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Living And Leading From Authentic Self Presence

Written by: Janet M. Harvey, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Janet M. Harvey

Artful pause generates professional mastery. What does it take to listen and receive as a complete physiological act so that hearing is an emotional experience that activates imagination and intuition, creating a generative moment? Maximizing potential is inherently a transformative process. To become generative demands embodied wholeness. Being different in some way, by perspective, relationship, choice, and conscientious presence, invites change. Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien declared that medium-slow is Nature's rhythm and Western rhythm is fast-overdrive. Slowing down then is an obvious opportunity to live activated from our authentic self.

woman blowing red and white petals

When fast-overdrive downshifts occur, what do we choose in our way of being during the moments of pause?

No one can choose the unfolding of our life for us. Yet, the core of our being knows know even if we don’t know it directly. When we feel over-activated and want to move to a more balanced state, studies of the brain show that the simple act of a deep sigh, followed by a deep inhale and a slow turn of the neck creates enough adjustment for our nervous system to move out of a reactive posture of fright, flight, freeze, or fracture. Our mindfulness or contemplative practice reminds us that all things are possible in the stillness of a quiet mind. Brain science supports this experience, as does our engagement with others. Allowing moments of pause infused with full presence always evokes deeper inquiry, surprise, and revelation for any domain of life. And for those attached to busyness, expressing there's not enough time in the day, reflect on this idea for a moment: pause gives more time than it takes.

Most coaching education offers a variety of ways to strengthen presence when interacting as a coach, and these methods are commonly applied today for leader development. However, sometimes a lot of amnesias occur from being attached to a particular coaching model or approach to leading used in the right way. Along the path toward professional mastery, most people discover that presence with self, in complete self-acceptance, is the state of being to attain to embody authentic professional presence.

How can we artfully pause to stimulate another's full presence in their life?

The International Coaching Federation established a set of skills and behaviors for a core competency entitled Maintains Presence. Notice what opens in our understanding as we experiment and explore the skills from the context of any professional practitioner in dialogue with another person to fulfill a mutual goal or shared purpose.

Observable behaviors to maintain an authentic presence with others

  • The practitioner is completely joined with the other person in the dialogue and is a connected observer holding both objective and emotional perspectives simultaneously.

  • The connection is to the whole of each person, who each person is, what each wants, how each learns and creates, and what each has to learn from the other.

  • The practitioner evidences a complete curiosity that is undiluted by a need to perform.

  • As with trust and safety, the practitioner is in a complete partnership with the other person where the practitioner is an equal or lesser contributor to the conversation and direction of the conversation than the other person.

  • The practitioner is willing to let the other person teach the practitioner and is unafraid to be a student of the other person.

  • The conversation between both people is equal and easy, even in uncomfortable moments.

The table of demonstration skills suggests a new level of empowerment. As you reflect from the practitioner context, become aware of the assumptions and biases that influence how practitioners show up and interact with other people.

What aspects of our wholeness might we leave behind in our conversations with others?

What strength(s), perhaps overused, hinder or limit allowing another to lead in a conversation?

What unique inner awareness and balance allow for wholeness to be our inner stance?

Wholeness is the resource for curiosity offered without condition, authentically on behalf of another's life. Curiosity is the resource for the vulnerability that removes resistance and restores access to resourcefulness. Our vision of the future can become a prison for many of us; curiosity becomes the door key, unlocking access to an inner capability that we forget about in the emotion of what's challenging and fear-inducing. If we are overly focused on performance to demonstrate our expertise, our attention becomes conditional, evaluating what another person expects moment-by-moment. Unconditional attention shifts the focus toward perceiving with the whole self to reflect full acceptance and celebration of the other person's expression simply by engaging our curiosity in the field we are creating together. Trusting the self becomes a positive reinforcing step for our inner stance of wholeness.

You are so present you become invisible – You matter profoundly because you do not matter at all – You do not need to be needed but are needed entirely – You are essential, and you are irrelevant Nancy Klein, Time to Think © 2010

Be Still

Vulnerability is essential to professional mastery. Our vulnerability as practitioners engaging with others encourages their vulnerability. This shared experience more quickly generates deliberate access to underutilized internal resourcefulness and capability. We expect others to trust us; that's a desirable human bias.

How purposeful are we? How reliable are we in creating the energy of total acceptance and unconditional curiosity that allows something unspeakable before to emerge in the moment of a conversation?

The language of achievement, accomplishment, and goals distracts our attention from acceptance. Invert our approach to begin from the unconditional acceptance, and we liberate internal resourcefulness to choose any path that enlivens. Practitioners who initiate relationships through unconditional acceptance toward others enliven the connection and conversation they engage by how they show up and interact with others.

emotion cycle

Emotions bias our decisions, whether we acknowledge this phenomenon consciously or not. Physical experience is always associated with emotions, often tied to a memory that formed a belief we follow as the truth to sustain safety for a threat that is usually void in our current reality. We have not stopped to discover this. Fear, and the expression evoked from this emotion, reveal what we choose to love. A paradox that calls on us to allow the presence of fear from and with others so that awareness of what is loved emerges. To enable this, we must, as practitioners, eliminate our own fear to create trust in relationships for others' safety. That safety allows vulnerability and therefore learning necessary to proceed with generative change that the other person trusts enough to risk experimenting with a new way of being, relating, and engaging with life.

Be attentive

The nature and power of giving attention evoke spontaneous breakthrough experiences. Sometimes it is thinking preceded by a bodily and emotional response to a relational field. The first step in strengthening authentic self-presence arises by becoming aware of our inner witness, the part of us that notices what is occurring and the impact on us as it is happening, without losing presence with the other person in the dialogue.

When we are attentive from our wholeness, we may notice judgment and choose artful pause –as simple as a quiet breath – to welcome curiosity that accepts everything and builds on it with wonder on behalf of the other person. It is our attention with other people, not our input, that produces a sequence of evocative curiosity-based questions, e.g., what to achieve, based upon what assumptions, blocked by what beliefs, seeing what belief operates as the most significant obstacle, testing what is valid and what causes a person to choose to hesitate or stand still. As seen from our essential self, what is true stimulates choices, leading them to ask how to achieve the goal organically and naturally. It is who we are, from wholeness, that allows us to enjoy the difference, welcome disturbance, and trust that by inviting others to share learning, thinking, and insight, we will most honor the partnership in our conversation to generate something beneficial for both.

Be reflective on practice

Professional mastery is a lifelong journey filled with humbling gems of learning and awe. It is a path of discovering our authentic self, unique rhythm, and dynamic capacity to originate, create, learn, and produce results, in other words, be generative.

As coaches, we naturally orient toward being generative with clients. However, we are less natural when we are the focus of a generative interaction. Being accomplished, competent, and confident as an adult in a professional capacity is seductive and creates blinders and obstacles to continuous development and evolution. Reflection on practice is the antidote to complacency, boredom, and doubt, liberating our potential and the power of vulnerability and self-trust for and with everyone in our life.

Being reflective on practice is the most empowering resource available for professional development because the answers arrive inside-out as gifts of consciousness and give us the power of choice. Here are four practical reflection questions to engage with to strengthen artful pause for maintaining our authentic presence:

  • What stirs our addiction to a certainty that fuels mistrust of another's wholeness, resourcefulness, capability, and creativity?

  • What fuels our fear of silence and the discomfort of allowing another's independent thought to emerge?

  • What self-trust becomes essential in surrendering to curiosity on behalf of another person without condition?

  • What resourcefulness do I possess that reminds me of the privilege and fulfills my responsibility to witness another being express their full potency?

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Janet M. Harvey Brainz Magazine

Janet M. Harvey, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Janet M. Harvey is CEO of inviteCHANGE, a coaching and human development organization that shapes a world where people love their life’s work. Janet is a visionary leader in the global professional coaching industry with an International Coaching Federation Master Certification. Janet is an accredited educator who has engaged adults, teams, and global enterprises for nearly 30 years to invite change that sustains well-being and excellence. Janet uses her executive and entrepreneurial experience to cultivate leaders in sustainable excellence through Generative Wholeness™, a signature generative coaching and learning process for people and systems. Janet has served as a global board leader for ICF, as a director.


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