Six crucial steps to building a strong presence at work

Often, confidence is what holds us back. I have coached many people who feel they don’t command a room, and this is hindering them from making that next step in their career. So, how do you build presence? There’s lots of areas to focus on if you want to be seen.

Have you ever felt invisible at work? Like you don’t draw enough attention, or colleagues don’t automatically turn to you for your opinions even though you’re good at your job?

You’re not alone – it’s actually quite a common feeling, particularly for those trying to reach higher executive-level roles.

You’re not alone – it’s actually quite a common feeling, particularly for those trying to reach higher executive-level roles. In my executive career coaching, I come across people all the time who struggle to command a room, and this in turn is hindering them from moving towards their career goals. Particularly when executive roles can be few and far between.

However difficult building a presence at work may be, it’s also something that can be improved with effort.

Here are some of my tips for being seen as a strong and commanding person.

1. Hone your communication skills

We all communicate, every day, but learning to do it well can be difficult. Yet, if we can master good communication, it is invaluable for drawing the attention of others.

When talking, use positive and professional language at all times, and be simple and clear in every message you deliver. Make direct eye contact as you converse, smile, use a firm tone of voice and speak at a nice, steady pace.

Communication is not just about talking, either. Active listening has lots of benefits, including helping you participate more meaningfully in discussions and making you come across as empathetic.

And, don’t forget body language – as now-famous research states, the majority of communication comes from non-verbal cues.  So, be conscious of your gestures and the way you position your body, and aware of nervous ticks like playing with your hair.

2. Embrace your own style

Sometimes, people can hold themselves back by worrying that they’re too loud, too quiet, or too something else. However, you are better off being honest about who you are,so you can work on maximising your strengths and navigating your weaknesses.

For example, we tend to think of leaders as the loudest, most social people, which can make those with quieter natures worry they’re not cut out for the job. In her book, The Introverted Leader, Jennifer Kahnweiler argues that in fact around 40% of top executives are introverted (including highly successful ones like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett). In fact, having leaders with a diversity of styles and temperaments is an asset to an organisation.

(That’s not to say extroverts have an easy path either. They too have to find their own leadership style.)

3. Build yourself as a brand

This is a big one, and may take some getting used to, but it’s essential. What do I mean by building a brand?

Well, it all comes back to defining who you are and what you stand for. What are your values? What are your strengths? What insights can you offer? What sets you apart?

Once you’ve decided what your brand is, then it’s time to market your brand. Positioning yourself as a thought leader, in other words sharing opinions and insights which are valuable, is something that I talk to all my executive candidates about, because it’s really important for getting noticed. There can be a bit of a ‘cringe factor’ when first starting out, but it’s an irrational fear you can and should try to overcome. We all have opinions, and expertise, and passions, so yours is just as relevant as anyone else’s.

Social media is a key tool for influencing how people view us in our career, particularly LinkedIn. So, you need to be visible. People worry about expressing their opinions on LinkedIn, which is akin to an online CV, but as long as you keep the posts you write professional, using strong and positive language, there should be no problem.

As well as writing your own posts, share content from credible publications and organisations in your industry – don’t just repost lazily, but add an insightful comment relating it to your own experience. You should engage with others’ posts as well (because what goes around comes around on social media), but again you should try to be meaningful – there’s nothing worse than the person who writes ‘nice article’ on everything!

4. Focus on self-awareness

If you want to make an impression, it’s essential to start by being aware of your behaviour and the way you make other people feel.

Research into self-awareness indicates it can improve everything from confidence and creativity to the quality of our relationships.

Acting in a way that’s self-aware means being considered in your approach and conscious of your impact on those around you – whether that’s the board, the executive committee, employees or clients.

5. Keep your composure

Executives face a lot of pressure; from managing profits to handling staff to dealing with crises. 

So, if you lose the plot too many times then you’ll build presence for the wrong reasons – by being known as a ‘stress-head’ who can’t handle tough situations. On the other hand, being consistently calm will build trust and create the impression of you as a safe set of hands who should be involved in tricky decisions and trying situations.

6. Show initiative and be decisive

Demonstrating initiative and being able to make decisions will go a long way towards creating a positive impression of you as a strong figure in the workplace.  

Rather than fearing mistakes, which happen to everyone, make decisions, take actions and stand behind them, knowing they were made at a particular time with the information you had. Conviction and initiative are impressive qualities which you should demonstrate consistently.

So, there you have it – a few tips for turning yourself from an invisible presence to an unmissable mountain! If you want to explore these steps further, why not try our executive career coaching, which supports and guides executives towards their career goals. Contact us for more information.

Hunton Executive can help you to build your executive presence in the workplace.

Contact Hunton Executive for a confidential conversation about how we can help you heighten your executive presence and your visibility as high-quality talent. 


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