A Simple Tip for Leaders: The Power of Being There

People in organisations get strong signals from what their bosses do. And they get equally strong signals from what bosses do not do.

One thing that great leaders understand is the power of presence – the power of being there at events, or among their teams.

Let me explain.

Our TMI team ran a workshop for the top 60 managers of a major company. The workshop was around change. The message from the CEO was that this organisation is doing well – and that change needs to take place for it do great.

The CEO had allocated the whole day to attend this workshop, but on the day before, was called by higher authorities to attend an off-site meeting. So, the CEO attended as much of the morning session as she could before heading off.

The workshop was due to close at 5pm. A group photo was being taken, when, all of a sudden, the CEO appeared. She had wanted to be with the group, even for a few minutes at the end. The group cheered when she appeared. The group photo was re-taken, this time with her included. The CEO did not make a speech. The group dispersed.

And, in that few minutes, without having to say a word, the CEO sent out a strong signal that change is really is important. A closing speech was not necessary. Her actions had done all the talking that needed to be done.

This CEO understood the enormous power of being there.

I contrast this with leaders in other organisations who manage from 30,000 feet. They put in place, for example, new service culture building strategies. They send communications out and hold town hall meetings on the importance of the new strategy. And then they head back to the safety of their offices. They do not actively participate in events that are designed to engage senior management to the relevant change initiative.

It is understandable that the senior managers who attend these events inevitably ask, “If this is so important, then why are our senior leaders not here?”

This happens all too often.

I have also seen leaders who show up to these events, but who are not really present. They spend a lot of time texting, while others in the group are expected to pay full attention.

There was a well-known CEO of a major bank in Malaysia. He made it a point of visiting each of his bank branches around the country once a year. This is a big task which he did, year in, year out. The power of his presence, and the trouble that he took to visit the branches, was enormous. He understood the power of being there.

And, yes, senior leaders are busy. This is a given. However, senior leaders who understand the power of being there will accelerate the progress of new initiatives by signalling, “Yes, I am busy – but I am not too busy to support this important initiative.”

All eyes are on the boss. And the talk will follow.

If you are an organisational leader, what are the eyes around you seeing, and what are people saying?

Food for thought.

Until next time.

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