Are You A Present-Challenged Leader?

I am a planner by nature, so that means that I’m nearly always thinking about the next step, next thing, or something other than what’s in front of me. I often have trouble being “in the moment.” (And no, for me this is not ADHD!) A while back, my wife came up with a term for it – being “present-challenged.” While this shows up frequently in my marriage, which is not a good thing, I have become aware that it shows up in all areas of my life. 

Are you a present-challenged as a leader? To play off of the approach Jeff Foxworthy takes in a skit about knowing if someone is a redneck, here are some clues that you might be present-challenged: 

If you are always thinking about your position, response, or what you want to say when the people reporting to (following) you are talking…you may be present-challenged.

If you are thinking about what needs to be done next, not what’s being discussed, when you are in a meeting…you may be present-challenged.

If you are thinking about something totally unrelated to the discussion taking place between you and one or more people (some may call this day dreaming)…you may be present-challenged.

If, after a discussion with someone, you can’t remember many details about the conversation…you may be present-challenged.

If you are in a group gathering of some sort and you are thinking about all of the things you could be doing if you weren’t there…you may be present-challenged.

There are a number of books, or sections of books, that discuss the value of being in the moment – feeling peace and reducing stress, anxiety, and worry to name a few. In leadership, the importance of being fully present (physically, emotionally, and mentally) with those who follow you is critical. It shows that you value them and what they have to say. It gives you an opportunity to learn what’s going on, to keep a pulse on things. It allows you to hear tones and see body language that may be communicating something other than what’s being presented or shared so that you can get to the real heart of the matter.  Oh, and other people can often see when you’ve checked out, even if you think you’re doing a good job of hiding it. So, if they are seeing that you aren’t fully present, you lose credibility and some relational capital with them.

It’s simple to say “just stay in the moment,” but it’s not always easy to do, especially if you are present-challenged like I am. I’ve learned that I have to intentionally focus on the person or group that I am with in order to stay present to them.  I sometimes remind myself that if I am not going to be fully present, then I am wasting my time, as well as theirs. So, I need to be fully engaged to make the most of the time together. While these things don’t always work, they work more times than not. So, if you are present-challenged, commit to yourself to intentionally focus on being present in each instance. The more you do (over time), the less difficulty you will have staying in the moment.