Editorial – Are you there…?

Editorial – Are you there…?

Somewhere between the title and this first line, did you space out a little? Maybe your brain detoured to that the fall jacket you saw online or the state of your succulents? Or perhaps it slipped into a spiral about the flawless delivery of your current project?

We know the benefits of being more present on health and wellness. Being present is “the basic human ability… to be fully aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” When we gift ourselves that moment of grace, it improves our ability “to stay level-headed, cope with stress, empathize with others and listen more deeply.” So why aren’t we talking more about presence as a powerful leadership trait?

We are entitled to check out and rest our brains during the day, of course. But when it’s time to be productive, what would happen if we focused on being present, rather than perfect? According to a 2014 study, having a more present leader positively impacts employee job satisfaction and psychological need satisfaction, as well as overall job performance, in-role performance and organizational citizenship behaviours. Your succulents may even grow bigger!

All we have to do is show up, turn down the volume on expectations and turn up our listening skills.

Being more present doesn’t necessarily mean learning new skills, but rather, learning to tap into skills you innately have but perhaps never deemed pertinent to the professional sphere. Let’s look at these traits more closely with Karen Tsuk, author of “Mindfully Wise Leadership”. Firstly, a more present leader is compassionate and flexible. That is, they take new hires out to lunch and play an active role in onboarding to foster a sense of belonging. They can admit to being wrong and welcome new information that could lead to a pivot. More present leaders are also intuitive and authentic. They will offer a role to an unconventional candidate when their gut feels that it’s right and they’ll communicate that in a transparent way to encourage two-way growth. 

We are already all of those things. Imagine the stress we could avoid by just admitting that we don’t know all the answers, and suggesting that we work together to find the right solution instead.

If this sounds a little too “granola” for you, heed the words of Gabrielle Thompson, a senior vice president at Cisco: “Many situations simply need an ear, not action. Oftentimes, problems don’t need solutions — they need presence and time.” Or more concretely put, a more present leader simply creates a safe space in which everyone can process problems and solutions, without needing to “fix, manipulate, or control the situation for them.

What could we accomplish if we stopped hyper focusing on perfection? It’s time to move past the usual anxiety and distractions, and give our brains the space needed to find the right solutions without panicking about potential fallout.

That’s the power of presence! 

For those wondering if this approach could make them look “weak” or less authoritative, know that being more present makes you look less defensive and more approachable. One recent Harvard Business Review article noted, “Rather than slouching, crossing our arms, and literally closing in on ourselves, we assume a more balanced, uplifted, open, and inclusive posture… In the same way that we can catalyze qualities like confidence through assuming a bold posture, we can induce qualities like awareness, focus, inclusion, and compassion through an uplifted, dignified posture.

Each person must find the practice that will foster their ability to be more present—for some it’s yoga, for others running or fixing bikes. What is true for all of us right now is that having more presence in the professional sphere can truly help us (and those around us) get more done in less time and with less stress. Now take a deep breath and read that again. You spaced out again. 😉

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Author profile

Adriana Palanca


Adriana is a Montreal-based writer with 20+ years of experience in storytelling. Her many hats have included advertising copywriter/creative director, creative writing teacher, writing coach, podcaster and blogger. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, a memoir about growing up Italo-Canadian, and random poems that may one day take plausible shape.