Why are music videos so weird?
What do I taste like when the dog licks me?
When does a normal potato turn into a sweet potato?
Staying ‘present’ is hard. One would think it would be easy when with a beloved family member. It’s not. Staying in the moment can be awkward. It generates creative tension, which feels like a rubber band getting stretched. If we aren’t conscious of it, we will seek to ease that tension by controlling the conversation, the outcome, the timing or the topic. And when we aren’t controlling, we are compliant. We nod and make appropriate-sounding utterances as we multi-task in our heads or on our smartphones. When control and compliance fail us, we protect our precious time by retreating into a zone of activity we believe to be more rewarding, interesting or productive than the matter at hand. Then we look back and subject ourselves to wicked criticism that we again missed time with people that matter.
This is not just a parenting dilemma. Almost every client I’ve worked with has named executive presence as an area in which they want to improve. It’s not enough to be smart and decisive. They also need to be patient, thoughtful and able to listen. Unfortunately, they behave in distracted and conflicting ways.
Leaders are impatient with direct reports and sometimes prefer to just fire them (except HR won’t approve it). They are intolerant in meetings and act disengaged when the topic isn’t of value to them. They arrive at answers and then feel exasperated when their peers question their thinking. Ultimately, good leaders want to decide, spend, hire or change something – all good things. When their organization reacts to their urgency with sluggishness, executive presence is often abandoned.
To stay ‘in’ is no easy task. It requires a discipline beyond just showing up. Being present means involvement, interest and a ‘with-ness’ that suggests nothing is more important than this moment in time.
Sometimes to be ‘present’ we have to mine for gold. Every encounter has a glimmer of it. We will never discover it if we aren’t there to see it.
Where are you struggling to be present? What would mining for gold look like in that situation?