03.17.2011

Take A Doorway Moment: Breathing Through The Business Day

By: Kate Nugent

Kate Nugent is a director, consultant, and coach. She has conducted leadership development programs for organizations such as American Express, General Electric, Deloitte Consulting, and Merrill Lynch. She has taught acting...  Learn more about the author

If you’re familiar with the Ariel Group’s PRES model, you’ll remember that the “P” in the model is Being Present. To me, Being Present is the bedrock of executive presence – and fundamental to leadership and life.

Henry Ford backs me up. In 1916 he said, “We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

The failsafe technique for getting present is to take a deep breath. Easy, right? Everyone from your Mom to the Dalai Lama says it: take a deep breath. But when? How? And how do you remember to do it when email and to-dos and crises are flying at you like asteroids from Star Wars?

Recently I was facilitating a Leadership Presence program with a group of 75 women leaders at a Fortune 100 personal care company. We were debriefing a breathing exercise when one woman made an excellent suggestion: “I know when I can use this,” she said, “When I’m in the doorway.”

She described her average day: rushing from meeting to meeting, running ten minutes behind, checking her Blackberry en route, trying to remember her to-dos from the last meeting, searching for the agenda for the next meeting. She went on to say that she could probably remember to take a breath at the doorway of the meeting she was heading into.

Genius! Easy to remember, takes a few seconds, and acts as a mental sorbet, a palate cleanser between meetings. Here’s how you can institute your own “doorway moment”:

How to Take a Doorway Moment

  • Pause at the doorway of the meeting (Think of “doorway” broadly – the restroom en route, the elevator, the hallway).
  • Lift your eyes from the Blackberry or iPhone screen (just for a moment!) and bring your gaze to the floor or ceiling.
  • Take one deep breath through your nose, allowing the belly to inflate…and then let it out slowly through your mouth counting to ten.
  • Roll your shoulders back as you return your gaze to what is in front of you.
  • Enter

This short investment will pay off tenfold. You will feel calmer, which will allow others around you to be calm. You will be present for the meeting, and hear and understand more of what is going on. You will make eye contact with the people in the room and they, in turn, will feel connected with you. Not bad for five seconds.

Try your own doorway moment today. And let us know how it goes!

The doorway moment: easy to remember, takes a few seconds, and acts as a mental sorbet, a palate cleanser between meetings."