This is a skills episode, where we dig into a specific skill set that is likely to be highly relevant to all listeners. Mike is an expert corporate instructor on many topics, and in this episode we delve into Executive Presence - what it is, why it is so important to the Veteran community, and specific actions they can take - today - to start to further build this. Mike also talks about his own career path, starting his own company, and how Executive Presence has played a role in his success.
Mike Figliuolo is the Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, a professional services firm that offers instruction, coaching and consulting on the subjects of leadership, communications, strategy and operations. He started out at West Point, after which he served in the US Army for five years as an armor officer. His work since then has included work at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He has published three books, all of which will be linked to in the show notes for this episode, and is an author at LinkedIn Learning where you can - along with hundreds of thousands of people before you - watch his videos on a variety of professional topics.
StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
The Leadership Podcast (Jan Rutherford)
The Leadership Podcast - Have you ever wondered how you could become a more effective and balanced leader? Or how to find a team with a high degree of trust that performs at a level you’re accustomed to? Check out The Leadership Podcast where they study what makes the best leaders tick - including many who have moved "beyond the uniform" to reach new levels of success and fulfillment.
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Columbus, Ohio is Mike Figliuolo. Mike Figliuolo is the Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, a professional services firm that offers instruction, coaching and consulting on the subjects of leadership, communication, strategy, and operations. He started out at West Point, after which he served in the US Army for five years as an armor officer.
His work since then has included work at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He has published three books, all of which will be linked to in the show notes for this episode, and is an author at LinkedIn Learning where you can - along with hundreds of thousands of people before you - watch his videos on a variety of professional topics.
What was your transition out of the Army like?
I was stationed at Duke University as an ROTC instructor. I got a letter in the mail from someone at McKinsey recruiting me. I had gotten recruited by another West Point graduate that was working at McKinsey.
The transition of going into the corporate world was interesting. I think the most difficult thing for me was just getting a handle on the new language. But there was training available all the time to help you through it.
What lead you to leave McKinsey and go to Capital One?
As a consultant, you never get to execute on your ideas. You make a recommendation but the way forward is up to the company.
The move to Capital One occurred because a lot of McKinsey folks had left the company to go there and I ended up following them. The transition to Scotts was about the desire to take on a job that would allow me to work at the corporate level. There was a lot of strategy and mergers and acquisitions included in that role.
How did you decide to start your own company - thoughtLEADERS?
I actually started the company after I left Capital One. When I was at Capital One, I would teach a lot of the consulting methods I had learned at McKinsey to my co-workers. The classes I did were really popular and realized that there could be a market there for a training company.
I eventually took the job with Scotts and put thoughtLEADERS aside for a while. I kept offering training to different groups and growing the business. Eventually I was able to leave my corporate role and go full-time into thoughtLEADERS.
If you want to start your own business, don’t be afraid to take your time. The market will tell you if you have a profitable idea or not.
What is thoughtLEADERS mission?
We’re a leadership and development organization. Our instructors come from various corporate roles so they are able to teach techniques that are immediately applicable.
We serve mostly large corporate organizations and we teach 20 different courses. We teach the things that everybody needs but nobody ever teaches you.
What is executive presence?
I think the executive presence is the ability to be confident in front of a group of people and deliver a message in a clear, compelling manner. If you look at the impact of these things together, you end up with a leader that can get a group where it needs to go.
Why is this important?
You know people that don’t have executive presence. People don’t have confidence in leaders like that. If you go in for a job, people probably won’t give a job to someone like that.
Veterans are fortunate in that they have a lot of these skills through their military experience. By bringing this ability to galvanize groups with them as they transition out of the military, veterans can make a huge difference in the corporate world.
When I transitioned, I had to learn a whole new language in the corporate world. But I was still able to bring a lot of those leadership skills I had learned in the military and that allowed me to succeed in the civilian sector as well.
What are steps people can take to build their executive presence?
It can absolutely be developed over time. The first thing you need to know is what you want your audience to get out of a particular exchange with you. If you don’t know the ‘why’ behind that conversation, it’s difficult to be convincing.
Try out different styles of public presentation. Some might feel more or less comfortable for you. Ask the people around you to provide feedback so that you can continue to tweak your presentation style.
You can demonstrate executive presence without saying a lot at all. Your body language can deliver a strong message as well.
I was lucky that when I was at McKinsey, there was a strong culture of giving and receiving feedback. That really allowed me to grow as a leader and bring that culture of feedback to other roles I took after I left McKinsey.
I also encourage people to observe others around them. You can learn a lot about building your own executive presence by observing the leadership habits of those around you.
Try to have a learning mindset. You can learn something from every interaction you have.
Do you have any other tips for people on how to build their executive presence?
Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Where your presence shows through is in difficult situations. To learn how to handle those situations, you have to learn by experience.
For me, my eyes would pop open really wide when I get frustrated. I’ve had to work over time to modify that so that I’m not making people feel uncomfortable.
Anticipate tense situations that might come up and come up with potential solutions ahead of time. That way, you’ll go into the meeting ready to handle any situation that may come up.
Don’t be afraid to take risks in building these skillsets. Nobody is going to die if you test out a new style and it doesn’t work as well as you thought. It might feel terrifying but your ability to tame that response will allow you to be a better leader.
What are some examples of strong or weak executive presence?
Weak executive presence shows up when people aren’t intentional about what they are saying or conscious of how they are showing up to other people.
Don’t be afraid to slow down and take pauses. This will often allow you to communicate and lead in a clear and concise way.
What resources do you recommend?
I also love The Leadership Podcast.
Do you have any advice for audiences regarding cultivating an online presence?
Every interaction people have with you forms part of your brand. I’m really thoughtful when I post something on LinkedIn or Twitter.
There are people who have never met you but will form an opinion about you based on your online presence. When you’re posting content think about whether or not it is something that is helping to build your brand.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I just really want to emphasize the idea of trying new and uncomfortable things. That’s the only way you are going to grow and build your toolkit.