How to Cultivate Business Presence
Over my long career, I’ve experienced being invisible a few times. My business presence felt more like absence! It’s that feeling of not being seen or heard and hesitating to share your value, or doubting if you had anything to offer, after all. Ever felt like that?
This generally also leads to comparing our contributions with that of someone else’s talents; a bad habit that never leads anywhere good, you might agree.
Here's the thing, you serve no one by playing small. Hiding away your best ideas for fear of them being rejected or ridiculed shrinks the confidence and influence you could have felt, turning you invisible over time. Business presence on the other hand, is all about being visible and wearing your ambition and opportunities with poise and confidence.
So, check this INVISIBILITY LIST and if you tick even four or five boxes, then you might be hiding away and eroding your business presence. Not because you don't have enough value, but because you might not know how to channel it in a way that serves you and your professional goals.
Do any of these ring a bell?
1. You speak up, but mostly get a lukewarm response
2. You want to step up, then talk yourself out of it
3. Your ideas are really good, but stay hidden most times
4. You know you have value, but don't know how to present it
5. You have the talent, but struggle to channel it into work
6. You get excited about your goals, but then it all fizzles out
7. You have contacts, but not enough real supportive connections
8. You go to networking events, but get bored and feel awkward
9. You are going through the motions, but aren't excited about work
10. You are busy being busy, but you know you are not progressing
11. You'd love to contribute, but keep drowning in the noise
12. You know you deserve it, but wonder if you can get there
13. You are confident in good times, but not in the challenging ones
Being VISIBLE means you are seen and heard in a way that aligns with your competence, talents and values. It means you have fun when you step up and step out. It’s not the dreaded professional hazard you must undertake and feel uncomfortable about.
When you are visible at work, you begin to develop something called business presence. It’s best defined as a feeling of professionalism that translates into a level of confidence, resourcefulness, leadership and influence over what affects your career and future opportunities. And others see it too.
Business presence is a message that conveys to people around you that you are professional, self-assured, alert and courageous in the face of challenges. Someone who doesn’t shrivel and disappear when the chips are down, but stands up to them and even shows others the way.
As daunting as this may sound to you right now, business presence is a skill. Like all other skills, it can be learned and developed.
Here are three powerful ways to sow the seeds of business presence through developing your leadership, resourcefulness and professionalism.
#1 TRUST YOUR SELF
There’s something addictive about working with people who are self-assured and trust themselves. This doesn’t mean you have to be right all the time or have all the answers. What it means is, you prepare the best you can, take advice, and learn actively and then put your best foot forward in challenging situations. In short, you trust yourself to do well and take some good decisions on the way. Not trusting yourself ensures that you’ll soon be forgotten when someone is looking for a dependable and confident person to step into an opportunity. So, watch out and try not to go around discounting yourself and self-sabotaging any good that could have come your way. Instead, speak up and be ready to take it as it comes. You won’t always succeed and your ideas might not always make it to fruition. You still spoke up, and that’s what counts.
#2 BUILD UP OTHERS
It’s an immediately recognisable leadership quality to build others up instead of tear them down. It’s shows you have worked on yourself and you are ready to begin leading others. Building others up can simply mean encouraging someone new to get involved and feel supported. Or a word of appreciation to someone who tried their best, but ended up feeling disappointed. You could even mentor a person who’s walking the path behind you and could do with a helping hand. The size of your contribution is not the most important thing, do what you can, but get out of yourself. Self-absorption, you might agree, is not attractive to watch. When you build others up, you learn to put things in perspective for yourself. You are able to see that your problems aren’t insurmountable. In fact, you are quite resourceful around them if you pulled things together and got focused. So, help others feel stronger, and watch yourself grow into your leadership.
#3 STAY BALANCED UNDER CHALLENGES
There’s a sense of immediate respect that develops for anyone who deals with adversity in a professional and balanced way. It means you pick yourself up after being passed over for an opportunity or after your idea almost saw the light of day, and then didn’t. To never feel disappointed or have your way every time is not a measure of success, but one of delusion, perhaps. If you are a professional, then you need to be prepared for the rough times. When they come, set an example. Make the most of the darkness and come out shining brightly. That’s winning on the inside, so you can have a chance to win on the outside. When we are seen to be complaining and blaming and shaming, we repel leadership opportunities and our business presence dilutes over time. We’ll be remembered for sure, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Stay resourceful and graceful when it really matters.
As you grow in your business presence, think of words like professionalism, resourcefulness, leadership, learning, openness, fairness, courage, speaking up and keeping commitments. Let some of these guide you in your next decision, and then watch your business presence soar over time.
Sonali D’silva is the Founder of Equality Consulting, a leadership development consulting, based out of Adelaide, SA. She is also the founder and mentor at the VISIBLE Women Academy which is a learning space for women to develop their confidence, leadership, influence and networks. As part of her work, Sonali focuses on helping women hone their skills and experience to build long-term careers within organisations or in their self-owned business.