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Being Present is a Win-Win


When I first started training Leadership groups in Ariel’s PRES Model, I thought that since I work in Improvisation – and we strive to be in the present moment when performing – I was pretty well trained up in the first competency – P for Present – Tick! But there’s always more to learn and I realized that when running a program, I was constantly future-focused, looking ahead, when I could’ve been more present. Moving through agenda points was my driving force and once we’d completed our wonderful program, I’d be as exhausted as the participants.

I got a lot of feedback from my class about my great energy, and I was pleased to hear this – surely this meant I was hard working and passionate. I thought the exhaustion was the price I had to pay for this passion.

Take a deep breath and be present

Then one day a light switch turned on – a participant arose to present and immediately launched, with a breathless pace, into his content and started getting lost and falling over his words. In coaching him we discovered that he wasn’t present with us, his audience. He was focused on getting through his content and agenda. I invited him to slow down, in fact to start with a deep breath in and out to which he exclaimed – What? But that will take forever! However he tried it and in fact, we all experienced, as his audience, more calm and we also perceived him as being more in control. Interesting huh? When I asked him how it felt to breathe more deeply and hence get more present he then remarked on how he felt much more calm.

The past is history; the future is a mystery. Being alive in the moment is a gift – that’s why they call it the present– Dr Joseph Parent

It was like a mirror had suddenly appeared before me! I saw that sometimes through the day I too would frustratingly stumble over my words in haste. I realized that I was hell bent on running fast through the day with Content and Agenda in the driver’s seat. Other things started to make sense, like sometimes when looking at my writing on my flip charts, I was horrified at my messy writing. I realized it’s because I’m not present.

I was pretty shocked to make this connection. Although I was training people to be present I wasn’t always being as present as I could have been. I then committed to start working more on this competency, and went back to the drawing board to one of the essential skills in getting Present – breathing deeply.

Leading in the moment

So, when I train groups now I broaden my focus to include being present while moving through the agenda, I remind myself to breathe in and out – deeply, always. The result is I feel more calm and in control, I don’t stumble over words and instead discovered I needed less words because I spoke with more clarity. I found that when setting up exercises participants didn’t need to ask for additional information, I discovered that I listened on a deeper level which enabled me to be more effective in my coaching. One of the biggest wins – I wasn’t as exhausted because I wasn’t using all the energy to pull the group forward, I redirected my energy to connecting with the participants in the present moment. Doing this enabled us all to align and move together through the content and agenda, the debriefs became richer, deeper and more focused.

Where could you be more present? Next time practice sharing focus of attention on your content and agenda to being more Present with your audience, we would love to hear the difference it makes for you!

Johanna de Ruyter

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