5 Executive Presence Calming Strategies for the Moment You're Confronted

Your day is going well. You’ve done your research and are a maven on your project. You’re in a meeting and out of nowhere someone blindsides you with cynical inuendo, overt criticism, passive aggressive posturing or their personal agenda. Your body gets stiff. Your face feels flushed. Your heart is racing. A voice inside your head is screaming, ‘Danger!’ And then in your own defense you do or say something you later regret.

We’ve all been there.

Some people can weather these situations without losing their presence. Others cannot. The difference is that some people have trained themselves to be able to notice what is happening to them, both emotionally and physiologically, lean into it with curiosity as opposed to away in fear, and allow the immediate physiological and emotional response to subside so they can respond appropriately.

Initially, you may think you don’t have time for this transition to take place before you need to react. Like most...

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Gaslighting and Your Executive Presence

You know the feeling. You’re in what you think is an honest discussion with someone and suddenly they blindside you with a comment that totally undermines your perspective. At first you are stunned like a deer in the headlights. You think, ‘How could she say that? It isn’t at all true.’ Then you get angry at the betrayal and at this point you have lost your executive presence. You shut down or start defending yourself, never getting anywhere on the real issue.

You know you are being gaslighted when you hear comments such as:

  • I didn’t do that.
  • You’re overreacting.
  • You’re imagining that.
  • You’re too sensitive.
  • I never said that.
  • Why are you __________? (Something that isn’t true.)
  • Stop being a victim.
  • You’ve got the problem not me.
  • You need to let it go.

Gaslighting happens at work and in life. It’s a Machiavellian tactic whereby someone minimizes you by denying that your perception of a situation is true. It’s...

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Three Things to Say When You Feel Threatened by a Bad Boss or Colleague

You have probably heard people talk about boundaries at work. A boundary is an invisible line between what you will and will not allow. Insecure bosses and colleagues often don’t have them. They don’t know what to do with their unrest, so it turns into anger and despair that gets vented in an inappropriate way at people who don’t deserve it. It’s only a short fix for them so they must keep venting to feel better - dreadful for you. 

All conflict stems from a need to be right so the first thing you want to do with a difficult colleague is to let them be right. This is difficult to achieve when your ego is in the way. Therefore, when you are working on your executive presence you must start first with learning to self-regulate – manage your emotions in the crucial fight-or-flight moment. 

In that crucial moment where you have been offended or feel threatened, take a deep breath and assure yourself you are safe. Be an observer of your own...

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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...

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When Another Person Makes You Suffer

Sadly, we internalize and personalize someone’s negativity toward us because we don’t see their suffering at the root of their behavior. We think it’s us. Many of my clients are dealing with command and control bosses and colleagues who posture with personal agendas in cultures where bureaucracy and cynicism are the norm.  

Know this - happy people do not hurt one another. If someone is disrespectful in how they deliver feedback they are unhappy and trying desperately to push that unhappiness on you. The problem for them is this fear based leadership never brings them happiness yet they keep executing the same way at your expense. They can’t turn inward and address their unrest. They turn away from pain with anger and push it outward either overtly or with passive aggression. Very sad existence for them. Don’t make their problem yours. 

It is your choice whether or not to hear feedback as an opportunity and take positive action or wear...

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Mean Leaders and Executive Presence

I’ve never understood why overbearing people think they have power. It’s obvious they don’t. Nobody trusts them or authentically has their back. They are always exhausted trying to make themselves look good at other’s expense. Their insecurities reek in their behavior. And their leadership has no sustainable affect because the people they play to are the first ones off the ship when it starts to go down.  

If you can’t achieve your goals without manipulating, controlling, condescending to, backstabbing, and intimidating other people along the way you’re weak and you will ultimately fail. Period. I’ve seen it in corporate America time and time again. It may not be right away. But it will happen. And your legacy will precede you everywhere you go after that. 

The real problem with mean people is that they are intrinsically unhappy, insecure and have minimal self-awareness. The root feeling behind their behavior is anger coupled...

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This Happened Sunday

Two nights ago I didn’t recognize myself. I got home from a wonderful weekend at the beach to find that all the packages that had been delivered were left in the rain in my driveway instead of on the porch. Many of my Christmas card envelopes had gotten stuck together from the moisture and I had been shorted 25 of them.

As I sat there putting labels on envelopes and trying to pry apart envelopes without ruining them I heard myself say, “I hate doing this. I don’t even know why I send Christmas cards” followed by a few words I can’t even write down.  

Now, this is not me. I think all year about the photos on my Christmas cards. It’s my way of sharing a joyous hello. I love opening the cards from friends.  

Finally, my husband had to tell me, “OK, that’s enough now” to shake me awake from my funk. 

Perfection. Holidays inspire perfection. And that inspires expectations. And that inspires unmet expectations....

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Hateful People at Work

I saw this license plate in front of me at a traffic light this morning while I was stopped in front of a church, talking on the phone with my daughter who is experiencing “mean girl” behavior at work. I decided it was a sign  and sent her the photo. (Also, it's not often that we see a car from North Dakota in Pittsburgh.)

Happy people don’t hurt one another. Never lose your executive presence and get emotional with hateful people. They hate themselves far more than they hate you. Their internal barometer is far more angry than you could ever feel toward them. Don’t become them. Don’t defend against them. You’ll only look small. Smile and say, “Help me understand what you mean by that” as you give yourself space to remember that you’ve got this.

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

Your coach,

Mary...

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At first I didnt believe this.

At first I didn't believe this graphic. Be careful how you interpret your responsibility for an unhappy person’s environment. I do believe as leaders we have to nurture our team culture and provide a safe place for mistakes to happen without shame. I believe we must encourage and be accepting. But when someone is stuck and their behavior is disrespectful and uncalled for boundaries are necessary. We don’t own or placate someone else’s bad behavior or it just enables more bad behavior. If we constantly need to rescue someone from themselves by making excuses for them or declaring that others do the same and cater to them we’ll be rescuing and enabling for a very long time. And the person being rescued’s behavior will only get worse as will their unhappiness.

It’s not our job to fix the flower. It’s our job to create boundaries around what we will and will not allow for ourselves. We can’t change them. Only our own behavior. That...

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Six Steps to Protect Yourself from Drama

When there is drama in our lives it involves other people and our emotional reaction to them. If you are miserable at your job, the situation likely implies a boss, colleague or group of people is at its root. If you repeatedly avoid situations you most likely dodge a person who you feel strips your power. If you commonly find yourself angry with someone, it is probably because you feel a need to defend against how they make you feel.

Don’t Personalize Their Behavior

We think people cause our sorrow. Not so. Our interpretation of another person’s actions - our emotional response to having been judged - is what really makes us unhappy. We personalize their conduct. We make it about us. We judge back. We feel left out. We become needy for approval. Right now, there is someone personalizing your behavior that you’re not even aware of. 

Recognize Your Own Ego 

If you feel that another person’s conduct makes you feel less than you are, that’s your...

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