Last week we ran our 3-day retreat for senior executives. It was in a lovely house in the Surrey countryside. We were exploring what I call bringing emotion to bear.
Having the courage to recognise and use appropriate and relevant emotion. Positive and negative. Although I don’t believe emotion is not that binary. There is a sliding scale of intensity. Some in business call this being vulnerable.
There Emma and I were with six highly successful business folk, helping them discover their story and master the craft of sharing it publicly. I love what I do. I don’t think of it as work.
When will we let go, and just be?
Then his morning I woke to a gorgeous sunrise. Gosh this country is great.
As the sun was rising over the delights of Wandsworth south London, I read my emails. I noticed an enquiry from someone. It included the phrase, “can you help us build our professional shields.” I gasped.
What is a “professional shield”? Reading the email further I realised it meant; building a persona at work. Now I advocate bringing different versions of ourselves to different situations. We do this naturally and most of the time unconsciously.
For example, I am not the same with William (my six year old) as I am with the lets say the group of six senior executives from last week. I bring different appropriate and relevant emotions to bear.
But the thing is. When we create a version of self devoid of emotion, we drive an auto-pilot sense of existence. We stop living. Being vulnerable is who we are as humans.
There’s a very famous TED talk about this. The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage.
We all latch onto this attachedness…
When we avoid the negative and only focus on the positive we shut out significant signposts for ourselves and others. Signposts that help us recognise who we are not. And who we are.
Why do we do it? It’s driven by fear, of course. The fear of not being good enough, of not belonging, of being found out. Or the fear of the perception of others. All those rubbish things, that do not serve us. But I believe in experiencing all the emotions, not just the positive ones.
From a public speaking perspective, when we practice detachment; noticing our emotions, and recognising they are not who we are by letting go of our perception of what our audience might be interpreting by focusing on our intent – our purpose, we have presence.
We stop the autopilot. When we pay attention to our body and how we are communicating the messages, we begin to notice an inner peace. Some call it charisma.
As I have developed my work, the notion of charisma has fallen into disfavour…
People call it fake news. Social media is riddled with it. Too many companies in recent years have come to wrack and ruin led by so-called charismatic leaders who have led their companies over the edge of the cliff while making barrels of money for themselves in the process. Think 2008 RBS crash.
Charisma itself is not necessarily the villain, but narcissistic charisma is. That’s the kind of charisma that allows an individual to sway the masses and stir up followers while maintaining emotional distance or even disdain for those followers.
I can think of a very famous campaign that led to the appointment of a leader of the free world where he most certainly possessed a disregard for the very people who put him there.
But charisma as an element of true presence (inner peace) can be a tool for good, as long as the other elements are also in place. There must be a congruency between the inner state; the emotions (positive and negative) and the external behaviours. How?
Hear a leader or speaker and known when he/she doesn’t mean it?
Of course you have. Have you ever not meant it but just said it anyway? This inner state is driven by the leader’s intent. You know when the intent – their inner state, their heart and mind – is dishonourable. We’ve all seen it in recent days in politics.
You witness the external behaviours of their voice and body language and use of the space. On the surface, they are charismatic. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they are at best fibbing, and at worst deceitful, manipulative, and lying.
The other day William and I were playing Lego…
We were building a Lego city. Of course, I have my way; I’m Dad. William had a little outburst. He got upset that I had taken some of the pieces he decided he wanted. He got really upset to the point of tears.
Within moments, the situation had calmed down. I helped him see there were plenty more similar pieces.
From that moment, he had a different state of mind. He had moved from being upset to joy and excitement. There was no hanging onto the past. Detachment. He is present. He possesses a clarity of mind that says I am, now.
He has the emotion (either positive or negative) and then moves on. We can all experience the energy that is to be present. When we do, people notice it. Notice you. We can be truthfully charismatic.
What’s the relevance for you?
The meshing together of the inner state – your emotions, driven by your intent – and the external behaviours is key.
Think about it. When was the last time you were fully conscious of what you felt (positive and negative) and how you were affecting others in each moment while you were with them? Work on this and the results come.
In front of an audience? Be a version of you (it doesn’t have to be you entirely). Remember, all the world is a stage, and we are merely players etc. etc. It’s a role you are playing, truthfully. It’s a performance. A role where you allow your relevant appropriate feelings and emotions to be present in each moment when speaking.
It is the simplicity of intention, the use of intuition, and the acceptance of gratitude that brings about a sense of knowing yourself, trusting yourself, being yourself. That is true presence.
Here is a practical way you can let go of your professional shield, show relevant appropriate emotion and truthfully connect with an audience.
The Practice: Circles of Being
Noticing your energy, body language, thinking, and emotion can have an impact on people moment to moment and day to day. Notice how you can alter your energy and move through each circle in any conversation.
Circles of Being is used to master your ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of your audience. It is a technique used to develop a state of being through which you can influence your audience. It is an energy which fuels a certain kind of performance, presence, way of being.
Next time you are preparing a talk, presentation, just going into a meeting, or even having a conversation at home, play around with your personal energy. Explore the affect you can have on an audience by altering your energy moment to moment. Moving through first circle to third circle.
First Circle: Your focus is innermost, it is intimate. We usually reserve this type of energy for one-to-one conversations. Your voice is quiet, and your body is still and unaffected. It is almost as though you are speaking to yourself. It is very personal. It can be used to create a sense of curiosity. It is introspective and enticing. At its worst, you may be seen as hiding your presence away inside you. Too much first circle will diminish the perception of your presence, looking nervous or not confident.
The trick is being able to be in first when in front of a large audience as the expectation is you must be large and out there. Imagine drawing people in, your voice soft and relaxed. I see first as a way of quietly, warmly, and personally bonding with an audience. You can hear a pin drop. Create those moments.
Second Circle: You are fully present; you are in the moment. Your focus is placed outside yourself. You speak to affect others. As a speaker and leader, you require presence; second gives this. Here, you connect with people. It is our most common state. In second, you make a true connection and hold the audience rapt because they know you are truly present and entirely connected to them. However, it can be challenging to stay in second all the time, we’re not the Dalai Lama. So be okay with moving into first and third as appropriate.
Third Circle: You are much bigger, bolder. Your movement is intentionally larger and perhaps audacious. You demonstrate concepts and ideas or stories with grand physical movements, and your voice is congruent to this. There is a self-assuredness in your voice. Third can become a generalised connection outward but not specifically to a person. When used in large spaces, this can have an impact.
The temptation whenever you speak is to become wrapped up in what you are doing and saying, but your performance takes on a whole different level when you start noticing the affect you have on yourself and the world around you.
- What have you noticed about the way you move and use your body?
- What have you noticed about the way others use their bodies?
- What have you noticed about your personal energy – your presence? How does your ability to alter it feel to you?
- What impact has your ability to choose your state of being had on the way you think or feel about yourself?
- Where might you use some of this new-found awareness to your advantage when speaking and/or leading a team?