How to motivate your team to excellence just by ‘being present’

If you are genuinely motivated to bring something positive, inspiring, and valuable to your organisation, team, or clients, then you can ensure authentic engagement with all of them.


Leadership presence, executive presence, boardroom presence — many leaders and business professionals spend a lot of time and effort on developing their ‘presence’. They hire coaches to help them with their presentation skills or work with image consultants on their style and personal brand. Although these exterior elements of presence are important, the interior elements are far more crucial if you want to effectively lead through your presence.

As a leader, presence is important because you want to inspire confidence in your team. If they doubt your abilities or even worse your motives, then you’re not going to have a successful working relationship with them.

Unfortunately, sometimes, in an effort to have ‘presence’, the importance of actually being present is ignored or forgotten. Leadership presence is really about connecting and engaging with others authentically. This authenticity comes from your motivation to bring something positive, inspiring, and valuable to your organisation, team, or clients.

Great leaders know how to stay open to possibility and create trust with the people they are leading. How can you be fully present with others so that they sense your commitment and engagement the minute you walk into the room? Take a look at the following recommendations:

5 Ways to be present and motivate your team to excel

1. Listen

When someone is talking to you, do you listen? I mean, really listen — without looking at your phone, or thinking about the next conversation you’re going to have, or without nodding even when you don’t know what they mean? People can tell when you’re actively listening. Ask questions and listen attentively to understand and learn. Lean forward. Let people sense your interest in them as a person.

Listening isn’t just about showing the person you care but also respecting them. It helps you be a better leader. As Marilyn Atkinson and Rae Chois tell coaches, “Everything in coaching hinges on listening because what we are listening for affects where we are speaking from and unfolds how we are being with and for each other.” Change is only possible when people feel fully heard and accepted.

2. Be curious

Leaders tend to focus directly on performance. They walk into a meeting feeling like they already understand the problem and know what needs to change to enhance performance. This is not the way to find the best solution or to motivate change.

Instead, take an indirect approach and be curious about each individual involved. As already mentioned, listen carefully and take the time needed to develop a trusting relationship. When you’re curious, the person you’re talking to becomes curious too! This can inspire reflection, introspection, and transformation on their part and that’s where real and longer-lasting solutions can be found.

3. Embrace conflict

How do you feel about conflict and confrontation? For many of us, our natural tendency is to avoid conflict. However, as a leader, that’s dangerous because unresolved conflict can fester. What if you started to view every disagreement as an opportunity to discover yourself and others more deeply?

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” What if an employee is constantly pushing your boundaries? How would you respond? Is she disruptive or creative? Is she challenging your authority or trying to make your company better? Pay attention to your reaction without judgment, and examine why the situation pushes your buttons. Try to see every side of the issue.

4. Be approachable

How easy is it for others to approach you with a problem? If you wear the facade of always being perfect, you won’t make it easy for them! Being vulnerable is a sign of strength and is the quickest pathway to trust. People want to work with someone they can relate to.

If your focus is on helping others to shine, and you’re willing to show your humanity and even laugh at your own mistakes, then people will willingly follow you. Look for ways to personally connect, not by being their ‘friend’, but by being someone who ‘gets’ them and helps them excel at their jobs. Strong leaders work at staying humble, considering the value each person contributes.

5. Be confident

For others to see you as a leader, you must first see yourself as a leader. As a leader, you are in charge and you have to make sure the right things happen at the right time. It takes strong decision-making skills, plus flexibility and energy to get others to deliver.

Build your confidence in your decision-making by doing your homework. Get the data you need from multiple sources, ask for others’ opinions. Remember that asking for advice is evidence of your confidence. It’s when you’re feeling unsure of your leadership that you hold back, thinking you ‘should’ have all the answers. But once you’ve done your homework don’t be wishy-washy with your decision. Make the best decision you can with confidence, and your team will back you up.

Finally, remember that being present is about staying in the present moment. It may sound easy, but it isn’t. Many leaders have found that developing a mindfulness practice helps them avoid being dragged down by the past or overwhelmed by the future.

I encourage you to choose one of the five recommendations and take a week to try to mindfully integrate it into your daily life. Then move on to the next. You’ll begin to see positive changes in yourself and your team.

According to the Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future, a 2019 study from the International Coaching Federation and the Human Capital Institute (HCI), developing coaching skills for leaders is an ongoing process in organisations with strong coaching cultures. Download the ICF study report now !

If you need support on your organisation’s and/or leader’s coaching journey, do contact us at ICF and our team of volunteers in India will be happy to help.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organization leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 40,000-plus members located in more than 145 countries and territories work toward common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and maintaining the highest ethical standards.

Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi NCR, ICF Mumbai, ICF Pune and ICF Hyderabad.

The author Maria Connolly is a somatic coach, clinical psychotherapist, and a Master NLP Practitioner. Having lived on three continents and studied six languages, Maria’s diverse background has made her open, insightful and fearless. As a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation, she brings together a number of approaches to create a unique working model for each client. Through group trainings and one-on-one coaching, she helps her clients take an embodied approach to self-leadership.

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