How to Cultivate Leadership Presence Remotely

With the intensity of working online, it is particularly important to find ways of consciously managing your attention. Here are some things to try (whether on Zoom or in person) so that you stay energized as well as engage your co-workers.

1. Before a meeting

Take a few moments to become present. Find a quiet space where you can close your eyes and notice what you’re feeling. Put away your phone (unless you need it to be logged onto a meeting or for a call.) Keep it out of sight so that you’re less likely to swivel your attention in its direction. The people you’re with will feel more valued if they’re not competing for your attention.

2. During a meeting

Notice yourself breathing in and out. Maintain eye contact when another person is speaking. If you’re not able to give other people your full attention, say so. It is better to say, “I know you need to talk with me and I’m interested, but I want to give you my undivided attention” than to be in a semi-distracted state. Take care of what you need to and then return to
the conversation.

3. After a meeting

Carve out whatever space you can between meetings rather than rushing from one to the next. Even a short break of a few minutes helps to clear your mind and reduce “attention residue” (continuing to think about one issue when you need to pivot to the next). If it’s possible to stand outside or open a window, even for a few seconds, the fresh air will help to keep your attention focused in the here-and-now.

At the end of a meeting, jot down any actions or decisions that were taken so that these don’t remain as ‘open loops’ in your mind. Close your ‘loops’ from one meeting before you head to or log into the next.

In closing

Our presence is what creates the most impact when someone walks into the room, whether in person or on Zoom. Great leaders have it and you can too. Presence is available to us each moment. Cultivating presence will greatly enhance the quality of your leadership and life.


Source: Allan Watkinson, Rohit Kar and Jennifer Robinson via Gallup

The Essential Skill for Success … Often Forgotten

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my line of work it’s this: Listening is an essential skill for success.

One of the key components of leadership is good communication skills. Great leaders are powerful communicators—that’s why leadership books and classes usually include topics such as “Communicating Your Vision,” “Having Difficult Conversations,” or even “Speak Like a Leader.” But the best leaders, the ones who really get the job done, aren’t only good at getting their message across to others. They are also great listeners.

Speaking is only half the communication process. The other half, equally important, is listening. Too often, we view listening as simply being quiet until it’s our turn to talk, but truly effective listening is more than that and requires conscious effort.

Active listening isn’t hard to do. It’s a set of skills easily learned and readily practiced.

Start with these seven simple steps:

1. Eliminate distractions. This includes your phone, email and people dropping into your office. Author and radio host Krista Tippett said, “Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.” How many times have you tried to talk to someone, only to be continually interrupted by their cell phone or by other people? It was probably very frustrating for you to try and keep their attention on what you had to say. Show respect for the person talking to you by removing these distractions and truly focusing on who’s talking.

2. Make plenty of eye contact. It shows the person you are fully present in the moment.

3. Try a “listening posture.” I’ve learned to rest my chin on my thumb, and place my index finger over my lips. Not only does this position tell the person, “I’m listening,” but it also reminds me to keep my mouth shut!

4. Reframe ideas. Reframing or rephrasing what you heard from the person speaking helps you understand them better, and shows them you are trying to understand. You can use a phrase like, “What I’m hearing you say is…” or “If I understand correctly, you’re saying…” Not only does this technique help clarify ideas for you, it can also help the speaker clarify his or her own ideas and message.

5. Ask great questions. Listening isn’t just about hearing; it’s about truly understanding what the other person is saying. That means asking probing questions which actively seek more information and insight from the speaker. Conversation is a cooperative exercise, and good questions can help constructively examine and challenge old assumptions.

6. Focus on the positive. Good listeners focus on making the conversation a positive experience for the other person. This means looking for ways to validate the other person’s feelings, experiences and self-esteem. Keep in mind, validation requires empathy, but not necessarily agreement. When you validate the other person, you are effectively saying, “I see you and recognize your feelings and experiences. I’ve had similar ones myself.” We can do that without having to share the other person’s viewpoint or assumptions about a situation.

7. Participate, don’t compete. It can be easy to turn a conversation into a competition, either by engaging in one-upmanship or by arguing the validity of feelings and ideas. Listening is about seeking understanding and clarity, not convincing the other person to share your viewpoint. Remember, it’s a conversation, not a debate (unless it is a debate… in which case, go for it).

Performed well, listing can be a powerful tool for ensuring clarity, connecting with others and building collaborative relationships.

Source: Tony Leonard via Leadercast

Listening is an Action – Will you Listen to Create Change?

Black Lives Matter 

At Aha! Leadership we stand in support with all humanity. In light of recent events, we unite with the black community and recognize that racism is real. 

Leaders must lead by being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations that drive change. The next right step is to listen and learn. 

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize a sound. Listening happens when we put in the effort (action) to understand what it means.  And when we take action, change happens.

As a leader, ask yourself….

  • Are you willing to lead?
  • Are you willing to step into uncomfortable territory?  
  • Are you willing to really listen to others?  
  • Are you willing to act on what you learn? 

Being receptive and understanding others are key components to creating a respectful workplace. 

Please know, we are here to help your team listen, learn and create an inclusive workplace. 

Please email Stephanie Gibbons stephanie@ahaleadership.com or Robyn Marcotte robyn@ahaleadership.com.

“To understand and be understood – those are among life’s greatest gifts and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”   – Maria Papova, writer