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How to Show Up for Work

One thing I know for sure is that Unstuck Leaders know how to show up. They don’t scurry around the office, head down, wrapped up in themselves, their fears and their woes. They’re not constantly looking at their phones. They’re present. And, they’re aware of their affective presence, that is, the way they make others feel when around them.

A study about the affective presence of leaders found that a positive leader was linked to better team information sharing which led to better team innovation. I can well believe it. I once had a boss who would light up whenever an employee stepped into his office. “Ms. Sims! And how are you today? Let’s get to work!” His positivity made me feel validated, and as a result, I was more energetic and confident when presenting ideas, and more open when he challenged them. In his presence, I arrived at more effective solutions. He made me better at my job.

It’s all about how you show up.

I was training a group of new leaders recently, and at the beginning of our session together, I asked each of them to describe how they showed up for work that morning. They gave me a mix of stressed, annoyed, happy and enthusiastic. In several cases, what had happened on their commute played a part in how they showed up. Subway delays – annoyed. Flying through a series of green lights – happy. But the thing is, their employees didn’t know about the subway or the green lights. They did, however, feel the energy those situations created. And in the case of the bad commuting experiences, the day was off to a poor start (energetically speaking), for absolutely no reason.

Something else happened in that training session. Four of the seven participants mentioned that on their way into the office, they ran into a woman we'll call Quinn. Each of them lit up when talking about Quinn, and how fantastic it was to run into her that morning. One of them even said “Lucky me, I got to take the elevator with Quinn. I couldn’t be cranky with her next to me.”

So, who was Quinn?

The receptionist. An extraordinarily cheerful, positive, kind and empathetic receptionist. Consider the power that Quinn had in that organization. People wanted to be around her because they felt good in her presence. It’s easy to see the knock-on effect of this. Who wouldn’t go out of their way to help Quinn if she needed it? Who wouldn’t recommend her for a promotion? Who wouldn’t want to be on her team?

I would venture that Quinn was very aware of her affect and its effect on others. Affective presence is a skill that can be practiced. It’s about finding the positive in bad situations. It’s about regulating emotional blips such as frustration, fear, sadness and even excitement (which can really freak people out, if over the top). At its core, affective presence is about creating a space between feeling and acting. It’s about maturity.

Think of affective presence as a Be the Change You Want to See philosophy of leadership. When we show up with passion, kindness and authenticity, we become walking, talking symbols of our vision.

A new shared meaning emerges.

And so do new possibilities.

Hiya! This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Unstuck Leader: Getting unstuck. Staying Unstuck. If you’d like to learn the five steps to eliminating the patterns of belief and behavior that are holding you back, sign-up for my email newsletter, and you’ll be the first to know when the book is published.

The Unstuck Leader book is now available.
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