13 February 2021
I was inspired to write this article when I came across this paragraph in Gary Burnison’s (CEO, Korn Ferry International) book entitled LEAD.
“Real attention, paid to us in real time – one-to-one, eye-to-eye, genuine, present and singularly focused on another – has become an experience of such scarcity, that when it’s given, it creates the opportunity to influence others intimately, to communicate effectively and to create in very little time an interpersonal bond that is the basis of teams making things happen they otherwise could not” It’s a very long sentence…but so insightful.
So what is presence? The dictionary says “it’s the state of being somewhere”, “to show up”, “your demeanor or bearing”.
As an Executive Coach, I learnt that presence is to listen without judgement, it’s having eye contact, empty your mind and have a beginner’s s mind (Shoshin) even if you think you are the expert. It’s removing all distractions including your favorite communications device. It’s about being mindful and not have the mind full. It’s not just about paying attention, it’s about giving attention. It’s about being curious, interested in the person in front of you and also keen on what he is saying. It’s seeking to understand and not to reply. It’s about observing and noticing what’s going on. Its about being comfortable with silence.
And what will be the desired outcome?
It creates a safe and supportive place for people to feel free to share ideas, ask questions and engage with each other. The quiet will not be afraid to speak up, the noisy ones will shut up and listen more. It fosters new ideas, creativity and new thinking. It makes people feel appreciated, recognized and respected.
It satisfies the ultimate human desire to be seen, heard and acknowledged. People feels good, motivated and engaged when they are recognized. Recognition is the accelerator. If you not just pay attention but give attention, people thrives. It must be done consistently, authentically and with a genuine heart.
Former President of USA, Bill Clinton is well known for his ability to make you feel like the only person who exists on this fair Earth while he’s speaking with you.
In contrast, I remembered till this day an incident that happened 40 years ago when I was a rookie sales representative in IBM. I made a sales call to this large construction company and was making a sales pitch. The prospect, a Senior Manager, was working on something else and he told me to continue talking. Obviously, he was not giving me the attention. Unfortunately, being young and naive, I continued. No attention, no sale & I remembered this incident for a long, long time. It has taught me a great lesson. Give people the attention and respect no matter who they are.
Sounds simple but it’s not easy. Start by having one-to-one conversation with people, practice silence, eye contact, shut up an listen. Say Thank You at every opportunity. Find out if the person feels better after the conversation than before. That will give you the best feedback to do better the next time.
Emulate Bill Clinton’s listening skills, master it & you will become a great respected leader yourself!
by Jeff Cheah, Executive Coach & Facilitator
Credits: LEAD by Gary Burnison
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