Decide how you want to show up; then commit to doing so


Karen Natzel
BridgeTower Media Newswires

When you think about the kind of professional you want to be, what comes to mind? What kind of impact do you want to make as a leader?

As we navigate out of this pandemic and into our next chapter, we have an opportunity to reflect, refine and reinvent a way of showing up that is both refreshingly authentic and powerfully effective. Times like these were made for intrepid souls ready to leverage the disruption to create a more robust work environment.

Culture drives performance – capturing the essence of an organization’s spirit, defining the norms, and shaping the experience. All too often cultures are formed by default, not by design. Why would we leave such a compelling factor of our organization’s well-being to a haphazard approach?

While everyone has their fingerprints on an organization’s culture, it is leadership that sets the underlying tone. What leaders say and do, fail to say or do, what they tolerate and acknowledge and praise, or define as unacceptable, will create the framework for internal and external perceptions and expectations.

Many clients have expressed the challenge of how to drive results while being compassionate of remote working challenges, coupled with increasing stress and burnout. You can both express care and foster accountability … by how you show up.

Caring is not coddling. When we coddle, we avoid having real, meaningful and respectful conversations – the kinds that build relationships. Those kinds of conversations are vulnerable and full of caring and kindness. Those kinds of conversations hold the power to change trajectories.

Caring is working with someone to figure how he/she can be successful. It’s carving out the time and summoning the courage to offer support, guidance and perspective, even when it is a hard conversation. After all, your success is entwined in theirs.

We can also demonstrate we care by showing up in the spirit of service – listening, empathizing, and acknowledging. Acknowledgment is a sign of respect, not agreement.

Mind your emotional wake

While I do not recommend coddling or walking on eggshells in conversations, I do suggest minding your “emotional wake” – that energy your presence creates. It’s about owning the impact you have and creating an environment that fosters high regard, initiative-taking, accountability and innovation. It’s being willing to own how effectively you communicate your needs and expectations and how actively you engage in providing feedback. How do people feel when they walk away from an interaction with you? Inspired or deflated? Challenged to give their best or confused?

Model the behavior you want to see. I’ve often heard leaders poke fun at themselves by saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” While we are all a work in progress, the gap between what is said and what is demonstrated by behavior creates cognitive dissonance. That “integrity gap” undermines your credibility and diminishes your team’s capacity. Employees are more likely to mirror what you do rather than what you say. It’s imperative that leaders do the real work of showing up as they want others to behave.

If you want your team members to own their responsibilities, you need to demonstrate how you are driving results in your domain. That likely requires reporting on progress, following through on your commitments, and not pointing fingers, blaming or making excuses when things don’t go as planned.

Consider the importance of team conversations (i.e., meetings). I was talking with a colleague whose husband observed her contentious meeting. He asked her how she was doing after the meeting, noting that it must be exhausting to deal with that kind of intensity. In his eavesdropping, he observed the male participants being on the offense, pushing hard, while the female team members sounded defensive. If you were the leader on that call, what could you have done to shift the tone to one that is more inclusive and productive? Your presence in meetings can guide the team through collaboration, brainstorming, decision-making, or sticky discussions. Reading the interactions and emotions of your team can help you facilitate constructive conversations.

Do you create a psychologically safe environment for people to participate and offer new ideas and ask naive questions?

Do you slow your pace enough to create space for others to engage?

Do you monitor time to bring the dialogue to a close with a clear summary and action items?

What role do I need to step into? You may be called on to coach, facilitate, make tough decisions, or be a sounding board. Understanding what the situation needs in any given moment is an art form. Learning how to show up genuinely while flexing your style to connect and inspire is a compelling way to lead.

How we show up each day, with each task, in each conversation, sets the stage.

Asking yourself how you want to show up brings awareness and intentionality to the mindset and presence you want. It puts you in a position of power and possibilities! It reminds us that it is both a choice and an invitation for personal accountability, alignment with one’s values, and being responsible for getting one’s needs met. Consider it your personal brand in action.

How you show up influences the vibe. What kind of energy do you want to bring?


Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or