“Executive Presence” Means Nothing (Sentence Carving 101)

2 PMM leaders that I coach recently got performance reviews. 
Both were told they need to work on executive presence.
This is a useless piece of feedback. 
Because no one can say what it means.

What’s Really Going On?

They’re really saying you don’t speak with impact.
For impact, there’s one behavior that makes the biggest difference.
How you carve sentences.

Interlude: Reality Inside Your Very Smart Brain

Your brain is really fast. 
You have a lifetime of internal shorthand. 
You can bridge from idea to idea in milliseconds. 
Moving from abstraction to example is easy. 
Good for you!

But for your partners in a conversation, it’s takes more time to process.

Read this aloud:

How you talk is a really important thing and it affects how people feel invited to participate in the conversation and that’s important because it makes them feel like you’re listening to them but also leading them through a conversation in a thoughtful way and you know that if they feel like you know where to take them they’ll have confidence in you and if some of the things you say are specific questions and you give them time to answer and if you take the time to make sure they’re with you as you talk and you listen and address their comments or questions then they’ll feel like you’re engaging with them as peers of yours and that’s what signals to them that they should think of you as a peer and I’m sure you can think of examples where some big boss, after you’ve laid out some long, exhaustive stream of consciousness, once you were finished, said “wait what was the first thing you said?” And so the consequence of thi–


Are you out of breath? 
That is how the raw inside of your brain feels to another human.
But your speech is under your control.
You can do better.

It’s not about what you say.
(Everything said above is true and important)
It’s about how you carve sentences.

Carving Sentences

The way you speak tells people whether to think of you as a leader.
Do you have any questions about that?

Write your first, short sentence in your head. 
Now say it. 

The period is a piece of musical notation. 
It tells you to stop.

Now write your second sentence in your head…
Short sentences work best.

“Yes.” is a great sentence.
“Can you say more about that?” is a great sentence.
“I don’t know” is a great sentence.
“Where should we focus?” is a great sentence. 

Carve your sentences, PMMs. 
Your boss will praise your ‘executive presence.’
Your career will thank you.

Yours in PMM,

From the front porch, 
Moss Beach, California

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