Show up. Be yourself. Have courage.
Yesterday, at a conference with lots of people I appreciate and admire, someone approached me and said: «Everything you do exudes inspiration, creativity and authenticity. I love how one can feel that you are not playing a role, but really showing up as you are. Thank you for that».
It is not every day that you get such a feedback. I blushed. For a moment, I did not know how to answer, but then I said: «Here, it is easy to show up as yourself, because everyone here really appreciates it».
And that is very true. At the conferences of the ebbf I always feel like I can show up 100% as myself. That is because the people here are following the same purpose as I am. To transform businesses and the economy through daily reflection and discourse, using operational concepts like consultative decision making, collaboration, ongoing evolutionary learning, adaptation and ethics to reach this purpose.
But I think that it is general a good idea to show up as we are. With all our strengths and weaknesses. Because our strengths can be weaknesses sometimes, and our weaknesses strengths. If the people we work with do not know both they cannot really make use of all that we have to offer, and then, the capacity of our group will be always underutilized.
So that is why I decided, quite some time ago, to «come as I am», no matter what the context. As an independent coach for collaboration, this means taking risks every day.
Not every client necessarily looks for what I have to offer. I am not really your classical consultant-type :-). I like to laugh out loud at least ten times a day, I am direct and outspoken bordering on cheeky, I do not like to bend to rules, I like to talk about private stuff in business contexts which people sometimes find too much, I like to tell jokes, I don’t dress corporate, don’t alway choose my words wisely, am not as respectful as you might expect from an external consultant, I don’t care about the recipes and regulations that the client has but like to break them, sometimes am too insistent (ok, stubborn), way too emotional in many situations, and this is just the beginning of the list.
Some people and teams will not choose to work with me when they see all of this. And that is good! Because I want to work with the ones who appreciate that all of the above is exactly what they need and that I can show their teams how to collaborate in a more human way.
Really showing up means bringing your whole self to the table. This makes us vulnerable and a target for others, if we are not in a context where everyone appreciates this and also behaves in the same way. This is why it is important in groups and teams to cultivate «showing up». If team members get used to being able to show who they really are and be sure that the others will respect them no less if they know this side of you, then you are starting to really building up the capacity of the whole group.
This is not an invitation to behave badly in the group, by the way. Showing up does not mean that every behavior is ok at any time. It just means that you don’t have to be as guarded about showing your deeper self as we normally are today in our work contexts.
If the team communicates well, the others will react to you by letting you know what is too much for them. You will adjust to each other. This is why groups who want to work with authentic people need to map their agreements and their purpose clearly to have a navigating compass on how they want to interact with each other.
All our positive sides can also be weaknesses or be taken advantage of. Things that people mention when they say what they like about me it is generosity (which can mean that sometimes I say yes to things that I should really say no to), warmth (which can sometimes be taken advantage of, too), my speed in thinking, writing and reacting (which more often than not also means that I make stupid mistakes someone else has to correct or in a mess that someone has to clean up), my willingness to stay on a topic until it is resolved for me, however long it takes (which can come across as irritating and stubborn) and my ability to work on 10 different projects at the same time (which makes me prone to burnout).
So, the strengths can be weaknesses and the weaknesses can be strengths. That is why we should know both the strengths and weaknesses of the people we collaborate with. We will be able to get more and better work done, because we can count on the strengths and plan them in, we can be ready for the weaknesses and make sure we navigate around them, but we can also make use of the weaknesses as strengths and be ready for the negative effects of the strengths of others.
In general, I think it is much more interesting to work with people who are authentic, because it means that we will have much richer and more interesting interactions.
We are all imperfect, but we also all bring beautiful and unique qualities to the groups we interact with. It is a pity that in so many work contexts, this richness is not really used.
Showing up needs courage. We need more courage. I, for one, have to re-discover mine every single day.