Executive Presence for Women Leaders in 2021

Exuding Executive Presence adds a layer of challenges and opportunities for women to excel in the workplace. Diane Craig, President & Founder, Corporate Class Inc., shares her observations.

We are slowly and steadily overcoming the various challenges resulting from the pandemic. We have more lessons to learn as workplaces worldwide are moving towards a hybrid model of work-from-home and from working in the office, which requires current and aspiring leaders to step up and up-skill to lead teams.

Women, in general, tend to take on more responsibilities in raising children and ensuring their households run as efficiently as their offices do.

But, how does one exude Executive Presence, 24/7, with no breaks and no clear distinction in their work and home spaces?

Expert coach, Diane Craig, answers key questions to help address this challenge in 2021.

What defines Executive Presence now as we move towards a hybrid model of work cultures?

Executive Presence always has and will always come down to how you show up in any situation and how you present yourself.

Your presence and engagement during a conversation in the office might be somewhat different from how you show up on an online platform, however, the basic guidelines remain the same.

When you enter your office or a boardroom for a meeting, others immediately develop a first impression of how you are doing today — if you look happy or weighed down, if you will be able to contribute to a conversation effectively, etc. This first impression sets the tone for the rest of the engagement.

Energy flows where intention goes, and those around you pick up on where your energy is flowing at the moment.

Executive Presence is really about the ability to connect authentically and to inspire and motivate those around you.

We say that inspiring is the pull, motivating is the push.

So, if I want to pull my team in and engage them, I, as a leader, need to show up authentically.

For some, let’s say you are an introvert, at times, you will have to stretch yourself, and express yourself more passionately than you normally would to show you are excited about what you are talking about. This may not be your preferred communication style, but that’s what it will take for your message to be as impactful as you want it to be.

As we start to move fluidly between working from home and the office, there are more demands on most women, many of whom are within the sandwich generation. How do we manage that?

First, it needs to be understood and communicated within the family. A friend of mine said while her children were role-playing, her five-year-old told his playmate, “Can’t you see I am on a Zoom call?” while pretending to work on a laptop. We were both taken aback because we would have never thought of saying things like that when we were five. This just speaks to how our children pick up on the behaviours around them and also have developed their understanding of our challenges.

The second most important step to exuding executive presence, after showing the best version of your authentic self, is to be present in the moment. We need to navigate these situations using solutions like sticky notes on the door indicating your office is off-limits right now, scheduling meetings around your children’s schedule if required, and communicating your needs to your partner and team. Of course, it isn’t going to be perfect, and it takes a lot of practice, however, it lays the foundation for your success.

A good leader needs to adapt to unforeseen challenges to engage and motivate those around them under any circumstance. You have to be that role model.

How does developing Executive Presence differ for women?

Over the last 30 years, I have coached, worked with, and mentored many women. Two things I hear most often are:

  1. they doubt themselves a lot more than their male counterparts and
  2. their passion often gets equated with “being emotional.”

Both result from systemic practices and stereotypes that are believed to be true and are not backed by evidence.

The first factor results from the old style of leadership where command and control ruled the boardroom.

We think of men as confident and women as capable in our teams, and that needs to change.

As a woman, if you are invited to speak about something in a meeting or conference, it’s because you are an expert in the field and you should own it. It’s the same with applying for jobs. The lack of confidence keeps most women from getting through doors, not for lack of experience, expertise, or abilities, more often it is just about confidence and interrupting that self-doubt.

That’s why I love organizations such as The White Ribbon, whose mandate is to enable men to help develop women’s voices. It’s important for women to have male mentors and champions who help them overcome their fears and self-doubt, which are often baseless.

If women are passionate about an idea or a project, they are often perceived as emotional especially in non-inclusive workplaces.

In developing your Executive Presence as a woman, be true to yourself and remain authentic. This requires you to be assertive. Asserting oneself means respecting yourself by speaking up your mind, respecting others by acknowledging their point of view and, without expectation of them necessarily agreeing with you.

This is different from aggression, which disrespects others; and from passivity, which disrespects yourself. If you are passive-aggressive, you disrespect both yourself and those around you.  The benefit of developing an Executive Presence is that you show up like you belong.

Any tips on developing executive presence for women leaders?

Truly believe in your abilities and experiences. Do not invalidate yourself or diminish your power.

In order to be anointed as a leader, you first have to be perceived as one.

If you don’t believe you have that presence when you’re in a meeting, when you’re presenting, when you’re interacting with others, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to be influenced or persuaded by you.

They’re still going to doubt that you’re that leader that I want to work with, that I want to listen to, that I want to role model and that I want to learn from.

The secret of executive presence for women, in many ways, is the same as it is for men…

  • It is displaying your authenticity, your motivations and inspirations, and living them.
  • It involves speaking the truth with assertiveness and not aggressiveness.
  • It involves showing up at your authentic best, being present in the moment, and communicating challenges to your immediate loved ones and your teams to overcome challenges to be the best versions of ourselves.

Are you a woman leader ready to build your executive presence?

At Corporate Class, our expert facilitators provide in-person and live online leadership and executive presence training for women. Learn more about our Individual Training programs or get in touch with us to host a customized Business Workshop.

You can also master your Executive Presence skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!
leadership presence training program

Corporate Class Inc. Launches The Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

centre for diversity and inclusion

Corporate Class Inc. (CCI), industry experts and thought leaders in the leadership training and coaching space, announce the launch of the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to further move the needle on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

CDI aims to help organizations and leaders be inclusive, free of bias and discrimination, while educating and training individuals through interactive, experiential methods to move towards safe spaces for dialogue and initiate action. Dr.Georgette Zinaty, Executive Vice-President, CCI, will be the Practice Lead for the new division under the CCI brand.

Why Are We Launching the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion?

Around the world, we have been witnessing movements, activism, and unfortunate events underscoring the need for inclusive leadership that supports ensuring marginalized groups get a seat at the decision-making table. From #MeToo to Black Lives Matter, different minority groups have been pushing against systemic fault lines to be heard.

As subject matter experts and long-term advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion, we at Corporate Class Inc. (CCI) want to leverage our skills and expertise to help organizations move beyond strategies on paper to make inclusivity a reality in the workplace. Thus, the idea for the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) was born.

Our mission is to help organizations and leaders build a better way of life for our diverse workforce, and move people from good intentions to the integration of inclusion. We conducted extensive research and drew from our experience and expertise to create a plethora of:

When employees feel respected, their engagement and performance increases, leading to a rise in the overall team performance.

Our CDI offerings aim to help organizations and leaders achieve this phenomenon by being free of bias and discrimination, right from recruiting and training to empowering their employees.

What Does the Future of Leadership Look Like?

The blog from our Executive Vice President, Dr. Georgette Zinaty, Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is No Longer Nice to Have – It’s a Must Have, delved into the current state of leadership and the increasingly discriminatory effect the pandemic has had on women and marginalized groups. In terms of job loss and greater marginalization, the most affected by the pandemic are women and BIPOC communities, to the extent that we have seen a regression in the progress made for equity.

Research and recent data point to an increase in organizational performance when there is true diversity and inclusion within organizations, particularly at the senior levels.

Indeed, inclusive organizations gain the competitive advantage of being able to attract the best talent, with diverse skill sets and perspectives, who will contribute to the employer’s goals with their insights and knowledge. This competitive advantage increases when employees feel a sense of belonging and are invested in their own professional growth and that of their employer.

Therefore, inclusive leadership is a must. Not just from a social perspective, but also from an economic outlook. Organizations and individual leaders must buckle up and focus on reducing inequity and creating more inclusive environments where diverse individuals feel valued, respected and secure.

How Does CDI Plan to Build Better Leaders?

Many organizations today are making efforts to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in their culture. However, having a DEI plan or committee is a start but not enough to address systemic changes that are often needed.

We at CDI can help align policies and practices across business functions and verticals to integrate DEI strategies and leverage qualitative and quantitative methods to determine policy gaps, identify a baseline and critical areas for measurement, along with supporting the setting of metrics and goals to measure performance.

Below we highlight some of the steps CDI aims to work with clients on.

For results, we work with you to identify, assess and create measurable action points to ensure the short and long-term sustainability of D&I strategies in the workplace and generate tangible outcomes. The results allow organizations to elevate the quality of life for employees and be a true employer of choice.

Through our assessments, consulting, training and surveys, we go beyond the usual data and dimensions generally tracked by organizations, such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. We work closely with clients to understand their requirements for hiring, employee retention and engagement, promoting employees, supply chain and vendors, among other things, to determine how we can help them develop a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture.

We work on the what, the how, the why and the when. Today, great organizations must have DEI strategies for a strong talent pipeline and as part of their larger ESG strategy; and they lead by example. Let us help you raise the bar and be the best example in your sector.

CDI is a resource for organizations and leaders who aim toward making D&I strategies easily accessible and implementable for their teams, their business and individual leaders alike.

We want to create a new generation of leaders who take the effort to create sustainable change, not just from a competitive advantage perspective but also to create a more equitable social order.

We want to further move the needle on diversity and inclusion through effective strategy, policy-making, and training, so we can have a brighter and more inclusive future.

Here’s more about our new division, the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI).

What is Leadership Presence? (And Why It’s So Important in 2021)

Think of the most famous actors and politicians in our day and age — Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Barack Obama – they instantly command your attention when they walk into a room to give a speech or step onto the red carpet.

Why is that?

It is not simply because they are famous, but rather, they possess presence.

One key factor of presence – and in turn of these famous figures — is that they command the attention of others almost effortlessly. 

People stop and stare, wanting to know what’s going to happen next.

What Does Leadership Presence Look Like, Feel Like and Sound Like?

People who show up with Leadership Presence:

  1. Look like: they are comfortable, humble and engaged
  2. Feel like: they are warm, friendly and approachable
  3. Sound like: they speak with conviction, clarity and respectfully

So, what is leadership presence?

At Corporate Class Inc., we define leadership presence as the ability to connect authentically, build confidence in others, and inspire and motivate people into action.

leadership presence

Some say Executive Presence is a subset of Leadership Presence, but we believe these terms are interchangeable.

When you look at the description of each according to different authors, they are most often referring to the same thing.

The reason why Leadership Presence is more prevalent now is that it is more inclusive.

Leadership Presence is something that shows up at every level of the organization, not only at the Senior or C-Suite levels.

Building confidence requires a good amount of self-regard, which is all about self-respect and self-worth. The leadership implications of self-regard expand further than many realize.

Your self-confidence gives you the ability to:

  • inspire (the pull)
  • motivate (the push)
  • innovate (create)

It also commands respect and trust from others. It helps fuel success!

Why is Leadership Presence Important?

“Presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others.” (Halpern and Lubar)

As is evident by this statement, the underlying structure of presence is the ability to connect.

This ability to connect, or what is commonly known as “charisma,” is what brings people and teams together.

A charismatic leader or actor can command your attention in a room full of their peers because they connect with you on a deeper level, which increases their ability to motivate and inspire their followers or fans.

This is why the world is moving away from the more toxic and traditional ideas of leadership such as the “Command and Control” style and towards a more authentic, inclusive and empathetic style of leadership.

Our favourite teachers, bosses, peers, and clients are those who form meaningful relationships with us, champion us, and push us to do better for ourselves.

Hence, every aspiring leader must work on their ability to connect authentically which requires a great deal of vulnerability at times.

As the CTI report states: “Executive Presence alone won’t get you promoted…but its absence will impede your progress.”

The extraordinary thing about leadership presence is its accessibility. In fact, it’s attainable to everyone with the will to succeed.

At CCI, we strongly believe that:

Leadership Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive.™

Developing Leadership Presence

There is a common misconception that the ability to develop leadership presence:

  • comes naturally to a person
  • does not come naturally
  • only comes to those who have been given certain opportunities

Many believe that a person without this ability to connect or have charisma is out of luck.

However, as experts in our business, and the authors Halpen and Lubar, we agree that this is not the case.

The authors state, “presence is a set of skills, both internal and external, that virtually anyone can develop and improve” (Halpern and Lubar 3).

Yes, leadership presence is something you can develop. But…

It requires commitment because it is multi-faceted, it is about developing core competencies for the role you’re in, and, more importantly now more than ever, it is about continually working on developing your emotional intelligence, social skills and interpersonal savvy.

These are skills in low supply at all levels and most difficult to develop according to research stated in the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect research and technical guide. If you’d like more information on how to develop leadership presence, we would be happy to send you a copy of this research.

The Elements of Leadership Presence

At CCI, our research and experience has taught us that there are in fact several elements of leadership presence and we have combined all of these under 4 key pillars:

First Impressions

Sometimes we nail it sometimes we fail it. What are the key components of First Impressions? Your likeability, credibility, power and appearance. As Joan tells Alan Turing in the movie The Imitation Game, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, they will not help you if they don’t like you.”

Communication Skills

We communicate verbally and non-verbally. Both methods are equally important when it comes to speaking with clarity, brevity and impact.

Pay attention to the body language, the small words we use that sometimes carry so much weight. For example:  Asking “Why” may sound accusatory, “You should” may denote a negative aggressive tone.

The way you communicate reflects on your personal brand as well. Your personal brand is your reputation currency and you must manage it — if you don’t others will happily do it for you and it may not be what you want to be known for.

Purpose Driven Leadership Competencies

The inclusive leader is self-aware and provides a safe environment for all to have their voices heard without fear of retribution.  Great leaders understand the important role emotional intelligence plays in all interactions and how to stretch their leadership style when needed in order to get things done.

Commitment

If it’s worth living, it’s worth recording. Mine for goals, define them, refine them and attach a strategy to each of them. For each strategy, develop an action commitment plan to help you reach every one of your goals.

By including the elements of leadership presence in your leadership style, you’ll connect better and faster, know how to project credibility, stay calm under pressure, captivate an audience and much more!

Benefits of Leadership Presence Training

Leadership Presence Training with an expert is beneficial and recommended for all professionals, as it helps individuals see and understand themselves from an external lens, and develop their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.

The process for leadership presence training requires:

Commitment: a commitment to introspect, reflect and work on certain tendencies and overcome insecurities in challenging situations to assert one’s presence.

Readiness to learn: It also includes the learning of new techniques to help become a more persuasive and influential leader.

Apply the training: Finally, for ultimate effectiveness, it’s critical to take this learning and apply it in your daily work, and look for assignments that will require you to use these newly learned skills.

We learn 70% on the job, 20% from people and 10% from training.

Once you apply your training in a real situation, the stakes are higher and the learning is truly experiential and transformative.

Often, this is not an easy journey and hence, requires an experienced coach.

We have learned from our experience, and this exercise is always cathartic for each individual, in addition to helping them move up the ladder in their careers.

Leadership presence training enables each person to assert their individuality and form more meaningful and deep relationships with those around them, which results in stronger teams, higher performance, and a culture of empowering ourselves and those around us.

At Corporate Class Inc., our team has conducted extensive research on executive and leadership presence. We also have a combined experience running into triple-digit years in the leadership training and coaching space. Our goal is to empower people to unlock their potential. Let us help you on your journey to empower yourself and others.

Master your leadership presence skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

Effective Leadership in Changing Times — Looking Back at the Year Where the World Had to Pivot

effective leadership in changing times

Is there anything to be said about the past year of dealing with COVID-19 that hasn’t been said already?

I believe, yes, there is. The year 2020-21 has been the year of momentous change where every individual, irrespective of race, faith, gender, socioeconomic class, and organizations across sectors had to pivot.

The world witnessed unprecedented changes and our collective ability to adapt to challenging times and channel our leadership abilities on an individual and community level.

As a leadership coach and mentor, it was hard to miss the resilience of individuals and organizations, the power of teams and that of our leaders in hard times.

How did professional development and effective leadership training adapt to the ‘new normal’?

The first few weeks were unsettling because of the lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and preventative measures. We at CCI chose to work from home for what I originally thought would be a few weeks. I quickly realized this would be a lot longer hiatus and reached out to each of our clients to let them know we were still there for them. Like many within our industry, we had to pivot to a completely virtual setting to deliver all our programs and services.

Prior to 2020, I spent many hours at airports and lounges while traveling worldwide to support our clients. I would spend time in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and many places around the world to deliver training and private coach some of our elite senior level clients.

Now, both our clients and I have benefited from virtual sessions, which make better use of our time, financial resources, and the reduction in travel for non-essential reasons, has also helped the environment.

My leadership takeaway for the year has been to review our strategy and processes to be more efficient constantly.

I didn’t expect us to be equally successful at training or facilitating online, especially when dealing with topics such as body language and presentation skills.

However, through effective leadership training and interactive communication, we could easily replicate results in our virtual sessions, as indicated from our client’s feedback. Our success with our virtual sessions demonstrated how many non-essential processes we hang on to out of habit.

As human beings, we need connection. Connecting might be challenging for some when the recipient may choose not to have their camera on, limiting the visual cues available to the speaker. But I have learned that when the speaker chooses to be open, warm and authentic, listeners and team members do engage with the speaker through different means.

With that in mind, here are some of my takeaways on how organizations have adapted to the ‘new normal’ and are developing leaders who are thoughtful, inclusive and authentic:

We are human beings who value and need connections

Our evolving leaders need to rethink how to build connections and ensure the well-being of individuals within their teams given the complexities of a virtual workplace

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw a surge in organizations doing happy hours and free pizzas for employees to maintain team morale. At first it was different, but then ‘Zoom fatigue’ sunk in and the novelty of these types of activities wore off, as the pandemic extended beyond a year, with several lockdowns and restrictions, impacting individual circumstances and at times, mental health.  

  • Do virtual social activities really help employees feel better equipped to handle their circumstances?
  • Did it empower them with the tools to demonstrate their skills online?

These are questions each team leader/organization must ask themselves before determining the right method to provide value to their employees.

For example, one of our biggest successes over the past year has been our How to Fascinate Workshop because it’s entertaining, informative and helps team members understand themselves and each other better.  

The workshop allows teams to bond, gain greater insights as to why people behave the way they do and how to ensure everyone can work together more effectively. It really is fascinating.

There are opportunities everywhere

The only way to really achieve success is to make your people your highest priority.

I delved into the increased resource efficiency with reduced traveling at the start of this blog, but I need to make a special mention of how much that has helped individuals. I noticed many of my clients benefiting from the reduced travel. They have more time for their families and themselves, and it’s less tiresome.

Many clients have told me they have been able to use the time to focus on their personal goals and health, while still being as productive as before.

Organizations and leaders must reconsider their work culture policies about working from home and traveling for work, as well as ensuring that employees are creating work-life boundaries that allow them to thrive.

Private coaching for your teams is a great way to invest in their personal development

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw an increased interest from organizations about providing private coaching for their teams to help them deliver their presentations, sales pitches, and lead their teams virtually.

The demand for it led us to create our Leadership Presence: Online Training Program. Such programs empower leaders with the skills, confidence, and knowledge they need about human behaviour to inspire confidence and foster trust among a diverse team of employees.

Now, what can individuals do, you ask?

Here are my lessons for you on how to become an effective leader

Take the time to reflect!

This is my biggest advice for you.

Although traveling to work every day may have been stressful for some of you, the everyday commute provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our lives, listen to our favorite podcast and give our brain a break from our work. This time is essential. The only way to adapt and embrace change properly involves a lot of reflection and introspection.

Please take the time out in a day to reflect, and it can be as short as 10 minutes. This time will allow you to be more creative and approach your challenges from a different perspective. Maybe you do this by going for a walk or getting up a bit earlier than everyone in your household to have me time.

Yesterday’s leader is not tomorrow’s leader

Adapt to changing times.

The last year has demonstrated how leaders who lead with empathy perform better. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, is a perfect example. Not only is New Zealand one of the most successful countries in the fight against COVID-19, but it is also a source of inspiration to many because of its use of empathy to inspire.

Our ideas of effective leadership have changed, and leaders today are expected to be personable, empathetic and inclusive. Authoritarian leadership has not performed well across the world.

Invest in yourself

This advice on how to become an effective leader is tied to the previous two points. With increased flexibility and the rapid changes in leadership expectations, it is vital that you invest in yourself.

Be it choosing a program to develop your leadership and presentation skills, your emotional intelligence, understanding how your brain works to improve your performance, or understanding how to lead diverse teams virtually.

I recommend taking the time to reflect and identify your strengths, weaknesses, and identify opportunities for professional development.

leadership presence training program

You need to up-skill to be the leader of tomorrow. And, there’s no better time than now.

More power to you!

Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is No Longer Nice to Have – It’s a Must Have

When organizations set goals and aspirations related to diversity, equity and inclusion we see this reflected in their mission and vision statements.

These goals are quite often ambitious.  To their credit, many organizations may very well have good intentions in terms of their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, however, the challenges in achieving their outcomes often rests in the organization’s abilities to identify the what and the how.

What do you truly want to accomplish and how will you do that effectively?

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion —The WHAT:

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) it will take 100 years for the gender gap to close and for there to be gender equality.

Recent research validates that the gender gap is alive and well, with the pay gap equally existent.  To give context to the slow pace of change, in 1999, the number of female CEOs of fortune 500 companies was 2%, today that number is 6.6% or 33 women, despite more women in the workforce than ever, and women holding higher levels of education than their male counterparts.

Women, women of colour and Latina women have been the hardest hit by COVID 19 and exiting the workforce at alarming rates.

Why?

In some cases, COVID-19 has increased the burden women have always had of balancing work and life, and compounded with the stay-at-home restrictions it can be difficult, overwhelming and challenging to raise a family and work from home. In other cases, women in service industries or Pink Ghettos – industries dominated by women, were closed indefinitely due to COVID-19, ensuring these most vulnerable women exited the workforce.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion —The HOW:

We must begin to seriously ask, as leaders and as organizations:

  • How are we supporting this important segment of our population and workforce?
  • How will we ensure they have the tools and skills to re-enter the workforce stronger and better than pre-COVID 19?

Some key statistics, according to an RBC report, amid the pressures of the pandemic: 

  • Men are picking up jobs at thrice the rate that women are leaving the workforce
  • 20,000+ women left the workforce between Feb-Oct, 2020
  • 68,000 men joined the workforce during this same time

The report stated that the pandemic and the demands of raising a family are most likely to blame for women exiting from the workforce.

On the contrary, men are benefiting from growth in the fields of technology, science, and engineering — fields they already dominate in to begin with.

So, should women and leaders accept this fate or should they revisit their DEI goals and vision and double down on an important resource — women?

According to Harvard Business Review, women have been better leaders, prior to and during the pandemic:

The report concluded that:

“Perhaps the most valuable part of the data we’re collecting throughout the crisis is hearing from thousands of direct reports about what they value and need from leaders now. Based on our data they want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion —WHAT’s Next:

Continuous investment in developing this important talent pool with proven successful programs and diversity, equity and inclusion training that empower women and develop their confidence and skills is not a nice-to-have, but a must have today.

At Corporate Class Inc., our Live Online Women in Leadership Masterclass is a two-day program that is simply transformational.

Why?

Because the program is unique in tackling some of the biggest challenges’ women face — bias, the imposter syndrome, the confidence gap, work-life balance and more.

The program is interactive and highly experiential, allowing each participant to dig deep into who they are, what they want their brand to be, how they make a first (and many other) impressions and teaches them the tools and skills to be confident, compassionate and to lead with executive presence and focus.

Why should organizations invest in a diversity, equity and inclusion program for women?

Given that women remain scarce in the C-suite and in the workforce, and that number has diminished due to race, culture and ethnicity – organizations who want to be global leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion must invest in the development of the most critical talent in their organizations and society.

Women are shaped by unique experiences and intersecting identities, so it is important to recognize and address the divergent challenges and barriers they face in a safe space to share stories, experiences and learn from one other. Women experience a journey of self-discovery and reflection, resulting in strengthened performance and confidence.

Real growth. Real change. Real development. Real Return on Investment.

Ready to step into your power with confidence?

Discover CCI’s Live Online Women in Leadership Masterclass for individuals or corporations.

Top 4 Interpersonal Communication Skills You Need to Get Ahead at Work (2021 Update)

What are the most important skills to have to get ahead in your career? Some essential skills include increasing your visibility, getting others to perceive you in a positive light, developing your executive presence and having strong interpersonal communication skills.

What are interpersonal communication skills? A general definition would be that interpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. According to a recent article in Hubpages, Terersa Coppens groups interpersonal skills into four main categories:

Most interpersonal skills can be grouped under one of four main forms of communication: verbal, listening, written and non-verbal communication. Some skills such as recognition of stress and attitude are important to all forms of interpersonal communication. Effective communication skills result in mutual understanding. Poor communication wastes time and resources, gets in the way of accomplishing goals and can sour relationships.

What are the 4 types of interpersonal communication?

Listening skills (possibly the most important of all communication skills) and verbal skills include:

  • Relaxation – a calm self-confident manner allows for more coherent verbal expression and gives the impression of an active listener.
  • Positive attitude – all people prefer communicating with the happy, accepting person
  • Empathy – by seeing, understanding and respecting another’s point of view, a person gain’s respect and the trust of others as a speaker and is seen as an attentive listener
  • Understanding stress in yourself and others – allows for self-monitoring of your own verbal communication and a greater understanding of a speaker’s motivations; you realize when your tone of voice or word choice is affected by internal feelings of stress and as well understand when you are listening to someone who’s speech is affected by stress; it allows you to compensate accordingly
  • Assertiveness – this quality is essential and fundamental to negotiation in that the participants express beliefs in a way others can understand but also respect the thoughts and feelings of all involved
  • Teamwork – includes adaptability and flexibility in dealing with differing personalities and differing interpersonal skill levels

interpersonal communication skills

Written skills include:

  • Analysis – strong analytical and research skills are key in expressing new ideas and getting them accepted by co-workers and senior management
  • Computer and technical literacy – these skills are essential in the business world as most written communication and all analysis of data occurs on the computer
  • Professionalism – this quality is important in all forms of interpersonal communication including written communication; standard formats for business correspondence are common and spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable eroding a worker’s value in the firm

Non-verbal interpersonal skills include:

  • Body language
  • Eye-contact
  • Micro-facial expressions

In his pioneering fieldwork, Professor Mehrabian made two key points:

  1. a) There are 3 elements in face-to-face communications, often called the “3-Vs:”
  • Verbal, or words
  • Vocal, or tone of voice
  • Visual, meaning non-verbal behavior or Body Language
  1. b) Visual components communicate far more than verbal – in situations where the words are not compatible with the non-verbal signals – and people tend to believe the behavior and the tone of voice, not the verbal message.

According to Professor Mehrabian, we evaluate the 3-Vs quite differently. His findings are often called the 7%-38%-55% rule, or the Mehrabian formula:

  • 7% Verbal
  • 38% Vocal
  • 55% Visual

His formula was refined under research conditions where there was incompatibility, or incongruence, between words and facial expressions when communicating feelings and attitudes.

All of the above can reinforce the honesty, integrity and trust of personal interaction with co-workers and clients. In verbal exchanges, a person lacking eye-contact is seen as dishonest and/ or lacking confidence in their words. Reliability and responsibility are also conveyed by positive gestures and body language that match the tone and content of the speaker’s voice. Excessive hand gestures and invasion of another’s personal space is intimidating and detracts from the value of the conversation. Leaders with poor non-verbal communication skills are not viewed as effective and leading to lower productivity and poor office moral.

It goes without saying that interpersonal communication skills are essential in any career or business as person-to-person interaction is required at any level and for virtually any job. Build key interpersonal skills by developing executive presence.

Master your leadership, social and interpersonal skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

Leadership Training Online: Virtual Learning Proven to be 600% Better!

While the full implications of COVID-19 are still unknown, one of the major shifts most businesses have experienced is clear — customers scaling back their in-person purchases and going online instead.

In the key area of “Learning and Development” emerging evidence points to the same, a huge shift in how training, coaching and consulting is delivered.

In our training and coaching practice, we saw very quickly that teams around the world had to rapidly learn how to collaborate with one another virtually all whilst working remotely and under great stress brought on by uncertainty at so many levels.

At CCI, recognizing the pressure this was adding to leaders and workers around the globe, we quickly pivoted, offered virtual workshops and accelerated the completion of a robust Leadership Training Online Program we had been working on.

Why Leadership Training Online?

Recent research, conducted by the Neuroleadership Institute, shows that virtual learning, when done right, can be dramatically more effective than in-person workshops.

“In fact, an analysis of the likelihood of people taking action on a learning program, showed that a smart virtual learning program was around six times more likely to get people to take actions than the usual way learning is delivered in person. Not 6% better, or 60% better, but 600% better.”

The purpose of learning is to better ourselves, our skills, our decision making and ultimately our environment. Much of the training organizations are now investing in, involves human skills.

The ability to work effectively together, motivate, inspire and influence, especially under times of uncertainty and changes, is critical to the success of an organization.

And, leadership training online, a new way to virtually learn and grow, can take you from where you are to where you want to be.

Whether it is about:

  • How you show up in a Zoom meeting
  • Engage in difficult conversations
  • Stand out when you speak as you deliver an important presentation
  • How you provide psychological safety for everyone to have their voices heard
  • Run inclusive meetings
  • Mitigate biases
  • Enhance your emotional intelligence for greater effectiveness in your daily interaction
  • …And more

One thing is undeniable — being present, intentional and in the moment is where great leaders shine.

CCI’s Leadership Training Online Program

Our Leadership Presence: Leadership Training Online Program has been designed with a unique approach for sustainable learning.

Our modules are short and highly interactive. Through the use of videos, quizzes, coaching tips, extra resources, a comprehensive workbook, and the possibility for private coaching as an option, the learning is impactful, transformational and long-lasting.

Leverage this unique opportunityand seize the moment to grow and flourish, individually, as a team and as an organization.

This is your moment to shine, elevate your confidence, and increase your competitive advantage by embarking on a life-changing learning journey!

5 Virtual Meetings Best Practices for Zoom and Other Social Platforms

Amid a global pandemic, we are striving to get results without being able to meet face-to-face.  We need to lead our teams, but we need to do it screen-to-screen.  There are several platforms available, all which do a great job at enabling the screen-to-screen experience.  Granted, but why is it so much more difficult than running a face-to-face meeting? 

At the best of times, most of us are anxious speakers. 

Our shyness, nerves and anxiety revolve around what to say and how to say it.  Those feelings do not just go away when we meet with others virtually.  Our discomfort grows when we add to that the ‘newness’ of these virtual platforms, the limitations of internet bandwidth and the discomfort with always being on screen. 

A few months ago, we were used to letting our mind wander while watching TV.  Now, it’s watching us!  A further complication is interpreting facial expressions when participating in a screen-to-screen meeting. 

Micro-facial expressions are essential to our understanding of one another.

On screen, facial expressions all but disappear, are distorted or frozen for a moment due to internet connectivity.  Eye contact, so critical in face-to-face communication is difficult to achieve on screen.  It is hard to know where to look. 

As a default, we tend to look at ourselves (yikes).   

Some of us are exhausted with screen-to-screen meetings.  It seems that all our social interaction is on screen.  Our job, family, club, church, and even our doctor all occurs at home, on screen. 

What has not changed for leaders, is the need to plan, manage and facilitate our team meetings. 

Importantly, we need to engage our meeting participants.  That said, many of us were not always successful engaging our teams when we met face-to-face.  Screen-to-screen meetings just exacerbates the problem.  

Here are 5 important virtual meetings best practices for zoom and other social platforms:

Clothing

Dressing appropriately, contributes to your presence, where dressing inappropriately takes away from it. 

The rule is to dress for your audience.  If your office dress code is business casual, then dress that way for your virtual meetings.  

Here are some additional guidelines to keep in mind when on camera:

  • Avoid bright coloured clothing and accessories; they tend to reflect light and are too vivid on camera.  Instead, wear a blue, gray, pink, or beige shirt/blouse
  • Avoid black suits/jackets which tend to diminish your appearance because they absorb too much light.  Instead, wear a medium colored suit, best bets are blue/dark blue, gray, and brown
  • Avoid fabrics with complicated patterns such as checks, tight/close stripes, herringbones, tweeds, and loud plaids. Fabrics of this design tend to strobe and or flutter on camera which can be distracting
  • Wear clothes made of natural fabrics that tend to breathe easily under the warm studio lights. This allows you to remain feeling cool and comfortable
  • Avoid shiny jewelry that may sparkle, or any jewelry that rattles and may cause a distracting noise
  • Style your hair off your face to avoid shadows. A clearer view of your face allows the audience to see your expressions and connect with you more when you speak

Lighting

Merriam Webster dictionary defines “in the best light” as – “in a way that makes someone, or something appear in the best way.”  This is especially true when you participate in a screen-to-screen meeting.  Many people do not consider proper lighting at all, and it shows.  Regrettably, it reflects on their ‘presence’ as well.

The good news is you don’t have to invest $100’s in Hollywood lighting to show up “in the best light.”  Ambient light can do the trick.  Face a window if you have one in your workspace.  If that does not produce the desired effect, consider augmenting your space with additional lighting. 

Sound

It always makes great sense to procure a USB microphone or a USB computer headset with microphone for your virtual meetings to eliminate echo and reduce sound distortion.

Background

If you are going to use your natural environment for background, ensure it is neat and any distracting objects are removed.  Some web-based meeting platforms like ZOOM provide virtual backgrounds that you can substitute for your natural background.  If you choose a virtual background, you should consider using a green screen.  It provides stability to the background and eliminates jumpy images.

Your best angle and maintaining eye contact

You want to look your best when you are on camera.  The first step is to locate your web cam and raise your laptop so that your web cam is at your eye level or slightly above.  A virtual meeting needs human connection, and if your video is not relatable, it will be a distraction. Angles that are too low or too high will be distracting. Humanize your meeting by literally leveling with and looking in the eye of the people you’re talking to.  You may have to raise your laptop using boxes or their equivalent.  One more thing: IF you are using two screens, make sure you move the platform screen below your camera otherwise it will look like you are looking at something else in the room.

Finally, establish your on-camera position.  The safest composition for all devices is upper chest level.  Mimic how close you will get in an actual in-person meeting. When you are meeting someone in person, face to face, you don’t get too close or too far away – you just keep enough distance that you can hear each other.   Frame your position using the ‘Rule of Thirds’, a mechanism that photographers use to frame their shots. 

Barry Kuntz
Senior Associate, Corporate Class Inc.

Leadership in a Crisis: Coronavirus Crisis Management Strategies in Under 3-Minutes

I have had my share of professional crisis to manage in a 30+ year career in industry. 

However, nothing compares to what we are experiencing right now with the coronavirus pandemic.  A year ago, in helping a major university with a scandal that rocked their world, I volunteered to formulate a program, using my experience, which we internally called Crisis Leadership: The New Normal?

As I use the material now with coaching clients (former and current) and any friends who will listen, I find myself apologizing that this is too simplistic.  However, I am told by them to “button it,” and it’s helping.  I guess it’s beneficial to have some frameworks against which to plot their current experiences.  So, I am happy to share a little bit of that with you.

When it comes to leadership in a crisis…

It is much smarter to prepare for and prevent a crisis than repair and repent. 

I am not sure from whom I borrowed that phrase. One of the most important things we all learn when going through a crisis is the cost is always high and unnecessary. However, if handled poorly, the costs and risks will increase exponentially. I imagine this sounds familiar to you if you have experienced a crisis.  We also learned that the impact (its power and force) of any crisis, though it may feel like an event or a relatively discrete moment in time, will persist far longer in terms of impact including loss of reputation, increased cost of regulation and compliance and now, of course, lives. 

It is not too late to do your best as a leader! Can I give you a few pointers?  If I can’t, we will talk about that leadership problem later.

We are taught as leaders to take charge, be at the front of the pack. So, what we often see is leaders who tend to exhibit excessive confidence in how they manage the moment, often with minimal preparation or study.  This can be a lonely place to be and is dangerous to you and others.

You can still prepare to be a better leader in this moment.  While I can’t get it all done, in this 3-minute leadership in a crisis education bite, what I can give you is:

  • a definition of a crisis (thanks to Pearson & Clair),
  • the 3 phases of a crisis, and
  • a competency to quickly explore and eliminate

So, what is an actual crisis?

When developing this program originally, I did not have an operational definition in my back pocket.  I had examples and illustrations but not really a definition.  Let me share one that I found useful. 

A crisis is a situation or event that is likely to be:

  • high in consequence
  • low in probability
  • high in ambiguity relative to solutions

I am going to assume that with the coronavirus pandemic, we can all agree that we have these 3 factors today in abundance. 

  • Consequences: Consequences are dire and have already impacted lives and families around the globe.
  • Probabilities: We can debate probabilities of this disease and contagion factors. However, from my perspective it appears we did not think this was probable at this magnitude and this might be the toughest challenge of all.  How long will this go on and how will we recover?
  • Ambiguity of Solutions: It seems to me we have in great quantity ambiguity of solutions:  how we respond, where supplies can be secured, what will work for containment, steps to mitigate, medications to use, vaccine development and who’s in control of what decisions. The list is endless.

We agree it is a crisis, so now what?

These 3 elements can help you to contain and focus the conversations you are likely having daily.

The Phases of Crisis Management During the Covid-19 Pandemic

No doubt we are in the acute phase of this pandemic, and yes, there are 2 other phases (pre and post).  Many organizations have risk plans, conduct annual environmental scans and even drill practice, as part of their leadership in a crisis strategy.  Use that experience and relish it if you have it in place.  In the heat of the moment you might not remember, ‘oh my god we modeled a similar scenario.’  There might be insights to revisit.  We have heard that the CDC or maybe it was FEMA has a 400+ page resource guide for such an event we are experiencing – I personally hope someone is using it.

Acute Phase

In the acute phase you should have a response team not a response individual!!!  Even if you are the sole leader of your practice/department/business, we are all in this together.  If your “go to” leadership style is to take on too much alone, this will not work.  Don’t shield people from the truth, don’t limit a spokesperson to one individual.  Keep messages simple but frequent, and always let people know when they will hear from you next.  Ask a lot of questions, keep lines of communications open and listen as much as you speak. 

Pre and Post Phases

We will discuss the pre and post crisis management strategies and phases another time, but we are all learning a lot!  My greatest caution is to stay present on the crisis. No one wants to be where we are, so natural inclination is to talk about what’s next: when operations are back to normal or when the economy really turns back on.  Stay present. 

Lastly you have a lot of leadership strengths that will help you.  In our original program, we identified 16 crisis leadership traits to cultivate and 2 traits to avoid at all cost.  In this limited time lets go straight to the one trait that will PUNISH you and those around you:

Don’t be a Blocked Personal Learner: resisting new information, confident only with your current skills, unwilling to try new approaches, certain that you have it all figured out.  So how do you know if you have this deathly trait?  Quite honestly, others can tell you but if this is a problem for you but they are likely to fear you as you have more power or status or degrees or accreditations. 

Have you ever been called a perfectionist?  Does the “stubborn” label work?  Have you been accused by your spouse or children (who are braver than most) of being stuck in the past or your own solutions?  A friend’s young adult son frequently tells him his views are no longer relevant and he better wake up.  This harsh feedback can have a positive impact if you take action. I can offer a few quick suggestions on how to compensate: collaborate more, listen more, ask questions, delegate or defer to others

If you are brave, give permission to someone who works for or with you to speak truth to power and tell you if this could be you.

I wish you were sitting across from me (yes 6 feet away and wearing a mask) I would ask you about how you are doing in effectively managing leadership in a crisis.  I would close our conversation focused only on you and your personal resilience. 

We all know this is going to be a long haul in the acute phase.  How you weather this storm, how you rebound from adversity is key.  Managing your stress, accepting tough feedback, forgiving your mistakes, managing your emotions and building your empathy skills takes a lifetime of work but you have never needed these traits more. 

I will say that if you can advance your resilience capabilities during this crisis you will likely be well set for the rest of your life. 

Chris Oster
Associate Partner, Corporate Class Inc.

Top 5 Presentation Tips from a Public Speaking Coach in Toronto

Your upcoming presentation is an important initiative. No doubt, you have an exciting message to convey to a sophisticated audience. Since your audience will be listening with great anticipation, it’s important to deliver opening remarks that lend credibility and sets the tone for the day. The content needs to be clear, brief/to the point, and impactful. Although the content is critical, it is not what will convince your audience — you will. As a public speaking coach in Toronto, I’ve helped many clients polish their presentation skills, and in this post, we will work on some of those key principles together. Truly powerful communication inspires audiences to action. As a speaker, your job is to persuade. Whether you seek to change beliefs, perspectives, or actions, all communication is geared towards changing something. The only way to change anything is by persuading the audience with ideas. The goal is to communicate clear, concise and convincing ideas. Let’s make sure your remarks convey your ideas and that your audience is prepared to commit to them at the end of your speech. The courage to speak with conviction elevates the definition of communication. As an expert, you want to focus on the ideas you believe your audience needs to hear.  At the onset, the audience may be skeptical or not agree with you. That’s why it’s so important to engage them from the start and be sure to persuade them in the end to commit to your idea. The presentation tips outlined below will help structure your speech in a way that is engaging to the audience right from the start.

1. Speak with Conviction

To speak from a point of belief and conviction, it must be clear in your mind, as to the reason why you are speaking to this audience. You can ask yourself: a) why are you speaking to this audience of senior executives? and b) why should they listen to you? Once this is clear in your mind, it will trigger your mindset and support you to speak from a point of belief and conviction.

2. Get to the Point in One Sentence

Build a relationship with your audience instantly by starting with a strong introduction.  Frame your introduction as a headline: Ex: “I believe THAT new finance will be the major driver of global economic growth. So much so, we at Company XYZ have invested $9B in R&D towards that.” Tell us in one sentence (7 words or less) what you want to talk about. Get to the point immediately, audiences will wander away if you don’t. Most speakers start from creating a context for their content in order to help the audience understand how they came to their conclusion. The problem is that the audience doesn’t know what the speaker is trying to prove or defend. So, they get lost, confused, and sleepy, and we hope they wake up for the big reveal and the call to action. People’s attention span is about 3-5 seconds. If the speaker is interesting, people will go in, out, in, out…if the speaker is not engaging from the start, people go in, out and stay out. The word THAT is useful in ensuring that the sentence is an active idea rather than a passive statement of fact.

  • The one idea I have is THAT…
  • The message I want to share is THAT…
  • My argument is THAT…

a) What do you want your audience to feel and think at the conclusion of your talk? b) What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk? It is not easy to ask. Although, whatever your ask is, it stands to reason that your chances of success skyrocket when you actually ask for what you want.

3. Identify Your Main Points

Answer the WHY Example: a) Every social advance has resulted from technological progress b) Industry 4.0 means huge opportunities and challenges for the financial sector Show the HOW Example: a) The global financial information platform will be based on cloud services and Big Data, and everyone will be more and more able to access the platform via apps on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere. Prove your conclusion up front, it engages the audience.

4. Prove Your Point

Identify the evidence that support your main points: Use only details that support your conclusion. If you need to discuss a list, call out all items first before discussing each.

5. State Your Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk?  Again, your request has to be concrete. By leveraging our strengths, we will contribute to social development and help create a better future.”  This is not concrete enough… This conclusion will invite smiles and nods and allow the audience to leave without demonstrating their commitment to your message/ideas. This message will soon be forgotten.  Presentation Tips Recap:

  • What is your goal in delivering these opening remarks?
  • How do you want to set the tone for the day?
  • What is the main topic you want to discuss?
  • What idea/s do you need to convince them of?
  • What arguments will you use to convince them?
  • Come full circle in the end … “So now you can see/understand why I said at the beginning THAT…”
  • What do you want them to do now?

I trust answering all of these presentation tips will move you closer to the end goal of delivering a polished speech with poise and command. If you’d like to work with a public speaking coach in Toronto or virtually online, get in touch with us. We can help take your presentation skills to the next level!