No woobies!

Sep 28, 2020

One simple trick to increase your executive presence

Have you ever received feedback that you need to work on your “executive presence”? Or know of someone who does? What does that even mean? Do I need to be tall, great-looking, and command attention with my undeniable charisma? Do I need to resort to tricks to get attention, like always sitting at the head of the table?

It’s a frustrating, ill-defined piece of feedback, often given as a dodge by a manager. They want to spare themselves the pain of actually giving direct feedback about whatever specific issue could be limiting the career of the recipient. Even less well-defined is the cure. For the manager who gives this feedback, do they ever provide concrete steps to address? Rarely, in our experience.

What it is, and how to get it

“Executive presence” has different meanings for different people, but generally it has something to do with inspiring confidence in others – confidence that the team can “get it done” or, for clients, that the product will work great for their needs. It can even be something as simple as confidence that everything will be alright.

The problem is that most of the listicle recipes (e.g. “one simple trick”) for addressing this are unhelpful and banal. Suggestions like “be more politically astute” or “be calm under stress,” while true, are not specific enough to be helpful in the day-to-day environment at work.

However, there is one piece of advice that can increase your executive presence starting tomorrow: put away the woobie. What’s a woobie? It’s whatever technological product you brought to the meeting. Your phone, tablet, laptop, watch – whatever. We are continually amazed by colleagues who come to a group event (a meeting, conference call, etc.), spend the entire meeting on their device of choice, and then silently leave afterwards. Why were they there? Did they think they accomplished something by doing two things at once? News flash: humans cannot multitask. Those who think otherwise are delusional.

But really, what is a woobie?

It’s a nickname for a security blanket. We know a senior executive (also a mom) who introduced us to the term by asking her team to put away their “woobies” at the beginning of meetings. She rightly points out that technology is often a shield for the user to protect them from having to interact with other humans, which has more risks than interacting with a computer.

Be present, have presence

By putting away the woobie, and instead investing that energy in a conversation with another human being, you instantly increase your executive presence by an enormous margin. Why? Because people who interact with machines when they should be interacting with other people do not build confidence; people who interact with those people do. It’s that simple.

This is even more essential in any kind of client interaction. Your chances to interact with your client are limited – perhaps it’s a phone call once a week or a quarterly in-person meeting. Regardless, you have precious little time to build confidence in your product or service. Time interacting with your phone will not serve that purpose. Even if you are a secondary participant in a client interaction (say, from a technical team but not the client lead), this still holds true. Do not make the mistake that because you are not the client lead, you are free to spend your time doing “other work” – because you are subtracting from the team’s overall executive presence.

Grow your executive presence starting tomorrow by remembering this simple rule: be present and you will have presence. Try this exercise – in every meeting or interaction for the next week, purposefully do not interact with your technology while you are actively in a meeting. After that week, we guarantee you will feel more in the moment, and more like an executive with presence. Let us know how it goes – we guarantee you will feel the results.

A Dragon Walks Into a Meeting is our guide to the best tactics for a professional account manager. Pick up a copy today to learn the tactics that make new account managers into seasoned professionals.

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