Beth Jannery is CEO of Titan, a public and private sector consultancy with expertise in strategic communications, aerospace and defense.
My word for this year is presence. For a number of years I have chosen a word at the beginning of the year to think about. I observe how it occurs in my daily life – and it always does. The idea is to put your intent on one word and see what comes of it. I read about this idea several years ago and some of my friends join me on this quest with their word genres ranging from business, relationships, finance and family.
This appeals to me, as I have been practicing meditation for almost 20 years and mindfulness is a way of life. Sometimes working with me is starting an encounter with quiet meditation.
Taking Vulnerability Risks
I once saw a business development manager who was super stressed before our meeting, and I asked him to close his eyes, which to my surprise he did. Together we sat in silence, inhaled and became calm. When we opened our eyes, he smiled, chuckled and shook his head. We started the meeting, which was a productive and focused discussion – even fun.
On another occasion, I led a team development meditation workshop for my team at a global defense company, and the result was a sense of belonging. No one ever said, “Ugh, that was a waste of time.” In fact, we all shared a desire to make time to experience more of it. Whatever it is. It? I call that presence.
It’s that moment when you slow down, and whatever’s going on, everything feels right with the world.
But being fully present was not always the case for me. There were times, like many of us, when I wandered into chaos or turmoil about work situations. While I’ve learned that I can’t control people, places, or things, as a leader I’ve tried many times. And I’ve had to recalibrate more than once.
Bringing the news
In a new anthology Game On: Leaders Who Last, I was asked to share my leadership style. In this book I have chosen to be vulnerable and tell an experience from my childhood. Revisiting my younger self allowed me to connect with a time when I felt authentic, which inspired me to strive for a deeper level of presence in my current work life.
On my paper route, I was riding my 10-speed bike after the bus dropped me off on Butternut Road. Living in a small town in Massachusetts, I was excited about my world and the different seasons I got to experience there – from the crisp chill of an autumn day with speckled leaves to the cold winters where I would pull a Flexible Flyer sled with the gray and orange newspaper bag on top.
I loved that paper route. It gave me a sense of value. I took care of my clients and met my deadlines. I enjoyed literally delivering the news to my neighbors’ doorsteps.
As a 12-year-old paper carrier, my first paying job, I had an awareness or a presence about myself that I use today as CEO. It is an ability to observe my own mind, mindfulness that has served me well when I have used it.
When work doesn’t feel like work
Fast forward to today, I found that when I feel a sense of purpose or when my work aligns with my values, my work doesn’t feel like work.
Each of us can use our own consciousness to discover a way to align who we are with what we do. We don’t have to wait for the perfect job to do it. There are no perfect jobs or companies, but if your values don’t align, things may not seem right.
When I remember my younger self, I remember a sense of freedom and aliveness. I embraced the autonomy of the newspaper delivery task and became aware of my surroundings. Connecting to my work gives me the same opportunity to dive into presence. That to me is the reason that work doesn’t feel like work.
Perhaps you can remember a time when you felt fully present. I encourage you to take some time to think about how this applies to your life today. Try these seven to build on this habits to deepen your presence at work.
1. Think about your core values and principles and make a values statement.
2. Ask yourself what your vision is to be present.
3. Bet on your personal development and consider working with a coach or strategist.
4. Become vulnerable and excel at work by asking for and accepting help from a counselor or colleague – it’s okay not to know everything.
5. Build daily check-ins with yourself.
6. Create a daily reminder that your inner thoughts create your results.
7. State your daily intention and make it meaningful to you.
Risk being true to yourself
Choose a word for daily reflection and see how often it occurs in your day. Try the seven presence habits I mentioned. Share your journey with a work buddy. Risk of being authentic.
Tell the truth. Be vulnerable. Listen actively. Make time to go inside. Have a spirit of service. Remember where you came from. Embrace challenges as opportunities to observe with a present mind. Shake off the armor. Shake off the roles and personas. Access when you come alive and when your values match your work. Just be the observer. See how silence actually gives power.