Going One Step Deeper: How Executive Presence Hinges On Self-Awareness

I hope you’re taking advantage of the discovery that Self-Awareness is a two-step process. As you may have read in my recent article Know Thyself: Laying The Groundwork For Genuine Self-Awareness, being physically self-aware is a prerequisite of sorts for becoming emotionally self-aware. This is something that two of my clients nearly learned the hard way, when they had been inadvertently sending off toxic vibes via arm-folding and “hangry” outbursts.

Self-Awareness can be considered the most vital component of Leadership Development since the physical manifestations of your emotions contribute significantly to Executive Presence. And just like there’s a Duane Reade and a Starbucks on seemingly every NYC street, Executive Presence is similarly on the top of people’s brains, permeating the avenues of the business environment for professionals at all levels of a company.

Bearing in mind this paradigm, let’s take a moment to go one step deeper with a slow-motion, frame-by-frame look at self-awareness in the workplace, and how it directly correlates with executive presence. We could all take away a good lesson here, regardless of where we stand on the company hierarchy.

Unpacking Your Anxiety

Let’s set a scene that may be disturbingly familiar to a lot of folks: You’re in a weekly meeting with a couple of prospects from a client. This is a new contact, but a long-standing client. You notice that you’re anxious and that you’re trembling emotionally— the feeling of butterflies is in your stomach, an acidic tingle taunts in the back of your throat, there’s a tightness in your chest, and your palms have become moist. Noticing and acknowledging your emotional state while in-the-moment is a tremendous step in the right direction, but it’s just the beginning of the awareness “unpacking” that will be necessary to pull you through.

You’ll also need to ask yourself why you’re feeling anxious? What thoughts, beliefs, conclusions, assumptions and interpretations are flashing through that head of yours that result in such acute anxiety? Some of the possibilities are that you may be thinking these new contacts are not interested in what your company brings to the table, or that you believe they are staying aligned with vendors they’ve used in the past. You may have jumped to the conclusion that they are transactional rather than relational, or that they’re bored and not engaged because they’re checking their messages as you speak. Then there’s the interpretation that their formalness is a sort of social awkwardness. It all adds up to bring you down, unless you’re tapped into the kind of self-awareness that preempts any unsubstantiated fears.

The Invisible Influences

All of the above-mentioned preconceived notions combined can prompt you to think, “YIKES! I don’t jibe nearly as well as the last team. What’s going to happen to my business?” Meanwhile, unbeknownst to you, your anxiety is being heightened by a discussion you had with your spouse the evening before, or the fact that you don’t feel prepared for a keynote address you’re scheduled to deliver early next week. Even if you’re not aware of the source of anxiety, it will reveal itself in ways that may cause one of those supplemental worries to grow legs and become a reality.

Sure Signs

If the physical manifestation of your fearful emotion is the tightening of your jaw, the absence of your smile will be noticeable to others. I, for one, sometimes speak in a higher tone with more clipped words due to my nervousness. Many of us close off our bodies by crossing our arms in a protective posture or may tend to fiddle with a water bottle or continuously shake the foot of a crossed leg. These physical reactions to what we’re feeling result in a reining-in of our gravitas, putting a damper on our communication skills and downgrading our professional appearance. The jury is out: we humans don’t wear stress too well. But by working backwards through acknowledgment of our nervous ticks, we can course-correct to increase our executive presence and continue to become more self-aware in the process!

In my next article, I’ll let you in on some of the roadblocks to self-awareness. Once you understand the full picture, we can begin to explore how to overcome these roadblocks and affect change, transforming you into the powerful professional you aspire to be!