How do you show up?

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

When Joseph Tawadros came on stage at his concert last week, he took a moment to wordlessly be with the audience. He then played a single perfect note on his Oud that reverberated around the Melbourne Recital Centre. He showed up ready to go, with the intention to give us, the audience, the value we wanted. He continued as he started, with a world class performance.

It is a good analogy for the job of a leader. How often do you show up for a ‘performance’ and instead of being present to your audience you are attending to what was said in your last meeting, checking your messages or thinking about how to get out of this meeting as soon as possible? We are all guilty.

How we show up is even more important when meeting people for the first time. For more than fifteen years, psychologists Susan Fiske, Peter Glick and Amy Cuddy have been studying how people judge each other in first encounters. It seems that when we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions:

  1. “Can I trust this person?”
  2. “Can I respect this person?”

In their research, they refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively. In her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Cuddy suggests that while competence is highly valued, it is evaluated only after trust is established. It seems that warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you.

Cuddy says, Given all that, a funny thing happens when I ask people — students, friends, executives, artists — whether they’d rather be seen as trustworthy or competent: most choose the latter. Perfectly understandable, for two reasons. Competence is more easily measured in concrete, practical ways — it can be displayed on a résumé or performance record or test score, so we have a sense of control over how competent we seem. Also, while our trustworthiness and warmth benefit other people, we believe that our competence and strength directly benefit us.

One major clue she offers to help establish your trustworthiness in any first encounter is to shut up and listen. When Joseph Tawadros showed up at his concert, he tuned in to the audience and established their trust. They were not disappointed when he demonstrated his competence with a world class performance.

How do you show up?

Best regards, Brian

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