What does it mean to exceed as a leader today? Owning your space doesn’t just mean having confidence. It means being an influential presence both within your organization and outside of it.
Many people will have a connection with their senior leadership, but more often than not, it’s on a personal rather than business basis.
It can be difficult to unlock the opportunity to help define overall business strategies to bring value to the senior leadership team and the company’s core objectives. It’s especially difficult when you’re not in an executive role; however, that shouldn’t stop you.
Here’s a five-step guide on how to own your space and win that coveted invitation to those confidential closed-door meetings.
1. Learn By Watching
Who inspires you? This can be inside or outside the entertainment industry. Consider public speakers, superiors you’ve respected, teachers, colleagues, friends. Now consider why they inspire you. Write down what you like about their attributes, presentation style, ways of speaking, how they run a meeting, and how they lead a team.
A mentor told me this was something you have to re-evaluate each year. I find as I grow as an executive, looking back on work experiences becomes the most important step for me to evolve.
On a personal note, there are two mentors that have truly stood out for me. My first mentor was at my first job in the film industry. She had grace, she was kind, she was fun, she supported her team and valued growth for all her staff. She took the time to connect on a business and personal level. This has been one of my most important lessons I’ve learned and always try to teach my staff: be genuine and make a connection.
The second mentor, whose teaching I always refer back to, was at a large Canadian film distribution company. She was fierce. She was funny. She had great style. She was understanding. She valued her staff. She pushed you to work hard to have your ideas come to life. The most important takeaway was that everyone knew she was in charge the second they met her. That is a hard skill to master. Once you know who you are, you start to own your space and people take notice.
2. Curate Your Executive Presence and Personal Brand
Developing your personal brand takes time and will change over the years as you grow in your professional career. Start by considering things such as what your general appearance says about you and how you can make your presentation style unique in order to leave an impression with others? Do you have the hard and soft skills your company values (and is lacking)?
There are a few things I continually ask myself:
● How do others perceive me?
● Am I continually growing my network?
● How do people outside of my organization see me?
● How do I stay current?
Consider how you’re being perceived, how you want to be perceived, what organizations you want to be associated with, and always grow your brand.
3. Take Up Space
Own your ideas and don’t be silent. You’ll only get invited to closed-door meetings if you speak up and show that you have something of worth to contribute!
Several years back, I started a new job at a large film company. I decided to take a new approach and start by listening and keeping my ideas to myself (until I knew how the company and executives worked). After the first month, I was very lucky that my superior eventually pulled me aside and told me the leadership team perceived me as timid, shy, and not perceived as a leader. Which meant I had a lot of extra work to do to grow my brand internally. I successfully changed that perception; however, it took a lot of additional and unnecessary effort to do so.
While you have to listen when you first start at a company, it’s always important to have a voice.
4. Be a Calming Presence
A former managing director of mine told me I was someone that was seen as calm under pressure. I always saw that as one of the most important management skills. It’s a strength I’ve seen in many executives in the film and television industry, and a skill that helps drive growth for your organization and your career.
The result of being calm? Everyone will go to you for advice on how to deal with difficult situations, including your superior who will know you can take on more responsibility because you don’t break under pressure.
This industry is known to be high stakes. Staying calm is the best defense. It can allow you time to come up with a solution.
5. Be Confident: Don’t Rent Your Space
Don’t rent your space from time to time; own it all the time. People can see through a bubble of confidence. Always provide your perspective and trust your instincts.
A few years ago, I worked on a big marketing campaign for a television broadcaster. After several internal strategy sessions, it turned out my view on how to market a particular series differed from that of every other stakeholder and senior executive. However, I stood my ground. I decided not to take the easy route and agree with everyone. I told everyone we should test both ideas and see what the audiences preferred. I was very lucky. My idea worked and the show was a big success. Had I not fought for what I believed in, and owned my space in that room of senior executives, the campaign could have been a flop.
Show your superiors you are willing to voice an opinion and you’ll notice they’ll start asking for your perspective.
Kelsey Aikman is the director of marketing and communications for Marble Media and Distribution 360, and a participant of PromaxBDA’s Mentorship Program.