How Honesty Saves Time and Builds Executive Presence

Jason’s boss is the new CEO of a company that has not met budget for two years. The organization is merging with two other organizations, making the culture guarded and tentative. Jason is afraid his position isn’t secure because the CEO continually questions his opinions and doesn’t affirm that he brings any value to the team. Additionally, the executive management team is posturing at their weekly meetings whereby one dominant personality is allowed to single him out with criticism outside of her authority. Jason is feeling judged by his boss and threatened by his peers. 

How we conduct ourselves in a tense situation is paramount to how we are viewed as a leader. Maintaining executive presence is extremely challenging when you feel as if you are negatively critiqued. Self-management is key. Being honest with yourself and others is the first tenet to presence. We must be vulnerable enough to accept our discomfort internally before we externalize it with defensive behavior, aggression, passive aggression, or self-defeating head trash that comes from false assumptions 

Most conflict doesn’t come from wanting to win at something. It stems from a need to be right. Ego plays a big role in that. When you need not be right it allows for curiosity. In this space you can explore the conversations that create opportunity because your ego is at rest. You need not defend a position. 

Conflict is difficult because the ego can't deal well with rejection. In the workplace, the avoidance of crucial conversations translates to bureaucracy, cynicism, personal agendas and posturing. 

When we turn away from a necessary conversation, we: 

1) allow it to fester and bring us anxiety, 

2) start making assumptions that are likely untrue and hurtful, 

3) internalize that the problem is us, 

4) distance ourselves from our core strengths. 

Jason will be far more effective in navigating a transitional work culture when he doesn’t need external validation. He can then stand out as a leader for innovation instead of playing it safe which is what most threatened leaders do, resulting in underperformance. When we feel safe and curious, we can have the conversations that release the paralysis of negative cultures. 

If you feel hurt or confused by someone, one way to diffuse the discord is to start with your own willingness to be vulnerable. “Yesterday I sensed that you were upset with me. I value your opinion and our working relationship and want to understand what it would look like if that were better for you.” 

This opens the door for the conversation to occur out in the open. You can’t force them to have the conversation, but you can provide a safe space for it to happen. 

This tactic also encourages the passive aggressive leader to give you specifics about what they want which often they don’t know. They just want you to feel the discord they carry. If they know you will press them for specifics, they may focus their negative energy at an easier target who doesn’t threaten their limited skillset. 

When Jason’s boss questions his work his strategy might be to: 

  1. Take a deep breath. 
  1. Honor the honest feeling of discomfort. 
  1. Get curious. 
  1. Say, “I can only imagine the challenges you have in your new role, so I want to make sure I provide value to you. If I were doing that 100% of the time what would that look like?” If the CEO doesn’t give specifics, Jason should ask the question again another way until he answers it. Then Jason follow up with, “I am sure you can understand that with all the changes I am anxious about whether or not I will have a job. How can I best position myself to be a key influencer? If you were me what would you do?” This nudges the boss to sense Jason’s perspective. 
  1. Jason might ask to meet with the bully on the executive management team and say, “I understand that you want the best for this organization. We both so. The way that you question me at our weekly meetings seems threatening and accusatory to me. Is there something behind that? I’m happy to discuss it if there is.” 

Honesty with yourself and admitting how you feel about a situation to others frees you to get curious and talk openly about how to move forward, not self-defeat with behaviors that strip away your executive presence. 

If you want more executive presence tips here’s a link to Mary Lee’s FREE report: 31 Success Practices for Leaders in the High Stakes Corporate World >>> 

Your coach,

Mary Lee

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P.S. Feel free to forward this email to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life looking for a hand to hold. Sometimes we must be the hand that reaches out.

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