“What did they just say?” You are in the middle of a discussion with a client or manager about why you believe you can handle a new project. But you have been having trouble focusing. Sometimes, it seems you are having a three-way conversation between you, them and your thoughts. Yes, your thoughts keep interrupting your concentration with concerns about what could happen if you do not get this project. Or your thoughts remind you of past times when you have tried to make a bold move but did not succeed. Does this sound familiar?
In my last article, “Leaders: Hold Onto Self,” I shared the most significant characteristics of the Change Proficiency, “hold onto self.” This article will introduce the next Change Proficiency tool, “be present,” to guide you and those you lead through business or professional changes and everyday challenges.
What Does It Mean?
To be present is to focus your thoughts, emotions, actions and energy singularly on the specific conversation at hand. When discussing critical matters, such as securing a new project or client, you must concentrate and remain fully-attentive to achieve the desired results. It is equally important to stay focused when making requests for additional responsibilities or support. Also, remember to be present even when it appears you will or have obtained your objectives.
Why Must You Be Present?
Imagine yourself at a concert. To extract the full richness of the event, you must take in not only the sounds but also the musicians’ expressions, how they interact with the other artists and how their bodies move to the beat. When you take in this experience without distractions, you walk away not only enriched but satisfied that you achieved what you desired. However, suppose during the concert you worried about something you did not do that day or how bad the traffic will be after the show. You would still hear the music. But, you have robbed yourself of extracting the entire essence of what was possible.
Likewise, you would be much more disappointed if your thoughts prevented you from obtaining professional objectives while speaking with someone. During a conversation is the wrong time to let past doubts or future concerns derail your dreams. Being present helps you avoid self-sabotaged or missed opportunities that may occur during discussions.
Before a critical interview, one of my clients was extremely nervous. She had prepared extensively. But, as the time drew near, her confidence waned. Her increased anxiety threatened her ability to achieve her goals for the interview. Repeatedly, she envisioned similar past circumstances where she had not been successful and possible future consequences if she did not secure her desired position and compensation. Using the “be present” tool, she successfully reigned in her self-limiting beliefs and emotions, remained present and focused during the interview and secured her dream position.
How Can You Be Present?
To be present involves anticipation of doubts and fears that might surface during a discussion and the creation of an action plan to help you refocus on your objectives. Here are four steps.
First, find somewhere quiet where you can be alone. Once there, write down the primary reason for the upcoming conversation, your overall purpose and desired outcomes.
Second, based on your surroundings, role-play the conversation, mentally or verbally. Incorporate what you believe will be the other person’s viewpoint. If possible, use previous dialogues as a guideline. Ponder different directions the discussion could take.
Third, write down thoughts that surfaced about similar past scenarios and potential future consequences that make you uneasy. The goal is to uncover self-limiting beliefs and concerns in advance. Then, if they surface during the actual meeting, you are not caught off guard.
Fourth, create a list of previous professional experiences in which you were able to rise above doubts or fears. Along with past victories, include valuable lessons learned and possible solutions to potential concerns. Select and memorize one success and solution as closely-related to the anticipated discussion as possible.
During the meeting, when necessary, remind yourself to be present. To refocus and re-energize, recall the specific victory and solution you selected. After the conversation, compare the list of concerns you previously developed to any that actually surfaced. Many have been pleasantly surprised that several of their preconceived misgivings, doubts or fears were not valid.
Being present is how you shut the door on limiting thoughts or anxiety that often sneak into critical conversations. As you perfect this tool, you will increase your ability to engage in and successfully emerge from discussions that accelerate your professional goals.
My next article will introduce the Change Proficiency tool “focus possibilities.”
Donna Johnson-Klonsky, MBA, PCC
DJ Consulting Services, Inc.
East Fishkill, New York 12533