Allow me to share some cautionary advice on presence because it can be treacherous territory.

Sometimes people think they have presence when in fact, they are exuding something else entirely: obnoxiousness.

Now don’t stop reading. I know you think this isn’t you.

But obnoxiousness is a spectrum and sometimes it can appear in small or medium-sized doses that are totally invisible to you…but loud and clear to others.

No one wants to believe they are obnoxious. And because of this, few people examine their behavior carefully for these tendencies.

Years ago I had a client who saw herself as a born leader. She commandeered every meeting she attended, calling attention to herself in every way possible.

She believed she was entertaining and insightful. But her humor and ‘helpful advice’, were often off-pitch, leaving people feeling uneasy and annoyed.

I guided her to view herself through other people’s eyes. At first, she denied reality.  She didn’t want to see herself as over-the-top as others did. But slowly she began to take notice of the effect she was having on her colleagues.  She paid attention to eye contact and body language.  She began to read a room.

She adjusted the way she showed up.  She began to sit back, take in her environment and wait to speak when she had something valuable to contribute.  She even wrote herself a message in her notebook before every meeting.  It said: why am I talking?

With self-awareness, effort and perseverance she was able to make a positive turnaround.

So, be brave. Look deeply at yourself. Notice how others respond to you. Is there a chance you’re mistaking obnoxiousness for confidence or presence?



Here’s my obnoxiousness self-check system. Use it wisely.

  1. Do you find a way to share in credit for successes you weren’t very involved in?
  2. Do you tend to speak far more than others in meetings?
  3. Do you often correct other people?
  4. Is your voice louder than average?
  5. Are other people laughing at your jokes…or are you the only one laughing?
  6. When you’re speaking, notice other people’s facial expressions. Do they seem relaxed and at ease? Or tense and distracted?
  7. When people ask you questions, is their tone of voice warm, supportive and enthused? Or somewhat abrasive or tired?

One of the most effective ways to gain self-awareness in this area is to video record yourself leading a meeting. Of course, you would need to seek permission from your attendees. Not doing so would be…obnoxious.

When you watch the video later, have the self-check list handy and just be totally real with yourself. These can be easy habits to adjust when you become aware of them.


If you liked this blog post, you'll love my book Lead Advanced: 6 Skills to Be a Ultimate Executive.

Lisa Martin has made it her mission to help companies keep and cultivate leaders. She’s the creator of the Lead + Live Better leadership programs, author of five books, including the bestselling Briefcase Moms, and she is a seasoned speaker, facilitator and executive coach.


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