Personal Presence: A Career Differentiating Factor

"Presence is a state of inner spaciousness." Eckhart Tolle

What is Personal Presence?
Personal presence is often thought of as charisma, a level of magnetism or charm and is typically assigned to powerful personalities. Another way to think about personal presence, however, is in the context of a virtue represented by seriousness, dignity, and a certain depth of personality.

In this article I invite you to consider personal presence as involving four important dimensions of the Self - Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual, and in a context that brings the whole Self, with worthy intention into each situation.

Why Does Personal Presence Matter?
When we are fully present, it can draw the attention of, or be sustaining to others.For example the impact of personal presence as a critical factor in the support and care of people who are ill, grieving or in crisis, has been well documented. Most of us have had life experiences where the presence of another was profound and meaningful, even healing; we cherish those experiences.

In the world of work, personal presence is being proposed as a requisite for people seeking leadership roles. Commencing with the recruitment process through to performance reviews, having a stronger presence can indicate you're the kind of person others want to work with, be around or invest in.

Other circumstances where personal presence matters may include discussing a promotional opportunity, negotiating with a customer or client, joining a volunteer board or committee, settling the terms of a relationship, talking over a disagreement with your child - the list may be endless.

When we are fully present we are attentive and receptive to the environment around us, we're able to "tune into" what's happening. A colleague I worked with some time ago used to say "when you're in the room, BE in the room!" Many of us have an "authenticity gauge" for when people are in the room in a way that doesn't feel genuine, or not in the room at all. The result is an opposing force for the development of meaningful relationships and outcomes.

Not only does personal presence matter, it is a choice, and it is always within our control to be intentional about how we show up.

Exploring Personal Presence from Four Self-Dimensions
1. Physical Dimension
Our physical presence is what others can see about us. It is the image we portray. This includes our physique, how we dress and groom ourselves, how we walk, enter a room, stand, gesture and in general, take up space.

There is an abundance of literature about how various physical attributes have influenced career decisions over time. Some common examples: tall, handsome men with hair get promoted, overweight and obese people are stereotyped as unproductive or lazy, short, small women struggle to be seen or heard in meetings, and so on.

Whenever we meet another person our senses take in information about them - their physical appearance, how their voice sounds, how they smell, the words they use, and the gestures they make. We use that information to form an impression and we make a preliminary decision about them - positive, negative or indifferent.

Considering that each of us has the power to intentionally choose the image we want to project, and supposing that we can do that for any circumstance we face, think of the times when the projection of your physical presence mattered most and what,if anything you might have wanted to be different.

What is the impression being left by your Physical Presence?

2. Intellectual Dimension
Your intellectual self is demonstrated by how you think, problem solve, understand and communicate. The words you choose when you talk and write, the way in which you deliver and accept ideas, your level of transparency, all demonstrate personal presence from your intellectual self-dimension. How you seek and share knowledge also represents your intellectual self. Your intellectual presence can be enhanced by responding appropriately in the situation, asking meaningful questions, and encouraging others to participate.

Consider how you present your Intellectual Self?

3. Emotional Dimension
Being able to regulate mood, persevere when times are tough, manage indulgences, display empathy, and generate hope, all demonstrate emotional intelligence (EmotionalIntelligence by Daniel Goleman, 1994). We are emotionally present when we are aware of feelings, both our own and those of others, and when we are able to acknowledge those feelings. Acknowledgement can take place through actions, words and on occasion,silence. Our emotional presence is also demonstrated through interpersonal skills,ability to socialize, cooperate, network and collaborate.

If you want to know your Emotional Intelligence Quotient you can

4. Spiritual Dimension
Exploring personal presence from a spiritual dimension is not about examining religious beliefs, but rather it's about discovering the essence of ourselves. I concur with Tanis Helliwell that as humans we have both a soul and a personality, with the soul's essence as being and the personality's as doing. "Our personality is a construct we use to experience the world, but it is not the essential part of us." (Take Your Soul to Work, by Tanis Helliwell. 1999, p.26). Using this premise we can begin to examine our Spiritual self-dimension by considering whether there are differences between the Ideal Self and the Real Self we present to the world. Here are some questions to help you examine that idea:

  • What is the vision I hold for my life?
  • How do I demonstrate my values and the principles that guide my life?
  • How do I maintain positivity in my life and my relationships?
  • How do I inspire hope, in myself and in others?
  • How do I demonstrate character, civility, concern, congruence?
  • How often do cynicism, negativity, or irritability undermine my spiritual presence?

Being intentional about our Essence or Spiritual Dimension increases the probability that it is our Real Self who is in the room, in the situation, or sitting with the other.

How are you choosing to BE - Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally & Spiritually?

Take good care of yourself,