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Are You Perceived As Executive Material?

Executive potential is like falling in love. It’s hard to explain, but when you see it, you know.

But that is what makes it so hard to identify and quantify.

Executive potential (or just executive presence in the making) is a combination of often intangible yet profoundly impactful qualities.

Things like your ability to think strategically and make tough decisions, communicate clearly and concisely, have strong business acumen, and inspire and influence others.

Why does it matter so much?

Being seen as executive material isn't just about recognition; it's about unlocking doors to higher-level responsibilities, strategic decision-making, and increased influence within your organization.

Your manager's perception of your executive potential can shape your career trajectory significantly.

If you are working on an executive promotion, stepping into a director or even VP role, being seen as executive-ready is crucial to landing that promotion.

So, what can you do to ensure your executive potential shines through?

The 3 key elements of “executive potential”

You may be qualified for executive roles, but if you want to be given the chance to prove yourself, you’ll need to make your manager and executive team “feel” you are ready.

And that means learning how to think, act, and communicate like an executive.

But how do you do that if you are not an executive yet, just one in the making?

Your executive potential is shaped by every daily interaction you make. Still, you can demonstrate your potential by developing and sharing strategic insights, increasing your impact, and learning how to communicate compellingly.

1. Develop Strategic insights

You know those people who seem to think on their feet and can come up with great ideas on the spot?

It’s a lie. They can’t. They just had time to develop insights and opinions.

The difference is they didn’t wait to be told to learn about their industry or understand the business. They took it upon themselves to become insightful.

We tend to stay within our purview and only think about our job or team, but that is a very narrow perspective. Executives consume and process more valuable information that leads to more insights and better ideas.

Many people assume this information is above their pay grade, so they keep focusing on their defined scope. However, the only way to think strategically is to have more (relevant) information. And if no one will hand it to you, it’s your job to educate yourself.

You need to do three things:

  1. Be in the know: consume internal information. From quarterly reports to water cooler conversations.

  2. Increase your scope of information. Research the industry, competitors, influencers, and trends. The easiest way is to Google it (or use ChatGPT).

  3. Make time to learn, process, and generate insights. If you are putting out fires all day long, you don’t have time to connect the dots. Make time to think. That is what executives do.

2. Increase your impact

Growing your impact is about something other than putting in more hours. It’s about making decisions and influencing the bottom line.

If your current role and scope do not provide you with the opportunities you need to grow your impact, you’ll need to create them.

Two types of opportunities to look for:

→ A project where you are part of a cross-functional team and are the sole representative of your team.

This type of project makes you the decision-maker on behalf of your team.

→ A high-impact project that will move the needle for the company. No matter your role's size, you’ll get exposure to the impact.

It’s important to note that you’ll need to volunteer for these projects and sometimes sell yourself. They will be outside your scope, but the upside will be worth the investment.

3. Communicate at the executive level

One of the most prominent signs that someone isn’t ready for executive roles is their communication style.

It isn’t about your vocabulary or presentation slides; it’s about delivering a clear and concise message.

It sounds simple, but many professionals get stuck due to poor communication skills. They achieve their goals but are unable to sell their ideas, get buy-in, or influence others. Without those skills, it’s impossible to become an effective executive.

If you tend to ramble on, share too much information, or feel like you can get your message across, use this tip to elevate your communication to the executive level immediately:

Think about delivering your presentation or proposal as an executive summary. Instead of laying out everything you have, focus on the key insight your executive team needs to make a decision.

In this case, less is definitely more, and I guarantee that if your leaders want more information, they’ll ask for it.

If you want to explore executive communications further, check out my conversation with Nausheen Chen, a three-time TEDx speaker and communication skills trainer.

Your next steps

Only 2% of professionals are naturally inclined to develop executive skills. The rest of us need to be intentional about sharing our potential.

Your goal is to make it easy for your manager and executive team to see and feel that you are ready.

When you understand the bigger picture and form insights, your work directly impacts the business, and you can clearly and confidently communicate your thoughts… you’ll stand out and get noticed.

All of these skills are learnable, but most companies don’t teach you how to develop your executive skills; they expect you to figure it out.

I believe in you, and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


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