If you aren’t, how would you like to be one of those people that seem to “stand out” over the others in the room due to your presence? You can, you know?
Have you ever noticed in a crowded room that a few people “just stand out” above the others? You know, they just have “that something” that makes others “defer to them” or that others look to them for answers? Or have you sometimes experienced someone walk into the room and everyone seems to notice? They appear somehow to be a “somebody”, don’t they?
This is also called presence, which can be defined as someone exhibiting a noteworthy or dignified appearance, projecting a confident self assurance, an air of poise and a compelling or engaging personality.
Are We Born With Presence Or Is It Learned And Developed?
Whilst presence has a lot to do with our conditioning and our confidence and healthy belief in ourselves, it is my belief that it can be developed the same way we develop confidence and that it is indeed a “soft skill” worth developing. For me it is a choice of choosing subtly self assured behaviour, body language, voice projection and attitude that commands and expects attention that can be practiced over time, but without that behaviour being seen as arrogant. (For example, does actor Pierce Brosnan have presence or is he arrogant? Or which is it for Sean Connery, do you think?)
I think there is a strong link to the concept of Confidence, Certainty and Doubt, in which I outline that as leaders and professionals perhaps still lacking that confidence and presence we aspire to, it is incumbent upon us to act with certainty until we do.
How you develop your own presence is really something very personal and whilst most of the self leadership concepts we have already covered are relevant, they really do need to be made applicable to you in your very own personal way, which is far better achieved in one on one coaching. Wouldn’t that be something you might want to develop as a strength and become known for so you are sought out by others? I would be delighted to guide you through that.
Some Behaviour Tips Worth Practicing
Working with my clients I have observed a few rather typical traits that are quite easy to recognize and to address:
- Firstly, our handshake. In “western business culture” a firm (however not knuckle breaking) grip in our handshake is synonymous with a presence; that you are a “force to be reckoned with”. Conversely, a “limp” handshake often suggests a weakness of presence, even attitude.
- Secondly, if you are there to do business, dress the part. Ties and jackets aren’t that much a “must” any longer, but sharp business dress is still an indication that you “mean business”. That is just as relevant for ladies, right ladies? I’ve learned that it is easier to “dress down” (that is remove the tie or jacket) if you feel overdressed than it is to “dress up” if you are caught short. I have also learned to become aware of the presence of dress code expectations within certain clients and will always do my homework before and honour their expectation.
- Thirdly, without being arrogant or aggressive, (please refer to Arrogance, Aggression and Assertiveness) the way you present yourself is teachable, learnable and practicable. An air of confidence , both feet firmly on the ground with a firm, upright posture and a smile works wonders for your confidence, and with practice it will show in a genuine feeling from within you. It is a choice; one that you can control.
- Fourthly, be engaging. Don’t wait for others to come to you – go and seek out someone that seems to be interesting and introduce yourself. Pro-actively act like I outlined in Interested or Interesting?. Have a go. How else are you going to practice the above techniques?
- Finally, be sure to leave those you have engaged with something to remember you by; something more than just your business card and your smile. In addition to the above “sharpness”, it could be a clear short, sharp outline of what you do or think about something of interest to them, or something that will meaningfully remind them of your (and their) purpose.
Presence: feeling inwardly and projecting outwardly that you are a “somebody” and that you take yourself and what you do seriously and really enjoy doing so (but not too seriously as to put them off, OK?).
However, whatever position you take towards developing presence, there is something I coach all my clients to be on the lookout for in their work or in doing business. Something I wish to share with you today:
Recognizing and harnessing presence
Recognizing and harnessing presence is akin to working smart versus working hard. If people with “presence” are the ones with the enhanced ability to persuade and hold influence over others, (what I also call holding the “silent power”) then surely they are the ones we want to develop a strong relationship with, and in turn influence with your agenda, right?
I suggest to my corporate clients that influencing those that matter goes way beyond the formal reporting lines, feedback mechanisms and activities. In any project or endeavour we are responsible for driving, we need to know who the stakeholders are that have the capacity to influence our outcomes. These are the ones we need to keep informed and to “keep on side”, aren’t they?
But there is another kind of “hidden” stakeholder that is not always included in the formal channels. They are often without rank or seniority. They just seem to own and exude a “power”, a presence that makes others take notice. Through careful observation you can notice others turning to them for their opinions or guidance or looking to them for answers. They just seem to “have that something”, don’t they? And they are found all over the organisation, not just within your own Division.
These are the ones I teach my clients to also look out for. They are the ones that can further your “agenda”, no matter where in the organisation they sit or where you sit. They can enable the presence of your thinking or your work in rooms that you don’t have access to. I teach my clients to subtly ask around and to observe to find them.
So whenever you are in a “function” involving lots of people in your or any other organisation, be on the lookout. That is where you can observe them. Make a point of finding out who they are and where they fit. Then find or engineer ways to get introduced to them – whatever it takes. They need to know who you are, and what you are doing. You need to find a way to get them to ask you. My recommendation then is to give them enough to help them understand the importance of your initiative to the organisation and to them (if in any way possible). If you were able to suggest having a coffee with them that would always be the best way to go. That way you can do more “homework on them” as well as prepare yourself for that conversation.
Your Web Of Supporters
The end picture I’m helping you shoot for here is that you have developed a “web” of supporters across an organisation so they know what you are driving, and that will “fly your flag”. By that I mean that over and above the formal reporting lines which report your progress or success, there are other “informal” communication lines that do the same. You have to work to find and develop these. The best of these by far is the category of “power wielders” I’m talking about. Appropriately “won over”, their “putting in a good word” for you in “circles that count”, often without you being present is what really can make all the difference for you, your endeavour and your career.
So What Next?
Have I succeeded in raising your awareness of the importance to you and the achievement of your business and relationship (that is influencing) goals that having a solid presence can have? And also how looking out for and leveraging that presence in and through others is just as important to your goals?
If so, what are you going to do about it? Maybe mention that you read an interesting article and leave it at that? Or do you see enough benefit of this new skill that you will set some goals on how you are going to practice this on a daily basis whenever the opportunity presents itself (sic) so that you can indeed apply and use it to raise your game? Who might you share this goal with so they can give you feedback on what changes or improvements they are noticing?
This is of course a choice. One that those of my clients that have chosen to apply has indeed served them so very well to become that “somebody” that we all aspire to.
Why not you? Go on, what is it going to take for you to “have a go”? And if that requires you to reach out for a coach to be sure you don’t chicken out, call me and Let’s Talk Coaching.