Some people naturally exude a powerful presence when they enter a room. When they speak, whether that is in a meeting, in the boardroom or at a social function, people listen.
I remember meeting a Commissioner of one of Australia’s police forces many years ago. He came to visit our work unit and address us at a morning tea. It was the first time that I had seen him in person or heard him speak. I was a low level research officer at the time so this was a big deal.
I distinctly remember my first thought was ‘oh no he dyes his hair black!’ But within seconds his powerful presence become clearly evident. I hung onto every word he said. By the end of his visit I was proud to be working for this organisation and motivated to deliver outstanding work because I was part of something really important. From the talk in the meal room after he left it was apparent that everyone had been equally affected by his presence.
There has been a lot of interest in the idea of presence as an essential skill in recent years, largely due to the popularity of Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk viral sensation. The great outcome of this renewed focus on presence is that we know that we all can develop and increase our presence through understanding more about what it really is and learning communication techniques that enhance our presence.
In the past ‘charisma’ was the term used and it is somewhat similar to presence yet it was something we thought you either had or had not. It was the mysterious aura that a person, usually a man, had that could influence and impress.
Research has begun to dissect the elements that create a powerful presence and thus gives us all hope of standing out, being seen and most importantly being heard.
The one element that I will specifically mention today because I believe it is the foundation for powerful presence and confident communication is ‘self-awareness’. Self awareness that comes from knowing who you are, what you believe in, what you stand for and equally what you are not.
Many people, including myself, learn over time to adapt to expectations of other, remodel themselves to fit in, or withhold themselves so as not to stand out.
We wear a mask of the expectations of others and of our own expectations of who we should be.
Wearing a mask or in someway living life while pretending creates self-judgment, self doubt and low-level anxiety and fear of being ‘caught out’. For many of us this just becomes our normal and we don’t even realise that we are constantly on high alert, rather it is a sense of uneasiness that may be just under the surface.
The first impact of this is you find it difficult to be fully present in a conversation, to let go of worrying what you should say next, or what you just said, or your perception of how you are being judged. Essentially your listening skills are badly hampered when you are not fully present in the moment. The second impact is that others feel your lack of confidence in yourself and uneasiness. They will sense something is a little off and this can impact on their willingness to listen and on their willingness to trust you.
A person who is fully self aware, comfortable and confident in their own skin and is being totally present in the conversation makes other people feel important and confident in their own skin.
When you are so comfortable in your own skin that you radiate confidence and calm in any situation, that is when you unconsciously give others the confidence to be themselves.
The first step in building your powerful leadership presence is self-awareness.
- Take time for self-reflection and evaluation. Acknowledge and own your strengths. Acknowledge and own your weaknesses.
- Surround yourself with trusted people who will give you honest feedback not just those who will stroke your ego.
- Catch yourself in moments of self-criticism that is unwarranted.
- Let go of perfectionism. Breathe.
- Cultivate a habit of being totally in the moment when you are speaking with someone. Listen fully.
You will notice a strange thing happening.
The more you cultivate true self-awareness the less it becomes about you and the more it becomes about the person you are talking to.
Kim works with organisations to assist their people develop a self leadership mindset for improved focus, better performance, higher engagement and resilience.
Upcoming Workshop: Confident Communication & Powerful Presence, Cairns – 3 February 2017; Brisbane – 10 February 2017. Details coming soon. Register your interest firstname.lastname@example.org