Developing Presence
Developing Presence

Taking on extra responsibility as you rise up the ranks at work is part and parcel of moving up. It often involves engaging new stakeholders and new or unfamiliar teams. Sometimes it’s bigger teams with bigger budgets.  You’ll probably find yourself in meetings handling complex, uncertain and open-ended situations with no clear way forward. Perhaps you’re having more challenging boardroom conversations or team meetings. You’ll need to be able to hold your ground and handle disagreements and objections confidently and effectively.  

Feeling unsure of yourself?  

 It’s not always easy to feel grounded, particularly in complex and ambiguous situations. You might be wondering whether you’re having the right impact on others, whether or not you’re doing and saying the right things – particularly if you’re experiencing disapproval from peers or people more senior. It’s easy to start doubting yourself and losing a sense of what got you in that role in the first place.  

Keep Calm and Carry On  

So how do you keep calm and stay grounded? People often talk about ‘gravitas’ or ‘presence’ – an enviable ability to command respect and confidently handle any situation. You might notice in meetings these people often have a natural sense of connection with others, their speech is clear and consise, with a steady pace and not rushed. They often have an upright posture, with open and non-defensive gestures. They are confident to hold the room and take their time making themselves heard – but they are also able to stop when they’ve finished. They are able to manage their emotions, with no uncontrolled outbursts. This behaviour often inspires respect in others- they are easy to listen to and good influencers.

Developing a sense of presence 

Your presence is what other people experience of you when they’re with you. It’s very useful for developing better relationships and improving communication. It’s often a combination of what you say and how you say it – including non verbal communication and the ways in which you get people to listen to you.

It might be described as a deep sense of confidence and ease. You might just know or feel that you’ll be OK in any situation, even the most challenging ones.

It’s about embracing your right to be exactly where you are, and to give yourself permission to simply be you.  

Imagine being able to trust in yourself, knowing that you’ll be OK no matter what – even if you get something wrong. Fundamentally it’s about accepting and harnessing who you are, including your imperfections. It’s about making the most of your strengths and personality (including your sense of humour!) to enable you to have confidence and courage in yourself in any situation.

Is it as easy as it sounds? 

The reason we talk about ‘developing’ your presence is that it can be hard work, requiring a good degree of self-acceptance and an ability to handle your emotions. If you’re not sure how you can develop your presence, coaching can really help. It can help you understand your skills and strengths and acknowledge the depth of your expertise and knowledge. You can understand your perceptions and beliefs about your self along with any limitations or things that might be getting in your way.

One thing you can do to get yourself started is to identify people you know who you see as role models. People who inspire you and motivate you and who are effective by being themselves. Next time you’re with them, just bring to your awareness their behaviour and how they do what they do – how they sit, stand and walk, how they talk and communicate. This exercise isn’t about copying someone else as that wouldn’t be authentic for you. However, often what we notice in others we already have some of in ourselves, so there could be areas that you can ‘borrow’ from them or amplify in yourself. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment!