Picture this: you’re in an important meeting about a complicated project, and a key senior leader starts to ask you difficult questions. Your palms begin to sweat and you feel yourself becoming defensive. How can you demonstrate confidence despite your fears? How do you self-manage so that you can actually hear what the other person is asking? How do you respond in a way that’s emotionally intelligent?
What you need in this situation is Presence—the intersection of confidence, skillful communication, and emotional maturity. When most people think of Presence, they immediately think of dress and grooming. But especially in today’s virtual environment, Presence is much more. Presence encompasses your body language, facial expression, tone of voice, emails you write, how you listen and respond to questions, and even what background you choose for your virtual meeting.
Jack Welsh, one of the world’s top business minds, said it this way: “You are what you say; your communication approach is your fingerprint, both professional and personal.” Think about Presence as your fingerprint—each person has a different one, and you leave it behind wherever you go. Presence is what others perceive about you. A strong Presence helps build confidence in your team and invites productive conflict.
In the remote environment, when we’re not intersecting from 9-to-5 in the office, we need to think about how we are showing up for ourselves and others in our virtual conversations. Are we communicating in a way that builds trust and credibility for us, our team, and our projects?
There isn’t a formula to Presence; instead, it’s an attribute that can be developed over time. Presence is like a muscle you can exercise to grow stronger. It’s important to recognize that Presence also may look different for each person and for each context. You have to be willing to ask the questions, What does Presence mean in our organization? What does Presence mean in my role? Consider what others want to hear and see from you as a Leader.
It may also be helpful to think of someone you know who has Presence. What characteristics do you notice in them? How do they make you feel heard and valued, and inspire confidence in their leadership? Now ask yourself, Would someone say the same thing about me?
Without developing Presence, you may miss out on opportunities within your organization. You may not get invited to key meetings. Your team may suffer from a lack of direction, motivation, and courage. The first step to growing Presence is self-awareness, often gained by getting feedback from a trusted advisor. Find someone you trust to talk honestly about your Presence and how you are perceived, especially in the virtual mediums of video calls, phone conferences, and email that we rely on today.
Remember that Presence is a journey, and something you can continually develop over the course of your career. If you’re interested in taking the first step of learning more about Presence, consider 1:1 coaching for leaders or bringing the conversation on Presence inside your organization. And as always, Lead to the Max!®