HC: Can you explain presence – and can this be developed?
EK: More often than not the people who make it in the corporate world, and other areas of life, have presence. Most actors at some point have to stand on a stage and deliver a performance, so they have huge number of tools to build presence – we use those same tools with clients. A lot of it is physical. The old-fashioned ‘stand up straight’ that your mother told you. A little bit of discomfort goes a long way – for example jeans and a t-shirt is a lot more comfortable than tie and suit, but it’s how you hold yourself when you’re slightly uncomfortable. The way you speak, and the speed in which you speak. Aussies tend not to open their mouths – it’s not powerful. People with presence move slowly, they don’t ever appear rushed as that implies stress. Leaning in when talking around a table – that implies ‘please listen to me’. Can you change that so people want to listen to you?
HC: How do you build a sustainable brand?
EK: People change, people learn, people become things over the years. New jobs, new companies, new interactions with people in your career and your private life all result in change. So you should be having a good look at your personal brand every couple of years. The fundamentals of who you are never change but you will change, and how you want people to perceive you will change. If you’re a computer programmer in a start-up company wearing your Converse sneakers is fine, but what if that start-up gets sold and you decide you want to be a partner in a different area? What does it take to be taken seriously in that role? As you move through life your brand is a reflection of that, reflecting the skills you’ve developed, the situations you’ve been through – in your personal life as well as professional life.
The ultimate practitioners of personal branding are those who are able to dial up and dial down their status according to circumstances. Many of our clients come in and say, ‘I want to be high status all the time’. That’s not desirable. Imagine being high status when talking to your child’s school teacher. The skill is managing your brand in an informed manner to influence the outcomes. People immediately think that ‘high status’ means being nasty; they equate status to being nasty. We dial that all the way back and say one of the highest status things you can do is just smile. We all forget to smile. Take President Obama – he’s seriously high status. Yet when he comes into a press conference he walks slowly, takes his jacket off, rolls up the sleeves, and smiles. All of which would have once upon a time been seen as low status – but it’s not at all.