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How Coaching Can Help Executives Bring Out Leadership Trait Leadership tips for executives from coaching expert

By Sandhya Mathur

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The firm I represent recently completed an engagement with one of the largest private sector companies in India involving several of their senior vice presidents and other senior level managers. Amongst the areas of improvement, without exception, the coaches and their managers cited executive presence as the most important development need.

I am going to deep dive here into the attributes that make the difference. Ever wondered why some people are more remembered than others? There's something about the presence of certain people that holds and retains your attention. It's also referred to as the "wow" factor.

The blend involves certain attributes and in my opinion, passion and commitment to what you do stand above everything else. This I believe is the foundation for the drive and motivation that brings clarity of thoughts and feelings. Clarity and focus will in-turn enhance communication skills at all levels.

The manner in which you frame your message, aided by your expressions, voice and body language, all add up to the numerous possibilities in building a powerful persona – just as you desire for yourself!

Do people know you by your voice? Your voice should demonstrate your intelligence, enthusiasm, and confidence. The warmth and humility in the tone come together to create an impression and confidence in the audience about the executive being approachable.

Projecting sincerity and authenticity along with a willingness to be open to different perspectives create a very lasting impression. It projects an interest in the job at hand and in the relationship.Of course having a sense of humour, key in getting along with people and getting things done according to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the ability to laugh at oneself most importantly, is beneficial.

Deep listening forms the bedrock of good communication skills. The art of listening is usually underrated as a skill and the potential benefits of listening are not often acknowledged or valued.

Most individuals who exude and project the "wow" factor are people who listen very closely and effectively – much better than the average listener.If an individual is able to work with what is both spoken and unspoken, the conversation has much more depth for both speaker and listener.

Those who listen are able to build rapport and are always remembered.

Developing the attributes

The question that comes up now is, how do you develop or acquire these attributes that create powerful executive presence? How do you know if you have executive presence? It doesn't just happen.

The qualities and attributes that make people stand out are based on the choices they make, and not only on what they are born with. The choices you make have a lot to do with how successful and effective you become as a leader.

Successful leaders are extremely good and efficient with their skills and there is a narrow area where improvement may be needed. These areas may not be easy to recognize intuitively. The basic and most essential component to work on these areas is self-awareness. Being self-aware, with the deep understanding of one's own thoughts and feelings creates clarity.

A trusted ally or coach can extend support in creating this awareness and tap into one'spersonal power. Executives do plateau in leadership skills and interpersonal skills at some stage. Some of these behaviours could hold the executive back. This could be anything from a basic negative attitude, making destructive comments, to speaking when angry.

"As we advance in our careers, behavioural changes are often the only significant changes we can make", says renowned leadership coach and author, Marshal Goldsmith.

I believe that most individuals,who exude this kind of presence, possess a very high level of emotional intelligence.They are aware of the kind of impact they have on people. They make the relevant choices and cultivate behavior attributes based on this awareness.

Howard Gardner, an accomplished author of several books on leadership and human behavior has written at length about emotional intelligence and leadership communication. In his book, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, he says, "When linguistic intelligence is yoked to considerable personal intelligence, one has the markings of an effective communicatorand, perhaps, a promising leader."

Many dream of having a powerful persona, being an effective leader, and creating a unique aura or brand; how about working on it? As a first step, coaching acts as a catalyst and can help drill down and identify the areas where the client needs to work on.

The coach helps him visualize and create a picture of what the client wants to be.After that the coach supports the client create the solutions through identifying and addressingthe blocksand mindsets in all the areas of the client's life.

The coach then becomes the accountability partner where he takes the client through a process that involves action towards the desired objectiveto develop poise, confidence and consequently an aura of powerful presence. This is done through constant introspection and feedback.

Coaching for executive presence would involve a very holistic approach where the coaching engagement would begin with creating self-awareness. It will involve working on interpersonal relationships, supporting the client exceed his own expectations, and moving beyond his comfort zone.

This approach would also help redefine thinking and mindset. When a successful individual's technical skills collude or combine with the attributes that we have spoken about, the result is an amazing persona or presence that creates a personal brand; an aura that makes people gravitate towards you!

Transformations of the type that build dynamic executive presence do not happen overnight, but then once they do happen, they arethe sweetest and most fulfilling ones.

Sandhya Mathur

Founder & CEO, Inward Focus

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