The Power of Being Present
In our last blog, we encouraged you to think about who is capturing your attention and focus. Have you been listening to the loudest voices? Or are you seeking out balanced and unbiased perspectives as a leader?
It takes effort, self-awareness, and being fully present and in the moment to keep yourself grounded. This allows you to see circumstances clearly, and actively listen to both the spoken and unspoken feedback and insights you are receiving from others.
This week, we are going to build on the effective communication best practices that we highlighted in our last blog and zoom in on the power of being present. So first, let’s be clear on what we mean by “being present”.
What Does Being Present Mean?
Being present means you are offering the other person or group you are engaging with your 100% undivided attention. You are not multitasking. You are actively listening by offering your full attention, both physically and mentally. Being present simply means you're focused and engaged in the here and now, not distracted or mentally absent.
Your body language also shows that you are dialed in, you’re seeking to make random eye contact, and your mind is not wandering or pondering other thoughts. When we are present with others, we can almost feel the emotions they are feeling, and they can sense you’re truly listening, too.
When we are fully present, we are not judging others or making assumptions. We are there to listen and take it all in before we process the information or insights that have been offered to us.
It means we are being thoughtful and mindful about how we choose to respond or not respond, because not everything warrants your perspective or feedback. Sometimes it’s okay to just take it all in and be present and offer another human being your gracious ear. And when and if it is time to respond, it will come from a calm, fully present mindset and perspective, which is far more powerful than responding on auto-pilot.
Being present is a liberating feeling, and if you have ever felt it, you know what I mean by liberating. You feel light, free, balanced, calm, and focused in the moment. It is difficult to describe in words, as I suspect the physical sensations may vary from person to person, but the point is that you will think and operate at your best when you choose to be in the moment and present with others.
Why Being Present Critical to Your Leadership Effectiveness
In Zen Habits, they suggest being present enables us to solve problems more effectively because we are free from distraction and stressors. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you're dealing with in the moment. It doesn’t mean you don’t have things that you are worried or concerned about. We all wear many hats and have lots of responsibilities in life – family, children, parents etc., but the point is no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, the act of being present can change your life in profound yet simple ways.
As described by the Harvard Business Review article on being present, in order to truly engage other human beings and create meaningful connections, we need to silence our inner voices and be fully present, and being more mindful is part of that.
This requires discipline to stay on task and not let yourself be affected by nagging challenges or distracted by mental chatter. It also requires skill to have the mental ability to stay laser focused and present.
As leaders, it is your responsibility to create a safe space for people to share their honest perspectives, frustrations and vocalize their problems and opportunities. Through mindful presence, you become the sounding board in which they have space to process the issue, without you stepping in to solve, fix, or control the situation.
In research by Bain & Company they surveyed 2,000 employees and found that among 33 leadership traits — including creating compelling objectives, expressing ideas clearly, and being receptive to input — the ability to be mindfully present (also called centeredness) is the most essential of all.
Mindfulness & Being Present
Mindful living is a practice that enables us to be present and live in the moment because we are more aware of how we are showing up and the space we are creating for ourselves and others.
Here are some simple tips on how to be more mindful, present and in the moment, and I would categorize all these habits as practicing self-care:
#1. Pause every morning
Mindfulness doesn’t have to take up a lot of time to be beneficial. Start small and take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect, be still, and practice gratitude. Try to remember the bigger picture before getting wrapped up in email and other tasks.
If you really want to expand your mindfulness then try meditation. There are endless apps and resources to assist you with this, and research shows meditation creates a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
#2. Take time-outs
With constant emails, Teams chats, endless tasks on the To-Do list, and fires to put out, taking breaks seems counterintuitive. But working through lunch and forgoing all breaks may do more harm than good. Without breaking, the brain never gets time to rest and refresh, and opportunities to reflect and gain new insight are lost.
Check out at least once in the middle of the day, even if just for a few minutes.
#4. Take Care of Your Body
Eating too many sugary or fatty foods affects not only the waistline, but also emotions and overall feelings of well-being. Eating healthier can power the mind and body to feel better and more at ease.
Sitting is the new smoking, so we need to be more conscious of building in some physical activity into our daily routines. If you have a workout routine, that is awesome, keep up the great work but now one is expecting you to train like an athlete to stay healthy.
Go for a walk, get outside, and get some air. It will do your mind and body good.
#5. Be mindful of others
Although mindfulness is an introspective activity, the practice affects the ways individuals interact with those around them. Take the time to think about others and do something nice for someone else. Helping and giving to others is perhaps the most refreshing and expansive activity one can engage in, and that is what leadership is all about after all.
When we are present, amazing things start to happen for those around us and within ourselves. I do my best every day to be present in every moment. Sometimes it is hard and I get distracted, and that’s okay, as it is not about perfection. Life is a journey, and being present is part of that journey so we can feel all the amazing emotions, memories and learning that are presented along the way.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and invite you to contact me today. Call me at 1-855-871-3374 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!