Compliance needs that vital boardroom presence (Part 2)

presenceBoard room presence is essential if you are to carry weight and deliver a convincing compliance message.

It stems from four aspects of human development: psychology, physiology, character, and chemistry.  These are entirely learnable though you may sometimes need some specialist help to make the best of them.[spacer height=”20px”]


This is about getting your head straight–having the right attitude and approach. It’s not just knowing all about compliance and preparing your message with great care. You’re likely to be facing able people ready to challenge your results and thinking. Expect and prepare for a probing discussion. Never make the mistake of just winging it.

Attending a boardroom event can feel much like being on TV’s Dragon’s Den. People are not normally there to pick you to pieces but you’d better arrive with your head straight, remembering exactly why you’re there and knowing what you have on offer.

An important psychological weapon you can deploy is framing the debate, steering the group in the right direction. ReFramingFor example, are you complicit in accepting a prevailing “command and control” approach that aims to govern employee behaviour through incentives, deterring misconduct via monitoring and the threat of punishment?

How willing are you to re-frame the encounter around values and the cultural implication of compliance? This may bring you head on with a short-term approach of some senior people. Are you willing and indeed able to make the case for a different approach?[spacer height=”20px”]

It may once have been difficult to begin a board-level conversation about a strategic focus on corporate culture….. [today] it should be easier to raise the topic, even more so if raised in the context of specific and useful analytics tied to performance across a wide range of desired business objectives. “[1]

Body languagePhysiology

You may have great ideas, brilliant knowledge and correct answers on everything to do with compliance. But if you look wrong you will find it hard to exercise influence. Your audience will instantly detect clues about confidence and competence from your physical signals.

Posture, expression, voice, appearance, and gesture all count in conveying gravitas, in communicating with authority.  Does your body language convey authority? Spending time preparing in this area can be well worth the effort of maximising your impact.

You can seldom improve on your own how you come across physically.  Outside help, an informed and fresh expert eye can make a huge difference. You can be made aware for example of unconscious habits, weaknesses such as poor voice projection, and even bad dress sense.

Not distinctiveCharacter

At a senior level you will be expected to have a distinctive individuality and make a special contribution. Otherwise send that report.

It’s about being authentic and honest, and above all showing integrity. You might want to try answering these two challenging personal questions:

  • What’s your point of view? What are your opinions? What do you stand for?[spacer height=”20px”]
  • What’s the point of you?  What’s your purpose? How do you add value?

Of course there’s plenty of room for charm in these situations. Grace is attractive. Even with a steely personality, make sure you remain unfailingly courteous. With your technical knowledge you may find it hard to stay patient as others miss the point, or perhaps do not take seriously some of the information you present.

For example, are you willing to fight for “ethical engagement” in which employees identify so strongly with the organisation that the cultural impact entirely affects the compliance landscape?

Some call this state of affairs “self-governance”, but whatever the label, it requires a degree of character and commitment to values that can drive an entire organisation to do more than tick boxes and go through the motions of compliance.


The fourth area that generates boardroom presence comes from working with others in the room. You don’t exactly control the chemistry, though you can excel at establish relationships with people and building rapport quickly.

If you are self-conscious, smarmy or obsequious it’s hard establishing relationships. When your attention remains fixed on yourself – worrying about how you are performing or wanting to look good– there’s little chance of forming productive relationships with others.

Having a presence means being totally present. That is, you are attuned, alert and aware of everything going on around you. This involves really looking and listening, and being able to respond to the signals you are picking up—both consciously and unconsciously.

Once again the more preparation you do, the more you will be sensitive to the dynamics in the room and be able to focus on the relationships.

One secret of Boardroom presence seldom talked about is how you enter the room. You can establish your presence simply by radiating energy and aliveness. That does not mean bouncing in with OTT exuberance. Too much voltage can overwhelm and seem inappropriate. Yet make sure you carry your vitality with you – be a force to be reckoned with.



See also Part 1, published on April 12th.

For more information about how Maynard Leigh can help with improving Boardroom presence, contact us at

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HELP FROM MAYNARD LEIGH –here are ways we can help

  • Clarify what business ethics mean for your particular organisation
  • Coach you to understand what it means in practical ways to be an ethical leader
  • Run internal programmes to identify and develop core values–affecting company culture
  • Assist leaders to learn to establish and communicate leadership tone–inspiring people to act responsibly
  • Develop managers’ and leaders’ to talk about and promote business ethics with enthusiasm and confidence 
  • Advise on generating employee ethical engagement –where people go beyond the basic rules of compliance
  • Develop new, creative ways to encourage people to speak up about ethical issues 
  • Strengthen HR Team and their ethical role
  • Run forum theatre sessions to communicate about ethics in a highly interactive way 
  • Write articles or features for you on ethical leadership for your publication
  • Speak about ethical leadership at your next company or public event

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