We are on autopilot when we do something without thinking or with minimum effort. How many times have we interacted with others feeling distracted or even annoyed about having to spend precious time in those conversations?

According to Bauback Yeganeh, acting automatically can be our brain’s way to respond to so many demands. This is true for leaders that feel they are spread too thin. If being on automatic means doing more, there is a price to pay, and that is, not being present, not being authentic. During his executive programs, Dr. Yeganeh asks executives when does being on auto-pilot hinder their effectiveness? The answers seem to cluster around being halfway there, not utilizing all the resources available for meaningful work and interactions with others. Most of the time, being on autopilot leads to narrow thinking, limited perspectives, and biases that cloud perceptions about situations and people.

Why Being More Present Matters?

There is a direct correlation between a leader’s mindfulness and the wellbeing and performance of their teams. Likewise, a study by HBR surveyed more than 1,000 leaders revealed that having a more mindful presence increases employee engagement, improves the relationship, and translates into better results. 

Being more mindfully present requires discipline and skill. It takes discipline to stay on task, not letting yourself be affected by nagging challenges or distracted by mental chatter. And it requires skill to have the cognitive ability to stay laser-focused and present.

“Being present becomes the cornerstone to getting the most out of every moment with each person”.

Studies in Leadership Presence had indicated that it is not attributed to business results or reflective of real qualities. Instead, it depends on how others evaluate you. Leadership presence is about impression management.

“As a leader, show up each day the way you want to be perceived”.

Why Is It So Difficult to Change? 

Now what? Why do we struggle to change our habits and behaviors? Jumping into a major behavioral change, such as becoming more present in your daily interaction with others, may feel daunting.

Behavioral psychologists are finding that instead, making tiny, incremental adjustments to create muscle memory might produce the fastest and more sustainable results. 

“Breaking routines to practice new behaviors requires a concentrated and strategic action”. 

What Are Micro-Changes and Why They Matter?

Micro Changes are small acts in the desired direction delivered in five seconds or less. They require minimum effort and context having a positive impact on the observer. 

 What Micro-Changes Can Have a Macro Impact on Becoming a More Present Leader?

Do you want to be more present? Try these 5 micro-changes that are easy to implement. They will have a positive impact on your ability to stay present, even in your virtual meetings. 

  1. Smiling to be more optimistic and approachable 
  2. Adjusting your posture to engage more effectively in a meeting 
  3. Maintaining eye contact in conversations to promote engagement and empathy 
  4. Paraphrasing someone you are listening to increase social intelligence 
  5. Adjusting your tone of voice to be more intentional 

Why can these micro-changes have a great impact on your leadership? 

Let’s take a quick look at each of them.  

Smiling More: According to Neal Raman, you will become a better communicator when interjection smiles in your delivery. You will set the standard for more relaxed and encouraging work culture, projecting a more friendly and inclusive approach. 

A Better Posture:  Hougaard and Carter assert that small shifts in your posture embody more presence. For instance, the act of sitting up and opening up your arms has a positive effect on the chemistry of your brain. You will express more the qualities of confidence and increased focus, inclusion, and compassion.  

Eye Contact: According to Carol Kinsey Goman, you will exude leadership presence when you can sustain your eye contact for 5 seconds while you keep a relaxed facial expression and an open posture. Eye contact promotes engagement and increases connection for greater empathy. 

 Paraphrasing: This micro-behavior involves using other words to reflect what the speaker has said. Paraphrasing shows you are listening and understanding what the speaker is saying. It is impossible to repeat what you just heard unless you are present. 

Adjusting Your Tone of Voice: Emma Seppala refers to studies indicating that your voice can reveal more emotion than your face. Matching the speed, volume, and tone of your interlocutor can increase your connection and presence.

Implementing micro-changes to build more presence as a leader in a more effective way than pretending to make significant changes in a short period. To increase effectiveness, Bauback Yeganeh and Darren Good suggest to:

  1. Observe yourself in smaller slices of time during your interactions 
  2. Identify scenarios for new actions 
  3. Select the micro-actions that you want to practice 
  4. Implement them 

Using micro-actions consistently will help you become more mindful, disconnecting your automatic pilot to bring more presence, meaning, and impact to your daily interactions, even if they are video calls rather than face to face. 

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