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David Smith

Growth Mindset And Leadership

By | Executive Coaching

Seminar buzzwords.

That’s all many people think of when they hear “growth mindset”.

Fortunately, you know better than that by now…

But you probably still have some questions.

If you are a manager or a leader, it is important that you know where you fall when it comes to mindsets. This will drastically affect the way you interact with your employees and the way you handle your day to day business within your company. 

How does having a growth mindset make you a better leader? How does it benefit your organization?

We’ve now learned all the textbook examples of what a growth mindset it, and how it affects us as individuals as well as in business and organizational culture. Now let’s examine some real-life ways a growth mindset helps us to be better leaders.

Silver Linings – Having a growth mindset allows us to fail. Everyone fails but how we handle the failure determines who we are. With a growth mindset, we will be able to see the silver linings, we will be able to find the good in each situation and find the learning experience in each fail. We will figure out what went wrong, and we will work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Having this mindset can help us encourage others when they face setbacks. If we lead by example and encourage the efforts of others and they try and inevitably fail, we can foster a growth mindset in them as they seek success.

Staying The Course – When a person relies too heavily on their skills and talent (like someone with a fixed mindset), they might think that no commitment is necessary. On the other hand, when someone has a growth mindset and is dedicated to what they are doing, they know that they can make great improvements.

In doing this, we also impress upon our teammates and employees that it is important to just keep going. We remind them that no fight is easily won, and that perseverance and determination are necessary for success.

Never Stop Learning – People with fixed mindsets think they’ve got all they’ll ever have, so there’s no reason to try for more. Those with growth mindsets are eager to seek out new information and are consistently developing new skills and learning new information. No matter what is being learned, people with growth mindsets are seeking to become whole people, full of knowledge.

When we are continually learning, we often share this information with others, helping them to keep learning. As leaders, we should be encouraging this constant learning in our teams. 

Always Improving – People with growth mindsets are never satisfied with the status quo. Because of this, they are always seeking to make things better than they were before which can translate to great improvements for a company. As an individual, you are capable of so much, but fostering a growth mindset within your company or organization can do even more.

As a leader with a growth mindset, you should always be seeking ways to make your company better, to take them to the next level. This includes helping your employees with their mindsets so that they too can benefit the organization in big ways.

Encouraging A Growth Mindset In Employees

While it is great news if the person leading the team has a growth mindset, it is imperative that they encourage a growth mindset in all.

How can you do this, though? Here are some ideas.

Hire and promote from within – Showing your team that you believe in them, putting your money where your mouth is…these are central to encouraging a growth mindset. You need to show your employees that you are invested in their development and that you see their potential. Whenever possible, hire from within. 

Promote courage – Encourage your employees to take risks. To build a growth mindset, your employees need to be willing to step out even when they are afraid to do so. Encourage this and be there for them as they do so.

Forget About Your Own Position – You might be a growth-minded person unintentionally fostering a fixed mindset environment. Be careful that you focus more on the well being of your employees than you do your own power, make sure you never put others down or hold others back to get yourself ahead. You should strive to help everyone learn and grow together.

Encourage Growth – The growth of the company is important but be sure you are encouraging your employees to seek out knowledge on their own, too. Encourage your team to reach for personal goals in addition to workplace goals.

Growth Mindset In The Business World

By | Executive Coaching

So far in this chapter, we’ve looked at mindsets as they involve individual but can organizations and businesses have a mindset, too? 

If the answer to that is yes, how does this mindset effect the organization’s goals and outcomes, and what do the employees experience?

Researchers have been working to answer this question, and while it isn’t yet concrete, it appears that the answer is yes, organizations do tend to function under a specific mindset.

Just as in individual people, organizations can have a “fixed” or “growth” mindset and this matters greatly for the company.

The mindset an organization or business has directly impacts the culture that is fostered there. As we’ve discussed in previous chapters, culture is the heartbeat of a company or organization so it stands to reason that the company’s mindset is absolutely vital to the success of the organization.

Let’s look now at how companies are affected by these different mindsets, and what effect it has on their culture.

Fixed Mindset Companies

Some companies have a fixed mindset. In these companies there is a “culture of genius”. 

Much like individuals with a fixed mindset, these organizations believe that when it comes to skills and knowledge, you either have it, or you don’t. In these organizations, talent is almost worshipped.

In these companies it can seem that some employees are valued above others and these are the employees that have shown star talent.

Unfortunately, this mindset leaves many people in the dust as the company views them as not having that certain je ne sais quoi.

Growth Mindset Companies

In companies where a growth mindset is prevalent, there is a “culture of development”.

These companies believe that employees can grow and develop abilities and knowledge, much in the same way people who have a growth mindset believe the same thing.

Growth mindset companies encourage their employees to seek new skills and be innovative.

In these organizations, everyone is valued because they all bring something different to the table.

Mindset And Organizational Culture

A study conducted by Stanford researchers questioned employees from several Fortune 1000 Companies in an effort to gain a better understanding of how a company’s mindset affected their organizational culture. 

Fixed Mindset Culture

The researchers found that in organizations with a fixed mindset or a “culture of genius,” things weren’t that great.

Employees in these companies said they were looking to leave their current company for another. This might be due to the fact that these companies discourage risk taking and innovation and that there are often behaviors that border on unethical. When people in these companies are trying to be the “star”, they might be more willing to go about it the wrong way.

In these companies, retention is tough. In a company where “genius” is valued above all, new hires tend to come from outside the company instead of allowing those within to rise. 

Employees here don’t feel as though their leaders and employers value them or have their back. Fear of failure keeps them from being creative or innovative.  

When initiative is lacking and change is resisted, stagnation will reign, and major problems will surface. Also, employees will likely jump ship.

Growth Mindset Culture

In a “culture of development”, the differences are stark.

Employees within these growth mindset companies trust their employers, they feel like they have more ownership over their work and they are willing to put more effort in to reach the goal.

Because they feel responsible and like their leadership values their input, employees in these organizations tend to be highly loyal and are committed to the future of the company.

In the company that values learning and development, risk taking is encouraged, and creativity and innovation are celebrated. 

Because most people aren’t in it for their own gain, companies with a growth mindset are more likely to have favorable ethics practices.

Additionally, supervisors in these companies trust in their employees and their ability to learn and grow and that they see management potential in them.

This is good, since most growth mindset companies hire and promote from within. 

If you want to be a leader in a company with a growth mindset, you’ll probably want to make sure you’ve got a growth mindset. Let’s look now at how this plays a role in leadership.

Growth Mindset

By | Executive Coaching

What Is A Mindset?

Psychology Today says that a mindset is a “belief that orients the way we handle situations.”

Our mindset helps us figure out what is going on around us and it allows us to determine how we should react to these situations. 

Dr Gary Klein, author of Seeing What Others Don’t reasons that mindsets are more than just beliefs. He says that our beliefs frame our situations, allow us to discover the important details, and help us set attainable goals.

Faulty mindsets can create manifold problems. They can prevent us from progressing, they can stifle curiosity and innovation and they can result in danger in some situations.

In this chapter we will be taking a look mostly at the so called “Growth Mindset”. We’ll discuss what this mindset entails, what benefits it provides, how this mindset works in business and in leadership and we’ll go over some ways you can develop a growth mindset yourself. 

Let’s first take a look at how mindsets form…

How Does A Mindset Form?

Science and psychology have shown that a person’s emotions and thoughts intertwine and create a neural network in the brain. When this happens, habits are created, and beliefs are rooted even deeper. The more often a thought it believed, or an action is practiced, the stronger this neural network becomes. 

As the neural network becomes stronger, so does the mindset. 

As with many things in life, our mindsets are formed when we are very young. 

Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they can from all the people and experiences around them. These situations played heavily into our mindsets as we moved forward through life.

As small children, we were not able to evaluate the information we were given and we accepted it at face value. It became knowledge that was rooted deeply within us and it became part of our belief system. It told us who we were and where we belonged in the world.

As we grew, we learned and experienced more, and these things highly reinforced or perhaps slightly challenged our deeply held beliefs. Over time, these beliefs became a part of who we are as people and they created our mindsets.

Now that we understand how mindsets are developed, let’s look at the 2 most common mindsets. 

Dueling Mindsets

Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University has performed a staggering amount of research on mindsets over the years. 

Through her research, she has learned that a person’s beliefs are paramount in what their goals are as well as whether they will actually achieve those goals. She has reasoned that a person’s mindset is pivotal in determining if they will succeed or not.

Dweck gave a group of children a seemingly impossible problem to solve then studied how they reacted to it. 

One group of children treated the problem as a learning experience and a puzzle to solve. The other group of children immediately decided the problem was impossible to solve and they felt as though they were being judged for not being able to solve it.

The opposite reactions for the children showed Dweck and other researchers that there were two different mindsets that prevail among the people of the world.

For some people, challenges are a way to learn and develop new skills. These people believe that new abilities can be developed and strengthened and they believe that perseverance and hard work go a long way in getting through these obstacles.

Others believe that they have a limited number of abilities and that they cannot develop new ones. They believe that all they have is what they were born with and when faced with a problem outside the scope of their perceived abilities, there’s nothing they can do about it but admit defeat. 

The first set of children and first group of people has what is known as a growth mindset, while the second set has a fixed mindset.

What’s the difference between these extremes, then?

Fixed Mindset 

When a child is taught that appearance is more important than ability, they are being set up for problems.

Some people are worried about how they are being perceived they think that their intelligence is being questioned. They worry about falling short of the expectations of others. They have been taught that looking smart is far more important than learning. 

How do people with fixed mindsets deal with life?

  • Setbacks – A single bad grade, a wrong decision, a failed audition… These are life-defining setbacks for people with fixed mindsets since those with fixed mindsets believe that their intelligence and talents are static. One setback will decide the limit of their talents for life.
  • Challenges – When a person has a fixed mindset, they are likely to avoid challenges altogether. Being faced with challenges makes them feel as though they are unintelligent or like they don’t have any talent. These people give up easily and when things get hard, they are no longer interested.
  • Effort – Because people with fixed mindsets believe that people are born with the talents and abilities they possess, they think that success should be effortless (as long as they possess the talent required for the task at hand). These people believe that only people who are “naturals” succeed. 
  • Results – When a person with a fixed mindset fails at something, they believe their work has been wasted. If they failed, they are not a “natural”, and therefore don’t have the talent or smarts to succeed in this endeavor. Successful people don’t need effort in their minds, so if they fail, they are not successful and never will be.

Growth Mindset

Children who are encouraged to explore and seek new experiences and to enjoy challenges are sure to go far.

When a person can see a mistake or an error as an opportunity instead of a failure, when they are eager to try new things and they aren’t afraid to fall on their face a few times, they are much more likely to learn and reach their potential.

When going through life, how do those with growth mindsets handle things?

  • Setbacks – One negative experience, one bad outcome, it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things…at least, it’s not for someone with a growth mindset. These people see setbacks as a blip on the radar, not a definitive example of their intelligence or abilities. 
  • Challenges – People with growth mindsets tend to seek out challenges. These people believe that a person cannot grow without a little discomfort. They see challenges as learning opportunities, allowing them to stretch themselves and helping them to find new and innovative ways to do things.
  • Effort – Those with growth mindsets believe that if you want to succeed at something, you have to work at it. They don’t believe that only “naturals” succeed, prizing instead hard work and perseverance do. When these people apply themselves to a task, they give their all and find their work to be meaningful. 
  • Results – Even if the outcome of the experiment is a failure, a person with a growth mindset does not see themselves as a failure. Instead they see this as a learning experience and believe it can help them to reach success in the future. People who have a growth mindset will learn more from failure than anyone else.

Do You Have A Growth Mindset?

If you aren’t sure where you fall, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if you align more with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

How do you handle challenges? Do you embrace them, or avoid them? If you are someone who embraces challenge, you have a growth mindset; if you run from challenges, you have a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that people are born with whatever talent and intelligence they will have for their lifetime? If so, you’ve likely got a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that people can learn and grow? That they can improve their intelligence and develop new abilities? If you believe this, you’re a growth mindset person.

Do you believe that people are just “naturals” at certain things? That you either have it, or you don’t? If this is your belief, you have a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that talent is inborn, or that it can be achieved? What about intelligence or other abilities? If you believe that talent, intelligence, and other abilities are doled out at birth, you’ve got a fixed mindset. However, if you believe that these things can be achieved through hard work and perseverance, you’ve got a growth mindset.

And that’s all well and good…

But why does it matter, and what does it mean in the business world?

Coach Interview Series: David Smith

By | Executive Coaching

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing David Smith. David is an Executive and Personal Life Coach based in Atlanta, Georgia.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

David: My coaching practice has three areas that I focus in on: first is life coaching, second is executive coaching and leadership development, and third is emotional intelligence training, as well. We are a small boutique company that works with individuals, organizations, government, and schools to help them in those particular areas of their individual growth for their managers. We also work with individuals who want to get more goal-oriented, better at time management, etc. That’s the work I’ve been doing for the past 12 years. 

NCA: Can you elaborate a little bit on specifically the kind of work that you do with schools?

David: Absolutely. I work with universities and local high schools in here in Atlanta and across the United States, as well. On the university side, most universities have business schools or a business department, and they bring me in to talk about leadership development, leadership skills, leadership styles, etc. I also work with universities to establish executive coaching as part of their curriculum and training for their undergraduate students and those in their MBA program. I believe that component is critically important. What we’ve found across the board is that once students come out of their MBA programs and move into their careers, they’re great in their technical/tactical/operational side, but lacking in the soft skills side.

In schools, I primarily work with young people on these soft skills: how to communicate effectively, deal with conflict, resolve conflicts, and how to advocate for themselves. I work with them on their interviewing skills for those who are interested in going off to college or into the workforce. We work on speaking and presentation skills to help them project their presence to achieve the best results.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

David: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Rhetoric from Oglethorpe University and I then I also hold a Master’s of Science in Leadership Development and Executive Coaching from Bellevue University. I’m also a board certified coach, as well.

I believe in education. I believe in training. Even though the industry is kind of unregulated at this particular time, people are beginning to ask for ICF certification. I wanted to bring not only the skills that I have in coaching but the scholarship and theory behind it. It was critically important for me to finish my Master’s degree, but it also was important for me to sit for the certification as well because we are dealing with people’s lives. We’re dealing with their livelihood and we need to know what we’re doing.

Coaches should be reading. You should be building your library. I’m reading a book a week. I’m always reading, I’m always researching.

If I’m to talk with an MBA student and I don’t have a Master’s degree, why would they listen to me? Or if I’m going to a school where the teachers have an EdD, a Doctor of Education, or a Master’s level or above. I’m walking there talking about discipline and life skills and all those kinds of things and I haven’t completed anything. For me, the credibility and authority has to be struck on the front end. I need to walk in there with all that in place. Automatically I can walk in, command a certain fee and command a certain audience. It’s important to us as coaches to present ourselves in that way.

Coaches should be reading. You should be building your library. I’m reading a book a week. I’m always reading, I’m always researching. The data is out there, so understand the research. There’s so many great books out there.

When I’m speaking with a client and they are interested in more resources, I can offer a book. I can offer a resource beyond my skill set or to add to the skill set. So when we’re not in a relationship together — say we’re meeting once a week or maybe every other week — in that between time, they have work! They have something that they can go back to that solidifies or that offers a guide. When we’re back together again, I could say, “What did you think about the book? Have you started reading it? What do you think about the material?” 90% of the people that I’ve coached, they actually get into to the material. They order the book or they go to the library and get the book. They do the research and then they do the things they need to do to be better.

So if we’re asking people, as coaches, to step into their lives fully, and we’re not reading the present data that’s out there, if we’re not reading books from fiction to non-fiction and the gamut, then I’m not quite sure what we can really offer to people beyond what I want to call “mother wit.”

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career? And on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

David: The most challenging aspect of the work is self-care. We, as coaches, take on our clients. We hear so many stories throughout the day and we live with that. We’re thinking about them. We’re thinking about the things they said and many times, we don’t know how to turn that off.

We get bombarded with a lot of stuff. A lot of challenges, a lot of problems or problem-solving. We’re helping people push through, and we have to have time and space for ourselves to rejuvenate and take care of ourselves. I did not learn that until a couple of years ago. We also need to be taking care of ourselves.

I have seven or eight different conversations in my head most days from my clients. When I get done with a client, I got to go for a walk. I gotta put some music on, I got to leave the house, I got to go to the gym, I got to go for a swim, I got to do whatever I need to do to shake that because I got to get them off of me, right? That’s one of the biggest challenges. It’s taking care of myself as I’m taking care of others. That’s on the personal side of things.

The tactical challenging aspect of coaching is growing the business. I think a lot of people don’t tell the truth around how to build a successful coaching practice and what it actually takes to run a successful business. We talk about coaching but we also need to talk about the business of coaching. I think that’s critically important as well. I want to hear more conversations around that because that is one of the greatest challenges: how to keep clients, how to move from one-on-one to group, how to do the books, how to get on the speaking circuit, how to scale properly so you can continue taking care of your clients but also grow the business. The business of coaching is a big challenge for most of us if we’re honest.

One of the biggest challenges for coaches that we hardly ever talk about is how coaches are taking care of themselves because we get bombarded with a lot of stuff, right? A lot of challenges, a lot of problems or problem-solving, we’re helping people push through.

NCA: What is it that you think about the common perception of running the business that isn’t quite accurate in the way people are describing it? 

David: That if you just put a website up and that you’re going to be poppin’ the next day. And that’s not true. People aren’t telling the truth about what it took for them to get to this place where they are now living off their coaching while they take care of themselves and their families. People are not telling the truth around what it really means to build a coaching practice. 

They talk about the skills for coaching — we got the coaching down. But when we hang the phone up or we close the laptop, how are we running our business? And that is something I want to hear more coaches talking about. How did they learn how to price? What do they do with clients? How did they set up their contracts? How did they know if they’re a good fit for their clients?

I’m a big proponent that we should be talking more to one another as coaches. We need to talk about our business to one another so that we can all grow and take care of a lot of things that people bring into us on a higher level.

What I have noticed is there’s an amount of competition among coaches. We don’t share because we think if I give you my information, you’d want to take the next client that comes. I don’t operate like that. If another coach calls me and they’re starting out, I’m going to give them everything I can because I want them to win. They can’t do what I do and I can’t do what they do and I’m OK with that. I’m not trying to get into their particular area as well. I want coaches to really build a healthy coaching community so that we can all do these things. We should be sharing information and sharing resources.

I get about 4 to 5 calls a month from people who say “I’m interested in becoming a coach” or “I just started coaching and I see you’ve been doing it for a while. Can I ask you a few questions?” Why would I, a person who is in the service of being a servant leader to others, turn around and deny them my information? I’m just not going to do it. I want more coaches to be more generous — with boundaries of course — but to share amongst one another and also help the newcomers out so they can fly. I think there’s enough bandwidth among the community. We got the capacity to do it, but I don’t think we have the willingness as much as I would like to see.

Why would I, a person who is in the service of being a servant leader to others, turn around and deny them my information? I’m just not going to do it. I want more coaches to be more generous.

NCA: Can you think of one client or mentor who challenged your beliefs or made you rethink the way you approach your clients or your work?

David: I had a mentor who was a psychologist by training when I was getting my feet wet in the industry. She challenged me on the way I coached, my presentation around coaching, how do I explain what it is versus what it isn’t. And that was real eye-opening for me because I had learned all that I thought coaching was. But I couldn’t tell you what it wasn’t. 

And so she was teaching to me in a very real way that forced me to know the difference between coaching and consulting, coaching and counseling, coaching versus mentoring. She asked me the right kinds of questions which forced me to really dig deeper into the industry and what it actually is and what I’m actually doing. And that opened me up in an intellectual way so when people call me, I know exactly what I’m listening for versus just taking a client. And that was huge for me. 

For instance, if someone calls me and said they’re dealing with social anxiety, she would say, “You need to know that’s not what you do and you need to be able to define that to them and then step away from that if you’re not properly trained in it.” That was setting up a business ethic on the front end that I hadn’t even thought about and I appreciate that from her today. That was 10 years ago.

NCA: Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to get started in the career path that you chose?

David: My career advice would be to ask themselves, do they want to coach or do they want a coaching practice? And to define what those two different things are. It’s one thing to be a coach. It’s another thing to run the business of coaching. And for me, it’s critically important that that conversation is had. 

Really define the business acumen. Understand how to run a business, how to open up a business, get all the state and federal things behind you. Get everything that you would need: the confidentiality agreement, the insurance — everything that it takes to make sure that the foundation of the business is laid.

Of course, you can be an in-house coach with a business or organization. You’re on the payroll and you are an employee. Or you can run a coaching practice. To define those two things on the front end are very helpful to become really successful. 

Build and increase your executive presence

By | Executive Coaching

So, executive presence is not innate. While many factors are vague – who can truly define charisma? – there are some concrete factors involved as well…

Executive presence really distills to who you are and how you present yourself to the world. 

Here, we will cover ways you can build and increase your own executive presence. With practice, anyone can develop an executive presence. 

Start working on it now because as you climb the ladder you are going to have to rely on your executive presence more and more. This is a skill that must be continually improved, refined and mastered as you advance through your career.

Now, here are some valuable steps you can take in order to build and increase your executive presence…

Communication Is Key

We’ve said this repeatedly and for good reason. When it comes down to it, a leader is only as effective as their communication skills. To have executive presence, you must be a skilled communicator, period. 

Make sure you are able to communicate well in any situation and across all mediums: virtual platforms, through written communication and in person. 

Make sure you are articulate. Choose your words carefully. Trust in the pause. While silence can be awkward, use it to your benefit, assessing how your audience is interpreting your message. 

Know Your Worth

In our self-assessment, we made it clear that those with executive presence know what they bring to the table. Now, there’s a fine line between confident and cocky so tread carefully but never doubt your value. You bring much to the table with your individual perceptions and experiences. Go in to situations with this mindset and you are golden.

Listening Is Half The Battle

Communication is about so much more than talking. The other half of being an effective communicator is making sure you take the time to listen to others.

People who listen to others and make them feel valued tend to have excellent executive presence. 

Engage with the person you are speaking with, listen to their viewpoints, ask questions and explore new ideas. When you listen, you also demonstrate to others that you don’t have to be the center of attention which in turn shows self-confidence.

Clearly Explain Your Vision

If you are a leader, you likely have a vision for where you are guiding your team. Make sure you know what you are trying to accomplish and then work on conveying that message to your team. Be sure you can explain it succinctly in any situation. Your lengthy boardroom message will not be well received at the dinner table but your vision still needs to hit its mark.

Build Your Network, And Your Reputation 

Having executive presence when you walk in the room is great, having senior staff know who you are before you step off the elevator is even better. 

Be sure to take time carefully cultivating your network. Corporate politics are neither good nor bad and people who possess executive presence are adept at building beneficial relationships. As you build your network, your reputation will begin to grow as well.

First Impressions Matter

Whether you like it or not, the way you present yourself to the world matters a great deal. An unkempt suit and messy hair do not say “follow me”. 

You don’t need to try to be something you’re not, but neatness does matter. 

Try to conform to company standards, ensuring your clothing fits and that your personal grooming is taken care of. You want the reputation you build to be based on your skills and attributes not your lack of personal hygiene.


There is a common thread that runs through everything pertaining to executive presence…and that is YOU. 

To effectively lead, you must rely on your skills, character, substance, and style.

 Find who you are and be authentic to yourself. 

No matter what the culture of the company is and what their values are, you are the best thing you can bring to the table.

Combining The Traits Of Executive Presence

By | Executive Coaching

All of these traits and abilities can be rounded up into 3 distinct categories: 

  • Character
  • Style
  • Substance 

Your character is who you are, your innermost self. It is made up of all the values and traits that make you who you are. Your character determines how you see the world around you, how you see others, how you see yourself. 

While a person’s character is arguably the most important thing that creates a leader, this is something that cannot be seen by the outside world. Your integrity, courage, priorities, and optimism help to create your character. When you are in a position of leadership, you rely on these character traits and values to lead. You must know who you are and where you stand in order to consistently operate in your role as a leader.

The way people see you and experience you as a person is determined by your style. Often, your style determines the first impression others make of you. 

To figure out who you are, they rely on the way you dress, the way you carry yourself, your speech and your mannerisms, and the way you interact with others. If the way you carry yourself does not shout “leader”, others are less likely to follow you. If others don’t see you as someone worthy of the position or title you hold, they will often tune you out. While it might not be fair, everyone makes presumptions of others based on observations when it comes to style.

Your gravitas, your demeanor, and your social presence are the things that make up your substance. Your substance is how you integrate your character into the way you behave as a leader. As a leader, one must evoke a sense of maturity and wisdom. A person with executive presence must be strategic, confident and composed when interacting with others. Many leaders have been seen as having a lot of style, but no substance. These leaders don’t last long because they’ve got nothing to offer.

Knowing Where You Stand

How do you know if you’ve got a shot at leadership? 

How can you know if you command attention when you walk in a room? 

How can you tell if you’ve got executive presence?

In this section, we’ll touch on how to assess yourself and your standing when it comes to your executive presence. 

Peer Evaluation

While it is important to have confidence in yourself, and to trust what you bring to the table, executive presence is really all about how others perceive you. To perform a realistic assessment and determine where you stand when it comes to executive presence, you must also rely on the people around you for feedback.

First, be willing to accept constructive criticism. The only way to get better and develop in areas where you are lacking is to first understand what and where they are. 

Now, figure out who you want to evaluate you. No, your mother is not a good source here, she’s likely far too biased. Same goes for your spouse. Instead, turn to a work colleague who has no problem being candid with you. Perhaps a peer mentor, a supervisor, or a business partner. If you feel like you have no one to turn to in these roles, now is a good time to start cultivating relationships with them.

Have your evaluator look over the 8 Traits Of Executive Presence in the last section. Once they’ve reviewed them, have them answer what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to those traits.

Once you’ve received your feedback, evaluate how it matches up with where you want to be. Are you projecting what you mean to, or are you far off the mark? You might have certain intentions and you might think you are conveying that to others when in reality you are not being perceived the way you think you are.

Adjust where needed but also accept that others will not always see you the way you want them to and that’s fine. Just keep striving after your goals and keep trying to build the traits that come with executive presence.


Sometimes we are not in a situation where we can rely on others to evaluate us. Perhaps you are an entrepreneur with no business peers to turn to. In this case, a trusted friend could work, but that’s not always your best bet. Sometimes, you need to take a realistic look at yourself and honestly evaluate what is going on.

Take a look at the 8 Traits Of Executive Presence and determine where you think your strengths and weaknesses are. When you are through, adjust your expectations and attitudes to better align with where you want to be.

Here is a short self-evaluation tool for determining if you have executive presence, or if it is something you don’t currently possess. 

  • Do you care too much about what others think, changing who you are to please them?
  • Are you someone who seeks validation, chasing after recognition and attention for what you do?
  • Do you dismiss compliments trying to avoid attention?
  • Are you a person who plays it safe? Do you freeze when it comes time to make a decision?
  • Do you brag about all you’ve accomplished, or take credit for work done by others?
  • Are you likely to shift blame? To cover up your mistakes, or try to fix them quickly before they are noticed by others?

If you answered yes to more than a few of these questions, you do not have high executive presence.

 Don’t worry though, you do have the ability to change your situation. You just need to be honest with yourself and be ready to make some changes.

 In the next section we will go over what you need to do in order to build executive presence, so keep reading!

  • Are you a person who does what is right even when you know there will be consequences?
  • Do you often give the glory to the team, knowing that you wouldn’t be successful without them?
  • Can you realize when it is time to let something go even if you’ve invested a lot in it?
  • Are you likely to take risks? Are you willing to tackle the unknown, outside your comfort zone?
  • Do you push into new situations, even when perfect conditions have yet to be met?
  • Can you admit your mistakes? Do you have the ability to learn from them?
  • Are you satisfied with what you’ve done even if you don’t receive validation from others?
  • Can you graciously accept compliments?

If you were able to answer yes to most of these questions, then you likely have a high executive presence. Congratulations – half the battle is won!

Even if you have what it takes when it comes to executive presence, you must still be able to effectively lead, and get others to follow.

8 Traits Of Executive Presence

By | Executive Coaching

Leaders will all command respect in different ways and executive presence is much the same. While executive presence is a skill that can be learned, there are certain traits that can undoubtedly help. 

In this section, we’ll go over some of the key behaviors and traits possessed by people who have excellent executive presence.

  • Confidence – One of the most important aspects of executive presence is confidence. You must appear confident in the way you look and they way you speak, not only in what you say but also in how you say it. Stand tall, make eye contact, and focus on each person individually. Be aware of your tone and the way you speak. You should also dress the part.
  • Charisma – This is the “it” factor that so many people with great executive presence have. Part of executive presence is the ability to captivate others. Making sure each person feels heard, making others feel as though you are focused on them, ensuring others know they matter – these things are all key for developing charisma. Others will be drawn to your charm and force of personality. You can use your charisma to influence and persuade others, which of course is a goal when developing executive presence. 
  • Trustworthiness – To lead others, you have to garner their trust. You cannot do this if you are not consistent and have no conviction. You must be the person others see doing the right thing. Be the one standing up and speaking out against wrongdoings. You must also have integrity, doing the right thing even when no one is watching (because someone always is watching). You must show others that you are worthy of their trust and that you are worth following.
  • Relatability – Like we mentioned when discussing different viewpoints of executive presence, being relatable can be an important trait when it comes to establishing your own presence with people. One of the best ways to get people to notice you is to help them realize that you are the same as them – human. Don’t be afraid to discuss your experiences, your successes and failures. Make connections with others in order to build deeper, more meaningful relationships.
  • Composure – It’s essential to be able to assess the emotions of the people around you. When you can determine how others are feeling, it can help you better navigate situations. This is all well and good as long as you can keep your own emotions in check as well. Managing the way you respond to situations can establish your presence. People who have executive presence do not tend to be rattled by their situation, instead responding with grace and remaining calm.
  • Transparency and Authenticity – Again, another topic we’ve touched on when discussing executive presence. Authenticity is so important when it comes to establishing yourself as a person for others to emulate and follow. People with executive presence are genuine. They are comfortable with who they are, and they are straightforward pulling no punches whatsoever. Other people gravitate toward this, because people like this are trustworthy and relatable. It takes a confident person to be open about their mistakes and to own up to having fears and doubts.
  • Conciseness – For people with executive presence, one of the most important skills is communication. You must be able to convey your point and do it clearly. Clarity and conciseness are key to this. You must have a clear understanding of what you are trying to communicate, and you will likely need to shorten your message. People don’t tend to have long attention spans so you should ask yourself how you can get your message across in 10 words. If you are unable to articulate your message briefly, you need to rework your message.
  • Style – This goes along with what we’ve discussed when talking about leadership styles. People with executive presence rely on their own style of leadership without mimicking other leaders. Rely on your own sense of humor, your own mannerisms. Be authentically you and set yourself apart from other leaders. This will ensure people remember you and the reputation you have built for yourself.

Executive presence

By | Executive Coaching

Many of the factors that set leaders apart are core personality traits

If you are in a position of leadership, it’s likely that you have displayed these traits and they helped to get you to where you are. 

If you don’t feel like you have some of these leadership traits, you might be wondering how you’ll ever manage to climb the rungs of that corporate ladder and we’re here to help you with that.

While many of the things that make an effective leader are natural traits and abilities, there are a few areas that can only be learned. 

There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding this topic but there doesn’t need to be. In fact, we’re here to strip it away.

As with everything in business, if you’ve been around long enough you’ve seen the good and the bad. You’ve heard people described as having executive presence. You’ve certainly been able to realize when someone in a position of leadership does not command the same authority as others, largely due to the fact that they do not have executive presence.

But even though you’ve seen it in action, what exactly is executive presence and why should you care? 

In this chapter, we are going to delve deeper into this topic. We’ll take a look at what executive presence is and why it matters. We’ll discuss the behaviors and traits that define executive presence. We will serve up some tips to help you assess your executive presence as well as how to further develop and build on what you’ve already got on place.

Let’s get started!

What Is Executive Presence?

As with most things in the arena of business leadership, if you ask 100 different people what defines executive presence, you’ll get 100 different answers. 

Most people can’t quite put their finger on it  because executive presence comes from people who just have some sort of “it” factor, a certain je ne sais quoi or gravitas that seems to make them an excellent leader.

When you walk into a sales meeting or are interacting with a group in some way, you will generally find yourself drawn to a certain person. A person who commands respect, who exudes presence, who just seems like the leader.

This person has executive presence. 

In studies, researchers have found that many different views of executive presence including he actor’s view, the corporate view, and the psychologist’s view.

In the actor’s view, it is believed that executive presence comes from being able to connect with people on a deep level making it easier to motivate them. 

The corporate view reasons that executive presence comes from gravitas, communication, and appearance. A person must have poise and authentic confidence that projects a certain image to others. This image is what convinces others that we are leadership material, that it’s safe to follow us.

The psychologist’s view says that if you are in tune with your innermost self and represent your true self with confidence, others appreciate your authenticity and are likely to follow your leadership.

The reality is, all three of these views coming together forms the strongest executive presence. When looking at the actor’s view, you have to look back on your experiences and figure out how they shaped you as a leader. You can use these experiences to connect with others and build a presence with them. The corporate and psychologist’s views encourage us to take a look at who we truly are and how we are presenting ourselves to others. Without authenticity, no one will want to follow our leadership.

Do you inspire confidence in others? 

In your team? 

Among your subordinates? 

Have you done something to convince them to follow you, to trust in your leadership? 


Executive presence really hinges on how you control the room. What impressions you give to others and what effect you have on the people around you are also important. 

In leadership, you want to be the person who commands a room. 

If you are not an exceedingly confident person, you need to find a way to “Fake it till you make it.” You need to dress the part but not in a fake way – remember, authenticity is key.

But why does this matter anyway?

Why Do You Need Executive Presence?

In a recent survey of CIOs, Gartner found that executive presence is the number 2 leadership trait that makes a marked difference in a person’s career.

Executive presence isn’t only about inspiring confidence in people who work alongside you on your team, though. To be put in positions of higher esteem, you must also convince senior leaders that you are worth betting on. You must show them that you have potential in leadership. 

If you want a promotion, to get assigned to a high-profile sales team, to work on the influential research and development team, to climb the ladder in any way and gain opportunity… well, you need to inspire confidence. You need to make others believe in you.

Senior leadership will be making determinations about these positions when you are not around, which is why it’s so important that you make a striking impression on them when you are in their presence. You want the VP to remember that you are the one who had confidence and charisma, that you are the one who commanded the meeting regarding the new project. 

When senior leadership sees that you have executive presence, they are much more likely to give you opportunities. When it comes to placing people in leadership roles, they want people who can encourage others to follow them to get things done and that’s why it is vital that you start to command that attention long before senior leadership knows your name.

There are many people who, in spite of their lack of leadership abilities, have made it to the C-Suite. This is thanks to their executive presence. Unfortunately, many people who are excellent leaders will never make it to the top floor because they have not developed an executive presence.

So, we’ve determined what is meant by “executive presence”, and we’ve laid out why it’s important to start building this early on. 

But, how do you build it?

Glad you asked! Let’s keep moving and look at the traits of executive presence to explain this…

How Leaders Utilize Executive Coaching for Better Business Acumen and Organizational Development

By | Executive Coaching, Executive Life Coaching

While it’s imperative your executive coach can help you develop self-awareness and lead you down the path to continuous self-development, there’s one element that’s equally crucial…

Your coach needs to have a thorough grounding in real world business experience.

Let’s face it, you’re a leader and an expert in your field. You don’t want to be explaining the nuts and bolts of running a business to your coach when you should be the one being guided.

Luckily, the most effective executive coaches can help you to sharpen your business acumen and organizational development. It’s just a question of finding the right coach.

The Key Benefits of Business Acumen for Your Organization

Business acumen is not just a necessary evil for someone running a business of their own.

As a salaried leader of an organization, you’ll notice some distinct and tangible benefits from improving your know-how in this area…

  • Increased efficiency should lead to enhanced profitability
  • By understanding the trade-offs involved in various actions, you’ll be able to make more logical and more strategic decisions
  • Not panicking in the face of threats and problems ensures you make more level-headed and superior decisions

These are all areas where a solid coach can help out.

How can they be of even further assistance, though?

How Can a Coach Help Polish Your Business Acumen and Organizational Development?

In order to help you refine your business acumen, a coach needs to understand how your organization makes money, and how it uses that money strategically. Your coach needs to be fully aware of how you contribute to your organization’s bottom line if you want to make an even stronger impact.

Better business acumen translates to better business decisions so which areas need working on?

While I’ll highlight financial literacy first, I want to make clear that business acumen is about far more than formal training in the intricacies of a balance sheet.

Where your coach will help you most is in interpreting this data and thinking at a higher and more strategic level. This, in turn, can improve organizational development where necessary to further drive profits and improve performance.

Do not underestimate the need for coaching in these areas either. Even if you’re already at the top of your game professionally, a solid coach can always fine-tune your business acumen but how is this so?

Well, business acumen is not an innate ability. You’ll need to develop skills you already have in the below areas and learn any skills that are not in place. Your coach is an invaluable part of this journey.

These components are all central to great business acumen:

  • Financial Literacy: If you want to manage budgets and improve ROI, you’ll need to understand the financial metrics of your company. The more you know about how cash is generated, margin and profitability, the better you can drive processes to improve profits. An effective executive coach will be familiar with all these areas. Your coach can step up your financial literacy by helping you probe into what creates growth in your organization and the reasons behind this. Your coach can help you determine what makes customers buy from your company so you can better attract more customers.
  • Leadership: Perhaps the area your coach can work on with you most easily is leadership. You should already have natural abilities in this area if you’re an executive. Your coach will simply bring out the best in them
  • Marketing: Since your coach will be marketing their own business, they’ll be able to assist you with the overview required to make better strategic decisions based on how your organization carries out its own marketing. And we’ll round out
  • Strategic Alignment: The most critical of these core competencies, an understanding of your organization’s overall strategy can help you and your coach to pinpoint gaps and identify areas where improvement can drive the bottom line

Assuming your coach has the ability to nudge you in the right direction of improving your knowledge of the above areas, what kind of elements can you work on during coaching?

Sharpening Business Acumen for Strategy Through Coaching

You can enrich your business knowledge by training in all the above areas. While your coach can assist you, that won’t be the prime focus.

Here, instead, are 3 fundamental elements your coach will work on with you so your business acumen naturally develops.

  • Your Thought Processes
  • Your Management Style
  • Your Leadership Skills

Your Thought Processes

By understanding the overarching frameworks of your organization, you’ll be better placed to evaluate decisions and steps you’re thinking of implementing, particularly useful for organizational development.

Your coach can dive deep with you into what drives your own decision-making process. By increasing your awareness of the scope and complexity of situations with the guidance of your coach, you can assess more clearly how your decisions will affect outcomes.

Your personality is pivotal here and this, again, is an area where your coach will be instrumental in guiding you.

Fluidity counts, too. Your coach will stress the importance of remaining able and willing to improvise when necessary.

Your Management Style

Any good coach will easily pinpoint your management style. They can readily identify any weaknesses here and push you gently toward making positive changes.

From strategic planning to measuring performance, from dealing with employee problems to managing an unwieldy department, how you get things done can directly affect the outcome.

Thinking about your management style is one thing. Working on it in tandem with a sharp executive coach is another entirely.

For both overall business acumen and the ability to affect organizational change, working on your management style is vital.

Your Leadership Skills

Simply mastering people and leadership skills can have a dramatic influence on your business acumen in general. A great coach will excel in these areas.

In addition to sessions with your coach, developing a mentorship network can also help you to drill down on how other executives lead and manage teams.

Working through a range of approaches with your coach can help you establish which would be most effective within your particular organization.

What To Do Next

As you should see by now, strong business acumen leads to wiser judgments and more impactful decisions. This inevitably translates to business success.

The bad news is that business acumen is not very easily acquired.

The extremely good news is that it can be taught and can absolutely be strengthened. Learning along with experience can get you so far. Why not give yourself the extra edge and speak with an executive coach to see how, specifically, you can push to the next level?

You can schedule an appointment if you’d like to talk through any of the aspects I’ve covered today.

How Executive Coaching Can Teach Emotional Intelligence

By | Executive Coaching, Executive Life Coaching

As a leader, your personal behavior and emotions can directly impact business results.

If you’re a leader ready to commit to executive coaching, chances are both your behavior and emotions are on point. There’s always room for improvement, though.

One of the most common natural traits of influential leaders is an innate emotional intelligence giving an executive coach a strong platform to build from.

Is it possible to teach emotional intelligence, though?

Before we look at this question, a quick snapshot of what, exactly, emotional intelligence consists of…

Emotional Intelligence: The Basics

According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is the ability to first identify then manage your emotions and also the emotions of others.

Daniel Goleman’s seminal text Emotional Intelligence – Why It Can Matter More Than IQ outlines 5 key pillars of EI.

In this book, Goleman touches on Hay Group studies that show up to 85% of exceptional performance in C-suite leaders is due to emotional and social intelligence rather than raw cognitive ability.

Here are the 5 areas Goleman identifies as key metrics for success in the executive sphere…

  • Empathy: Recognizing how people feel is crucial if you’re hoping to lead and manage them. With strong empathy, you’ll also better understand the dynamic underpinning relationships, specifically the balance of power. This awareness is useful at all levels of an executive role
  • Motivation: Clearly, you need to be self-motivated, driven and able to show both initiative and optimism when you’re faced with the challenges of an executive’s day-to-day
  • Self-Awareness: Being able to both recognize and understand your own emotions will go a long way when you’re trying to build upon them. Self-awareness generally translates into enhanced realism and self-confidence
  • Self-Regulation: Remaining in control of your emotions when faced with challenging situations and demanding personalities is another benchmark of heightened emotional intelligence
  • Social Skills: An ability to communicate confidently and successfully involves picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues. With emotional intelligence at the required level, you’ll be able to accept and act upon feedback. You’ll also have the ability to persuade and manipulate others using nothing but words

How, then, can executive coaching improve upon these foundational areas of emotional intelligence?

A coach will encourage you to become more empathetic by making a conscious effort to look at the other person’s point of view. You can run through some exercises where you look back at a situation with full focus on the feelings experienced by the other person rather than yourself. If you fired someone, how did it make them feel and why? Perhaps you passed someone over for a promotion. Again, take the time to understand how it made them feel.

While it’s not easy to teach motivation, you can certainly make a concerted effort to confront challenges more optimistically. Your coach can help you with this. Along with your coach, set goals continuously and hold yourself accountable to them. Rather than blindly fixating on an outcome, double down on the why. After all, if you don’t have a genuine reason for doing something, the chances of success are slimmer than if you’re clear on why you’re committed to that goal.

Drilling down on your strengths and weaknesses is a simple but classic approach your coach can guide you through to improve self-awareness. Be honest about how you manage your emotions. Do you respond poorly to conflict or confrontation? How does this manifest in your behaviors and actions? An effective executive will enable you to turn those weaknesses into strengths with better management of your emotions.

Linked to this is the way in which you self-regulate. Your coach can help you determine how quickly you react to negative emotions since these are usually the most damaging to react instinctively against. You can learn to stave off major decisions until you’ve ridden out a peak of high emotions. If you find yourself complaining or experiencing negative emotions, your coach can push you into planning decisive action instead, show you how you can improve the situation rather than unproductively moaning.

Your social skills, specifically communication, can be sharpened in many ways through executive coaching. You can learn to listen more fully rather than simply waiting for your next opportunity to speak or formulating your answer without giving weight to what the other person is saying. You can practice conflict management and learn a great deal about feedback from an executive coach. Act on the feedback they give you as a direct method of improving your social skills during your sessions.

So, these are some very simple methods in which a coach can help you to hone your emotional intelligence but how does incisive executive coaching actually teach emotional intelligence?

Real Coaching Teaches a Behavior Not a Skill Set

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Sir John Whitmore and Tim Gallwey pioneered a style of transformational performance coaching combining the tenets of sports coaching with the core components of transpersonal psychology.

In Whitmore’s Coaching For Performance, he describes true coaching as “the practice of emotional intelligence”. He goes on to add that it’s a “behavior not a skill set”.

So, if your coach is worth his salt, he’ll be embodying the core concepts of emotional intelligence himself. He’ll also be guiding you to develop better behaviors that will translate to influencing others and working confidently with them at all levels.

Pivotal to improving your emotional intelligence is awareness. It is, indeed, the bedrock of emotional intelligence so we’ll glimpse at how a coach can coax out your potential to optimize performance beginning with awareness…

The Triple-Pronged Power of Awareness

Your executive coach can help you to fine-tune and uprate your emotional intelligence in these 3 broad areas of awareness:

  • Being Self-Aware: You need to understand why you do what you do. By better self-management in the face of internal obstacles, and improving the way you self-manage reactions, emotions, and judgments, your overall performance at work will spike. These are all areas an executive coach can work through with you
  • Being Aware of Others: To manage relationships successfully, it helps if you can clearly and rapidly identify strengths and weaknesses in others. By better understanding their motivations and desires, you can inspire them more readily. You coach can teach you to listen more carefully and to develop these skills to great effect
  • Being Aware of the Organization: By learning to keep individual and team goals fully aligned with organizational goals, you’ll have a team and company in harmony and increased performance along with more enjoyment in the workplace. This is something you might be subconsciously aware of but not implement all the time. An executive coach can pinpoint any weaknesses in this area and help you to focus more fully on aligning these goals

How Can You Learn Emotional Intelligence?

Luckily, this is an easy enough question to answer succinctly…

Implementing the solution is where the hard work lies, but that’s something for your coach to work through with you.

Emotional intelligence is not a hard skill. This means traditional methods of didactic instruction would be an exercise in futility. You would be trying to learn something that can’t be learned using that approach and doomed to failure.

Instead, your coach will employ techniques based on real issues rather than role-play with extensive training and practice using experiential facilitation. In plain English, you’ll be central to the learning process with your coach facilitating.

So, executive coaching can absolutely help you develop superior emotional intelligence, and you shouldn’t underestimate the way that can improve your performance in the workplace.

If you’d like to arrange to speak about executive coaching, make an appointment right here.