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The Inner State of Presence

In the Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle suggests that we “Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” I have found this statement to be true over and over again when coaching leaders on presence and public speaking. Noticing what is happening internally and quieting oneself in order to fully come into the moment, does take care of many of the external issues that crop up when one is under pressure.

For example, distracting movements, gestures, foot tapping and such that are perceived negatively by others, melt away when the leader is clearly focused. Instead of telling the leader to simply stop tapping his foot, I suggest that he notice what he is thinking about before he feels the need to tap his foot. He often realizes that his mind has left the meeting and wandered to something else: his next meeting, his to-do list, the IMs, emails and texts that continue to signal their arrival during the meeting at hand, etc. This causes him to feel impatient and unsettled, eager to move on to the next thing that needs attention. Those around him see this and sense that he’s not all there for them.

The ability to project executive presence is a key factor in career advancement and success for leaders. Leaders with executive presence instill confidence and trust, and make people want to follow them. They are there for their people and their people can sense that. Leaders with presence are tuned into their inner state and able to remain focused, alert and open to others, all at the same time.

Three practices that can support you in developing and strengthening your inner state of presence are:

  1. Being fully present

  2. Self-awareness

  3. Self-management

Practice Being Fully Present

  • Stay in the moment and quiet inside

  • Resist distractions and multi-tasking

  • Observe tech etiquette

  • If your mind wanders to other things, gently bring it back to the present moment

  • Focus on the people in the room with you

  • Listen more than you speak

Practice Self-Awareness

  • Observe your mental, emotional, and physical state

  • Understand your comfort zone and notice what happens when you move out of it

  • Monitor your energy level

  • Recognize triggers that cause you to derail

Practice Self-Management

  • Breathe deeply

  • Resist the temptation to react emotionally to situations and people. Walk away or sleep on it if you can

  • Coach yourself by anticipating challenging situations and preparing intentionally

  • Identify leadership qualities desirable for the situation and focus on projecting them

Make a commitment to one of these practices and try it out for a week. Notice what changes in your inner state and how that affects your relationships with the people around you.

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