Category Archives: Presence

Is it Time to Revive Our Superpower of Presence?

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

flyingLet’s start with the conviction that presence is one of our superpowers. That all of us have within us the natural talent to engage with other humans in meaningful ways that spark creativity and connection, and lead to innovative ideas and exciting new products, not to mention feelings of wholeness and contentment.

Is it time to create new awareness and revive our superpower of presence? Is our current state of multi-distractions and multi-tasking the kryptonite to our natural and crucial strength of presence? Are we losing our ability to stop, think, see, and listen, the cornerstones of presence?

What is a superpower? We’re not talking about a super-human capacity of unlimited flight, telescopic vision or strength more powerful than a locomotive. We’re talking about the unique strengths within each of us that energize, motivate and drive our success. Superpower is often thought of as an equation:

Talent x Investment = Superpower

Talent consists of your innate and natural gifts. Perhaps you have a flair for writing, singing or public speaking. These things come naturally and effortlessly to you, and doing them gives you energy. Do you know your innate talents? Often they are so easy for us, we don’t recognize them ourselves. It’s just something we do, with little self-acknowledgment. Raw talent is more easily seen by those around us. Just ask a friend or colleague what they see as your natural talent. They’ll know.

But raw talent without some investment does not make a superpower. It needs a supply of knowledge and skill to build into a superpower. Good writers become great writers by learning grammar, studying other writers and writing. Public speakers only captivate us after hours of practice, refinement and more practice. Fortunately, the energy and passion of our raw talent sustains the effort of building a superpower.

What about this superpower of presence? As humans, connecting and engaging with others is a core talent. It’s something we crave as much as possess. We’ve spent a lifetime nurturing and strengthening that talent, building a network of family, friends, teachers, and colleagues. We are superpowerfully able to look someone in the eye and see their emotion. We are superpowerfully able to hear excitement or sadness in someone’s words – even when those words don’t include “excited” or “sad”. We are superpowerfully able to pause, observe and appreciate our environments, however chaotic they may be.

Each time we fail to stop, see and listen, our superpower of presence diminishes just a little, and all the distractions of the world – deadlines, emails, texts – crowd into our superpower space.

Just like they do for the superheroes in Hollywood, is it time to revive our superpower of presence? Can we again recognize the unique talent in all of us to connect, and build upon that gift by investing in our relationships, not only with others, but also with ourselves?

What is one thing we can do today to strengthen our superpower of presence? Can we practice seeing the details of our environments? Can we notice the number of devices we use at the same time? Can we slow down a conversation to hear what’s being said and what’s not being said?

With presence, we’re all superheroes.


Your Role in Cultivating a Healthy Culture

By Sameer Bhangar, Simple Intentions Awareness Consultant

By Breather, on unsplashAs a corporate manager, thinking about squishy things like culture can be an afterthought – especially when there are more pressing deadlines, business strategy discussions, quarterly objectives, and customer demands to be met.

One solution for busy managers is to delegate the task of creating a healthy and engaged work environment. One might delegate this to HR counterparts, business managers, passionate employees, or bring in external consultants and trainers.

Considering two ends of a spectrum, two approaches a manager might take are:

  1. Delegate all culture-related activities and conversations to the “support” team, or
  2. Act as if you have it all figured out and don’t require any support.

As a leader, where are you on this spectrum? What is your role in creating a healthy team environment? How do you participate in team culture-related activities, and what message does this send to the team? Is this a conscious decision, or are you simply following along and checking boxes? Are you asking for help, or do you have it all figured out?

I was recently leading a series of workshops with a large team that included a number of managers and sub-teams. I was struck by the difference in the quality of conversation when a manager was engaged and present with the team, versus when the manager sent the team to attend or showed up, but sat in a metaphorical ivory tower position “outside” the conversation.

When managers engaged in open conversation, they created implicit permission for the team to also speak openly. The conversation had a feeling of enthusiasm and active curiosity. The team engaged in topics they had never before discussed. Greater trust began to form in an organic way that no training slide could ever accomplish.

For example, one manager raised a question on fear and disempowerment, which led to an unplanned breakout activity that prompted a healthy exchange around what currently feels empowering versus disempowering to the team. In addition to the insights raised during this activity, it initiated a conversation the team planned to continue during regular staff meetings. The ice had been broken so to speak – or, more accurately, it had started to melt away.

In contrast, at sessions to which managers did not attend – or attended but disengaged – I noted a clear missed opportunity. The opportunity to create a richer, more open conversation at a team level was unfortunately lost. I was left with a lack of optimism that the workshop would initiate any kind of sustainable change for the team. It was a loss for the team.

This experience reinforced for me the seemingly obvious truth that “culture starts with the leader.” If, as managers and leaders, we are interested in creating a healthier work environment, we need to show up first. Show up with an open mind to participate in the conversation, ask for help when needed, and learn with the team along the way. This is one responsibility that does not belong on a manager’s list of tasks to delegate. Nor is it common that a manager already has it all figured out.


For a Winning Team, Go With the Flow

Guest post by Judith Young, friend of Simple Intentions

Blue Shirt Fridays! 12’s everywhere! Yep, football season is back, and Seattle Seahawk fans are ready to go. And despite a losing record so far this season, you can bet the Seahawks are already going…with the flow.

Go with the flow? It’s not exactly what we might think when we consider the rigor required of a champion football team, the stamina, the expectation of excellence, the Legion of Boom!

Within the field of positive psychology, flow is a focused and energized state in which one’s thoughts and feelings are effortlessly aligned with actions. It’s a heightened state of presence. There is considerable research on what fosters or blocks this state.

The Seattle Seahawks have leveraged the philosophy of flow, as described in this article, and trained in team flow to reach their phenomenal level of success.

Work teams can also reach such extraordinary levels of success through developing flow. The three specific characteristics associated with team flow are listed below, along with tactics for fostering them:

  1. Clear and shared goals
    -Discuss goals at the team and individual levels. Invite open questions and dialog. Decrease avoidance, withholding and attitudes of resignation by engaging in conversations.
    -In small team discussions and 1:1s ask everyone their understanding of how their work impacts the team goals.
  2. Blended egos
    -Foster a collaborative team spirit in which shared success is both celebrated and rewarded.
    -Managers and peers compliment any signs and acts of team collaboration and spirit.
    -Whenever possible, reward individual contributions toward shared success and the team as a whole.
    -Have monthly or quarterly morale events with the team’s input regarding the activities and timing.
  3. Full team participation
    -Cultivate an atmosphere of accountability and authenticity through open dialog, input and feedback, getting to know each other’s strengths, challenges and needs.
    -Openly and positively leverage strengths and support weaknesses. Consistently address needs – both personal and others’ needs.

A fourth key to the Seahawks success is a highly empowered and optimistic attitude. They think like winners. They don’t think they might score or win; they know they will. And when they’re down 19-7 with less than 3 minutes left in the game, they still know they will – and more often than not, they do! It’s a relentless kind of resilience that many world-class athletes learn to live by.

Do you want to be a winning team? Then go with the flow like the champions do!


Listen With Your Heart as Much as Your Head

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

Have you ever felt like everyone has lost their hearing? Your colleague presents a fabulous idea during a team meeting – only it’s the same idea you presented weeks ago. Your boss adds you to a conference call – on exactly the same day you requested personal time off. Your spouse brings home the wrong dog food – again.

It’s likely their hearing is just fine. It’s their listening they’re losing.

I’ve yet to find a reputable study demonstrating a demise of our listening skills, but certainly our always-on, attention-fragmented society would suggest that listening – not just hearing – is getting harder to do.

And given the volume of articles, videos and other how-tos for improving our listening skills, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we all need a serious tuning.

The common tips for improving our listening skills are typically bundled under “active listening” and include the following:

  1. Maintain eye contact.
  2. Ask clarifying questions.
  3. Summarize what the speaker says.
  4. Focus more on what the speaker says, rather than your response.

I don’t discount any of these tips; indeed, simply talking less – whether out loud or in our own heads – when we’re supposed to be listening would do wonders for our conversational abyss.

But I’d like to propose we get out of our heads and into our bodies when it comes to listening. True listening requires greater presence – of our whole being. If we truly want to “actively listen” we need to bring on as much physical energy as mental energy.

Imagine listening to your favorite music. Certainly your head is active – especially if, like me, you pay a lot of attention to lyrics – but your body is also engaged. Your heart syncs with the musical beat, your energy lifts, you might sway – or all out dance. With music, you feel it as much as you hear it.

What if we felt the words our boss, colleagues or spouse said? What if – like music – their words were palpable and we took them in with our guts and hearts as well as our minds? What if we felt their words in our hands and feet as much as in our heads?

True listening requires this holistic presence of mind and body. And it applies to all conversations – whether it’s over strategy with a colleague or dinner plans with your spouse. Just try to hear and feel the music in all they say.