Years ago during my first job in corporate America, I experienced firsthand the power of presence. There was a woman in my department that everyone referred to as “Crazy Mary.” I thought such a reference was uncalled for—until I had an experience with her.
One day she called me into her office to review the progress I was making with a project she had assigned to me. She was more than cordial as we discussed my work and reviewed the milestones of the project. I remember thinking as I left her office how kind and considerate she had been. Then the very next day, she came to my cubicle and demanded that I follow her immediately to her office. When I entered her office, she slammed the door and began to yell and belittle me for the very accomplishments that she had complimented me for on the previous day. From then on, I began to recognize the subtle anger and seething frustration that lurked just below the surface of her congenial demeanor. It made sense that everyone feared and avoided her at all costs. I continued to observe her emotional outbreaks that spanned the spectrum from Dr. Jekyll to Mrs. Hyde until I left that company.
Last year when I wrote the piece entitled, “How Do You Strengthen Your Presence?” I stated that presence was the “the vibe, energy, frequency, or power that emanates from us.” Shortly thereafter, a magazine editor wrote me a note and told me that she thought that I knew more about presence than I was telling. She challenged me to write more on the topic when time permitted, so here I go.
I agree with Aristotle, who said that to be a good speaker, a person has to be a good person. There are plenty of great speakers out there. They are articulate, they seem to choose exactly the right words, and they know how to turn a pleasing phrase. Yet when it comes to touching our hearts, moving us to action, and providing us with a larger vision of who we are and what we can become, their message can seem hollow. There is something that seems to be missing or just doesn’t resonate. To pick up on who they really are and what they really think, we must be self-aware enough to recognize the vibe that they portray or exude. Unfortunately, a lack of awareness allows such speakers to have more sway with most of us than we should allow.
You bring the essence of your presence with you everywhere you go. It is the part of you that emanates from you and reflects the type of person that you are, the way that you think about life’s experiences, and the people that surround you. In a very real sense you are what you think, and it comes out in the way you speak and treat others. Consequently, to increase the power of your presence and the influence you have on others, you must change and improve who you are at your core.
Much like a garden that needs constant weeding and tending to produce desired results, we need to become more aware of thoughts, attitudes, and judgments that can derail our success. If you are interested in becoming more aware and making some changes, here are a number of questions that you should quietly consider when you have a moment to reflect.
What do your feelings tell you about yourself?
Are you angry or frustrated much of the time? Who or what sets you off? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? You can easily rate your answers to these questions by asking yourself, “On a scale of one to ten, how frustrated am I with my family members, my coworkers, or myself?” Those parts of your life or your relationships that are most irritating and have the highest rating will come out in the way that you deal with others. What you experience in your external world is a reflection of your internal world. Understanding what is going on with yourself is the beginning to changing how others experience you and the results that you create in your life.
How do you view your work?
Is your work fulfilling? Do you run to work and walk home? Do you feel like you are making a contribution to the success of the organization and to others? Occasionally people have told me that they didn't choose their job, their job chose them, and they do not find it satisfying. If this is how you feel, and if you can't afford for whatever reason to change jobs, then you have to either find something to be passionate about in your job, or you have to change the way you view your work. Either way, changing the perspective or changing your own view will breathe new enthusiasm into what may have turned into a dull routine.
How do you view the people that you work with?
Notice that I didn’t say “the people who work for you.” If you view people as valuable assets that add greatly to the quality of your life and what you are trying to accomplish, then that will come out in the way that you treat them. If, on the other hand, you view people as tools who do your bidding or as people that you must tolerate as part of the job, then that attitude will show up in the way that you treat them. If you haven’t gotten to know your people on a personal level, perhaps you should invest some quality time in doing so. Forging personal connections will give you a degree of understanding and empathy that you may not have had before.
How do your people view you?
Do people engage with you? Do they ask for your advice? Do they tell you immediately when things don’t go as planned? Do you offer your support to help them succeed? Are you included in their informal activities? All of these questions are intended to help you notice whether people feel comfortable enough to approach you when they need to or when they really don’t have to. If you notice that you are excluded or if you have excluded yourself, you might try to understand why. You can do that by looking at your behavior or by asking someone that you know will be honest with you about how people view you. Trust and loyalty are important team ingredients, and they are built by connecting with others and letting people know that you value and support them.
What challenges do you have when it comes to communicating with others?
Most of us know what we don’t do well when it comes to communicating with others. This week a participant in a training asked me to help him get his emotions under control with the people at home. We know what we struggle with because we usually struggle with it over and over again. Get clear on what you need to work on, make a plan, find someone to support you, and take steps to improve what you have left unattended for far too long.
What should you change about your leadership style?
Last year I wrote an article entitled “Four Leadership Tips That Will Make Your People Adore You.” The article actually lists ten different items that we identified that people adore. You might want to go look at the list to identify some steps you can take to improve your leadership of others.
Developing a presence that moves people and inspires them to follow you and trust you is well worth your effort. The challenge is to become more aware of what you think and how that translates into how you speak to and treat others. Learning to see yourself as you are seen will help you improve your effectiveness as a person and as a leader.