I found this quote on a blog post recently and it got me thinking about a conversation I had some years ago with a potential coaching client. It served as one of my best pieces of learning about Personal Presence (and I’ll talk more about this subject over the next couple of weeks).
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. — John Quincy Adams, 6th US president (1767-1848)
This potential client asked to see me as he wanted to be a more inspirational leader.
We’d only just met. He kept me waiting for half an hour or so with the comment ‘got a lot on, can only spare you 20 minutes.’ (Our meeting was schedule for one hour)
During our conversation, he answered his phone. Twice. He was distracted, agitated and not at all focused. I could have challenged him firmly on that. I didn’t. (Lost Opportunity Number 1)
I started to feel sad for him but also agitated and angry. And that’s clearly what his team were experiencing too – that was exactly the feedback they’d given him, he told me, in a recent 360 feedback report. The impact he was having on me was the impact he was having with his own team. His anxiety and lack of focus was causing them to feel anxious and unfocused, too. I didn’t share that observation respectfully with him. (Lost Opportunity Number 2)
An inspiring leader to me is someone who inspires others to do their best work.
In that moment, I did not feel inspired to do my best work. I wanted to scream or run away. I could understand how his team were feeling. Could I have shared that observation with him with empathy? Possibly (Lost Opportunity Number 3)
‘How would it be’, I asked him, ‘if you were to turn your phone off and really focus on this conversation so that we can do some good thinking together about inspiring leadership?’
Actually that’s not true. That’s what I wish I’d said (isn’t hindsight wonderful…). I wish I’d helped him make the connection between how he was being on a daily basis, how I was feeling in that moment and the links from both to inspirational leadership. In short, I wish I’d been more ‘present’.
‘Instead, I colluded with his ‘busyness’ and said maybe we should speak at another time when he was ‘less busy’. (When hell freezes over).
What a series of lost opportunities – for me and for him. I did not ‘first seeking to understand’; challenge him firmly and respectfully, or connect with him on a personal level – in short, I did not enable him to start to ‘dream more, learn more, do more and become more’.
I was too focused on my own performance, trying too hard to win a new client.
Have you, too, ever ‘given away’ your personal power or presence?
So, what is presence, why is it important and how do we know when we’ve got it?