Professional Presence – Real Life Observations

In my last blog post, I talked about professional presence from a  very academic perspective.  This time I want to talk about professional presence from a real life perspective based on what I see every day.  While I admit that I have seen some good examples, overall, I am sad to report that most of what I have observed is pretty negative. 

I believe that professional presence has two components – (i) etiquette and (ii) image.  Etiquette is all about what actions you take and image is all about what you project by how you show up.  The two are obviously linked but can be separated for purposes of these observations.

Let’s start with etiquette.  From what I have observed, some of the basics of etiquette have been completely forgotten or ignored by many people in the business community today.  When you are invited to something you should RSVP.  It is basic etiquette to send thank you notes after receiving gifts.  It is polite and correct to introduce people to each other when you are standing in a group at a cocktail party.  It is impolite to check your smart phone when you are in a meeting or engaged in conversation with someone.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but to assess your etiquette, ask yourself honestly how you score on these four things and you will begin to get a picture of your professional presence.

On the image side, what I see is even more egregious.  Lawyers in flip flops.  Business people greeting clients in jeans and un-tucked button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up.  Women playing with their hair in meetings.  Men biting their fingernails at the lunch table.  What are three adjectives that you would like people to use when describing the way you show up professionally?   Consider those adjectives and then dress and behave accordingly when you are in your professional role.

Obviously, this is a much bigger subject than I can tackle in a series of short blog posts.  I am curious about what you are observing in the course of your work – in yourself or in others.  What constitutes professional presence in your mind?  Feedback is welcome!