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Creating Intentional Presence in Our Work and Ourselves

Whether you’re an auditor, consultant, or really any type of business professional, you want to be heard and respected, right? In that case, you need to be consciously creating intentional presence. After all, it’s the foundation on which we build all other behavior and communication skills. 

What Is Intentional Presence?

Presence is about how we and our work appear to others. It’s about their reaction to what they see and hear. And intentional presence is about our conscious daily efforts to legitimately and authentically influence that perception so that our message is heard and understood—every single time.

What Does Intentional Presence Look Like?

Understanding what intentional presence looks like in practice is key. Once you do, you can figure out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. And you can start taking steps to improve your own initial impression. 

Here are two examples—one good and one not so much…

A Good Example: Mary

Mary makes triple certain that all of her meeting materials are accurate, easy to read, and easily understood. She avoids clutter on documents, leaving plenty of blank space to make them visually appealing. She brings the same level of attention to her words. Working from bullet point note cards, her explanations and examples are focused, crystal clear, and understood. Mary presents herself well, giving attention to the initial impression created in those first critical minutes of every meeting. She’s not trying to dress to impress, but she is aware of how her physical presence either supports or detracts from her message. “Executive presence” is her goal.

A Poor Example: Mike

Mike, on the other hand, takes a much more casual approach. He believes his observations and audit findings speak for themselves and are not linked to him personally. He feels it is inappropriate to rate the messenger when considering the message. And as a result, he pays little attention to how work documents, PowerPoint slides, verbal presentations, and his physical appearance are perceived by others. His approach is basically, “Here’s the issue. And it’s your job to solve it.”

On the one hand, he is correct—the message should stand on its own.

But on the other hand, he is wrong. Humans give disproportionate weight to what they see and hear first. It’s called anchoring bias. And when there is a disconnect between the ideas being presented and what we humans see and hear, what we see and hear takes a front seat in making decisions. 

Is it fair? No. 

Is it true? I’ll let you be the judge.

Mike is digging a deep hole through his casual approach and inattention to perception details. And he’ll likely spend time and energy digging himself out of that hole in the days that follow.

Why Intentional Presence Is Important

Presence is an interesting word. It brings to mind “being present” and “presenting” an idea, finding, or suggestion—even giving a present or gift. These terms have much in common. All of them relate to the receiver’s experience.

Those we are attempting to influence through our work see and hear two things: 

  1. The content of the message
  2. The presenter

And they are experiencing input from both. As we present our ideas, we would be wise to prepare for both.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett provides the needed guidance in her book Executive Presence. Regarding the message, she speaks to gravitas, including intellectual depth, integrity, and decisiveness. These are all part of the core message being delivered.

But she also goes deep into the messenger by examining both communication and physicality.  She reminds us that we are always presenting—to create a positive impression; to engage; and to present with purpose, clarity, and relevant examples. She reminds us that our physical presence is the filter through which our message is heard. It’s critical in the short run. It signals the seriousness of purpose. And it can put our message in play or cause it to be sidelined—simply due to the perceived connection or disconnect between the content of the message and the perception of the messenger.

Ultimately, intentional presence is important because it increases the likelihood of our message getting across to others. 

What You Should Consider

Creating intentional presence can be difficult, especially if you’ve always taken a casual approach. But learning the fundamental truths about presence can help. 

Here are a few thoughts for your consideration:

Personal development expert Brendon Burchard makes it very clear: “If you want to stand out, dress well, speak well, and carry yourself well. Project the strength and energy within you that cares and is enthusiastic.”

Are You Ready to Be More Intentional in Your Presence? 

Bring your presence, your enthusiasm, and your energy to your work—every single day in both in-person encounters and virtual online settings. Pay attention to every detail. They want and need both our legitimate and apparent expertise. Let’s give it to them—with confidence.