Sylvia Ann Hewlett: “Executive Presence” | Talks at Google

Sylvia Ann Hewlett: “Executive Presence” | Talks at Google


KAREN SOMBERG:
I’m Karen Somberg. I’m the diversity lead for tech. And I probably wouldn’t normally
be the person introducing this session, but I
used to work for Sylvia at the Center for
Talent Innovation, and I joined Google last year. So it was very exciting to
welcome her back here today to talk about executive
presence, which was a piece of research
that started happening when I was still at the center. And was really transformative
for me and for others as we talked to companies. About thinking about,
what is leadership? What is are the
leadership archetypes, and how do you become an
effective communicator? And you know, what does
it mean to have gravitas? And all these big pieces that
we don’t often think about, but that are crucially important
in addition to doing our work. Also, how we come across and
how we relay our messages. So I’m excited to welcome
Sylvia here today. One thing that I learned
about executive– well, I learned a lot of things about
executive presence from Sylvia. But one was that
you should always have one fun piece
of– you know, maybe in your appearance– some
fun piece of clothing. That was always
something that I noticed that she did, and used
very effectively actually. And so, in honor of her
today, I wore leopard shoes, because she always had leopard. And I think she has a bag that’s
leopard, so I’m right on target today. But I wore like
Google-safe leopard, you know, not too much. But I’m very excited about
to welcome Sylvia here to talk about her new book
on executive presence, which was voted the best book of
the month by Amazon this month. So pretty awesome. And so, without further
ado, Sylvia, welcome. [APPLAUSE] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: So it is
fabulous to connect with Karen. She has much more important
things to do this morning, but we already did a little
catch up over breakfast. So that was fabulous. I want to begin with a story,
because this topic goes to the core of
some of my failure, and some of the challenges
I had early in my life. I grew up in the coal
mining area of South Wales. This is a very depressed
piece of the UK. The unemployment rate in my
valley when I was growing up was 38% because the coal
industry was closing down. And I did come from a
hardscrabble family. And partly because of
the women’s movement, partly because they
were trying to get folks from the wrong side of the
tracks to major universities, I did end up at
Cambridge when I was 18. And I was bright. I did pass a lot of exams. But I spoke English with this
thick working-class Welsh accent, which was
the kiss of death in polite English society,
which is very class-conscious. I also I did not use
grammar kind of correctly. I grew up with a
lot of bad habits, because this was not
a reading household. And I remember
knowing when I was 18 that no matter how
great I was at my work, every time I opened my
mouth, I let myself down. It was also true that Cambridge
was only 7% female at the time. So there was enough going on,
in terms of the gender barriers, to make me feel
that at least I had to fix the way I talk if I
was going to get anywhere. So I spent two years listening
to the BBC World Service, practicing those
modulated tones, and also fixing my grammar. And it did make me
much more accessible, much more successful, much more
able to actually communicate my thoughts. Now, looking back
on it, there was a lot of bias going on
in that story, right? What’s wrong with
regional accents? What’s wrong with
working-class accents? Now, I did need
to fix my grammar. That was a good idea, right? You do want to use the language
that is your main vehicle well. But back then, because
class was such an issue, I also really had to
change the way I spoke. So I mean, this business
of how you communicate, there is this tension between
authenticity and conformity. And I think all of
our corporate cultures present us with some
of these challenges. What works? What gets you over
the next hurdle? But what is true to yourself? So let’s look at this data. We’ve got some
amazing data on what is going on in corporate
America right now. We looked at 14 sectors,
including the tech sector. And I will talk some about the
specificities of the Silicon Valley challenge. So first off, I founded the
Task Force on Talent Innovation some 10 years ago. Google has been a leader or this
group for the last six years. So I have been very much
involved in your talent journey here. In terms of this study, we
have collected incredible data around what allows you to
be seen as having potential, as being leadership
material, as being ready for the next
big thing, right? And one thing I want
to emphasize here is executive presence is
really not about performance. It’s not about whether you
really do deliver the goods, hit the numbers,
really know your craft, and have the skills. It’s about what you signal
about your preparedness for the next big chance. We find, right across
sectors, that there are three main pillars
of executive presence which leaders look for. And in this data, we
went out to hundreds of representative leaders
across the private sector. We also did a ton of focus
groups and interviews, so this really reflects a lot
about data collection in terms of what is important in
the eyes of your boss. So these are the
three dimensions. Now think gravitas. That is a biggie. When we think of that
word, what comes to mind? I mean, what do you associate
with the word gravitas? Force? Competence? Heft, in terms of being seen
as an intellectual heavyweight? I mean, how do
signal that, right? Credibility. Eloquence. Remember, we’re talking
about communication a little separately
here, but you think that that is part
of the gravitas piece. Impact– very good word. So we had a bunch
of words, right, that seem to describe it. But we probably don’t know
what is most important, right? So let’s take a look at
what the data is telling us, realizing that there is some
intermingling of these things. For instance, you can have
the most amazing heft, but if you can’t be compelling
in how you talk about it, it remains locked up, it becomes
a well-kept secret, right? So obviously these
things are interlinked. So what we find in the
data is that gravitas– really right across
the spectrum here– is seen as the most
important piece. Signalling to the world that
you know your stuff cold, that you’re five questions deep
on your domain of expertise, that it’s at your fingertips. Right? There is a very interesting
picture emerging here across ethnicity. And basically what senior
leaders are telling us in this survey is
what they’re looking for in terms of their team–
their mid-level managers, their high-potential
younger folks, et cetera. As we can see, whether
you’re Caucasian or Asian or female
or male, there’s tremendous uniformity in terms
of the rough proportions. You know, gravitas
is the biggie, communication skills is the
second piece that is important, and then the appearance piece
seems to be quite small. They are all interesting
differences here. For instance, for
African American leaders, they are particularly
looking for gravitas. And they say, we know that we
struggle with this ourselves. There is the specter
of Affirmative Action. They’re saying,
it’s as though we’ve got to re-audition for
our jobs all the time, because perhaps way back
we got an unfair chance. And in our interviews,
we found that gravitas seemed to be a
particularly big hurdle for African American
want-to-be leaders. For Asian individuals,
communication is often somewhat
more difficult. If you come from a
respect-filled deferential culture, right, and
you value consensus, how do you get to be forceful
enough in an American-centric corporation? And again, bias, very
infused in this data. But the main message
here is that there’s tremendous agreement in
terms of what matters. So moving on, let’s
look at the top picks. We presented our leaders
with about 50 traits, these are the top six. And again, amazing agreement. Female and male leaders really
picking a very similar list. Top of the list there is this–
confidence, poise, credibility, grace under fire. Someone who can keep
their cool and credibility under pressure–
tremendously admired. Now would you say that
translated in the tech sector, is that something
that is important? I see some nods. Many people told us in
fast-paced industries, or industries where business
models are changing, this is particularly valued. Interestingly, charisma
is number six, right? A little down the list. People are suspect of big
personalities these days. They prefer the calm confidence. Number two– decisiveness
showing teeth. Now, when we look at
our mid-level employees, we find that women have
a problem with this. That being tough,
being really forceful can be hard for a female,
because she’s seen often times as a little unlikable. The b-word gets rolled
out quite a bit. So this tough,
showing teeth thing is actually easier for
men than for women. And again, it reflects
the dominant culture, the mainstream leaders, you
know, there’s bias here. This is how it’s been done
by the dominant group, right? So any reaction here? Is it harder did you
feel, for a woman to be super, strong minded and
remain someone who is admired? You know, two weeks ago,
Jill Abramson was shot down as the executive editor
of the New York Times. Why? Well, we probably
read the press. She was seen as pushy. She was seen as abrasive. She was seen as lacking charm. She did not sufficiently make
nice to her, particularly, senior male colleagues. She was a fabulous leader. No one was criticizing
her track record or what she’d done in China. So it is tough, particularly
in somewhat traditional fields, perhaps. But if you look at number
four, it’s fascinating. Emotional intelligence–
this is where we find women really do amazingly well. There is more of
an empathy factor that women are able to
get out there at work. And these days– why is
emotional intelligence newly-prized,
newly on this list? A lot of leaders said, look,
it’s shooting up the charts. Didn’t used to be on
the list, but now it is. So why is emotional
intelligence important if you want to be a leader? Right, and your team is
probably diverse, right? So sitting in someone else’s
shoes– pretty important. And valuing difference–
pretty important. The other thing we find is
that customers and clients can be very diverse, they can
be very global these days. Don’t we all work
in global teams? So a little empathy
builds trust. And you can’t just be the
top-down command and control guy anymore, and have it work. So in a way, this
is nicely mixed up. Some of these prized
attributes are more natural or perhaps more instinctual
for men, others for women. We don’t know whether that’s
socialization or really how we are born. But it’s nevertheless true. And the thing that we
find in the final pick here– vision, yes, is
prized, but a measured vision. One that you can
put data around, one that you have a
lot of evidence around. The charisma bit– which
is just turning people on about your path forward–
does not work so well anymore. So moving on, we asked
leaders, who is their icon? Who brought up gravitas
better than anyone else? Top choice was Mandela. We explored why
he was so admired. He was thought to be
the complete package, the extraordinary
integrity, force, and vision of his journey,
the ways in which he had earned leadership. But also, his amazing
ability to understand the power of symbolism, and to
connect on a very human level. This particular episode
you probably– well, maybe you’ll all too
young to remember this– but he was newly
president of South Africa. The rugby team, The
Springboks, had just won the world championship. The Springboks team were
recalcitrant [? Afrikaans. ?] 100% of the team were
white South Africans– from the [? Afrikaans ?] group,
which was the group that had actually designed and
fought for apartheid. So this was the group
that Nelson Mandela had spent 23 years in jail
for, but they won. South Africa was the champion. So Mandela leaps out of the
stand, dons a Springbok jersey, and hugs the captain. It’s splashed around
the world, this image, because what it showed was
this new president was really about reconciliation
and healing. And this said it, right? This man had the most amazing
emotional intelligence, as well as heft, as well as integrity. Jamie Dimon’s on
this list, Steve Jobs is kind of on this
list, although he was thought to be a
little suspect because of just the eccentricity
of his personality. But it’s an interesting
list, you know, what leaders choose
as their icons. The other thing we
find out from gravitas is how does it go badly wrong? How do you cut yourself
off at the knees so that, no matter how
good, you’re out of here? So you know, sexual
impropriety seems to be a way in which
men hit the skids. Think of Petraeus or
Spitzer or Weiner or– you know, Clinton was
impeached after all. There is a way in
which senior man really do know that this is a way
of getting written out. But other behaviors
that get you in trouble is lying, covering up. The bully piece does not
get you anywhere these days. It tends to, again, get
you crossed off the list. An off-color or racially
insensitive set of remarks will do the same. Mitt Romney, famously,
was seen as someone who had a tin ear– was clueless
about how most people lived. He was in this bubble. He was such a privileged
man, he really didn’t know how
the world worked. So he could talk about
having binders full of women or he could tell the world
that 47% of the population were losers because
they were on benefits. And he included veterans
and the disabled, in terms of the
losers on his list. In other words,
the reason he lost that election was that he
was so profoundly insensitive as to how other people lived
or what their challenges were. And of course, Christie’s in the
middle of a scandal right now. He’s seen as a bully. He’s seen as someone
who’s trying to cover up. And again, you can
see the blunders as being elements
which will probably ensure that he does not run
for president next time around. So here are some tactics. How do you deal with
some of these issues that are problematic for you? For instance, if
you’re a woman, how do you make your force,
your very strong opinions, your track record really sing? We did lots of interviews
for this research. And maybe you sugar coat your
strength with some humor. Or when you have a massively
important new campaign that you totally
believe in, you also go on some kind
of charm offensive to make sure that people
find it palatable. Maybe you do none of
the above because you know your non-negotiables,
and there’s no way in which you want
to bend your demeanor or your approach to just
please the culture you’re in. So I think we all
face tension here. Maybe we are willing
to bend at the margins. If one is a man who’s lived
in a pretty straight-arrow environment, the way
you bend at the edges are really listening for
bias in your environment, and forcing yourself to
understand the other, right? So again, we find that the
tension between authenticity and conformity, between
standing in and standing out, really permeates these things. But by and large, women
do need to understand that making their
strengths somehow work for them is a
challenge in a lot of organizational cultures. And for men, figuring
out how to show empathy is again a commonplace
challenge in their team work. The other thing
I want to say is, if your reputation and the
word at the water cooler precedes you, how do you
signal your reputation– your stature– in ways
that aren’t annoying? You’re in a company,
I guess, which doesn’t have a whole
lot of titles, right? So sometimes it’s a little
hard to show your experience, show your leaderly credentials. So any ideas here
in terms of how to, again, just
signal that gravitas, somehow establish from
the get-go in a meeting that you know what
you’re talking about, that you have the chops? Is that an issue at Google? It is in a lot of young,
highly-geared companies. If you are hired in, there’s
this wonderful assumption that, of course,
you’re exceptional. You’re still faced with how
do you stand out at Google? How do you progress? How do you end up
by being tapped on the shoulder for
some major opportunity, because we know that
they’re given out not to everyone, but to
those who are seen as ready. So I think this is true
of all organizations, but I thought that was
very well expressed. Thank you. So let’s move on and take
a look at communication. Because in some ways,
this is the way in. We find this is oftentimes
the ice breaker. So the top pick, and it’s very
contemporary– the ability to have kind of
this mini-TED talk, the concise,
compelling value-add. Huge. And what we find is that
leaders particularly prize this if you can do it seemingly
extemporaneously. It’s the kiss of death to rely
on notes or too many slides. You’ve got to wing
it– which goes to your point– this is
very hard to bring off. Not only is it valued in
very fast-moving, incredibly talented cultures like
Google, but this is true in media and on Wall Street,
you know, at Walmart. I mean, this is a demand
of the modern workplace. Attention spans are short. To find your voice,
to make it be heard, the concise, compelling
thing is a must. And it’s not easy. And again, my own story– I
had some pretty terrible habits 12 years ago. I had just spent a bunch
of years in academia being a professor– a
very boring professor I think– but I was
doing intermediate macro theory as my main thing, right? So hard to make that too lively. But here was the admired
style in my department. You delivered information
in 50 minute chunks. You snowed people
with evidence, right? And very complex proofs. Try that out on a book tour. [LAUGHTER] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
I was a disaster. I couldn’t do anything
without my notes. So I made myself watch a
particularly bad interview I did on Charlie Rose,
which was particularly galling, because it was a big
chance to get my message out. And I was terrible. I was just yawn-inducing. And I really was there with
my three-by-five cards. You know, I could not
let go of the notes. And I forced myself to
learn what was going on. And did I practice,
practice like crazy. And before I went to any
meeting or made any speech, I banged it into my brain. So I knew the arc of
what I was going to say. And I knew three
different versions, just in case the conversation
went in a different direction or someone said what
I was about to say. And I learned to tell
stories, not long stories. So it can be learned. All that stuff can be learned. But that is how you
get your confidence. This is why
communication is often the way to build the
gravitas piece that we were talking about earlier. Because it establishes
your credibility. And it ensures
that you’re heard. OK, so how do you move that into
the ability to command a space, a room– whether it’s a team
room or an audience– and that is the linked one which is
at the top of the list here. This requires a
bunch of other things which are actually the
surround sound is posture– how do you sit at a table? How do you stand in a space? Some of it is just, you know,
straightening that backbone and looking competent,
paying attention. The other piece of
it is to let go all that which is between
you and your audience– podiums, spectacles,
and again, notes– get rid of them– and
devices– eye contact, eye contact, eye contact. So we find that
we’re rolling out a whole bunch of high-touch
workshops, stuff like this, around EP. This is where one can be
transformative, really rather easily. Any comments in terms of this
culture, what works here? Or what is problematic here? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: But
if you have in your mind a playbook of exactly
what you can say– several versions of it–
which you know will grab, it’s easier to do that. AUDIENCE: So manipulation
of that general conversation gets– SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
So isn’t this a brilliant example of having
your emotional intelligence connect with your
communication skills? Because you know
that the leaders need to take ownership
of this idea. You’ve got to prod them along. You’ve got to become
indispensable. And you’ve certainly got
to be value add, right? But this can be transformative
of one’s– how you see, right? And of your own confidence. OK, so moving on, what
was the top pick here? Interestingly, a woman. Sheryl, of course, we all now. Not only is she seen as someone
of enormous credibility, but her communication
skills, right? She did do that TED talk, right? One of the most– I think
it was the most watched TED talk that particular year. Because she has this ability
of delivering a clear message and then revealing some
of her own vulnerability, so you can relate to her. She would be obnoxious
if she did not do that. Because this is a person
who’s had a golden path. How do we relate to
someone like that? But she tells us, you know,
that she put on 60 pounds with that first child and
some of her struggles. I mean, you can reveal
any part of you. It doesn’t have to,
obviously, be family. You probably
shouldn’t over-share. But this is part of
empathy– sharing our roots, sharing a little
piece of failure. And it makes her someone
that people want to hear. And this other thing about the
blunders– because again, we did look at the
blunders– we see, again, bias all over these blunders. The interesting thing about
bias is that executive presence is, oftentimes, the place
where you see bias revealed. Because you’re talking about
a leadership archetype, right, that crying– take crying–
turns out, men can cry, women cannot in the workplace. Think of Obama’s speech
around Trayvon Martin. He let a few tears
leak out of his eyes. We liked him for that. It showed that this
really distant man had heart and connected to the
tragedy of this young person’s life. But when women cry
in public, they’re seen as just way
too emotional– who can deal with them
kind of thing. It takes us down in our stature. So if we look at
this list, we know that we want a world where
there isn’t so much bias, such a gendered, for
instance, take on what leadership needs to look like. But this is what’s happening
this week, next week, last week. This is how people are judged. Because this is data in terms
of what leaders right now find does not work. One thing which I find
particularly interesting– the number one blunder is
constant device checking. Leaders find that profoundly
discourteous and profoundly undermining of a
more junior person’s gravitas, that they are not
able to pay full attention. So what is the deal at
Google, because I think– [LAUGHTER] –some of the valued devices
must be so omnipresent. But is there a kind of
unwritten etiquette here, in terms of what
happens in key meetings? AUDIENCE: Most of the
meetings are no wifi– SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
What about iPhones? I’m looking at someone
who’s holding theirs. Well maybe it’s not an
iPhone, maybe it’s an Android. So tell me what the
dominant behavior is. But if it gets in
the way of you making eye contact with your boss and
weighing in with your power sort, and doing the
clever stuff of linking your emotional sense of who
is really needing to buy-in, in this meeting, to my idea,
and how do I demonstrate my indispensability to
this project going forward, it truly does get in the way. No, no, no, no,
I’m not saying you personally, don’t
feel it as an attack. You see, what leaders
say– no matter what the technology,
no matter what the value-add of
being able to complete your sense of some link
or whatever– the most important activity– the
main goal– of a meeting is to leave it having impressed,
having pushed the ball forward, and having a newly central
role in whatever was decided. So I mean, I do feel– I
mean, I have five kids, so I am in touch
with– I mean, I don’t tend to use devices
that much, because of my age. Right? You know, it’s not a
habit I ever developed. But I do feel that there
is a way in which we can undermine ourselves. And one thing that is valued
above all other things by senior leaders is eye contact
and having the full attention of a younger person they value. OK. So some more or less humorous
examples of what people feel has gone wrong in terms of
public displays of this– Tim Geithner, famously,
cannot make eye contact. He’s always accused of
looking like a frightened teenager, because he
deflects eye contact. He almost cannot do it. Tremendously undermined
his credibility. And the forcefulness,
assertiveness, of statements coming from women
of color really on display, I think, with Indra Nooyi. She gave a very famous speech
not long ago at the Columbia Business School, where she
took on American arrogance in the world. She was coming from
a very secure place. She was born and
brought up in India. She’s been a very
successful, global executive. And she is CEO of Pepsi. But because she is
a woman of color, she got trashed by the
press, particularly by white-guy reporters
who saw her as out of line for criticizing a country
that she had done so well in. So again, the degree
of forcefulness, the degree of edginess, you
can show as a woman of color really constrained by
bias, by these stereotypes, and the archetypes
of the leadership. OK, so we all know this, that
80% meet you first time online. And you’d better
make sure that you’re very happy with your
LinkedIn manifestations, and that you’re showing
up online in ways that you’re proud of. This is where
colleagues and bosses– where folks who are
perhaps interviewing you for an opportunity– will
really first meet you. And I’m sure you all know
that very profoundly here. So a few tactics–
first, lose the props. Get rid of the
security blankets. We find that women use
about one-third more PowerPoint slides than men. Because women often
times feel that they have to show that they’re super
well-prepared, that they really did do all their homework. Often times, they feel that
there are very few of them around a table, particularly
at more senior levels, so they have to
show how much work they put it into
this presentation. But what it does,
it undermines them, because you do, above all, need
to show that you can wing it, that you know your stuff cold. Eye contact. Lower your voice–
this is interesting. Voices go up under
pressure, under stress. Keeping obvious control–
not speeding up, not lifting your voice–
very important in terms of being heard. We’ve been using some opera
coaches in the workshops we are doing around EP,
and it’s fascinating how much you can manipulate
your voice so as you’re heard. And again, it’s got
nothing to do with accent. Most opera singers don’t
speak any of languages very well that they sing in. It’s all about tone
and projection. And the last one– use
silence as a weapon. It’s probably a little
hard to do at Google, because you’re describing a very
crowded meeting culture, where people are fighting
for space, right? But in some cultures–
and on Wall Street is a very good example–
I did an amazing interview with Sally Krawcheck,
who was head of Merrill Lynch for many years. She said that, as
a Southern woman, she was brought up to fill
all space with words– chitter-chat– because
a nice girl was supposed to make everyone else
feel comfortable. And science was awkward. So she made it her business
to fill up all space. She was totally
discounted on Wall Street, because chitter-chatter
in Southern women don’t make much impact. So what she learned to do was
become much more economical in what she said. And she was audacious. I mean this was a woman
who did not take prisoners, in terms of her viewpoints. But she learned to surround
her very important thoughts with silence, to deliberately
make people feel awkward, so that they actually listened. So there’s all kinds of tools. But it’s a performance. This is something that
we can all manipulate. And in a way, this isn’t bias. This is how you’ve get
your voice to count. Which is why I see the
communication thing as the way in. Too many of the
demands are growing competence and credibility. OK, turning to appearance–
this is the least important, it’s about 7% of what
leaders say as important. Very good news here,
grooming and polish and being appropriate. So much more important than
the sheer size of your body, or the texture of your
hair, or you know, exactly what’s happening
to the clothing style that you choose to wear. So what is grooming and polish? We find, again, in the data that
seemingly casual cultures can be actually harder to figure
out than formal cultures. And there are weird tripwires. For instance, remember the IPO
of Facebook– all the hoodie, schlumpy, nerdy people? And then they were Sheryl
Sandberg, looking quite formal. Because it’s hard to do
the hoodie thing and look leaderly if you’re a woman. It’s pretty easy to look like
a graduate student or someone’s assistant. In other words, it
is surprisingly tough to negotiate casual cultures
and somehow crack it, because there are
admired styles, even though there would
seem to be few rules. One thing that I
experienced last summer is, I was invited
to the advertising celebration in Cannes. where they give the
awards in the industry. It’s called the
Cannes Lions Awards. And it’s a little like
1963 in that only 3% of the creative directors in
the top 50 advertising companies are female. This is largely a male crowd. It’s the rock stars, you know,
giving each other awards. And it’s profoundly male. So you walk in, and you try and
figure out what the look is. And it hits you
between the eyes. There was almost a uniform–
four-day-old stubble was in. I mean, they did not
have a whole lot of hair on their heads, so they were
trying to look virile, I think. And then there were
the bespoke shorts, the incredibly expensive
watches, and flip flops. That was it. The few women in the room
did not know what to do. I mean, they couldn’t quite
do the stubble thing– that wouldn’t have done
them much good, right? And you know, the
short thing is hard, because most– these were
people in their 50’s, they were at the pinnacle
of their careers. Most women don’t look that
great in shorts when they’re 50. Well, the men didn’t
either, but you know. [LAUGHTER] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that
there was a code in this room, but it was a tough one,
a really tough one. So again, what we say is find
yourself some role models. Find what works in
your micro-climate, because I imagine that
tech and sales and HR have different demands
even at Google. Because you’ve got
to get rid of this. I mean, it’s not very
important, but it’s good not to have this
get in your way. Because the thing
about appearance– it’s the first filter, right? If you get it profoundly
wrong, and turn up looking like Hillary Clinton
in your pantsuit at Cannes, it would not do you much good. So it’s not that in
the end it’s important, but it is surprisingly tricky. So again, admired folks in
terms of the well-put-together piece– Christine
Lagarde’s thought to be the very elegant
executive woman. It’s great that she’s
allowed to have white hair. And then of course
Ken Chenault is hugely admired for his style. And we find that
the other thing that was a big tip from this work is
that looking as though you’re toned and fit is very important. It’s actually much
more important than say being physically
attractive in some chocolate box way. You’ve got to look
as though you have some resilience these days. Jobs are demanding. To show you that you
actually work out, and you can deal
with the travel, and deal with the
long work weeks, you are signaling
vigor and resilience. Yes? AUDIENCE: Isn’t that just a
code for not being [INAUDIBLE]? SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: No, no,
it’s interesting, it’s not. We tested that. And it was
particularly important for African American
talent that we test that. We are very forgiving, I
mean within some limit. Being obese is not a good idea. But if you are clearly looking
after yourself and fit, there’s a big range, which
is actually very good news. And then finally, the weird
way in which women really are scrutinized more than man. 700 people were invited
to look at these pictures for 250 milliseconds. And 86% of them
decided so very quickly which one of these– one,
two, three, or four– was the most competent,
the most leaderly. Which number? AUDIENCE: Two. AUDIENCE: Three. [INTERPOSING VOICES] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: Four. She was seen as being in
control, having it together. Number one got no marks. But when asked, which one
is the most trustworthy? AUDIENCE: Two. SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: Two won out. So it’s treacherous, right? Wouldn’t you want to be a
competent, trustworthy leader? And then just remind
ourselves, you know, men don’t have to deal
with this it’s all. Unless you’re a
TV anchor, you’re not in the business of make-up. So women do gets
scrutinized more. So that’s that data, and
I’m just going to end with In this last slide. Women and also people of
color– multicultural folks– have little latitude– less
latitude– than the mainstream leader type. Now, again, the power
of bias, the power of the existing
models of leadership. So it’s very easy to be seen as
too provocative, too dowdy, too pushy, too self-depreciating. The one I love is
too young, too old. As a woman, very easy to be seen
as too inexperienced and not ready. But also easy to be seen
as over-the-hill, right? There are three years in
there when we’re just right. Men as a whole get 17 years. So there is. There’s gendered thing going on. And clearly this does feed
so much into the amazing work that Google is doing on bias. Because there is a need
to widen and make more inclusive how we see leadership,
in terms of how we act, how we speak, and how we look. But if we’re interested in
dealing with figuring out how to succeed this week,
this data is pretty important. So thank you. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: My question is
around the make-up piece. Since there is
conflicting evidence, what would you do,
if you were a woman, in terms of what amount of
make-up that you would wear? SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
I think it’s the kind of well-put-together
thing, you know, a kind of good version of you. You certainly don’t
want to come over as someone quite
different– faking some persona is not a good idea. But it does seem to
get marks for effort. It’s good to show
that you have put some energy into looking good. It shows respect for yourself,
respect for the team, and perhaps respect
for the stakeholders. Dishevelment, both
men and women, you get– and I think it was
given as part of the example. You’ve got to look as though
you didn’t just fall out of bed, that you put some effort
into showing up ready. AUDIENCE: So is making sound,
informed decisions something that leaders just
don’t consider? SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
That is performance. This is not performance. This is how you signal,
what you telegraph, in terms of how you
act, speak, and look. Judgment calls–
incredibly important. There’s another ton of
books on that, right? This is about your image. But it’s about
30% of everything. Because it does allow
you to be tapped on the shoulder for
some big opportunity. You then might screw up, right? You don’t deliver the right
stuff in terms of performance, in terms of the
great judgment calls. But how would you stand
apart from the crowd, how would you get singled
out in the first place, and given the shot
at a big opportunity. No, I’m not trying to
say that there aren’t some fundamental performance
elements that, in the end, will fuel your journey,
but this is really about the telegraphing
of confidence, the ability to be compelling
about what you have to say, and the ability to look the part
enough so that you don’t get knocked off the list because
of the fact you’ve got soup on your tie, or I
don’t know what. You know, there’s a lot
of things that you could– no ties, soup on your
t-shirt– who knows. There are very culturally
specific things. And if I were to choose
my category of what really is magical, in turbo
charging progression, it is the communication piece. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: Yes, no. Totally, totally. And it needs to be
evolved, always, because the demands
of the era change. AUDIENCE: You gave the
example of Sheryl Sandberg, and how she shares
personal anecdotes just to relate to people better. Do you feel that if women
share their personal stories about their families, they will
come across as more emotional. SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT: You
know, that’s a great story. You can over-share and
it’s not a good idea to wear your family
on your sleeve. That tends to
undermine your edge, because there’s a lot of
bias around working moms. But I’ll tell you the story. I interviewed someone who
is head of the global card division of American
Express last week. He’s African American. He was wresting
with the challenge of connecting to
his global team. His team is spread
around 52 countries. And obviously much of
his contact is virtual. He is seen as an enormously
effective leader. He is much beloved. I wanted to know how he did it. He understands the importance
of being known to his key people around the world. So he goes to every market once
a quarter and does a town hall. He also does
monthly phone calls, so that it’s not just email
and really abstract kind of connection. So I said, well, what do
you do at these town halls, or what do you do
on those calls, that make you so beloved? I’ll bet he’s a great performer,
and he does all the other stuff too, but he’s seen as someone
you want to go work for. He tells stories for
the first three minutes. Not a whole bunch of time,
there’s a lot of business that needs to get done,
right, in these very precious one-hour phone calls. He said, for instance, he
did a call out of London. And the BAFTA Awards
were just going on. He loves movies. So he told why he was totally
rooting for this movie and invited folks to get
back to him on this movie. And give him some sense
of what they loved, too. And he said, look,
it’s so simple, but the fact that they knew that
I kind of totally screwed up the weekend because I had
to see all these movies, it made him human in a
way that was very, very important in building trust. Sometimes it’s a little
deeper than that. For instance, he grew up
in the projects of Oakland, and the first legs of his
career were full of struggle. He’ll share a little
piece of that. Not much, because you don’t
want to kiss all– kiss-and-tell all kind of thing–
that’s not going to work. You need to stay in the
business strategic world. So oftentimes, it’s not family. It can be roots,
it can be passions, but to reveal another
dimension of yourself is this empathy thing. And allows– he said, then
people read his emails with a different mindset. They think they know him. So there are things that
are quite simple that create an aura of
your ability to lead. AUDIENCE: Just a
bit of a comment on what you were saying. I think that the sharing thing
really shows you as a leader, but when you’re lowish
in the organization and you’re looking up, sharing
is not generally very valuable. SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
That’s a very good– that’s a very wise point. AUDIENCE: It actually goes
against your gravitas. SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
But you see, I think that it’s not two worlds. Many people in this room
both lead small teams and are junior in
other contexts. And it’s the rare
person who doesn’t have a sphere of influence. But you’re right. It is particularly
magical coming from someone who is senior. AUDIENCE: I think at Google
I feel a lot more comfortable being myself in sharing
more than I have elsewhere, because there’s just
generally more respect and people treat each
other really well. But I just still have a
question about, as a woman, being able to share things. Because I’ve seen these
things done very badly. So is there a bad way
to share information about– so that you’re bringing
your whole person to work, as opposed to having
completely different personas of work and your personal life? SYLVIA ANN HEWLETT:
One type of sharing which is incredibly effective
is how you get feedback. Again in the data,
we find that very few high-potential,
younger people get unvarnished feedback. Senior folks can’t be
bothered, they avoid it, it can be embarrassing to give
honest feedback sometimes, particularly across
lines of gender or race. So it doesn’t happen. It happens between mini-mes. Again, straight, Caucasian
guys from the right schools do a lot of sharing
on the feedback front. But oftentimes, at a
very diverse workplace, very little feedback happens. And we’ve got a lot
of data on this. So how do you get feedback,
and how do you give it? And revealing some
of your aspiration– some of your sense of where
you see your journey going– is magical in this regard. If a younger person says to
a supervisor, or a mentor, or a sponsor, or a manager,
“I’m giving this presentation next week. I’m really white hot. I think I can nail this. But there are two
areas where I feel I could do some fine tuning. Can you listen, and pay
attention, and give me feedback?” I mean, there’s
ways of presenting this that do not
make you vulnerable. I mean you’re saying
look, I got it. I’m excited. I’m going to do it well. But please pay attention to
this, that, or the other thing. It opens the door to the
most amazing useful feedback. And similarly, you can
do that about the way you present yourself
in other ways. And the older person, or
the more senior person, feels permission to be real. And of course
that’s how you grow. Thank you so much. Amazing conversation. Enjoyed the questions. [APPLAUSE]

22 COMMENTS

    How old is this woman, Sylvia Hewitt? I am seeing aging and sagging skin, bags under the eyes, and other distracting signs of age. Google is a young organization.

    This talk is for the older boomer generation. The younger generations want people to be authentic and be real and just be yourself.

    People who aren't leaders and don't aspire to be leaders, people like geonerd, can feel free to dismiss this information out of hand. We don't listen to them, and they're not skillful enough to be compelling in any way, so we don't care what they haphazardly attempt to communicate. (That same lack of skill comes from 118Columbus's younger people who just have to "be themself.") Yes, geonerd, you've worked for people like Sylvia. You will never be a person like Sylvia, or be as successful as the people she has trained. Now get back to your loathing. Nothing for you here.

    I enjoyed this discussion and found it extremely insightful. It's so important to find ways to set yourself apart and be self-aware so that you may work on the characteristics you exhibit that may be working against you. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    One thing I've noticed in so many of these Google talks is the number of people with their heads down, playing with their devices the whole time. I realize they work at Google, but there is such a thing as courtesy to the speaker. Perhaps it's a millennial thing?

    Honestly, who with any critical awareness can be taken in by this corporate baloney? Gravitas is earned by the expression of intelligent thoughts, not by artificially adjusting your accent or by putting on four tons of hair spray. "Executive Presence" is a fatuous euphemism for shallow arrogance and a sense of entitlement which is the inevitable result of corporate narcissists whose perception of influence and power is limited to their cardboard cut-out platitudes delivered as though they were earth shattering philosophies. I'd rather hear this woman's former Welsh accent and down-to-earth (if she ever was) countenance than this manufactured corpo-image which is as wince-inducing as it is insincere.

    Having read many of the comments from Google listeners on this talk I was very disappointed and surprised to hear their many cocky, rude, "know it all "attitudes . Really pretty pathetic and suggests the highest levels of insecurity, lack of EQ, and the kind of self- leadership that is totally self limiting. Sound like my how perfect you are ! I always say and believe that I live in the biggest room and never leave it . That of course is the "room for improvement" . I hope one day you too find and are open to living in that room.

    She needs to verify her facts properly. Her example of Mandela charming the 1995 Rugby World Cup Champions, the South African Springboks who were supposedly 100% white is incorrect. Their star winger Chester Williams is a coloured man, as they say. Her delivery is also rather limp and uninteresting.

    I'm sure her experience is world class and that she has some very important messages to deliver – that I personally agree with, but her expressions and mannerism look fake and completely not spontaneous. as an example she cracks a joke and smiles and 0.1 millisecond after the joke is over she is able to change her facial expression to a very serious expression, giving away that the joke just made was completely programmed and something used for the sole purpose of winning an audience. I think what a leader should have is a level of spontaneity and humbleness that makes other people relate with them.
    Besides this, all great content

    haha, we used to call this "Command Presence", one of the qualities of leadership, as well as command voice, it's all from the military that was adopted by the civies. I detect no presence in the video, but the concepts are valid.

    This woman always was a social climber who has no use for the 99.99 percent of women who aren't in "elite" "male-dominated" fields. Her books are nonsense, and I have read a few of them. Furthermore, there is no such thing as "merit," and "success" isn't defined as making a ton of money in a male-dominated job in my view.

    wow – wrong in so many levels!
    misleading title too… I think we should tackle why is EP even a thing that works.

    Leadership should not be superficial.
    Focusing on superficiality is misleading and gives opportunities to unfit leadership.

    So, how about we teach this… since we're spending time learning something? Let's learn how to make the world a better place, and nip things at the bud – dismantle fake leadership.

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