What gets you out of bed in the morning? This is a question which has almost certainly been directed at you and which I’d imagine you have asked of others at some point. In asking or answering the question, we are typically trying to understand our daily motivation for vacating the warmth and safety of ‘the leaba’ for the outside world. The answers of course will vary greatly covering the myriad number of reasons why we ‘go forth’ every day. From Neanderthal man leaving the cave to perform his hunter-gatherer duties to today’s homo sapiens commuting to workplaces to contribute to the global economy and society, we have a purpose in mind when we set off.
In simple terms we need a sense of purpose to get us going in the morning. Our bodies repair during the night through sleep and we need a kickstart to set off into each new day. The physical components of this are well known and visible e.g. exercise, a shower, a coffee, a good breakfast. There is, though, a cognitive aspect too to how we head into the world anew each day and it is connected to our purpose. What is it that gets us up and running and keeps us going? On a personal level this may well be the desire to provide for family, to help those in need, to be as good as we can be, to be kind or, perhaps, to rule the world!
If I can take you back in time for a moment, you may also recall those childhood tiffs when a friend or a sibling advised that whatever harm they might have just inflicted on you that ‘it was an accident’. To which you may have replied ‘ it wasn’t, you did it on purpose’!
Purpose, used above in two different contexts, is a powerful word. It suggests deliberation, a defined and specific rationale for why we do or say something, act in a specific fashion or display a sense of resolve or determination. There is a sense of movement associated with all these explanations, a proactivity that is measured and being acted upon after due consideration.
A core element of creating a sense of common purpose is connection, which in turn is related to our presence, how we show up in the world and how we connect with people.
We build connection in our lives, both personally and professionally, with people with whom we feel aligned, perhaps through a set of shared values, experiences, backgrounds and, indeed, common purpose. Or indeed, it may be none of these, and we simply find ourselves on the same wave-length with someone with whom, on the face of it, we have no common ground. We’ve all seen the movies on serendipity.
Presence can be defined as our style of being there, our demeanour or bearing. Irrespective of the definition, it always has an impact on others. The Bates Model for Executive Presence clarifies it as a three dimensional model of character, substance and style. Example representative traits, among others, are authenticity and integrity for character, confidence and composure for substance and inclusiveness and assertiveness for style. In the context of self-awareness it is essential for us to understand our presence and its impact. I sometimes use a very simple one pager with clients in helping to determine where they might be in this space which asks them to answer three simple questions: what is your presence (describe it), how does it impact others and what can you do to widen this impact? This exercise asks us to assess our own presence, that is, attempt to see ourselves as others do and to recognise both the impact we generate (positive and not so positive) and the capacity we have to dial up or dial down behaviours that work for us and/or against us.
This ties back to purpose also. There is an inter-connectedness in the ‘goodness’ of our purpose with the authenticity of our presence. Goodness here is, of course, a subjective concept. Having said that we all tend to have an inherent sense of what a value adding and affirming purpose would look like – it being, most likely, one that is externally focussed and which gives rather than takes. A presence grounded in reality and authenticity will go hand in glove with such a purpose.
I’ll wager that if I were to ask you to think about an individual in your life who has impacted you most positively that you would reflect back some of the above characteristics. It is not coincidental that those who have the capacity to connect and create a strong sense of purpose with us – personally or professionally – who act with authenticity and empathy and provide challenge and coaching as a way of being, tend to be those who create the most impact and lasting impression on us.
If you would like to hear more from us, why not try our October Podcast: ‘Looking for a fresh perspective?’
Eadine Hickey and Gerry Prizeman