How to Cultivate Presence

Many women (and men I might add) are searching for ways to show up with more authenticity and power in their work and lives. In her best-selling book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Associate Professor Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School, suggests that the best way for us to step into our authenticity and personal power is through cultivating more moments of what she calls presence. As she articulates: “Presence is the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values and potential. It emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves. It’s what makes us compelling. We are no longer fighting ourselves: we are being ourselves.”

It’s the presence that comes from being acutely attuned to our most sincere selves so we can be honest, genuinely connect with others and fully represent our abilities. It’s what synchronizes our thoughts, physical and facial expressions, and behaviors, so people feel safe with us. It’s what enables us to communicate with passion, confidence, and comfortable enthusiasm whilst still owning any nerves that we might have. It’s the medium through which trust develops and ideas travel.

As you think about how you want to show up as a woman, as a leader, and what authentic leadership may look like for you, we want you to consider your own presence. Presence is what allows you to approach stressful situations without anxiety, fear, and dread and leave them without regret, doubt, and frustration. Instead you can go forth, knowing that you did everything you could. That you showed people who you really are. That you showed yourself who you really are.

The good news Cuddy assures us is that we all have moments of presence. The challenge, however, is that most of us don’t yet know how to summon that presence when it escapes us at life’s critical moments. You can work on becoming more present by: Identifying the values, traits, and strengths that represent your authentic best self; believing these stories even when threatened by self-doubt or perceived social judgment; showing up and genuinely connecting with others in ways that make them feel safe. It is confidence without arrogance, courage even in the face of fear, and connection without the need to control.

Being our most authentic selves works. Think about the questions below from Professor Laura Morgan Roberts, an organizational behavior professor and widely recognized expert on the ways people develop positive, authentic identities on the job. You can work through these questions as a journaling exercise, to help you cultivate more presence and show up more authentically in your career and life:

  • What are the stories you tell about who you are at work? Just for a moment violate all the norms of humility and think about the times at work when you were really growing and developing into your full potential, when you were engaged in virtuous actions, and when you felt good about yourself, and were validated by others. Who are you when you’re at your best? Try to create at least three concrete, specific examples of the experiences that have felt natural or right and how they have led to your success at work.
  • Based on these stories what three words best describe you as an individual?
  • What do these stories suggest is unique about you and that leads you to your happiest times and best performance?
  • What are the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that enable your best self at work?
  • What are the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that block your best self at work?
  • What changes would you like to make in your current role, relationships, and future career plans to help you consistently be more of your best self at work?

No matter where you are starting from, you can show up with more presence at work, and utilize that presence to bring you more fulfillment. So stop fighting yourself, and start being more of yourself, and see what changes.

This article by Megan Dalla-Camina first appeared in Womens Agenda in their Lead Like A Woman series where they’re sharing edited extracts from the new book Lead Like A Woman – your essential guide to true confidence, career clarity, vibrant wellbeing and leadership success by Megan Dalla-Camina and Michelle McQuaid. Megan and Michelle are taking a fresh, evidence based approach to what it really takes for women to show up authentically and lead with confidence.

You can download the first two chapters of the book for free from the Lead Like a Woman website.

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