Ambition hosted a client breakfast meeting yesterday the first in our ‘Lead with Ambition’ series for 2018 on ‘Building Your Leadership Presence’ with guest speaker André Alphonso from the Ariel Group.
Why is presence such an important skill and how do you develop it?
Andre describes presence as authentically connecting the thoughts and feelings of people to inspire and motivate them to deliver a result particularly in high stakes situations – a make or break client meeting, differentiating yourself from your competitors, convincing key stakeholders to invest in your business case, or inspiring your team to achieve a challenging goal. He brings this definition to life by sharing a high stakes situation where he is talking with a large audience about their leadership presence, and after jumping off the stage, he comically collapses into the lap of a high-ranking executive. André's opening story was funny, light-hearted and most importantly, humbling. He set a tone where he is talking with us. He was not big noting his impressive ideas and achievements. He wanted to make sure that each of us walked out of the session 10 feet taller, head held high, ready to lead with presence.
Andre shared many engaging stories relating to the 4 key components of presence.
The first principle André shared is that of – quite obviously – “Being Present”. He expanded on this notion through a series of stories relating to sport, in a way that was easy to digest, while at the same time entertaining. One memorable example is that of a premium golf coach who spends all of his time training professional golfers to be better, not by building technical golfing skills but through being present. André demonstrated that in order to succeed, you must not be thinking of the past – your last shot - or the future – what you’ll do with your winnings, but rather that the ability to focus in the moment on the shot and only the shot. This is what creates greatness. Unfortunately, the high stakes situation he was referring to The Masters in 1996 where Greg Norman lost despite being 6 shots up, which I’m sure opened up old wounds for Australian golf enthusiasts!
In a smooth transition from “Being Present”, André moved to the next principle that he described as “Reaching Out” – the ability to grow relationships through empathy. In an interesting section of the presentation, he gets the audience to look at a number of sets of expressive eyes making before guessing the associated emotion. Unsurprisingly, we get most of them right, showing us our ability to actually understand emotion through our eyes alone when we are “Being Present”. Then with a splicing of Mandarin and English, he expands on this idea that the Mandarin character for 'listen' includes the characters for eyes, heart, ears and undivided attention. This was one of my favourite parts of the session, as we used these actions to have a short conversation with the stranger sitting next to us. It's amazing how you can genuinely connect with someone that you’ve never met before by “Being Present” and “Reaching Out”.
In the second half, we were introduced to the principle of “Self-knowing” – the ability to accept yourself authentically reflecting your values. André takes the audience through the importance of knowing your true self and what is important to you, and how that can impact your presence. He engages the audience by getting you to imagine yourself with a strong presence and what that means to you. People open their eyes and discuss their ideas to the same stranger that you had connected with earlier through the listening exercise. You pat each other on the back about how perfect your world looked in your mind with greater influence and just like that, André has effectively educated us on the importance of bringing these ideas to the world to make them real. We could clearly articulate what those worlds looked like and therefore implanting in our minds the importance of using these tools to create a greater presence.
The final part of Andre’s session brought to light the fourth principle – “Expressiveness”. In the classic style of André, he advanced from his previous point by showing us a list of words in which to express ourselves in order to influence others. By realising what was important to us, we can select a way to express our ideas, whether that be to impress, improve or tantalise, and we can be ourselves to create a meaningful presence to anyone we speak to.
In summary, André did an excellent job of creating an engaged and interested audience that could effectively understand his views on leadership presence. He did so in such a way that it was enjoyable and relatable so that any business person, at any level in their career, can effectively lead, now, or when the time comes from them.
This was the first of our 'Lead with Ambition' events for 2018 in Sydney. If you are interested in attending future events, please feel to contact us.