Principle 3: Presence

So far we’ve explained what the Promotion Principles are all about, and started to get into each one with an overview of Performance and Potential.

Today we’re going to cover Promotion Principle 3: Presence.

Presence: What it’s about and why it matters

Presence is about your ability to show up with impact and connect with others.

The presence domain is about what you project to others. How you make people feel—your words, actions, gestures, behaviors. You want people to feel good about you, and about themselves when they are around you.

Presence matters at all levels

There’s often a misconception that presence only matters at the executive level. The reality is everyone has presence, and it’s a necessary area for employees at all levels to develop. But it’s also true the higher you advance in business, the more important your presence becomes.

If you’re in an entry-level role, presence can simply be about showing up with high energy and a positive outlook. But as a senior executive, it becomes essential show up in a way that inspires others to trust, respect and listen to you.  

Presence can be a very tricky domain to understand, let alone master.

Despite all the advice we’re given to the contrary, presence isn’t about stylistic perfection. Do you know who was promoted because they stopped saying that, started saying this, or took up more space? No one ever.

Presence is about focusing on others

Presence isn’t about faking it until you make it or just developing charisma, confidence, and composure. You can be confident, and still not make a positive impact on others—especially if one’s presence feels inauthentic or rehearsed.

As the saying goes, people won’t remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel. And people who possess high presence make others feel good about themselves, about their work, about the company, and about the future.

Someone with high presence is authentic, genuine, and most of all, focused on others. They are intentional in the impact they want to make on their colleagues and team members. They find a way to positively connect with others.

It could be something as simple as taking time each day to personally check in with each of your teammates, or employees. Swinging by cubicles if you work in the office or sending slack messages if you work remote.  

On the flip side, someone who lacks presence may be too focused on themselves, possibly because they are overly self-conscious or lack confidence. As a result, they aren’t mindful about how they show up and impact others. They leave their presence to chance, which means they may not be making much of an impression at all—and find themselves formidably forgotten.

An example of someone with high presence

A quick story to show what possessing high degrees of presence can look like:

During my career I met dozens of guest speakers for special events and conferences. Many were highly accomplished, smooth, and polished speakers—but not all that memorable. However, there is one speaker who still stands out in my mind: A well-known sports executive named Billy.

I met Billy a few hours before he was set to take the stage and present at a company conference I was hosting. I wanted to make sure he was ready for his presentation, as many speakers can be quite needy (a.k.a. pain in the ass) prior to taking center stage.

But Billy surprised me. First, with a wide smile on his face he thanked me for giving him the opportunity to present at my event. Then he asked how he could make his time on stage a home run with my audience. He knew I was responsible for the event and wanted to help me succeed!

And then it got even better. When he presented, he wasn’t super smooth or overly rehearsed. He sometimes stumbled over his words, but he was 100% real—he was the same person on stage as he was off stage. And the audience hung on every single word he said. They loved him! As did I smile.


The point is Billy had presence in spades. Not because he was flawless or super poised. But because he was gracious, authentic, and focused on making a positive impact on others. He certainly made a lasting impression on me, and the hundreds of people at the conference.

Signs you’re seen as someone with high presence

Not sure if you’re seen as a someone with presence or not? Here’s some signs that you possess presence and are making a positive impact on others:


1) People ask you for advice. 

You’re doing the right things, and others want to learn from you. Not just your direct teammates, but coworkers from other departments too.

2) People know your name.

Even if you’ve never met before, colleagues have heard positive things about you. You’ve built a good reputation.

3) People confide in you.

You have succeeded in making connections with your coworkers. They trust you.

4) People come to you to calm down.

Your composure in the face of stressful situations help to reassure others that everything will be okay.

5) People say thank you.

You’re making a positive impact on others, and they send you notes of gratitude and appreciation for all that you do for them.

6) People listen to what you say.

You’re credible and respected.


If you’re seeing these signs, congrats and keep up your great work! If you’re not, keep reading to see what might be blocking your progress.

Common blockers to showing high presence.

Here are three of the most common reasons why you may not be seen as someone with high presence.


1) Lack of Connection

You can’t shy away from making an impact. Don’t just sit quietly in the corner hoping no one calls on you in meetings. You can’t avoid showing up; you need to speak up. Let down your guard and put yourself out there. Not just in business meetings, but social settings too. Do you skip happy hours, cocktail receptions, or the monthly birthday cake celebrations? Don’t forget making personal connections is part of developing presence, and these are all opportunities for people to get to know you, and vice versa.


2) Too Self Centered

Do you find it difficult to focus on others? Maybe it’s because you lack confidence and are so worried about what you’re going to say next that you find it difficult to listen to what the person in front of you is saying. Or, maybe it’s because you’re an egomaniac narcissist who is impatiently waiting for someone to stop squawking so you can interject and toot your own horn. Either way, you’re not making a positive impact on others. Shift your attention to others—listen, connect, and engage.


3) Bias in Business

It might not be you; it could be them. Unlike evaluating one’s work performance, which is usually based on objective criteria, assessing one’s presence can be much more subjective and personal. This is where you can see unconscious bias sway how people perceive your presence and ability to make a connection.

Many companies are working to be better. Over the past several years HR teams have rolled out a ton of training designed to help leaders recognize their unconscious bias. Still, if you believe bias is holding you back, and the reason why others don’t relate positively to your presence, it’s time to pack up and take your talents elsewhere. Somewhere that values diversity throughout the company ranks.


Do you relate to any of these common blockers to success? Please share more about your experience in the comments below!

Up Next…

This post introduced the basic blocking and tackling on what high presence means and why it’s important. In the future we will dive into ways you can elevate your presence. 

Next, let’s cover the fourth Promotion Principle: People.



  1. Phil Fine

    Re: “The Real Reason Introverts Don’t Get Promoted at Work — And What You Can Do About It” on Introvert Dear

    Are your suggestions really useful for introverts?

    A better strategy, I think, is to aim for a staff, rather than a line, position. In such a role, such as corporate counsel, an introvert will be mainly valued for his wisdom, knowledge and experience, and not his supervisory skills, which, let’s face it, are never an introvert’s strong suit, no matter how many affirmations he repeats to himself.

    Indeed, in a staff position, the introvert likely won’t have to oversee corporate divisions or sections with hundreds, if not thousands of employees.

    By contrast, if the introvert is smart enough, he should aim for an academic career, particularly if he’s scientifically inclined. There, he’ll be judged mainly on his brains, and not on his looks, charm, personality or readiness to speak up. He also won’t be marked down if dislikes lunching with his co-workers (something I always hated), or passes up joining his cubicle mates for karaoke (which I also dreaded).

    Phil Fine
    Arad, Israel

    Former editor
    Investor’s Digest of Canada (Toronto)

    • Alison

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Phil. I couldn’t agree more with how important it is to select the right career path–and your suggested professions can good options for many. I explored several different roles early in my career for this very reason. In my experience, regardless of position, it was essential to have beliefs that supported my goals and aspirations.


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