Must Be Present To Win: Foreword
We talk about having time for this, time for that. Making time. Taking time. Saving time. Borrowing time.
However, the reality of our stimulus-saturated world today is that with so much coming at us, we never seem to have enough time. Mastering time—as opposed to it ruling over you—seems a quaint notion in an era when we feel compelled or oppressed to fit everything into the scarce time we have.
We pay a price. It is subtle, but it erodes one of the most crucial areas of leadership.
We are no longer in the moment.
It’s trendy right now to talk about being “in the moment” but what does that mean? Being “in the moment”—concentrating fully and singularly on what is in front of us or on our minds—seems a fanciful quest, one that creates enormous tension with our need to be efficient, to move, to make the most of...time.
We can’t be “here” if we are somewhere else.
We are no longer present.
We see it all around us. The person in the meeting who cannot resist glancing at text messages. Interrupting to finish others’ sentences so we can move on to something else. Skimming through operations reports or business plans without seeing the real promise or perils. Failing to slow down long enough to ask that extra question that just might unearth an idea, a hidden sentiment.
This idea of presence—where we are connected with what is going on around us, with the people in our space, even wired into what is being said or happening—is key to leadership. However, the fact that we have to work so hard to develop and sustain that sense of presence should worry us.
We can't be "here" if we are somewhere else
Research has made it strikingly clear that there is no such thing as multi-tasking. Oh, we may flit from one thought to another, or one activity to another, even pretend to have one conversation with a person while another one rages in our heads, but we are fooling ourselves. The neural pathways in our brains are fairly narrow roads, and most have developed deep ruts. To move from Point A to Point B—whether that is in some conceptual thinking, finishing a sentence once started, or simply to connect the dots in what we observe in our lives—takes concentrated effort.
When we are “there” instead of “here” at those times, we create some serious cross traffic to those pathways, a demolition derby of activity that is bound to end up in a wreck, sooner or later.
We embrace the virtue of being present, but it wars against our allegiance to outside stimulus. To be present in the ways we will talk about in this book takes time. When time and our use of it is at such a premium, we will find little impetus to be present unless we actively choose it. Over the years, we have sought to reconcile this conflict with books such as The One-Minute Manager that assuaged our guilt about busyness and assured us we could connect in deep ways and still keep pace with that ticking clock in our head. Nonsense.
When time and our use of it is at such a premium, we will find little impetus to be present unless we actively choose it.
We often fail to be present because, honestly, we have been juiced to believe something way more interesting lies just over the hill. All day long, a variety of stimuli continually jacks us up: alerts on our smart phones, instant text messages that feign urgency, streaming headlines. As a consequence, we have little tolerance for things that, at first glance, don’t seem that interesting.
The sad reality is that we are losing the war. We can’t save time anyway, right? But what we are losing is much more substantial. We are losing the human connection that remains essential to how we make decisions, the relationships we build and the impact we can have as leaders.
My co-author Doug understands first hand this contrast between needing to get things done and being present. A hard-driving, efficient senior operating officer for a multi-billion-dollar electric utility, Doug knew how to accomplish tasks. He could punch through a punch list like nobody else. However, he wanted to learn how to better articulate the principles that had been instilled in him over the years by mentors and friends, to project better as a leader. So he sought my help as a coach.
Back when we first began working together, Doug would whirl from one idea to another, impatient to move on to the next coaching activity or discussion once we had covered the one we were working on to the level of what he would call “good enough.”
Doug’s approach began to flip when he realized that when he was up on stage—initially speaking to employees or trade groups on behalf of his company and later as the public speaker he has become—he had to connect. And to connect meant he had to be present. And to be present, he had to slow down and be relentless about being in the moment.
I designed coaching sessions to help Doug experience what it meant to be in the moment, fully invested in that time and space in his thinking, his emotions and even how he reflected that in his physical bearing. What Doug accomplished utilizing this approach was amazing. Over time, stories from his experiences began to pour out. When he shared those stories with me, I slowed him down and mined them for their full worth. Doug learned how to go back in the moment of those experiences and bring them forward today to show others how they can slow down themselves and feel what it’s like to be present—physically, mentally and emotionally—in their lives and jobs.
In this book, we share those stories and principles with you to challenge you to be present in ways you never imagined you could. Most chapters will start with a story by Doug, followed by some reflections by me as a leadership coach. A mix of story and theory, if you will, because we believe for you to truly understand what it means to be present, you need to experience it. Ultimately, we want you to see how crucial being present is to your leadership effectiveness and the impact you can have on others.
The fair question to ask right now—and yes, this is early—is whether you are serious. I mean, dead serious. This book is not just about picking up some new management trick, a few pointers, or something you will plug-and-play with how you lead today. There are countless books out there on strategy, vision, execution–oh, and yes, time management. While these leadership qualities are important, we believe the most effective way to lead people is to be fully present, which means your presence is part of who you are, not just something you do. In my 20 years of coaching senior executives, I am fiercely convinced this is what people want from you. What you have to decide is if this is something you want from yourself.
Presence is part of who you are, not just something you do.
Are you tired of missing ideas?
Are you yearning to get “on the floor” and really experience the pulse of your business?
Are you so crazed keeping up that you’ve lost track of how to spend real time with people and understand them, and they you?
Are you ready to get out of the squirrel cage and be the kind of leader people feel they know and trust?
Do you have your own stories about how being totally in the moment has had an impact on you and others, or is time just slipping by?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, this book is for you.
The concept of being present is practically extinct, yet has never been more needed in leadership. If you understand and vigorously live out this idea of being present, it can transform your effectiveness. It can magnify your influence. It can change lives, including your own.
If you want to win the war over the most effective use of your time, you must take it head on.
This book is not just about picking up some new management trick, a few pointers, or something you will plug-and-play with how you lead today. There are countless books out there on strategy, vision, execution—oh, and yes, time management. While these leadership qualities are important, we believe the most effective way to lead people is to be fully present, which means your presence is part of who you are, not just something you do.
Everything said in this book is intended to equip you with the tools to unleash the natural pride that people can have in their work, their desire to have their company succeed. Succeed fabulously. When you consider who has had the most dramatic impact on you as a person and as a leader, it is almost always someone who was present in the ways depicted in this book.