a lions face to represent strength

Gravitas, or what’s also known as ‘executive presence,’ is something that partners require, especially in business development meetings or leading meetings with staff members. Your partners want to be proud when they introduce you as one of their partners. So, ultimately, the more gravitas you have, the more likely you will be considered as a future partner. If you want to have more gravitas and increase your executive presence, here are 8 things that you need to start doing. 

*This blog is an excerpt from chapter 9 of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter focuses on your Personal Case for Partnership and helps you to demonstrate that you’re already working, thinking and acting like a Partner. Download the full chapter for free here.

1. Think about your posture and body language

a lion silhouette to represent having gravitas if you want to act like a partnerOne of the biggest drivers of gravitas and executive presence is how you hold yourself, and the body language that you use – whether consciously or subconsciously. Make sure you sit up straight, don’t hunch your shoulders forward, and try to elongate your spine while keeping your shoulders down. In Pilates, you are encouraged to imagine that someone has a piece of string on your head and is pulling you up. This has the impact of making you stand straighter so that you look taller. Just remember to keep your shoulders down.

So much of what people call gravitas is actually their reaction to the other person’s body language. Every so often, take stock of your body language and see whether you are projecting outward confidence in your body language. If you’re not, think about how you can change that.

2. Adapt the language that you use

The next biggest impact on your gravitas is the language that you use. Not just how you say the words, but the words that you actually use. When you are talking, are you using words that demonstrate your passion? When you are truly passionate about a subject, it can convey gravitas or executive presence, as long as you don’t let your emotions run away with you. When your self-belief, rather than lack of it, comes through the words you use, this can ramp up your gravitas.

The language you use can also subtly undermine or increase your gravitas. Susan Heaton-Wright, the founder of Superstar communicator, talks about avoiding ‘Ding Dong’ words and substituting them with ‘Bing Bong’ words. Ding Dong words are words which reduce your gravitas and undermine your authority, credibility and confidence. As you can guess, Bing Bong words do the opposite, i.e. they increase your authority, credibility, confidence and gravitas.

a lion roaring to represent how to have more gravitasDing Dong words to avoid…

  • I just think…
  • Am I making sense?
  • I guess that/feel that/think that…
  • Maybe if I…

Bing Bong words to use…

  • It seems to me…
  • From my point of view…
  • The truth is…
  • What is your stand on…

Have you noticed that some people will carefully select their words and will avoid using 30 words when just 10 will do? Think about the great orators such as Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Gandhi who have honed and crafted their famous speeches. Every word has been chosen carefully. Very often, the fewer words you use, the more gravitas you will have.

3. Pace your words

a lion laying down to represent going slowWhen you think of folks with gravitas, they never speak quickly. Take a look at Obama’s inauguration speech. This is a man who is completely at the top of his game and is the poster boy for gravitas in this speech. He doesn’t hurry his speech and takes his time over his words. Although he is using an autocue, he uses pauses for impact.

Now, you may not be presenting to an audience, but next time you need to up your gravitas take your time over what you are going to say. Make eye contact with people you need to influence, even if you are just one-on-one with a partner and add in pauses to emphasise keywords or phrases.

4. Believe in yourself

If you don’t have belief or confidence in yourself, then this will leak out through your body language, words and voice. Therefore, an important factor in having gravitas is to really believe in yourself, your abilities, your self-worth, your subject and what you are saying.

5. Overcome your self-limiting beliefs

a lion stalking another lion to represent strong and weak

Everyone has self-limiting beliefs. It’s what makes us who we are. Depending on what those are, however, these self-limiting beliefs may be reducing your gravitas with key stakeholders in your career. For example:

  • Always saying yes to requests from partners and clients, even if they are unreasonable or need to be challenged.
  • Perpetually looking to the partner to give the answer to the client in a meeting.
  • Expecting your role in a pitch or new business meeting as ‘only’ to talk about the technical aspects of how the project will run. You should be organising with the partner running the pitch, ways to have more of a voice and presence in the new business meeting.
  • Never volunteering to take the lead in a new business meeting, because you feel it’s the partner’s role to do this; even if you are the subject expert. 
  • Feeling like you have to ‘suck up’ to your partners if you want to advance your career.

Sometimes it is easy to identify where you have a self-limiting belief. Other times, you will need the services of a skilled coach or even a trained therapist to help you identify and overcome your self-limiting beliefs.

6. Prepare before key meetings or conversations

a lion herdIf you want to have more gravitas and increase your executive presence, it may be a good idea to really prepare before key meetings or conversations. Not everyone is great at thinking on their feet. In fact, many people prefer to have the time to think before answering a question or entering into a conversation. In today’s business world, this isn’t always possible. And if this is you, you may have had feedback that you need to be more ‘confident,’ ‘charismatic’ or have more ‘authority’ in meetings. Pushing yourself to think on your feet is often not the answer, as this often leads to you mumbling, stuttering or failing to make eye contact as you scrabble for the words.

A tactic to overcome this is to prepare before key meetings. This preparation can take the form of:

  • Utilising tried and tested scripts, such as scripts to open a meeting with a client or an introduction to yourself or your firm.
  • Considering the agendas of meeting participants in the room and what they are likely to want to hear.
  • Anticipating key questions and writing down the answers to these questions.

7. Emphasise keywords

Sometimes when people are softly spoken, this can impact their gravitas or ‘executive presence.’ Whilst there is nothing wrong, per se, with being softly spoken, if you want to have a greater presence, you may find you need to raise your voice a little and put some subtle emphasise on keywords and phrases.

8. Dress for the image you want to portray

a black and white lion face to represent how to have more gravitasGravitas or ‘executive presence’ often comes from people who look the part. For example, if you are a woman, having your hair pulled back off your face may give you more gravitas.

Personally, due to some dodgy knees and a tendency to suffer from sciatica, I can’t do the high heel thing. However, I do think that for a woman, wearing shoes with a heel can help give more conviction to your image. This is, of course, a completely subjective opinion. Think about what confidence looks like to you and do what feels right to make you feel and look the part.

Confidence is key

Gravitas, confidence, executive presence…whatever you want to call it, you can get it. Sure, some people are naturally better at projecting confidence than others, but this is definitely a skill that can be learnt. If you want to make partner, this is something that you will need to work on. Being partner is just as much about image as it is action, so work on how to have more gravitas now and you’ll be a much stronger candidate for when the time comes.

Don’t forget to download the full chapter of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter will help you think, feel and act like a partner to strengthen your Personal Case for Partnership. Download the full chapter for free here.

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