How To Be Present. Now. Here.

What Does It Mean To Be Present?


Remember, Leadership is not about a title; anyone can be a Leader who creates a positive experience for others.

I typically end my essays with a tip like above, but today let’s start with a reminder that leaders are people who make a difference for others, usually through how they engage–what we call “presence.”

PRESENCE is a common yearning among prospects for coaching. Leadership presence, executive presence, presence on stage, or personal presence. They seek to show up differently with their teams, their boards, their peers, or their professional communities.

So why don’t they already have “it,” whatever it is?

1.  It’s important but not always valued. People in management or leadership roles are often not evaluated by the way they develop other leaders or by the impact they’re having on others by their personal presence. This kind of evaluation takes a back seat “to getting the numbers.” Intellectually, everyone agrees that understanding and valuing people skills makes a huge difference in generating the “numbers” more effectively, but still…

2.  Short term behavior earns more applause than long term investment. We are shallow and fickle, we humans. We like loud shiny things (Social media! Disaster! Scandal! Breaking news!) despite decades of research that prove over and again that the quiet, unassuming, and often non-charismatic leaders are the ones whose organizations will generate the greatest return. But we run to the burning fire of downsizing or reorganizing and ignore the more powerful relationship-building that does not show up on the next quarter’s forecast.

3.  They are smart in the head, yet have never in their life had a class on Listening, Caring, Confidence-building, or the use of Conversation as a tool for development.

Why Should You Care?

You are the glue that holds people to this organization. How you show up affects their connection with the team, and with you as their manager/leader/boss. No glue, no stickiness, and in an era of phenomenally low unemployment, you need to retain all the talent you can.

How CAN you improve your presence?

Here are a few ideas:

1.  Each time you interact with someone you are potentially strengthening or weakening your relationship with them. Positive/constructive interactions weave more fibers into their connection with you, leading to significant differences in team outcomes.

2.  Think of yourself as a “brand.” Your personal presence is how others experience you.

  • You’re doing a presentation: what is the experience you want others to have, of you and of the material? How do you create that experience? How do you signal confidence in a tough message or openness to questions, for example?
  • While sending or responding to email: how do you open and close those communications? Have you thought about whether this communication should be done in person or over the phone instead? Is the use of email supporting or getting in the way of your presence?
  • When giving “hard to hear” feedback to a co-worker: What is the experience you would like this person to have during this conversation? What can you do to support that outcome? What is the emotional space you want to hold, e.g. care and compassion?
  • You’re in a meeting: what role do you want to play? What is the emotional space you bring, e.g. are you upbeat or a heavy presence?

Personal presence is not only about raising your awareness of how others experience you but becoming more intentional about cultivating your human “being-ness.” How you walk, talk, sit, stand, and breathe are important. People are noticing you and being affected by you, well beyond the words you speak.

And that’s assuming you DO speak; for some, the biggest obstacle to presence is that they are too often “invisible.” Where is the balance for you between sharing your thinking and holding the space for others?

Presence is a skill you can build. Over time you will become more effective because you can take control of the qualities you want to cultivate in yourself and change the behaviors you judge are getting in your way.

What kind of experience would you like others to have of you? What qualities do you need to cultivate within yourself to achieve this? (e.g. patience, assertiveness, decisiveness, speaking up, holding space for others, being more concise, managing your temper, being more caring, being more present, etc.)

Where would you like to start? And when will you begin?

AND remember that a good coach can help.  Drop me a note below and we can schedule a conversation for possibility!