The Gift of Presence

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It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year- and arguably twice the fun at our house with two holidays and two kids birthdays in the span of 16 days. Our home is alight with Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. I have three school and work gatherings with friends this week, and like many of you, I will be taking time off to spend time with friends and family.  As I was listening to some holiday music this weekend, I realized there were some good coaching tips embedded in Christmas carols. Here are my takeaways from Do You Hear What I Hear, The Little Drummer Boy, and Silent Night which sparked my commitment to give the gift of presence throughout the year.

What do you hear? The very essence of coaching is to shift from a place of telling to the place of listening. We know this is the right thing to do, but we also know that it is so much faster to just tell someone the answer or to do it ourselves. But if we give the gift of being present, we can step back and see that the only way to grow our team is to empower them, and that our role as a coach is to ask insightful questions to guide their self discovery.  Presence also asks us to assume positive intent. What is it that this employee heard, saw, or knows that led them to make that decision? By remaining curious we build trust with others and gain a more well rounded view of a situation. Allowing the time to pause and ask questions is a gift with lasting impact.

Bring Your Gifts. When we are present, we are not judging, just observing. We notice what people bring and can do, and we invite them to be their authentic selves. Too often we fall into the thinking trap that we need fine gifts that are fit for this meeting/leader/training/ (aka King) so only people who meet our definition of “fine” are invited.  What if instead of assuming we know what is needed, we asked our audience what they wanted? If we embrace diversity and stay curious think about what possibilities might unfold. Unwrapping everyone’s unique gifts leads to new discoveries and strengthens teams.

Celebrate the Silence. Finding white space in our minds and in our schedules is one of the hardest things to do. But learning to silence our minds so we can think, not just do, is an amazing gift. As leaders, we should spend more of our time on how to improve, advance, and align the work than being heads down doing the work. The recent post on the Seven Top Leadership Skills for 2020  includes skills such as humility, 360 thinking, being reflective, inspiring, and intellectual versatility. Each of these skills can only happen when we calm our mind, and focus on the important but not urgent work of leadership. This also means taking care of ourselves so we can bring our best selves to work. Prioritizing sleep, exercise, and eating habits should be more that a resolution – it is a gift to bring to ourselves and our team in the new year.

Janice Maeditere said, “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” Wise words that we can reflect on all year. When we open our hearts and minds we can give the gift of presence. We can do this by asking questions, staying curious, and creating space for thinking. So give yourself permission to be more present in 2020 – it is a gift that will keep on giving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Leadership

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The holiday season is upon us. Diwali has ended. Hanukkah starts Sunday. Christmas and Kwanzaa are around the corner. People are already in full swing on their holiday shopping. Black Friday deals are everywhere, and we set a spending record of $7.9 billion on Cyber Monday. But your mom always said, the best gifts are free. You don’t need a gold card, or gold, frankincense or myrrh to be wise this season. Wise leaders will be giving their presence, their time, and their appreciation.

The present of presence. All of us multitask, yet according to a Forbes article, 98% of us are not good at it, and multitasking actually decreases productivity by 40%.The truth is we cannot be present if we are not fully engaged with those around us. Were you listening when your employee said they had to leave early to check on their mom? Did you ask why? Did you ask how you could help? Did you ask the next day how she is? When we are truly present with others we hear and feel what is important to them and show them that they are important to us. To give the gift of presence, you will have to give up some of your screen time for real life connection time. Gift giving tips: (1) Shut off email and phones during meetings and one on ones and give your team your full attention. (2) Arrive 5 minutes early to meetings, and check in with people vs. checking your email. (3) Block daily or weekly time on your calendar to connect with your team in their space. Don’t bring your laptop- focus on asking, observing, and learning.

The gift of time. We tend to measure our time at work by the number of meetings, emails, and tasks we checked off our list each day.  These are often urgent, but not important distractions that fill our time but are not fulfilling. What if instead we measured our time at work by the number of people we coached, the new ideas we learned, and the recognition we gave?  Our teams regularly tell us in engagement surveys they want more information, more recognition, and more development. So, let’s give them what they want – your time and insights. Gift giving tips: To give the gift of time you will have to give up on getting to the bottom of your inbox. Don’t worry, it’s an impossible quest. Instead work on putting these 3 tips into practice: (1) Save time by setting team norms around emails. This is a great list of ideas to start with. (2) Block your lunch hour every day. Yup- everyday. Take different people on your team out to lunch and/or connect with peers at an electronic free meal. (3) Use team meeting time to inform and engage. Select a few key topics to cover and use 80% of the meeting for brainstorming, sharing best practices, and problem solving.

Packaging appreciation. As you write out your holiday cards ask yourself, when is the last time I gave a team member a thank you card? Small, regular signs of appreciation have the biggest impact on engagement and loyalty.  A sticky note that says “Your presentation was awesome and so are you. Thanks for making a difference on our team.” will stay up in someone’s cube for months and takes seconds to write. One of my favorite managers gave me a subscription to a scrapbooking magazine because she knew it was one of my hobbies. It probably cost her $20 and 15 years later I still appreciate her thoughtfulness. Gift giving tips: (1) Add recognition as a 5 minute agenda item to your team meetings. Encourage people to thank each other. (2) Buy a pack of blank cards and keep them on your desk. Commit to writing out at least one card a week. (3) Ask your team what kind of recognition is valuable to them – we all like to be recognized differently, so customize your gift.

Make this season merry and bright by giving your team the gift of your leadership. The investment you make in being present, giving time, and showing appreciation will come back multifold. The best part of giving the gift of leadership is you can give it every day, and it never goes out of style. So, give it, celebrate it, and enjoy it all year long.