OD in action: Influence and impact by Hendrika Santer Bream


26 / 5 / 2016 9.40am

Hendrika Santer Bream is a change manager - OD at Guys' and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

It was with the conference title in mind, 'OD in action: Influence and impact', that I started musing on my question about presence.

As OD practitioners we often find ourselves without positional power, so how do we identify and use other sources of authority? For me this is closely linked with our personal impact and presence, I believe that our personal presence makes a huge difference to our impact and how we influence people. 

With this in mind I started to think about teams - can a team have presence?

I proposed this as a topic for one of the open space sessions during the conference, which seemed to generate a bit of a buzz. The open space sessions at the conference give delegates the chance to pitch a conversation theme that others might be interested in and offers a space for discussion and networking based on these topics.

I met with a small group of practitioners later that day and discussed the questions.

  • What is presence?  
  • Why does it matter?
  • How can we cultivate it? 
When we talk about presence, what we are talking about? Is it the intentional use of ourselves in our work and the impact we have?
  • We have a past presence, for example what I have done in the past that influences what people expect in the future. 
  • My present presence is how I am showing up right now.
  • My future presence is the impact I have had on you and how that might influence your future behaviour. 
To read more about this, see the chapter by Mary Ann Rainey and Jonno Hanafin in the NTL handbook.  

So yes, a team can have a presence. We know other teams have a presence, for better or worse. This is because we can describe what they are like and how that effects and influences us and our team. Presence can be more than just the sum of our individual presence.

Why is our presence important? 

Presence is important because it affects the work we are able to do. It influences what access we have, if people are interested in our interventions and whether they will listen to us. It also has consequences for the impact and value of our work.

Our personal presence can be built through personal development, by working on our self-understanding, developing life-long learning habits and seeking feedback on the impact we have. For more on this, read Organization Development: A practitioner’s guide for OD and HR, by Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge and Linda Holbeche.

For a team, it is important to build up helpful habits in the interests of developing our team’s presence and therefore our ability to do the work effectively. In our conversation at the conference we discussed the impact of regular team time systematically inquiring about me, us, and 'us' in relation to the organisation.  

I have my next step now.  It will be to make a proposal on our next team day, with some homework to be done beforehand.  What is the impact I am/we are having as individuals and as a team?  Where do I/we see that?  How do I/we know?  And then what can I/we do about it to stretch/grow?

  • The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change, Jones, BB & Brazzel, M (eds), 2006 
  • Organization Development: A practitioner’s guide for OD and HR, Cheung-Judge, MY & and Holbeche, L, 2011

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