The Power of Presence
We live in a digital age of instant, convenient connection to anyone, almost anywhere. So why do parents still ask their kids, “When are you coming to see us?” or “When’s a good time to come and see you?”
Why are businesses making a big push, post-pandemic, to “bring people back to the office”? This move is being met with some resistance, but it is still an overall trend.
Why do people from my student pastor days—people who are now 40-somethings with their own high school kids—still tell me, 25+ years later, “I remember when you came to my game/concert.”
With phones, online portals, and amazing digital tools, why does an in-person visit mean so much to us? It’s about the power of presence.
Just think about what it looks like when we’re NOT present.
I have been in countless online meetings where people are multi-tasking: eating while driving, ordering at the drive-thru, grocery shopping, hanging out with friends or family members, watching a game, etc. (I may or may not be guilty of some of those, myself.) Can you imagine how funny it would be to use this approach with everyone physically in the same room, trying to meet while doing all these other things?
That would be utter chaos. But it would also show how things are naturally different when we are present together.
So what makes our physical presence so powerful, especially for leaders?
The Six Functions of Presence:
1. Presence says, “I care.”When you show up to see someone, it says that you care enough about them to take the time to get ready, to travel, to show up, to listen, and to engage in conversation. A text is ok, and a card is nice, but presence is even better at communicating care.
2. Presence says, “This event is important to me.” We typically show up to the things that are most important to us. It could be a child’s game, or a date, or a parent-teacher conference, or a sporting event. Our presence communicates that the event takes a higher priority over all the other options we have to choose from.
3. Presence says, “You are important to me.”I know, we care about everyone, right? We want the best for everyone. However, our time and our presence have limitations, so we need to choose our most important relationships and make them a priority by being present. We all have options when it comes to who we will spend time with. When we choose to spend time with a person, it says that they are important to us. We need to pick our people and be intentional and consistent with our presence.
4. Presence makes a lasting impression.I often hear people say, “I can’t believe you came to see me when…I will never forget when you came to… “ Most of the time, I can barely remember the event they are talking about, but when a leader shows up, it creates a lasting memory. I am not a famous person at all, but I do have a leadership role in a large organization. In my mind, my presence isn’t important. I’m just another dude among many in a person’s life. However, because of my role and the various things that pull me away, showing up makes an impression. The same is true for you. Your presence makes a lasting impression. Don’t underestimate that.
5. Presence says, “I am available.”I am sure we know untouchable and unreachable leaders. Of all the influential leaders throughout history, I would think Jesus had the busiest schedule and was pulled in every direction. Yet, Jesus chose to seek out people who likely couldn’t imagine being sought out by a world leader. Jesus had a very limited schedule, yet he demonstrated through his choices that he was available. We can make ourselves available.
6. Presence makes it much easier to collaborate.Collaborating around an idea with 20 people on a Zoom or Teams call is a mild form of torture...for everyone on the call. I have tried it too many times. You want to be inclusive and make sure everyone has a chance to be heard, but it is almost impossible to do in an online meeting. Being in the same room allows for quick, organic interaction and the free flow of ideas. Body language, facial expressions, tone, and passion can come through much better in person.
Presence: Where and With WhomIf you are a leader, your presence is one of the most powerful tools you have. You can demonstrate care, empathy, culture, focus, values, passion, and commitment with your presence. Your presence matters much more than you think.
As you look ahead at the next month, ask yourself, “Where do I need to be more present? With whom do I need to be more present? Then, prioritize those places and people and see what it does. I promise you; it will make an impact!