I know how frustrating it can feel when you know what the business needs to do, but your manager either won’t listen or doesn’t even ask for your advice to begin with.
And this is really the core observation I’ve made about your question that informs my response and advice: This is a professional development opportunity, and that opportunity is to develop executive presence.
What does this mean? It means beginning to reposition the way you’re in the business — what you say, how you react, the language you use, the questions you ask, how you deliver solutions — to be more in line with the way your leadership team does business.
Executive presence has nothing to do with your rank, and everything to do with the perception of you.
They need to see and hear themselves in you. They need to see you operating in line with how they work as a senior team, and then they’ll begin to see you as one of them.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about forfeiting our True Self and pretending to be them or someone you’re not. It’s more subtle than that. It’s about leaning into the leadership team’s “way” in the moments that matter — approach, tone, language, response, execution.
If you do this consistently with a true desire to help the business be successful, they’ll start to seek you out. They’ll start bringing you into meetings they otherwise wouldn’t have, and they’ll ask you what you think. Most importantly, though, they’ll listen to what you have to say.
At its heart, executive presence is about cultivating confidence, respect and trust. It repositions your personal brand inside a business to someone the leadership team sees potential in, and they'll act on exploring that perceived potential by offering you opportunities to be in rooms you weren’t in before and to stretch to a new edge within your current role through higher duties.
If you don't belive there's a presence and perception problem here, then let's now acknowledge that leaders are humans and most humans are moving through life with their ego in the driver's seat. They could simply be intimidated. Some leaders know you know more than them, and they’re worried about being “found out” or dethroned. They think that if they let you help, you’ll shine, and that your light will dim their own. It’s really natural. Not overly helpful of course, but natural, and an example of the potential work your leader still has to do on themselves. So we can experience their innocence. Beautiful.
One key way to break down this intimidation wall and get them to open up to receiving your help, is to ask them what is challenging them right now and offer to help them think it through. This is what I call an entry point, and we need entry points to build rapport and trust. We show them that we’re not trying to be "right" and even if we are, we see it as a win for the team not a win for us personally.
This pathway does require you to have a deep understanding of what the business is wanting to achieve, and then shaping your input around helping it get there. Your agenda is the business’ agenda.
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