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Three goldfishesBy ECCO International Associate Rebecca Surmont

Depending on which study you read, you know that most of our communication is nonverbal. Some studies report 60% while others up to 90%.  What we know for sure is that messages are sent and interpreted mostly without words. We make flash decisions based on physicality, grimace, a sense of confidence and likeness. We predetermine if we like someone or trust them, if they are capable, open or closed, strong or weak. We make judgments based on how others show up, physically, mentally and emotionally.

How do you show up? Do you have the Presence you need to lead?

Presence is the biggest initial way you can sell yourself and it should not be underestimated.

So, what is it? I can tell you, it’s palpable. Think of the people in your life who demonstrated a way of being that brought awe or moved you in ways you couldn’t forget? That person had Presence.

Once when walking through Universal Studios with my sister while in LA, we kept running into a man in an orange robe surrounded by other men in suits and orange robes. The one man realized this too, he was present to what kept happening, and finally they ended up behind us in line. Just then the one man in orange looked at me so fully with a smile that I could feel his gaze penetrate me to the floor.  I was completely enveloped in his warmth. That is presence. That is the power of being able to move while not using force. That man, turned out was Thich Nhat Hahn, the world-renowned Zen Buddhist, a small man with a bright, gentle and penetrating presence.

Presence is not about being large and in charge or about power either. At one time in modern industry, this was the formula for controlling workers, creating uniformity and compliance. Its use was for gaining and maintaining power – an outdated model in today’s organizational life.

Presence requires Connecting, Engaging, Influencing and Relating in order to gain trust and followers. Physical Presence can be learned through practice. Its value – especially when one seeks to develop Executive Presence for instance – is authentically connecting who you are to your values and those of the organization and the people you intend to lead. It stems from confidence gained in one’s physical self and one’s capabilities as they relate to the job – as well as the ability to discern and make decisions in a way that invites others to action.