WBENC Book Club: Presence Digest

Amy Cuddy. You’ve probably seen her TED Talk (the 2nd most watched of all TED Talks!), maybe you’ve read her book, and certainly you’ve heard of Power Posing. We love the ideas and insights shared by Cuddy. The WBENC book club got off to a great start with a lively discussion of her New York Times Bestseller, Presence.

Power Poses - Courtesy of Inmovment

Power Poses - Courtesy of Inmovment

We know that not everyone was able to read the book so we are bringing you the top tips that resonated with us long after we finished the book.  

  1. Presence. What is it? In Cuddy’s words, “Presence is the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential… When you are not present, people can tell. When you are, people respond.” We must be present if we want to persuade others and if we want to show others that we are passionate and committed. This, “is the same presence you need to convince yourself that it’s okay to speak up in a meeting. Or ask for a better salary. Or demand more respectful treatment… Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”
     
  2. Power. It sometimes gets a bad rep. But in the context of presence, power is incredibly important. “When we feel powerful, we feel free – in control, unthreatened, and safe. As a result, we are attuned to opportunities more than threats. We feel positive and optimistic, and our behavior is largely unrestricted by social pressures.” The type of power we’re talking about here is personal power, the ability to feel free from the control of others, not the power to have control over others.
     
  3. Feeling Powerless. Simply put, “when we feel powerlessness we cannot be present.” It means that when we feel powerlessness we aren’t paying attention to our goals anymore, we aren’t focused on what we’re working on. Instead we are focused on “the people who control our fate because we want to be able to predict how they’ll act.” When leading from a position of feeling powerless managers use more coercive power, are more ego-defensive, and solicit less input from their teams. The effects of leading from a position of powerlessness can be detrimental to the overall goals of the organization.
     
  4. In the Spotlight. Feelings of powerlessness can lead to anxiety and self-absorption. Research has shown that being anxious leads to greater self-focus, and being self-focused increases anxiety. This anxious self-focus makes it nearly impossible to be present, it’s called the Spotlight Effect. You’ve probably experienced the Spotlight Effect in your life. It feels like all eyes in the room are on you and everyone is judging and examining your behavior and communications. According to Cuddy, while the spotlight effect is, “one of the most enduring and widespread egocentric human biases… The reality is that people just aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are – even when you actually are the center of attention.
     
  5. The Imposter Experience. Have you ever felt that you achieved your accomplishments due to luck rather than skill? Or from the generosity of others rather than your own hard work and perseverance? If so, you have experienced Imposter Syndrome and you are not alone. According to Presence, around 2/3 of people experience Imposter Syndrome, both men and women. “When we feel like imposters, we don’t attribute our accomplishments to something internal and constant, such as talent or ability; instead we credit something beyond our control, such as luck.” This can lead to self-doubt and self-defeating behaviors, and fear that we will be revealed as frauds can lead to high levels of self-monitoring and ultimately prevents us from being fully present.
     
  6. Power Posing. Perhaps one of the most widely recognized contributions of Cuddy’s work is the concept of Power Posing, or holding your body in high power positions. When we assume high power positions, our stress hormone, cortisol, goes down and our testosterone goes up. This increases confidence and decreases anxiety. Research on power posing has shown that people perform better, feel more powerful and are more present in both mundane and challenging situations. As Cuddy shares, “Your body shapes your mind. Your mind shapes your behavior. And your behavior shapes your future.” Don’t have a private space to stand like Wonder Woman? Their research showed that imagining yourself power posing has the same effect!
     
  7. Nudges. It may feel that being present and feeling powerful takes large changes. But the reality is that just small tweaks, or nudges, can have a significant impact on your personal power and presence. Adjusting your posture so you are more upright, holding your phone a little higher so you are not slouching over it, uncrossing your legs at your desk. All of these small nudges will help, as Cuddy shares “With each self-nudge, pleasure builds upon pleasure, power upon power, and presence upon presence.”

What were your biggest takeaways? Please comment below!

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We hope you will join us on February 10 as we discuss Patrick Lencioni’s, The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business.

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Posted on December 9, 2016 .