Monday, February 2, 2015

Storytelling for Change: Leadership Presence

This week the storytelling course is focused on leadership presence. I find it interesting that the content of this course I am taking actually dovetails with the program I manage at work. We offer the MBA students access to a roster of communication, specialty, and executive coaches, as well as curate a leadership development curriculum of sorts that involves scheduling optional sessions and workshops .Both storytelling and leadership presences are skills we help our students develop. So this course may turn out to be beneficial to my career in other ways. Maybe I'll think of some new sessions to offer the students.

Anyway, leadership presence.

Acumen and NovoEd subscribe to the PRES model of leadership presence.
  1. Being Present in the moment
  2. Reaching out to build relationships through empathy, listening, and authentic connection
  3. Expressiveness - the ability to express feelings and emotions congruent with the message using words, voice, body, face, etc.
  4. Self-knowing - the ability to accept yourself, be authentic, and reflect on your values
Since this is a free, online course we just watch a four minute video on this topic and read the first chapter of a book. Both of which basically outline what I said above, but don't get into the nitty-gritty of how you are supposed to do these things. They both agree that this is not an only inherent skill, that it is something you can develop. But I am going to have to do my own reading if I am to figure out how to develop these skills.

Right of the bat though they seem like they fall into the "easier said than done" category. The reading talks about "listening to understand." And I am sure that you could achieve this through employing active-listening skills. But it's the doing it that I struggle with. If I could remember to be an active listener, then I wouldn't need to work on improving my "listening to understand." They just seem like self-fulfilling concepts. Either you do these things or you don't.

I think of the fact that I cannot remember names. Not in the I have no memory, I cannot recall names from my past sort of way that I lamented in my last blog post. I mean that literally (and I am using literally correctly here) someone says their name out loud, and I immediately forget it. I am talking no retention of the name at all. Less than a second later, and I have no idea what you said your name is. Somewhere in my developmental phase where my brain was supposed to learn that a person's name is something to pay attention to and remember, I was having a cookie or taking a nap or something. I never got that. I really want to remember names. I know this is a problem. I am constantly finding myself five second after meeting someone or answering the phone really wishing that I had retained their name. But no. And there is no amount of practicing all those tips for remembering names (write it down, say it out loud, etc.) that is going to help me, because if I could remember to do those tips, well then I could just remember the names!

I feel like learning to be present in the moment or express congruence with my message fall into the remembering names category. Either I can do these things or I cannot.

Of course, I only read the first chapter of that book as part of this class. Maybe I should read the rest?

I have learned to do things that were not natural for me in the past. Take public speaking. It's still not my most favorite thing in the world, but there was a time when standing and speaking in front of a group of people caused me to sweat profusely, turn bright red, speak a mile a minute, and in general make a fool of myself. So I did a play in high school (and hated it and sucked at it). And I took a public speaking class in high school (and hated it and sucked at it). And took a speech communications class in undergrad (and hated it and sucked at it). And joined a student organization that required I make regular presentations (and hated it, but was passionate about the topic and slowly improved). And led summer orientation sessions (and hammed it up and made a fool of myself on purpose). And taught (in another language even, sort of). And eventually had jobs where I taught, and gave presentations, and served as an interview host for a video series. You know and in general was able to speak in public without becoming a hot mess.

So it can be done. But some how public speaking feels like a very different skill than being present in the moment. I am not sure I can improve my being present in the moment skills by just constantly putting myself in situations where I have to be present in the moment. When you have to speak in public, you just have to do it. You are either speaking in public or you are not. Being present in the moment is so much more ambiguous.

Had a fun conversation with Cale about this topic on the drive in this morning:

Sara: How am I supposed to express congruent emotions when I have resting bitch face with leaky disdain? That's just my face! I either look like I am angry or like I am disgusted with you. That's what I got.

In professional settings, such as meetings, I try really hard to be expressive with my face when I am listening to people. However, I cannot see the faces I am making and based on photographs of myself trying to make expressive faces, it cannot be good. I think my face is saying, "oh, that is interesting," but what it is really saying is, "I want to eat your eyebrows." 


Barb Carusillo said...

Sounds like you are building
new skill sets...bravo! By
he way, you get your lack of
memory honestly. I can't
remember anyone's name or face immediately. I have to
see them several times,
and even then...
Unless, of course, they
stand out, like green hair,
or 2 heads, then maybe.

Richard Richards said...

Dear Sara,

Thanks for taking the Storytelling for Change course. I love to read your perspective on the course content and your reaction to the connection between presence and public speaking.

The PRES model is actually IP of The Ariel Group and not NovoEd. Acumen uses Ariel´s concepts and approach to storytelling under license, and NovoEd is the platform through which Acumen deliver the MOOC.

Feel free to reach out to me through the NovoEd platform if I can clarify anything as you take the course - happy to help make any connections where the content fails to do this.

Kind regards,

Richard Richards
Facilitator, Storytelling for Change