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3 Ways to Cultivate Executive Presence — from Johnson & Johnson’s Executive Celine Martin

confident female executive standing with arms crossed in modern office

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com (shapecharge)

When Celine Martin was promoted to Vice President and became part of the management team at Johnson & Johnson, she felt she had three strikes against her. 

She was the youngest, she was a non-native English speaker, and she was a woman. 

But before her first meeting with the team, her boss told her: “You’re now at the big table, and I need to hear your voice — not just representing your function but to have a point of view on what it takes to run this company. We’re here to win. So I need a full team starting with you.”

She ended up playing it safe and low-key. 

She also regretted it — realizing that all of the voices in her head that told her she wasn’t supposed to be there kept her from focusing on bringing her whole intellect and emotional intelligence to the meeting. 

“So, from that point on, I decided that I had to let go of those mental barriers that were truly turning me off but also shrinking me,” she says. “I learned to master when and how to intervene and make my points.”

Here’s what she did — and recommends others do to cultivate executive presence: 

Be you, be yourself

Do not try to look or be like someone else. You’re unique in your way. You have your own experience and insights that have shaped you.

We know that the most effective teams today are very diverse, so don’t shy away from your own core, which makes you unique. Reflect on what you’re bringing and play at full force. There’s a good reason why you’re here. People expect to hear from you if you’re invited to a meeting, people expect to hear from you.

Come prepared

You have to be in command of the subject. Remember to anchor your story with facts and data. Start with the punchline and then support it with evidence.

And eliminate from your vocabulary all the so-called comfort words, including “I  might be off base,” “Maybe I’m the only one,” “Maybe I’m wrong,” “You may disagree,” and “I’m not an expert.” Those words tend to diminish the impact of your story.

Be fully present

Listen to the dialogue. Know when to intervene and how to do so. It’s not about statements but about the power of questions — the right questions. 

Also, be mindful of your body language, so-called non-verbals that can slip out: making yourself look smaller, crossing your arms, crossing your legs, suppressing yourself. Think of opening up and owning your space. Realize that tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.

Finally, I recommend putting yourself in the mindset before the meeting. Try to own the room, try power posing. Give yourself the confidence to become the true you.


Celine Martin

Celine Martin, Company Group Chairman, Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions Group, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices, shared these insights at the 2022 California Conference for Women.


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