What is Presence and why is it the most difficult thing for any manager to develop?
This is what I was asked at a recent workshop for new managers….what is Presence?
Well first, by what is Presence? I don’t mean a nice fitting suit, shoes and a haircut. There is presence and there’s Presence.
Anyone and Everyone
Anyone can make the observation that what is most difficult to develop is what is most lacking. Everyone should be asking, what is Presence?
Presence means your knowledge of Self, insight, awareness and understanding are the overriding energy you use to be, to interact and respond to situations and people.
You respond from Presence rather than react based on conditioning.
Why do I think that Presence is so important, so needed?
All that we take in (and give out) through experiences, training, the small biases we feel, how others respond to us…..is filtered through and influenced by our Presence or lack there of.
Let’s say the pressures of work — producing and day-to-day stress makes the manager dismiss an employee as a bum, a loser, worthless. Well, where does the employee have to go from there? They aren’t leaving but you just wrote them off and closed the door on any improvement. Do you get a sense of the depth of influence in this manager’s reaction?
On the other hand if the manager had Presence he would be able to pivot in real time, right in front of the difficult employee and remember that people are the basis of productivity and profit. He would then work to create an environment of possibility rather than closing things off.
With Presence, you don’t lose yourself or come unhinged or hijacked by the situation.
How to begin to develop Presence as a manager:
Be still for a moment and collect yourself. Look back at some of your reactions and the conditioning that influenced them. That’s the starting place for improvement.
Be deliberate and take the high road. Don’t follow mass culture or societal norms. Look at everyone with the eyes of an advocate. I am not saying you have to love everyone. I am asking you to tolerate the challenging people and don’t look at them with condemnation and accusing eyes. Avoid judging and labeling people — putting them in easy to dispose of categories, he’s a loser or she’s a socialist.
Apply observation and understanding not condemnation. Everyone is going through something you know nothing about.
Presence on the outside looks like poise, self-control, self-possession. From the inside Presence looks or feels like understanding, pardon, forgiveness, patience and space.
The three hardest things for any human to do are based on Presence not technical skill.
- Returning love for hate
- Including those who are excluded
- Admitting that you are wrong
Presence is simple but difficult. That’s why you don’t see it as often. Management is more challenging today but it is also more rewarding. But simple is still what works.
What people want is deep and simple — understanding, a smile. What we often get is shallow and complex, performance evaluations, data, models and flow charts
Your deep and simple Presence creates the most impact!