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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Teaching Your Team Executive Presence: The Green Jacket Effect

by | May 3, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Communication |

Executive presence is not just for executives. Your team must learn to tell their story. You can help.

A Familiar Story

You want your team to perform well in front of senior leadership. They’ve practiced their elevator speeches. But, when the exec shows up, they get nervous and eat their shoe. Nerves block circulation. Frightened tongues babble. Your phone rings and you spend the next 20 minutes explaining that Joe really is smarter than he looks—damaging your credibility while trying to salvage his.

Even frontline teams need to learn executive presence.

Executive Presence Simplified

In my world, executives spend lots of time in the field observing and talking to teams— mostly unannounced. It’s a great way to stay close to the business.

They look for knowledge, service, culture and execution.

One of my teams was notorious for “bad visits.” Until, almost overnight the visits got better. Results improved. Reputations were saved.

I took the leader to lunch. “Every visit’s been great! What changed?” He smiled, ‘it’s the green jacket effect.”

“I’ve been practicing with the team. We have all the store managers take turns visiting one another’s stores wearing a really ugly green jacket. The jacket triggers a simulation of an executive visit. Whoever is wearing the green jacket is to be treated like the executive visitor. We practice controlling the story. Practice helps. They are less nervous. They can now explain their results, articulate their action plans, and recognize their best performers. It’s an elevator speech on steroids.”

Tips for a Great Green Jacket Experience

  • Greet them proactively with a firm handshake (demonstrate that you’re glad they came)
  • Proactively explain your numbers and the reasons behind them
  • Start with your opportunities and articulate key actions
  • Share your creative approaches to implementing key initiatives
  • Introduce them to other employees, and share something unique each person is doing
  • Recognize a few people for their “wow” contributions
  • Talk about your challenges and how they can help
  • Share ideas for improved processes and how you are pursuing them
  • Take active notes on all suggestions
  • Send a thank you email summarizing all follow-up items

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Eric Dingler

    My first thought on reading this was, “WOW, creative leader. But, this doesn’t apply to my world of church camp.” However, a moment later I did think of the value of this. My frontline leaders need to have this confidence in meeting with the parents of our campers. Parents are really our costumers, their kids have the experience of camp but it’s the parent who makes the decision to repurchase our product next year. I think this would be useful to do during summer staff training, but the person wearing the Jacket is a parent. Thanks for sharing.

  2. letsgrowleaders

    Eric, thanks. Cool. I do think it would have application there. Seems like fun too…. worried parent, fussy parent…

  3. Steve Borek

    The green jacket sets the stage saying, “this is really important.”

    It comes down to personal accountability of the leader and every constituent.

    This story has all 5 practices of exemplary leaders as outlined in “The Leadership Challenge”

    * Model the way
    * Inspire a shared vision
    * Challenge the process
    * Enable others to act
    * Encourage the heart

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Steve, excellent point about the stage setting around importance. Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with it. Love the Leadership Challenge.

  5. Matt McWilliams

    I assumed this was going to be about the winners of the Masters golf tournament, who win a green jacket like the members.

    Something happens when you are wearing the green jacket. The most rough and tumble player on tour instantly becomes a southern gentleman. They speak softer and are less outspoken.

    The jacket means they are a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world…and it changes them.

    But I love this idea too 🙂

    • letsgrowleaders

      Matt, hmmmm…maybe all wives should buy their husbands green jackets.

  6. marcus

    great idea.


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