6 Executive Presence Failures You’re Exhibiting

Scary Clown from ItMany of us aspire to be a senior executive (and many of you already are). Sometimes you might wonder why you’re not getting picked for the role.

You’re a solid performer, your work is great, and you’ve exceeded every goal yet still you don’t make it to the big leagues. Can’t figure out why? You might be exhibiting silly little behaviors that are easy to fix but no one has ever pointed out.  In short, you sometimes come across as a clown.  Now, I know I’ve previously said it’s okay to occasionally be a clown in the social networking arena but this post covers the flip side of that coin.

When you exhibit these little quirks, other senior executives (and your team members) question how polished you truly are. In a day when people are risk averse, they’re not going to take a bet on you if they believe you might embarrass yourself or the organization in front of the board, customers, partners, or large groups of associates.

The good news is I’m more than happy to point out some of these little failings that are extremely easy to fix. Yes, some take time to implement while others require but the click of a few buttons.

If you’re serious about playing at the next level (or if you want to ensure your performance at that level isn’t lacking credibility), read on, take a hard look at what you’re doing, and modify behaviors accordingly. It’s the little things that can make a difference. And here they are:

Email Etiquette

With the prevalence of electronic communication, you just have to nail this one. Your embarrassing emails are being forwarded and ridiculed whether you know it or not. A few things they’re making fun of:

– You’re using comic sans as a font. Unless you work at Marvel Comics, you need to be using Arial or Times New Roman. Using comic sans makes you look like a clown. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
– You have multiple colors and inspirational quotes in your signature block. Stop. If I need a quote pick me up, I’ll go find it on twitter. If you want people to think about Joseph’s technicolor dreamcoat when they read your email, continue.
– You hit reply all. Stop. 99% of the time there is NO REASON to reply all. Focus your messages.
– You CC EVERYONE (rather than BCC). When you do this, you expose everyone’s email to every other recipient. In an age where people try to avoid spam, you’re enabling it.

We’ve talked about some of this before when we discussed 5 reasons nobody reads anything you write. Go check it out again.


You never get a second chance… Your dress says a lot about you. Here are a few things to watch out for:
– Blue suit, black shoes. No. Stop.
– Black shoes, brown belt (or vice versa). No. Stop.
– Flip flops, jorts, t-shirts, and other nonsense. No. Stop.
If you’re unsure about how to dress, go find an image consultant or a clothier. They can help.

Word Choice

This one drives me nuts. If you’re not sure how to pronounce something, ask (or listen carefully to someone with impeccable speaking skills). Buzzwords sound dumb enough. They sound even dumber when you mispronounce them. A few of my favorites:
– Strategery (yes, I’ve heard it)
– Creditability
– Levered

For some of my favorite word choice challenges, take a look at this post.


The vast majority of us aren’t funny. Unfortunately many of us think we are. If you crack a joke in a meeting and hear crickets or see eyes rolling, you’re in the unfunny club. It’s not endearing. People don’t enjoy your jokes and they cringe at the notion of you telling them in front of important clients, business partners, or associates. Leave the humor to the comedians.


Yes, I’m going here. Halitosis. Dirt under your fingernails. Sneezing and not covering it appropriately. B.O. Stains on your clothes. Unless you’re an auto mechanic we don’t want to experience any of these issues. Come to think of it, we NEVER want to experience these issues. Go clean yourself up. Seriously. It’s embarrassing.

Complaining and Oversharing

People don’t want to hear about your personal issues. That’s why they’re PERSONAL. Keep it out of the workplace. If you come to be known as the guy who’s always regaling the office with tales of his kid’s misbehavior, his marriage issues, arguments with in-laws, or problems with his lawn mowing service, pretty soon no one will want to talk to you.

Keep it personal. If someone pointedly asks you how your kids are doing, it’s fine to share. If not, they’re likely more concerned with their own work (or kid) issues to be burdened with yours as well.

Look, I’m not trying to be mean here. I’m simply giving some of you a wake-up call. And yes, I’ve been guilty of several of these items at times too. Fortunately I’ve had friends, colleagues, and family members let me know about my problems and I’ve done what I can to fix them. Go take a hard look in the mirror. One of the stupid little things on this list might be exactly what’s sabotaging your advancement and credibility.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

13 Responses to “6 Executive Presence Failures You’re Exhibiting”

  1. Michael says:

    Save one item, right on the money … blue suit/black shoes form a perfectly appropriate match. If wearing a dark blue suit, crisp white shirt, and relatively quiet tie, the shined black plain toe shoe is a correct style for business dress. It is a formal look though … don't spoil with loafers. You certainly can wear oxblood or cordovan shoes as well … just not quite as formal as black. Not that the house, senate, or other "lofty" office holders are a style guide, but the midnight blue suit, white shirt, rep tie, and black shoes are ubiquitous in front of the cameras. Michael T.

  2. Bad Breath & Halitosis Cures says:

    I suffered with bad breath for about 5 years. I spent a small fortune on bad breath cures. Nothing I tried seem to work even as it said it would. I read on a halitosis websites a review of bad breath cures and the top of the list was Oraltech Labs. I ordered their book. It worked. It doesn’t sell you any products at all, in fact it tells you to stop buying pastes, gels, washes and pills. So if you’re going through what I have, think about this and save yourself the pain and humiliation. Just Google Oraltech Labs. GL, Jenny Wilson. NB

  3. Maureen Metcalf says:

    The attire topic is getting more challenging as we work remotely and meet with a broad range of people over the course of our day. I meet with one leader who wears bike shorts to make a statement about the importance of biking to work (few people can pull this off as a fashion statement but as a change agent his message is strong) then with another in a suit. The biggest challenge is to be sensitive to matching the expectations of those I am meeting with while remaining professional.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article, and insightfully on-target. At a time when innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are being promoted as business strategies, it's interesting to see that those traits can work against you if not finely tuned to the management environment in which you work. What an individual may want to be, and what others expect of their leaders may be differences too difficult to reconcile in productive and fulfilling ways.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great. Stupid people who dress right will get promoted. No wonder American managers make a lot of money and their businesses go to pot. Worrying about whether the shoes and belt match is stupid.

  6. Mike Figliuolo says:

    @Anonymous #2: Wow. You just won this month's bonehead comment award. Really? Note I didn't say that people who dress well get promoted – I said people who don't won't even be considered for promotion. Also your conclusion that American businesses go to pot is lacking in data (period). That one wins the "unsubstantiated blanket assertion award." And go ahead and think it's stupid that the belt doesn't match the shoes. It tells me you don't care about your appearance as a professional which then implies you might not care about other things. Perhaps I can launch a new business focused on Garanimals for businesspeople so you'll never have to worry if your shoes match your belt. As long as both have giraffes on them you'll be fine.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I'm certain you feel like the most intelligent person in the room and it's great that you are able to look past your own mortality while devoting so much thought to (what you deem as) other human being's flaws. Fantastic!

  8. Mike Figliuolo says:

    @Anonymous – nice slam. Perhaps you should read more carefully. Let me reprint the relevant portion of the post: "Look, I'm not trying to be mean here. I'm simply giving some of you a wake-up call. And yes, I've been guilty of several of these items at times too. Fortunately I've had friends, colleagues, and family members let me know about my problems and I've done what I can to fix them."

    I'm not looking past my flaws – I have plenty. And I admit that. If you read the context of the post it is "things I've seen (or done myself per the above admission) that have limited others."

    And perhaps as a matter of being a big boy or girl you should try speaking your mind with a name attached. Personally, when I see attack comments like this under "anonymous" I find it to be cowardly and weak. At least I have the intestinal fortitude to attach my name to my perspectives and put myself out there rather than hiding behind the cloak of anonymity whilst throwing rocks. Weak.

    Sure, I could have moderated your comment and rejected it. I didn't. Everyone gets a voice on this forum (with the exception of profanity, libel, or hate speech). But just because you get a voice it doesn't mean I won't call you out for using it.

    Thanks for being a reader. Fantastic!

  9. Petrus Hansen says:

    Its a no brainer on how to select the correct business attire. Just take a look around you, check out the news and business magazines and see how top business leaders dress.

    If you want to be a boss, you need to dress like one and speak like one. Simple..-)

    Watch how top business leaders and Fortune 500 CEOs carry themselves in these exclusive business interviews compliments of Meet The Boss TV.

  10. Richard says:

    STERLING ADVICE!!! Spot on once again in this column. It is time for the PC crap to get pitched out the window and as Joe Friday liked to say, "Just the facts. We only want to have the facts."

    Thank you for the courage and fortitude to speak this wisdom with the appropriate experiences to back it up. THANK YOU.

  11. Mike Figliuolo says:

    @Richard – thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I'm pretty sick of people dancing around issues and letting them continue to be issues rather than simply pointing something out directly so people can fix it. I don't call it courage. I call it being direct. Unfortunately in the PC environment of not wanting to hurt someone's feelings, I guess that's what passes for courage these days…

  12. Anonymous says:

    This sucks because I’m the one that shares the personal info. I guess, at times I become so bored with the usual routine that talking about other things that have nothing to do with work, actually refreshes me. As soon as I read that portion, I instantly wanted to stop reading. That’s when I knew that was MY problem. I’m more paranoid than most, so I think everyone knows I’m THAT person, haha. I guess I’ll work on keeping things quiet. I never understood the reason behind it though. I’m sure SOME even if very little don’t mind hearing about someone else’s day, you know? But I guess in corporate America, keeping quiet and staying relevant is key. :/ time to find friends so I don’t talk about it at work.

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