Bob Goldman

Funny, I never noticed it before, but Janie Sharritt and I have a lot in common. We have both been newly promoted middle managers, and we both prefer "to wear a ponytail, khakis, sweaters and loafers."

Or so I learned in a recent Joann S. Lublin column in "The Wall Street Journal." Lublin starts her useful article by chronicling the transformation of Sharritt's appearance by "image coach" Jonna Martin. While her former image did not communicate "executive presence," Sharritt positively spewed executive gravitas with her "revamped look included a sophisticated hairstyle, dressy slacks and jackets, pumps, colorful necklaces and extra makeup."

As result of the change, and the self-confidence it provided, senior management actually promoted the newly made-over manager to vice president.

Personally, I'm happy for Vice President Sharritt, but when I underwent the exact same makeover, it didn't work for me at all. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think the problem may have been the colorful necklaces and the extra makeup.

While my makeover required a do-over, you should consider hooking up with an executive coach who can turbo-charge your "executive presence," which reporter Lublin describes as a "broad term to describe the aura of leadership."

According to a study from the Center for Work-Life Policy, "executives with presence act self-confident, strategic, decisive and assertive." It's a good goal, though the description does fit virtually every Wall Street slime-ball whose executive presence just about sunk the economy.

If you can't afford a coach, or a shopping trip to Gucci, the article does provide some excellent tips on developing executive presence.

"Sit on one hand if you gesture excessively," suggests coach Dr. Dee Soder, an industrial psychologist who founded the CEO Perspective Group, an executive assessment and advisory firm. Though I suggest you go all the way and sit on both hands. That way you won't be able to gesture at all, and you'll look a whole lot taller. That's important since a big and tall image is apparently an important element of executive presence. As another tip from Soder suggests, "Stand or sit large to demonstrate you take up space." Or simply keep eating three pizzas a day. You'll soon take up a ton of space, before, during and after your heart attack.

Big companies have recognized the importance of presenting executives with presence. At Intel, "female technical stars" participate in a four-hour "Command Presence" workshop. Personally, I think anyone who can survive a four-hour workshop deserves to be listened to, but what the Intel staffers have to do is "present effectively through a discussion of 'constructive confrontation.'"

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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