I once had a manager who inherited my function (and me) through a reorganization. My short time working for him in that role was one of the most personally frustrating and painful experiences in my work life.
The reason? I was invisible to him. When I asked for time with him, he didn’t have it. When he relented, he didn’t give me any reason to believe that he wanted me there. He rarely looked up from whatever was on his desk, and had no problem picking up the phone when it rang or having a conversation with someone else who came to the door needing his attention.
I was quite young and if I could turn back the clock, I would have gathered up the courage to address his behavior with him. Instead, I left and found another job. I once read that the most painful experiences human beings can have is the feeling of rejection. The experience I had with my manager still feels painful when I think about it because his inattention made me feel that I didn’t matter – akin to feeling rejected.
What I learned from that experience – and what you need to do
Yet there was a something that “bloomed” inside of me out of that experience. It’s the importance of being attentive and present to those who are right in front of me. I practice staying present a lot. I am definitely not perfect at it (it’s a journey, not a destination) but I’m better than I might be had I not experienced the lack of it from that manager.
As a leader, your full presence is needed now more than ever by those who work with or for you. Our workplaces are filled with distractions, and people are feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. Being present to others is a gift that costs nothing but your time and focus, and it’s a gift that will pay you back tenfold when others:
Repay you with engagement in the work at hand. We’ve all heard the scary statistics on lack of engagement in the workplace. You know fundamentally that when that happens the work doesn’t get done well or at all. The small gift of your presence has the potential to counteract disengagement.
Feel heard by you even when you disagree. I once read that when someone feels heard they release endorphins (hormones that trigger good feelings such as joy). What better way to soothe, heal, and go beyond conflict than to be fully present to those you don’t agree with? Calm others with your own calm presence.
Do the same as they learn by watching you. Leaders are watched more closely than others, and the behaviors you exhibit will be learned and expressed by others. Why not make a commitment to being fully present to people and have that behavior spread throughout your organization? Maybe you can envision that unproductive behaviors will be silenced, replaced with an organization full of people who feel appreciated.
Have you ever experienced the gift of someone’s presence? If you have, you know what that’s like. Why not pay it forward?