and you’ll see that we write a weekly blog. Generally, Lee, Jennifer and I kind of take turns rotating. This will be a future blog and a future tool that will show up.

Jennifer and I are looking at the blog as we speak. But again voltageleadership.com and you’ll get some tools and tips throughout the course of the week. Jennifer kindly take us through this tips for executive presence and this worksheet you’ve got.

Jennifer: One of the equations that I use in teaching folks about executive presence is, Awareness + Your Intention = Mindful Leadership. Are you aware of how you’re showing up? It doesn’t matter what you intend? We measure ourselves by our intentions, but others by their impact. And that means folks that other people are measuring you by how you make them feel.

How you land on them, not what the intent was. Not any of that. So being aware and having intention about what you’re doing allows for mindful leadership. And I always encourage people to really be self-reflective about many different aspects of how we land on people. Right so how composed are we? I’m going to go through just some of these.

Jeff: A bunch of C’s coming.

And know again that we’ll send this out in a few weeks. But if you’re driving don’t try to write this down. If you’re at home listening, then feel free to write it down. But know that we will send this out, this type of information in the future. But looks like about six or seven so go for it Jennifer.

Jennifer: There’s about seven different areas that I asked folks to rate themselves on scale of one to 10, 10 is the best. Right how do you rate your composure? And how would I rate your composure? It’s a great easy way to ask a question, get some feedback. How is your connectivity with people? Are you able to make a connection?

Jeff: Boy that’s really changed in this world with smartphones and laptops and all that in meetings. My biggest observations are that you can really see what people engaged, and now it’s like, “Hey guys by the way we see that you’re connecting and sending emails underneath the table.” We’re not blind to that.

Jennifer: One of the things that I’ve noticed even in some of the small groups of executives that we have is the minute somebody starts looking at their phone, their attention drops. Even if they’re looking at their notes or they’re trying to use it as a tool to be engaged, it has the opposite effect.

What I say alongside when I’m walking out with folks and in the moment coaching, next time print out what you want and bring in the paper copy because it feels different to people.

The machine gets in the way. If you’re an executive and you’re thinking about how you want to lead your meetings, as people bring in a pen and paper, and shut the laptop and be with each other.

Charisma. It’s how much energy are you bringing? And how engaged are you? It doesn’t mean that you must be Suzy Sunshine, but it is the piece of are you awake and engaged and present? Right so charisma.

Confident, so are you confident, are you communicating that you command of the situation? And credibility, telling the truth right, being honest. People believe what you say. Clarity of communication, are you clear in what you’re saying. And conciseness, this is where I am struggling. Clearly, we can even say as I’ve given the seven different C’s they didn’t come one right after the other. But I’ll do that now; composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity of communication, and conciseness.

Jeff: So, do I have to be a 10 in all these to have effective executive presence?

Jennifer: No. you must be happy with your answer.

And it must match the answer of the people around you about you. And that’s like magic. If you’re self-aware and you know how you’re landing, then at least you’re in command your own presence. At least you’re landing the way you intend. There’s not a gap.

It’s when there’s a gap between the impact that you think you have, and the impact that you have, that people’s success suffers. But when you close the gap to where it’s seamless between the impact that you intend to have, and the impact that you actually have, then you are where you want to be.

Jeff: Interesting. What about some habits? Seems like you’ve got some habits to look out for as well.

Jennifer: Crossing your arms and legs and I’ll call you out Jeff. You had your arms crossed in a meeting the other and I was like just let go of those. Put them on the table, put them on your lap. When we cross our arms across our chests it just closes us off. We cross our arms and legs and it says, “stay away I’m not engaged.” It’s a habit, it’s comfortable. I do it too.

Jeff: Sure. I noticed in church the other day. It is. I mean the crackup is that’s where I’m comfortable, occasionally I’m chilly and occasionally I am really closed off right. But to your point just noticing.

Jennifer: This is the second one and I know it made you chuckling, my resting face smiles. What is a resting face?

Jeff: I’m patient with someone. Excuse the language but sometimes they’ll use a ‘b’ word, it rhymes with pitch. And then that’s like a blank face right. And then they just look like they’re pissed off all the time and they’re mad all the time. What is my resting face? What do I look like in a meeting? And sometimes, you look and you’re like, “I’m not going to ask that person something, they don’t look very happy.”

Jennifer: When you’re just getting out of your car, how are you showing yourself to the world?

When I talked with my hands, my palm stays up. So back of the hand, it’s no.

But if you’re palms are facing it’s just more up posture.

People change. My posture is excellent.

Jeff: Okay. So what we’ll do is we’re up against a break. So let’s come back and really talk about how do we use that, and how do you apply it. So we’ll come back, this is our last break for the show so we will be back in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back and so glad you’re here with us today. Jennifer Owen-O’Quill has been here, giving us ideas about executive presence, some tips and tools. Right before break we have our nose in our habits. Jennifer, let’s just continue that conversation.

You had your seven C’s, so folks can listen back to those C’s. We also habit of how does my resting face look, lord my crossing of arms, how good is my posture, what else do you want us to know about the tips for executive presence?

Jennifer: Well I want to spend a moment on looking people in the eyes, because it’s something that I got some feedback on earlier in my career and it was just helpful. I had someone in a conversation say to me, “I feel like you don’t care about what I’m saying right now. You’re not looking at me.” And I was paying such close attention to what they were saying.

And when I do that, I look up into the writing. That’s my habit, it’s where I look when I’m paying close attention and I’m really listening. I lean in with my ear and I tend in that way. Not helpful, because that person wanted me to look them in the eye.

I’ve learned that most folks appreciate, more eye contact than I need from people. But it’s always helpful to learn about myself that I really must focus. And there are things that you get from folks when you look them in the eye. As you and I are now looking each other in the eye for really the first long moments of this conversation. So that’s an important piece. But you have some thoughts about that too.

Jeff: Yeah couple thoughts. And you know this about as well as the team, I tend to look out the window. If I study too much, I’m an oratory learner, so if I’m watching too much and Jennifer’s got like her hair is going on here and she’s got her glasses on now, and she’s waving with the hands, I get distracted by all that shiny bright object going on and I lose track of the message.

Lee Hubert is dying laughing. Lee is one that talks with his hands, all that kinds of stuff. I do as well. I’ll often look out the window, and I couldn’t tell you what’s outside that window. But for me that’s how I concentrate but I know that if I don’t tell people that in a coaching session, or in our staff meeting, if I’m not explicit with it, they’ll think I’m disinterested.

I’ve had to learn that that’s I need to explain. And sometimes I remember, sometimes I forget. Additionally, what I’d say is you’ll have to learn as we work with executive presence and you get better and better at, that there are some cultures though where that’s too strong of a statement to look someone directly.

There are some Asian cultures if you’re trying to maintain that really American eye contact where we think that’s building trust, that’s too intense for their relationships. You also have understood just what culture, what environment that I am and is that appropriate or not. So more than we’d want to cover today, but just to be aware and just to learn, hey it’s going to be sometimes different cultures.

Jennifer: I would also say along those lines that proximity differs from culture to culture and person to person. And touching, just don’t touch people. I mean just in business, be careful and don’t touch people.

Jeff: I was up in NYU last week doing some work and I needed to reach out and demonstrate something that had happened in our obstacle course that we’re doing. I was very clear, I said, “I’m getting ready to touch you,” to said person. “I just want you to know.” And she was like, “Yeah that’s okay.”

But if I had just touched her right out of the gate, it would have been bad for the whole room. But I was being very intentional. I said, “I need to do this to demonstrate, and this is part of it.” She’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s fine.” But it would have like set the whole room back if I’d done that right.

This whole executive presence thing, if I want to get better at this, what are the key takeaways that you want me to do? I know you’ve got a couple of good YouTube videos that I know I’ve watched with you. But what else do you want me to know? What are some tips and tools for our listeners to walk away and go do differently?

Jennifer: One of the assignments if I would be able to give an assignment to our listening audience would be to know what your message is. It’s helpful to know what it is that you want to communicate, to have that clear in your mind.

I ask people to do that in 10 or fewer words. For me it’s I equip leaders to thrive.

To know what I do. And that’s what I want to be communicating in every setting that I’m in, no matter what. Because that’s part of the why, it’s my purpose right. I equip leaders to thrive. How can I do that in this setting? What’s the right way to do that given this context? The other piece is be aware of the context that you’re in.

And think about how who you are needs to land in that context. Right how I show up at Disneyland is different than how I show up when I’m giving a speech, or maybe not. But it’s different than how I show up when I’m sitting with someone or having a coaching conversation. They’re just different environments. Is your voice too big? I have a big voice right.

I know it’s so surprising but one of the things that I’ve had to work on is that the rooms I’ve been now are smaller than they were in my previous career. I was large room and I had to command attention in larger spaces. So those are some things to be aware of. Asking curious questions, creative though not just curious questions but creative questions. And getting a couple of trusted colleagues, they can really give you some good feedback.

Jeff: I want people to understand that yeah it feels awkward, but after a while it doesn’t. So, for a little while it’s awkward and you notice and that’s okay because now you’ve raised your awareness. You’re consciously aware of it, you’ll be unconsciously competent at it soon enough right. But to start to notice and yeah, you’re going to trip over it.

Fine. You know what I say, feedback is a gift. Asking people to say, “Hey I’m going to ask for some feedback about my executive presence and how am I doing?” and to be open to that feedback, the next couple of times you’re going to be sensitive to it in the room. I promise you by about the third or fourth time, you go back to new normal that may have upped your executive presence. So just being open to that feedback yeah.

Jennifer: Don’t forget the other awareness. If there was one thing I would leave you with is, what is the first-hand experience of that person, not about you about their world, because you come about 10th for them, unless it’s a key player in your life a spouse, such. But at work, you come in about 10th.

So being able to stand under their reality and see how you are coming across in the role that you’re in from their point of view will really help you level set how you behave with that person or that group, that team.

Jeff: Yeah and from me, thank you Jennifer, it’s about what’s your intention and just really being understanding. When you walk into the room from the time you walk in the room, if you’re a leader people are noticing, right. Let’s say that you’re not the leader, but they’re still going to be noticing you.

Peers are going to be like, “Hey I wonder what was going on with Jeff today, what kind of mood was that?” and the people are always sort of making assessments. The more intentional you can be, just play with yourself and see what you want. To your point, I will often ask a leader, “If you’ve always been a leader, tell me about a time you’ve gone into a meeting, where you just went in and were able to sit.

And you were trying to be thoughtful, what showed up? What was your presence on that day? What did you notice about yourself right? I think that’s fun and joyful. Jennifer, it has been joyful be with you today.

We had a nice lunch together here and had a nice time catching up. Sorry that it has been running, running, run the last couple of weeks. I heard that feedback, so I will be working on that. Lee Hubert is going to be hosting next week. He will be taking you through some case studies with some of our clients.

So, it will be a nice engagement to see how we work with folks. During the week though we’re so happy when you reach out to us, if you want to call us to ask us about work or questions, it’s area code 540-798-1963. If you want to shoot us an email, it’s jeff@voltageleadership.com or jennifer@voltageleadership.com.

You can reach us at our website at voltageleadership.com, you can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership, you can reach me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. What I want to know is please feel free to out and see our blog. Go back and listen to the podcast. Go out to the Voltage Leadership and be able to find that because often we don’t have time to go through all the things that we want.

But in our blogs and our tools they’re there. Jennifer again, so great to have you here today. To everyone that’s out there, thanks for showing up each week. And go make it a great week and we look forward to talking to you next week. Take care.