Recently I was in Haifa, Israel and took part in a 2-day meeting with other executives within the company.
I (we) spent a majority of the time locked in a conference room talking about everything from financials to product development to investment to building a team.
Upon returning to the U.S. my GM (general manager) pulled me aside to provide some feedback.
I was told that I needed to work on my executive presence. I was being reminded that it is important to “speak up” and to add a “comment” to the conversation to demonstrate my leadership.
I was reminded that this is part of the culture, and if I do not speak up, my executive leadership would always be questioned.
I thanked my GM for the feedback and said I would take it into consideration.
I took time to self-reflect.
I have always been more of a listener and an observer. I turn off all of my devices, use a notebook, and take notes. I usually ask questions to ensure I understand the meaning, the intent, the perspective.
I have a habit of not speaking unless I have the ability to add perspective, insight, or value to the conversation.
I have made a conscious decision to act this way.
I made this decision many years ago when I would sit in meetings with middle management and executive leaders and always wondered why people spoke when nothing meaningful was being contributed. I would watch people try to fight for one or two sentences, and then often ask myself why did they feel they needed to say what they did because it often did not add to the conversation.
I decided to do some reading on executive presence. I read the following articles/books:
- Deconstructing Executive Presence on HBR — https://hbr.org/2012/08/de-constructing-executive-pres
- The 7 Traits Of Executive Presence on Business Insider — http://www.businessinsider.com/the-7-traits-of-executive-presence-2013-9
- The “IT” Factor on Muse — https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-it-factor-how-to-have-executive-presence-in-a-meeting
- Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett — http://www.sylviaannhewlett.com/executive-presence.html
While all of this reading gave me perspective on the topic of executive presence, I still questioned whether I really had a problem or not.
Fast forward to this week.
We had a customer visit headquarters this week to walk through our technology and meet the product development team.
The customer was from Europe, and the team was comprised of Oncologists, Physicists, and Radiologists.
We had all of our“big bosses” stop in to say hello and be a part of the conversation with the customer.
My GM stayed for the entire 8-hour visit.
There was a point in the conversation with the customer in which they began to talk about how does this technology help them to discover cancer earlier, change the treatment of a patient, or help them monitor the survival of their patients.
Our engineers, our research, and even my GM were silent.
I began to speak and was able to articulate how our technology helps them to see cancer sooner, to understand if it is cancer or something else, and enables them to monitor the success or failure of a patient’s cancer treatment.
The customer continued to ask questions. I continued to draw a solid line from the work they do on a daily basis back to our technology and the future development I am planning for our platform.
After the customer meeting, my GM pulled me aside and told me the following,
Andy, you are the only person I know of in this company that can have that type of discussion. You manage to articulate how our technology meets the needs of physicians, specialists, physicists, and the patients they care for on a daily basis. I am not sure how you do it. I am always impressed with how you change the conversation and make it meaningful to customers.
I smiled and said thank you.
I sit here and have been thinking about both conversations.
Do I have executive presence or am I missing it?
Is my executive presence just different?
Do I have executive presence for customers but maybe not for internal leaders?
I made a realization.
Asking myself all of these questions is just banter. It allows fear to take over the dialogue in my head.
I will own that I have positives and negatives.
I will always be a natural observer. I will always be an active listener.
I will not add to a conversation just to say I contributed. I will only speak when I have something to contribute that is of value to others.
I will double down on my strengths.
Connecting to patients and physicians.
Drawing straight lines between their challenges, struggles, and loss of time to the work I do on a daily basis.
I will double down on owning my Emotional Intelligence. (EQ)
I will continue to build relationships, deliver the ‘Why” to patients and physicians inside healthcare, and lead by example.
I lead at the N of 1 because healthcare is delivered at the N of 1.