Who has “IT”? What exactly is “IT”? And why do I want IT so badly?
Is IT like grace – you have it or you don’t?
What are the undefinable but recognizable characteristics that make up the “IT factor”? IT here is defined as executive presence, not the people you call when your computer isn’t working (ahem, Rachel!)
Connect quickly, engage thoughtfully
Whether talking to a large crowd, a small gathering, or one-on-one, people with the IT factor know how to make a connection with their audience. They seem to innately know what their audience wants. Are they psychic? Maybe, but more likely they are experts at processing, and responding to verbal and non-verbal cues.
There are many ways to connect but my favorite is to share experiences. Not the kind that elicits an I-didn’t-want-to-know-that-about-you response, but one that makes another person relate to you.
Another way people with the IT Factor connect so quickly is they listen first, talk last. The IT people do a lot more listening (active listening – the kind where you ask clarifying questions, not the kind where you politely stay quiet hoping the other person will SHUT UP already so you can talk) than talking.
It’s not just about listening; it’s also about being empathetic. It’s about showing compassion and understanding about what another person feels, what they are experiencing. It’s about helping another person get out of their resistance so they can turn any situation into something meaningful and productive.
As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Nonverbal communication speak volumes
Nonverbal communications speak more loudly than the words we speak. Be mindful of your body language. This includes your posture, facial expressions, how (and where) you sit at the table, hand gestures, eye contact, and much much more.
Voice inflection is critical. You have to strike the right balance between being warm and speaking with authority. Yesterday, during an executive presence training, I discovered that I start conversations and presentations with a head tilt and perky “Hiiiiiiiiii” or “good morning!” Flaky posture + cheerleader syndrome = loss of credibility.
People respond to your non-verbal behavior more than your words so make them count. Want to work on your nonverbal? Read 10 NonVerbal Cues That Convey Confidence at Work. Or watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.
Have guiding principles
A wise leader I work with says, “Be tough on the process, not on the people”. People with the IT factor are quick to focus on the facts and establish open, constructive dialogue to get to the root of any problem. They engage employees by creating a safe environment where everyone speaks their mind (respectfully) and works towards the same goal.
People with the IT factor seem to have 3-5 guiding principles that drive their behavior. They also talk about principles often so people know what to expect from them, and what they expect from others.
Think like an executive
A few years ago I pitched a business-critical program to my executive team. First I practiced on an executive I know – my husband, Josh (CTO, Application Security, Inc). After my first pitch he looked me in the eye and said “You’re fired”. He wasn’t mimicking Donald Trump; it was more like “I can’t believe you just pitched THAT to ME.
He then coached me on how to effectively share my ideas with my executive team:
- Be specific about the intent of the meeting & what you’re asking for in 60 seconds or less.
- Lead with the business results — current and expected.
- Tie everything into the company and/or team goals and strategy.
- Include before & after scenarios. “If we continue down today’s path the results in a year will be X, if we add resources our expected results will be Y”.
- Give minimal details and let the executive ask for more.
- Tailor the conversation to your audience. For more on this read Get What You Want Now!
- Ask for what you want. Don’t downplay it. Don’t qualify it. Just ask for it.
If you can think and speak like an executive in combination with everything above you’ll develop IT more quickly.
The most common observation of the IT Factor
After a lot of research and an entire day of training on executive presence my main takeaway is: It’s totally subjective.
You know it when you see it but you can’t quite pinpoint what it is. It’s a feeling you get. And if you’re like me, you want to have IT too.
Anyone can possess IT. Whatever IT is.
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