Give the Gift of Your Presence

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You expect to find greatness in big cities -- it’s where the action is. You expect to find the Wall Street wiz and the real estate mogul in New York City or the best software and app developers in Silicon Valley. What’s even more impressive is to find world-class talent doing big things in small towns.

I found exactly that right in my hometown during a visit to Bourgeois Guitars. Its story is a great reminder for all entrepreneurs that your success isn’t confined to your city limits and your impact doesn’t stop at the state line.

Related: Learning From Leaders of the Past

What can an entrepreneur learn from a craftsman? A lot. With that in mind, tune everything else out and invest the next four distraction-free minutes in what I’m about to share.

My job is to help leaders and their teams consistently perform at a high level and enjoy what they do. So I study the world class in an array of industries to see what separates the best from the rest. This article is about what you can learn from the best guitar-makers in the world.

As I was given my tour of the Bourgeois manufacturing facility, each time I began to take a photograph, my host Will made it a point to stop speaking. I told him that was thoughtful but not necessary. He politely told me that what I was doing was important and deserved our full attention.

As we moved from station to station throughout the various areas of the facility, I was introduced to each of their craftsmen. After the first couple of introductions, I picked up on a fascinating pattern. They each did the same thing as Will. Without fail and with no prompting, one by one they stopped their work to greet me and give me their full attention. They asked questions, showed interest in my work and didn’t resume their work until the conversation ended and my questions were answered.

When I met with founder Dana Bourgeois and CEO John Karp, wouldn’t you know it, they did the same. Bourgeois Guitar has created a culture of mindfulness.

Related: How to Grow Your Art Into a Business: Move Beyond the One-Off Model

It stands to reason why they do this. When you make a custom-precision instrument by hand from wood sourced from every corner of the world, you learn to appreciate nuance and pay careful attention to everything and everyone. The company's ability to be truly present and listen to their clients is a big factor in why their client list reads like a who’s who of country and bluegrass music and acoustic specialty shops.

When its employees are working on the wood, it’s the only thing in their world. When they are speaking with someone that person is the only thing in their world. Imagine how much better your results would be if you took this same approach.

Busyness is the enemy of your business. Presence is your competitive advantage. In my work as an executive coach, I advise clients to “be where your feet are.” What I mean by this is to eliminate distraction, focus on one thing at a time and be fully present in the moment.

For these guitar-makers they literally are standing at their workstations, feet firmly planted on the ground pointed in the direction of the piece of wood they are working on. They focus on one thing, being present and delivering a standard of excellence Bourgeois' instruments have become known for worldwide.

It’s what separates the best athletes from the rest too. They don’t replay the last play in their mind, they focus on the present. It’s also what can separate you from your competition.

Dr. William James, father of the positive psychology movement, said that “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” When you’re interested in others, you’re interesting to others and they feel appreciated. Being interested is about being truly present in what you’re doing.

This holiday season, be where your feet are and give people the gift of your presence, not just presents. It’s the most valuable gift you can give.

Related: The Danger of Continuous Partial Attention