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WFH– why this will change the meaning of executive presence

“Read the room, and dress for the part to demonstrate executive presence”, I recall from a Forbes article as I prepare to present to a C-Suite audience. This is my opportunity to impress the key decision-makers in my company.

Ding. Ding. One by one, I am greeted by glamourized floating heads mug-shots of the top guys at my company on my TEAMS screen. Each C-Suite member is dressed confidently in their well-lit profile picture shot by a professional. And here I sit — video off — myself am in my pink polka-dotted PJs accessorized with a vexingly tiny bit of a coffee stain two inches off the collar. Dressing for the part alright.

In this moment, I find myself wondering how does one exemplify “executive presence” in the #newnormal? Any sensible reading of the facts today tells us that COVID-19 is here to stay — at least for a while — and so is our But this is the current WFH situation. COVID “WFH” world and it is here to stay. Behind screens, with a bit of family chatter like a background score and a chant of “Can’t hear you, are you on mute, apologise for my network”. So how do the rules of engagement change now?

How does one exemplify “Executive Presence” in this environment?

In this post, I share what I have learned from the most commanding people around me in this time. The is that the answer is actually simply lies in a shift of perspective:

Listen attentively

Active Listening has never been more needed. With conversations happening virtually, important details can be lost on a passive listener. (And let’s face it — many of us are habitual passive listeners.) get lost in a black hole of multiple and multi participant zoom calls. Absence of facial expressions and body language cues only add to the more confusion. Focusing on your listening skills can help you catch what others do not have and set you apart.

Be empathetic

Checking in with fellow colleagues and offering real empathy in such times is pivotal in establishing you as a leader regardless of where you are on the ladder. We’re all caught in the same storm, albeit in different boats. Call a peer and ask them how they’re doing. Listen to their challenges. Ping them on chat to say “Good morning” or send them an uplifting email.

Stay relevant

As we disconnect and disintegrate more from brick and mortar offices, staying updated becomes both a challenge and anopportunity. Do not let the distance break your sources of information. This includes both micro and macro environments i.e. what is going on in your company and in the industry at large.

Use digital platforms effectively

You wouldn’t spend all day on people’s desks when at work and this is no different. DO NOT set-up a million virtual calls. Instead, choose to drop an email or message note when something isn’t urgent and can be done asynchronously appropriate over a “Quick 5 min call”. Also this goes without saying, be prepared and block out distractions as humanly possible when interacting digitally.

Seek advice

· There are many people out there who have done WFH/ virtual working for a while: freelance designers, software engineers, many roles in the tech industry and so on. Reach out to them and learn the art of skillfully maintaining a digital persona and continuing your career growth.

The virtual workplace becoming mainstream owing to the pandemic will make us rethink our personal brand.. The winners will be those who are able to adjust and translate their executive presence to the virtual world, match with changing times and adapt quickly.

P.S. The presentation went well! Thanks for asking 😉

Author avatar
Upasana Bhatia

1 comment

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