It is an honor to publish this guest post by Daryl Conner. For more than four decades Daryl has been a thought leader in the field of change management. I have had the good fortune to study and work with Daryl for much of the past 28 years. Over the last five years, he has increasingly turned his attention to the role that character and presence play in the effectiveness of change practitioners and organizational leaders; Conner Academy serves leaders and practitioners seeking to “raise their game” through a focus on character and presence. In this post Daryl discusses character and presence more generally, encouraging us to consider the role our own character and presence plays whether we are leading, facilitating, or otherwise undergoing change.
There is a quote that “eighty percent of life is showing up.” While showing up is certainly important, it has become clear to me through my years of work in the field of change management that how we show up also plays a critical role both in our ability to influence and to lead others, and in how we experience change ourselves. At the root of how each of us shows up are our character and our presence.
Underneath what you do is who you are—not the values you espouse but may not live up to, not the habits you have acquired over the years, and not what you have learned to do or say so others will accept you. Character is what is left after all the trappings and illusions have been stripped away. It is here that your optimum impact resides. Of all the things you can draw on to create leverage with those around you, your true nature, the indigenous core of who you are, is your greatest asset.
- The term character is impartial; it applies to both positive and negative elements of who we truly are. Your character is comprised of many components. Some promote favorable outcomes; others may not.
- Positive components might include things such as devotion to serving others, commitment to honesty, and passion for the work.
- The negative side to a person’s character might reflect such things as self- centeredness, manipulation, insecurity, etc.
Whether it advances or detracts from achieving change aspirations, character is a critical determinant of the value received from your efforts.
- A positively oriented character brings life to your capabilities.
- It operates as a filter applied to what we know and how we operate. By screening everything through our character, we infuse our unique state of being into our change work.
- It is far more than the knowledge and competencies we’ve acquired—it influences how we inform decisions, guide actions, and whether or not we ultimately facilitate successful outcomes.
- The knowledge and skills we use in executing change are actually neutral. We can employ the same techniques to connect with, or distance ourselves from those we interact with. The same concepts can generate clarity or add to confusion. The spin our character puts on these otherwise agnostic tools of change bends their impact toward either advantageous or adverse outcomes.
- Character differentiates much more than the skills we use. Others can apply the same concepts and techniques, but no one can duplicate the outcomes we produce when our character interlaces with our words and actions. The secret sauce isn’t in our heads, it’s in our hearts.
A strong character, comprised of mostly positive components, is necessary, but insufficient, to be seen as high impact. Character is your true nature, your essence. As such, it is an internal phenomenon that is accessible only to yourself. Character is imbedded so deep within you that people don’t actually interact with it as much as they do with the presence your character projects. Your interior character needs a “voice” to be expressed to the exterior world. The presence you extend to others is that voice.
Presence is like a force field that you project when you express aspects of who you are. It is the temperament you emit that serves as the conduit through which your character comes. Beyond concepts and techniques, presence is another key pillar in your repertoire. Whenever you attempt to influence someone, you draw on not only what you say and do, but also on this reflection of who you are.
- Presence is like a subliminal identity signature embedded within your interactions. It might fall into a broad category such as peaceful, hectic, accommodating, demanding, etc., but it also has a unique frequency that, when released, creates an ambient bubble like no other. Whether the exchanges are face-to-face, by phone, through email, or by text, interactions inside your “influence bubble” are distinctive to only you. Whether this bubble engenders a high or low regard for you by others directly affects the amount of influence you can exert.
- The problem is that all the verbal and non-verbal communications inside this bubble are affected by our presence, yet most people pay little, if any, attention to its impact. We tend to think more about weight, hairstyle, and attire than we thank about our presence.
- Just as not all aspects of character are conducive to success, presence also contributes to or detracts from whether you achieve your desired outcomes. When you emit a positive presence, it affects others in three ways.
- People with a powerful, constructive presence are usually seen as having deep and passionate convictions. An effective presence is not a function of superficial façades or manipulated images. It’s an expression of one’s authentic being.
- Presence brings with it an assuredness noticed by others. They sense when you believe you can and will achieve the change you set out to make.
- Radiating a convincing presence can have the effect of penetrating the unconscious defenses people sometimes use to guard themselves against new thinking, challenges that appear beyond their reach, or interpretations other than their own.
The combination of definitiveness, self-confidence, and the ability to help people open themselves to new possibilities can have a compelling effect on what is seen as achievable.
When you transmit a clear, persuasive presence, your self-assurance and conviction often become contagious. While others may not agree with everything being stated, they are often drawn to the excitement, intrigue, and enthusiasm that can come from being around someone living their own truth.
Character, Presence, and You
Whether you are a change leader, practitioner, or are otherwise experiencing change; whether the change is professional or personal; showing up is necessary but not sufficient for achieving the greatest possible success. It is not enough to know what the desired outcome is and to have a plan for achieving it. Your character—who you are at the core—and your presence—how you show up—will play a significant role in both the change journey and the outcome.