How might having 'presence' or 'a way of being' support those you work with?

Most of us remember with fondness those teachers who made a positive impact on us (and maybe more teachers who didn’t). For me in year 11, it was my science teacher who encouraged me to keep going after an epic fail in my geology mock exam. His teaching style, different than most at that time, was discovery oriented and coupled with his belief in my ability to succeed, made me persevere. He wrote the most humane and encouraging end of year report of all time, securing my loyalty and determination. He was also rather cool and drove a smart, racing green sports car!

Later, whilst in a challenging role as head of science in an overseas school, my new head teacher noted my struggle, recognised elements of self-doubt and issued me an open invitation "visit and talk anytime Lisa, my door is open always. Really." And it was. And I did. She had a presence and way of being which was unique. She wasn’t a dynamic speaker, she didn’t have a vibrant, extrovert personality and she wasn’t cool or hip. Instead, she was genuine to the core, with an authentic way of being, treating everyone as people of intrinsic worth, dignity and value. 

What is it about such professionals that leads to this positive and lasting impact? Many appear to have some of the qualities Goleman refers to as emotional intelligence: empathy, communication and self-control. They usually prefer to be the catalyst in other's lives and often have that precious and rare attribute humility which is evocative and powerful to move others forward. There’s a high degree of respect for each person, of affirming others contributions and of desiring to unlock potential.

The International Coach Federation’s (ICF) coaching competency coaching presence highlights these people as “being fully conscious and creating spontaneous relationships… employing a style that is open, flexible and confident” and which Carl Rogers refers to as a "way of being" which can be more effective in moving people towards their goals. So, is this presence taught or caught? Is it learned or innate? Some people seem to have that natural ability to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ more than others. Regardless, it is an attribute worth spending time on developing and as professionals we can explore more and ask ourselves:

  • What can we learn from those who have this presence or way of being?
  • How might it promote healthy relationships and effective team work in our organisations?
  • What can we do to better to understand how we are perceived by others?
  • What’s the next stage in creating this way of being in our organisations and businesses?

Lisa’s challenge: What is one thing you can do this week to move into a place of being rather than doing to help others in your place of work?

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