Nancie Calder is a digital technology expert. She lives in Canada and for the last 7 years had worked as a senior leader at a large tech company partnered with Microsoft. It’s the world’s leading provider of digital and cloud services.
Nancie has a naturally warm personality and a fascinatingly rich career history which included being invited to speak at various conferences.
Nancie was doing well in her leadership role and wanted to go further. Her ambition was promotion to the most senior level in the company – executive. But there was a problem:
“People who knew me found me very animated, very personable – but when I got into an interview situation, I was more formal.
There wasn’t much of my personality coming through. I thought I was doing a good job pushing it down, but I was masking myself.”
The mask of formality was obscuring her naturally exuberant personality – and in an interview for her dream promotion, she came across as wooden.
Outside work, she freely expressed her confident personality. However, her authentic self faded into the background when she felt uncertain or insecure in a professional setting.
“When I was asked questions I didn’t know the answer to, or where it wasn’t my area of expertise, I didn’t feel comfortable. I felt I was fumbling through things. I wasn’t exuding confidence.
Nancie knew that to reach executive level, she needed to develop that most elusive of qualities – executive presence. You may know it better as gravitas.
Once comfortable about expressing her natural personality, she would gain confidence and, just as importantly, inspire confidence in others.
From the start, we realised that this was about more than just a job promotion. Nancie wanted my help to unmask herself.
It was important that we could work well together, so Nancie and I began by getting to know each other through what I call a `chemistry session’.
“The pre-session discussion showed that we were well matched. Yvette was obviously highly experienced, easy to work with, and she could think on her feet in terms of adapting her approach, tailoring it to me and personalising it to me.”
For Nancie to remove the mask, she’d need to understand the value of her personal brand. It would make her feel powerful and confident from within – an equal to the senior-level execs she wanted to join.
To discover her unique personal brand, we explored her journey so far. Given her appearances as a conference speaker, was she really this stiff, formal person? Or was she in fact a warm friendly personality who can captivate an audience and communicate naturally with anyone?
“Yvette had a really good process, and it was well laid out. We set the goals, tackled one goal in each session and then we practised them.”
We worked on the art of storytelling – using anecdotes to draw in the listener and bring stories to life. As it turned out, Nancie was a natural. She began using the storytelling techniques straight away.
“I got pulled in at the last moment to present for a group I wouldn’t normally get in front of. Before, it would have triggered uncomfortable feelings – but I got in there and hooked the audience with the headlines, the pause…
And, this was a bunch of internal people – more stressful than presenting to people you’ll never see again. At our next session, I remember saying `I did it!’”
When you’re learning new ways of thinking as an adult, the only way to effect change is through practice. Therefore, I came up with a between-session way to help her practice those awkward off-the-cuff questions. It involved WhatsApp.
“ I loved the WhatsApp! Yvette sent me messages and I had to quickly respond to them, coming up with answers on the fly to help exercise that part of my brain.
It definitely helped, because it’s not just a theory. It’s actually making it work in practice.”
The immediate result was that Nancie achieved the promotion she was striving for. She is now in executive leadership at her company.
But that wasn’t her only goal and in some ways, it was a bi-product. Nancie has taken off the mask of formality. She is now a confident communicator – a natural storyteller who can skillfully engage her audience while being entirely herself.
She has the ability to get into the shoes of her audience, to persuade and influence them with empathy and grace.
“I no longer have this other persona for work. Before, I had this vision of my `work self’ and I was very reserved, but I feel very differently now.
I’ve realised that it’s OK to be more open with people. I can be myself.”
Global Dynamics365 Customer and Field Service Lead, Avanade
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