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Presence - Being Present

“Did you understand what did I just said to you?”

He had been caught. He knew it. His mind had wandered and now, like the kids’ film ‘Inside Out’ the imaginary people in his head were now frantically searching the memory banks for what he had just said to him. He imagined saying, “I’m really sorry but my mind had wandered as I have a lot on my mind at the moment as I’m trying to work out how to take the organisation forward and keep jobs.” Should he just come clean? It sounded so limp as he played it back. Fortunately, from deep in his mind he was able to recount some key things he had said. He moved on with the conversation, but deep down he knew that they knew though. He had not been fully present.

Whether it is with your spouse or partner or someone at work, it’s an awful feeling when you realise you’ve been caught mind wandering. It’s awful not just because you’ve been caught, but because you know that you have not given them what they deserve – your attention. Daniel Coyle, in his book ‘The Culture Code’, talks about how leaders create a good culture. Those leaders are those that speak with truth and love their team to death. It is the greatest and yet simplest gift we can give to those we lead and those we work with is to be present. To listen, to understand and give them the gift of our attention and time. So, how do you avoid the trap of mind wandering?

These 4 steps can help you to be present when giving the gift of your time to those who lead

· Enter when ready

· Remove distractions

· Be active - be curious

· Listen to understand

Enter when ready

Would you go into a room full of people to make a speech or run a meeting if you weren’t ready? No, of course not, you would make sure you had all you needed and was prepared. So, before you meet with staff, whether that is on a tour around your site or if it is for a meeting, ask yourself “am I ready?” Is there any distraction that I might have that will sabotage me being present? If there is, then take a little time to think it through before you meet with staff. Work it out enough to be able to park it for later and set a time that you will give it some time. That way, if you start a conversation and this issue comes to mind, you can remind yourself of the time you have allocated to work that through. Now is your time for your team.

Remove distractions

One of the coaching questions that I ask people is, ‘what will sabotage you from achieving this’? It is a form of ‘pre mortem’. This is envisioning what could happen and seeing what might cause it to fail or die. When you consider what could hijack it, you can plan to reduce the sabotage. So, if we want to be present with a team member, what might stop this? Maybe my phone going off. Maybe my own tiredness. Maybe being interrupted with a seemingly urgent call. So, remove the distractions. Turn the phone off. Get some early nights. Have a strong coffee (and then go to the toilet before you meet with them so the coffee doesn’t sabotage it!) Let your PA know that you are not to be disrupted unless it is an absolute ‘building is on fire’ moment.

Be active – be curious

And so, we come to the moment of being present. It is important to remind yourself to be active in this interaction. This starts by reminding yourself why you are there. What do you want to get out of this interaction? What is it you want to discover? When you are present with them, be curious. What can you discover about them? What can you discover about their view on the organisation? What can you discover about yourself? Where are your points of connection? What sits behind the person’s perspective? By being curious we will involve ourselves in the interaction. Our curiosity will demonstrate we are interested in them and in turn show they are valued.

Listen to understand

When I work with people to help them develop a coaching approach, one of the key things they talk about is that when they have been listened to intently, they feel incredibly valued. Often, we just listen to hold a conversation. Steven Covey talks about a highly effective person listens to understand. How do we do this? We listen with our ears to what they are saying and with our eyes to the body signals they are giving off. We ask ourselves, what am I hearing here? Do I understand what they are saying and feeling? We use curiosity to check we have understood. Two questioning techniques help this. ‘Paraphrasing’ and ‘Reflecting back’. When we listen to understand, we check in with them that we have understood it correctly. “If I have understood this correctly, you have told me that X, Y, Z." This enables you to check you have understood. They will either say, a) yes, b) yes and XXX or c) no it is this. Either way, you have gained understanding. Reflecting back is taking a word they have used that could mean a range of things and reflect that word back and ask them for more detail. For example, if they use the word nightmare you might say, “nightmare, you said it was a nightmare. Can you tell me what that looks and feels like for you?”


Before we make any change or growth in something we do, we need to know our reason. We need to have a bigger reason to change than to stay still. There are so many reasons why, ‘being present’ is a key leadership trait that can benefit you and those who you lead.

  • It helps you get to know your team and you can then lead them with more emotional intelligence.

  • It helps your team feel valued.

  • It allows you to sense the pulse in your organisation.

  • It builds camaraderie and connection with your team.

  • It builds a better you, focused on the needs of others not just yourself

  • It enables you to build connection and stimulates good team ethic

  • It models a culture of listening to understand

Which one works for you? Go on - be present! Watch the impact it has.

Can we help you?

Sometimes it helps, particularly if you are an extrovert thinker, to talk issues through with someone. Maybe you want to be more present but you have struggled to overcome the hurdles. A coach can ask you questions independently to help you gain clarity. Give us a call if you would like us to help you explore this and empower yourself.

Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy. Do let us know if we can be of help to you.


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