The Present of Your Presence
Quite early in my career, I realized that I was incapable of merely walking into a room.
I have always (literally since birth) made an ENTRANCE into all spaces. But changing the molecular energy in a room is not something to be embarrassed by or view as a liability – there is tremendous value and impact to be had when you are the one to make the difference.
As Jen Prosek often says, we are in a “people business,” and understanding how people react and respond to connection is an essential professional skill to hone and develop – even if it comes naturally.
Prosek has always been a place that encourages our team to bring their whole selves to work whether they are a PR veteran or a recent grad. The graceful, the harried, the over-scheduled, the pitch-in-to-get-it-done – all are welcomed and applauded.
And, as our firm has continued to grow and evolve over the past six years since I joined, those same qualities of appreciating differences and supporting each other’s unique skills all contribute to our vibrant and textured cultural life.
My personal goal has always been to make every single person I work alongside look forward to coming to work, to feel as valued as any VIP client that is stopping by for a meeting.
I work to accomplish this through the gift of presence – by asking a colleague “How are you?” and making it clear that I am really listening and focusing on their answer. It’s by sending notes of congratulations when someone is promoted or recognized in a special way. It’s snagging a favorite kind of sandwich or sweet treat for a colleague that I know is having a challenging day with a difficult client and will likely not have an opportunity to grab lunch for themselves. It’s asking about weekend plans – and then following up the following week to see how it all went. It’s through paying attention to those around us and remembering that the way we work together is just as valuable and important as the product and the ideas that we generate for our clients.
For me, the process is always the prize.
These practices took on a particular new value as we’ve emerged from the heights of the pandemic, days where chance meetings in hallways and elevators disappeared as spontaneous moments together turned to limitingly intentional, only-if-essential meetings.
In those less connected moments, we all made a point of reaching out to each other, of maintaining the connections we all so valued before, and I hope that this prioritization of seeing and being seen continues into this Future of Work or Future of the Office, or whatever jargon-y title we settle on.
I worry that the receding of those COVID-era tendencies may have pushed people back into their little self-created orbits, eyes focused on screens, and not engaging with each other as we move through the world together.
It feels like such a potential missed opportunity to not learn from each other’s life experiences – and not just the professional ones. For many, Prosek is the first place they learn how to work, and these habits of humanity are just as important as the nitty gritty tricks of the trade.
Recently, I was out for a long run through New York City on a bright and vibrant Sunday morning – so vibrant, in fact, that I wore sunglasses (which I rarely do while running). And, as I was coming off a bridge or rounding the corner in the park, I felt a bit off, that something was missing. And then I realized – with sunglasses, I couldn’t make eye contact. And I was missing that connection with strangers as I ran. It’s those little things that makes all the difference.
As we head into the end of another turbulent year around the globe, my prayer for 2024 is that we continue to find value in the simple act of seeing each other and making each other feel valued and appreciated, day in and day out. It requires so little and accomplishes so much.