The Power of Presence
Sometimes, all you have to do is show up.
In my position at a large urban school district, I help supervise 124 instructional specialists across 150 elementary campuses. My days are filled with spreadsheets, meetings, and meetings about spreadsheets.
I recently visited one of the specialists I work with. As we debriefed afterwards, something she said struck me.
"Thank you for being present."
At first I thought she was simply thanking me for being there. And yet the phrase she used, being present, continued to percolate in my mind. It took me awhile to figure out why that resonated with me but I finally figured it out after an hour-long commute home (though my wife probably would have picked it up instantly).
The specialist I visited was thanking me for my emotional presence, not my physical presence. She gets visits from others in our department and works closely with colleagues. She's surrounded by others physically all day but on that day I was present for her.
I saw her and she felt seen. I listened to her and she felt heard. I empathized and she felt felt.
Sometimes as supervisors we fall into the trap of always trying to prove our worth. We feel like we have to know all the answers, always see the hidden trends, or give the best advice.
Yet what got you there won't keep you there.
I was reminded of this truth as I reflected on her gratitude. She didn't need my expertise or supervisory excellence. She simply wanted me to be present for her, to witness her, to walk alongside her for a moment.
As leaders, that's sometimes the best and only gift we can give.