A term you may have heard is ‘executive presence’—it’s one of those buzzwords that comes up a lot. However, it’s not just executives who need presence, which is why I often use the term ‘professional presence’ instead.
What is Professional Presence?
In its simplest terms, professional presence is about your ability to inspire confidence—inspire confidence in the workplace that you’re the person to involve in high-visibility projects, inspire confidence among peers that you’re capable and reliable, and inspire confidence among senior management that you have the potential for great achievements. People with professional presence work well under pressure, communicate clearly, and have a confident, capable persona.
Over 20 years of coaching leaders who make an impact, I have observed three key factors that are part of their professional presence and have added to their success.
Credibility + Self-confidence + Resilience = PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE
Your credibility is crucial to your professional presence. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines credibility as, "The quality or power of inspiring belief."
There are four aspects of credibility.
This is where your skills and expertise in your specific job function are crucial. Is there anything you need to do to be more competent in your present position? Do you make time to stay up-to-date on the latest trends to learn new skills, and do you partner with colleagues and get feedback and help when needed?
Your communication is crucial to your credibility. This includes not only your body language; eye contact, facial expressions, the tone of your voice, and presenting to others in a clear manner, but also your written communication. Do you respond to emails in a timely manner and focus on impact and strategic direction?
Do you show up at meetings organized and with a clear agenda so others get the information they need and have a clear roadmap to follow? If you are making a presentation, do your slides create a story with impact? Don’t cause death by PowerPoint with too many slides and too much information!
Integrity in the workplace comes in many forms but refers to having a combination of honesty and a strong work ethic. Developing trust with others can be more complicated if you’re working virtually, but it is possible. Do you take the time to build rapport with new colleagues and manage stressful situations in a respectful way?
Focus on these four areas to build credibility as the first step in enhancing your professional presence.
Self confident people have high satisfaction at work and are not afraid to take on new challenges. Here are four tips to boost your self-confidence.
- Eliminate deficiency-focused language. Deficiency focusing is being laser-focused on the negatives of the situation. This often manifests itself in the language we use. If you’re stressed out at work and use negative language like “I can’t…”, you close your mind to solutions, and limit your ability to develop a problem-solving competency and a growth mindset, both crucial to being confident.
- Ask questions. Asking questions is an important strategy in your confidence toolbox. Before beginning a project, be clear on the outcomes needed and get clarification of what precisely is required. Floundering around and stressing out your manager and yourself because you have no idea if you’re on the right path is not going to increase your confidence.
- Focus on continuous improvement. Practice is the key to confidence and success. It’s not only the practice, though. It’s stepping out of your comfort zone, getting feedback from others you trust, correcting mistakes along the way, and being open to learning. Staying current with the latest trends in your career area is another way to expand your skill set and build confidence.
- Have fun! Studies have shown that a great way to be confident in your career is to not take yourself too seriously. Of course, accomplishing specific objectives in your job is important but you can also have fun while you’re doing it. You’ll be amazed at how being more lighthearted boosts your confidence at work.
Focus on these four areas to build self-confidence as a way of enhancing your professional presence.
Excellent research on developing resilience has been done by Dr. Lucy Hone, a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience. Her valuable—and painful—insights came as a result of her own personal tragedy. In 2014, her 12-year-old daughter, Abi, was killed in a car accident. “Instead of being the resilience expert,” Hone said, “suddenly, I’m the grieving mother”.
So, she decided to turn to her own work and conduct what she described as a self-experiment. “I’d done the research, I had the tools, I wanted to know how useful they would be to me now in the face of such an enormous mountain to climb.” She learned, “that you can rise up from adversity, that there are strategies that work, that it is utterly possible to make yourself think and act in certain ways that help you navigate tough times.”
Here are three of Hone’s insights:
- Resilient people get that shit happens.
It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or the amount of money you have in the bank or how well you have planned, you will face unexpected challenges.
In my leadership coaching practice, I have had leaders deal with some of the greatest challenges in their careers during the last two years. One leader had to lay off an entire department. He knew this was the only business option for the survival of the company, and he did it with the highest integrity he could, but it was painful.
- Resilient people are good at choosing where they put their attention.
They focus on the things that they can change and accept the things that they can’t. A 2005 study by Martin Seligman, at the University of Pennsylvania, found that people who make a daily gratitude list, writing down good things that happened to them during that day, experience higher levels of gratitude, higher levels of happiness, and less depression over the course of six months. Paying attention to the positive “is a vital, learnable resilience skill.”
- Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?”
“Ask yourself whether what you’re doing — the way you’re thinking, the way you’re acting — is helping or harming you”, says Hone. “That puts you back in the driver’s seat. It gives you some control over your decision-making.”
How do you know if you’re resilient? One way is to assess your resilience via the Benatti Resilience Benchmark, which focuses on the five strategies of Benatti Resiliency Model®: well-being, self-awareness, brand, connection and innovation. After completing the Benchmark, you can download the Resilience Roadmap, with tactics and resources to get you started on building resilience.
Focus on your credibility, self-confidence, and resilience to enhance your professional presence.
By Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS LMFT
For recommended books on self-confidence and self-esteem, check out this list.
For more on mindset, we recommend Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
For more on continuous improvement, we recommend James Clear's Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
For more on careers, leadership, and personal development, check out our other career content.