29 Jan

Mister Rogers and the art of presence.

The term presence is frequently referenced in the context of leadership development and coaching. In a world filled with a variety of digital devices, the value of presence is greater than ever.

Dismissing the importance of presence is like looking at a car and saying, “All we need is the physical vehicle. The energy we use to fuel it is not something we see, so it can’t be that important.” I know you’d be shaking your head if someone made such a statement.

At the core of presence, we find self-awareness and self-regulation, two key drivers of leadership. These are the drivers (going on with the car analogy here, got it?) because self-awareness is the steppingstone of leadership. Indeed, through developing leadership skills people begin with understanding how they impact others. To do this, leaders need to be clear on how they show up (self-awareness). Getting to know ourselves can result in a desire to make changes in our behavior in order to improve our impact and the kind of reaction our way of being triggers in others. In order to make such changes, we need to develop the ability to self-regulate. Therefore, self-regulation makes it possible to generate desirable reactions and actions. Giving your undivided attention to a person you are interacting with is possible once you develop the amazing ability to self-regulate. That’s leadership, isn’t it?

Now, mix one part of self-awareness, one part of self-regulation, together with one part of commitment to pay attention to the person you are dealing with right now, stir gently, and just like that, you got yourself enough presence to last you for the day. I suggest you repeat daily.

Seriously, being present in our interactions with others is incredibly impactful. When was the last time you were in a conversation with someone who gave you their full, undivided, and undistracted attention? Isn’t it the most beautiful gift?

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “I have no idea what she is talking about. What does it look like when someone is present?” I’m glad you asked. A picture is worth a thousand words and so is a short video. Enters the iconic Mister Rogers.  In this clip (just under 7 minutes),  Mister Rogers interacts with the young Jeff Erlanger. This is the most powerful illustration of presence I ever came across. These are two people connecting as if nothing else matters.

If you tell me that this clip doesn’t reach you emotionally, I will suggest you grab the closest extinguisher because your pants might be on fire.

How would you like to be addressed in this manner when interacting with others?

Let’s be the change, my friend.

Here is to fostering presence in 2020, wishing you an abundance of beautiful days in your neighborhood.

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