“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees” Henry David Thoreau.

This morning the woods called to me. They appeared undaunted by my leaden steps, unafraid of my broken heart and mournful soul. They were simply with me as I stumbled forward. Gradually their quiet, non judgemental presence brought my head up. I walked forward and in doing so was able to unleash the loneliness and worry that had gripped me.  I was once again able to find my way to beauty, gratitude, calm. Coming home from the walk I felt with each step my courage seep back into my bones, the love into my heart and the hope into my soul. Fear was now cached in confidence.

As leaders we often experience our team members coming to us worried, feeling overwhelmed, too busy to be effective, mad and sad and everything in between. Our humanness sometimes urges us to do something, to fix, to offer advice.  In fact people appear a times to be asking for help. We may even suggest that we take on the thing that has them worried – and there it now sits on the corner of our desk, creating similar charged emotions in us.

As leaders we can learn from the wisdom of the trees. Others might call this turning up the volume on being present or being mindful. I know that each of us have felt the healing that I experienced this morning. When we are held as whole, as capable, we are. When we are given the time and space to breathe, to say out loud what is inside and gnawing at us – our good sense allows us to create from that. When another joins us and moves with us , unafraid of our worry, simply being with us the worry loses its grip on our amygdala and we suddenly can breath, can think, can create, can move aligned with our true ability not our fear.

In addition Daniel Pink in his TED talk The Puzzle of Motivation provides some counter intuitive evidence for not “doing” and instead “being”. He states “scientists who’ve been studying motivation have given us {this} a new approach. It’s an approach built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they are part of something important…: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.” They are also the building blocks of creating a leadership presence that gets us the impact we want.

How then do we then as leaders build the presence of mindfulness practice and the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery and purpose into these daily interactions with our teams?

Presence can sound like an acknowledgement of the emotions the other expressing,” this has you worried, your intuition is telling you to pay attention, this situation has you doubting yourself “these statements give a clear message that the persons concerns are heard. Listening says clearly that they are important to you and to the work you are all doing together. Listening with full attention is a powerful acknowledging experience and it soundly supports the autonomy of each person, placing the work and the success in the actions of the team member rather than yourself.

Presence can also affirm the value of the person, their work, their concern, their contribution. A significant factor in “venting” is the triggering of our sense that we are not enough, that we are not valued. Giving voice to appreciation “ I know that the work is complex and not always easy and it makes a huge difference to what we are doing together – I appreciate that it is hard and that you are hanging in” helps re-set their own sense of purpose, their own knowing that the job is ever changing and their fine effort is appreciated.

Presence can be bold stating “I am here, I believe in you, I have seen you figure these types of things out before, you’ve got this “It can reinforce your confidence in their skills, reiterate what you have seen as effective, it can contain the “awefulizing” helping them see that this one thing may be off side, and it is just one of many things they do, many of which are well on side.  Presence may offer resources so they can be continually mastering their own presence, relationships and impact.

And presence can be curious “what is possible here? What is one step you can take? What don’t you know? What else and what else?”  Curiosity can help the other master the current, realize what is possible and stay on track.  “If I were to be most helpful to you, what would that look like?” If you only had half the time to do this task , what would you do? What is possible? What would be the outcome? To say yes to this what do we need to say no to? Curiosity can be our most powerful leadership tool.

Leaders, who use their presence ABCs, support others in being at their best; they accentuate the power of autonomy mastery and purpose. They help others find their way to access their courage and confidence. They build the capacity of their teams to move forward, too recover from their stumbles, to find their footing, to rejoice in their recovery and to gain the joy of noticing and using their own ability to create success. Leaders who build their own capacity to be present, build teams that flourish, that fall and get back up again, that are as enduring and as beautiful as the woods that daily provide this important reminder.

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