You Must be Present to Lead

Two Businessmen in the FieldMost of us have experienced conversations where the person we are speaking to is not “Present”. They are caught up in events of their day or thinking about something more important. Many of us have also done this to people around us. Friends, spouses, children, coworkers, etc. In spite of having been annoyed when someone has done this to us, we are also often guilty of lack of Presence.

So first off, let me describe what it means to truly be present. Being present means letting go of preoccupations and self-focus. It means immersing ourselves in the here and now, in this moment. It means giving ourselves wholeheartedly to what ever we are involved in and being more than just there physically. It is about being fully aware, alert, and awake in the fullness of that moment. It means engaging the other person with our full attention.

As a leader, your commitment to being present is more critical to your success than you might think. Here are 3 reasons you should strive be PRESENT:

  1. Presence demonstrates to others that you care. The alternative is that you don’t care. Which message are you sending?
  2. Presence means that you are listening. If you are not listening, how do you really know what is going on in your organization? Will team members even feel comfortable telling you if you are not listening and don’t seem to care?
  3. Presence demonstrates that you are open and willing to learn. If you are caught up in your own moments and issues, how can you begin to show team members that you value their thoughts and insights?

These 3 Presence motivators should cause you to want to do better. The question is how. Well, here are 3 practical things that you can do to be Present with those that you are with:

1. Learn to listen. We can all learn to listen better. Few of us are naturally gifted listeners. Our minds think at a pace much faster than communication happens. As a result, our thoughts tend to wander. How often do you find yourself thinking about what you want to say next versus listening to the person speaking? So how do we become better listeners?

Stop Talking. I have yet to meet a person who seems to talk all the time and yet have a great grasp of the conversation and the people in the room. I know at times I have been guilty of this.

Give complete attention to the one speaking. Giving your total attention means not being preoccupied with your own thoughts and feelings and not thinking about what to say next. Complete attention means focusing on the speakers thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body language. Do you see how much more you can gain from a conversation when you are engaged to this degree?

Communicate understanding. Let the other person know that you are listening. Ask questions to dig deeper into specific thoughts or feelings. Try to clarify what they have said to demonstrate your understanding. Try to fully understand where they are coming from.

2. Learn to take notice. How much time have you spent taking notice of the other person; how they are dressed, their emotional state, their surroundings, their frame of mind, or the difficulties or challenges they are currently experiencing? How much do you know about their journey, how they got to where they are today, and what gets them excited or depressed about life at this moment?

3. Learn to care. Simply knowing is not enough. Learning to care about the other person’s situation, life experience or journey is what is needed from great leaders. When you have done all of the above plus care, now you are positioned to have a remarkable influence on others. When you care, your counsel, advice, guidance, and feedback will come across as HELP versus CRITICISM or JUDGMENT. Your genuine care for the other person, regardless of their importance or circumstances can only increase your ability to be heard.

By being Present; listening, taking notice, and caring you become a much more insightful leader. You will be better informed, have a deeper understanding of your individual team members, and as a result, place people in the right roles, leading to better decisions or improved participation and passion from your team members. As an added benefit, you will have a healthier, happier, and more satisfied team.

None of this is easy to do. It takes thought, discipline and practice. I need to work at this every day. Join me in making your commitment to be more present starting today. I promise you that you will not miss the old YOU!

If you need help making Visible Progress, give me a call. I would love to help you improve your Presence.