Showing Up: A Language for Accountability

“Showing Up” has been top of mind for the last month; it’s a great concept to muse on during a time when we’re constantly asked to take stock of where we’re at, where we’re going, where we are spending time, energy, and attention.  While “showing up” sits nicely under that umbrella, it also is a phrase that our organization adopted a few years ago and continues to say in our leadership culture.

This piece is not intended to be the definitive statement about how to use “showing up” at Vestalia or what it means, it’s intended to orient us around one way that we use it.  Check it out, think about it, share your thoughts with your team.  I’d love to hear them as well – does this all sound familiar?  Is it totally foreign?  What do you agree or disagree with?  How was reading it useful or a waste of your time?

Okay, enough questions.  Thank you for reading and have a great 2019!  -Becky

Showing Up: A Language for Accountability

by Becky Lemon, 1/2/2019

In our leadership culture at Vestalia Hospitality, the phrase “showing up” is linked to accountability.  We hold ourselves and each other accountable to energies and attitudes that are not easy to quantify, and need a way to talk about those intangibles.  Being able to do this for one another is an essential part of being in a relationship or on a team; when we can speak honestly and openly about how we’re experiencing one another:

  • We clear out judgments that are keeping us distracted and disconnected

  • Our creativity increases because we’re bringing more of our true selves and capabilities to the table

  • We are contributing to each other’s growth and development by pointing out where we’re on or off a path that leads to success and happiness and offering support to get there if it’s needed

  • We’re opening up a new awareness from which to make more informed choices about how to act

How is “showing up” part of the language of accountability?

Values, policies, ground rules, purpose, vision, conditions of satisfaction – all of these can be set and aligned around, which gives everyone involved a framework for desired behavior and energy to be held accountable to. For example, one of our values is “Heart.”  We can all sense when we’re bringing heart to our work and our interactions and when we’re not. We can all read our colleagues’ actions, behaviors, and attitudes to determine their level of heart as well. While it might be easy to outwardly acknowledge and celebrate when heart is high, how do we talk about heart when we think it is missing?  Sharing our perceptions of what we’ve observed, of how someone is “showing up,” gives us language to do that, and it can sound something like this (and a lot like “speaking your truth without blame or judgment”):

Holding someone else accountable:

“I don’t feel a lot of urgency from you lately on this project, and I sense a lot of frustration from you when I hear you talk about it.  It feels like you’re showing up with more ambivalence than heart. What’s going on from your point of view? How do you feel like you’re showing up?”

Holding yourself accountable:

“I’m super excited to take on this new responsibility, and yet I can’t seem to get started.  I’m showing up with a lot of excuses and finding ways to prioritize other things. I think I need to talk to someone to help me get going.”

If you’ve had practice with this language, how has it worked for you?  How do you make it yours so it feels and sounds natural to give? If you haven’t had practice with it, how could you start recognizing and sharing how you’re showing up and how others are showing up for you?  How does the level of support and trust between people affect giving and receiving feedback like this? What happens when this kind of feedback isn’t present on your team?

How do you use “showing up” when you don’t have a shared value or expectation set?

Every team can develop their own language around general behaviors, attitudes, and energies to communicate to one another about how they’re being perceived.  This is a way to take big, complex observations and streamline them so they can be expressed with intention and received with mutual understanding. If you’ve got difficult feedback to give, this language also helps decrease the fear of sharing it.  At Vestalia, we’ve used the names of the archetypes from Angeles Arrien’s Four Fold Way to paint a picture of how we are experiencing our own and other people’s actions, behaviors, verbal and non-verbal communication, and energy without going into every. single. detail. For example:

  • If I’m yelling at my team and using my title and rhetoric to control a situation, someone could tell me I’m showing up as the Intimidator.  This would tell me that it feels to them like I’m trying to force my way on them instead of inviting their voice and inspiring their commitment.

  • I can thank my colleague for showing up as the Healer when they responded with care and understanding instead of blame to a big mistake I made that ended up making them do extra work.

  • I can pause before sending an email that is punctuated with leading questions that imply a right or wrong answer (Did you mean to do this?  Could you do this instead of that?) and ask myself to show up as the Teacher who asks open questions that help people find their own answers (Why did you choose to do that this way?  What other options could you consider?).

  • I have to tell a team member who reports to me that their behavior is causing conflict on the team and I’m not sure how to do it.  I agree that the behavior is problematic and I want to show up as the Visionary (i.e. tell it like it is without blame or judgment), I think they’ll need me to show up as the Healer as well (i.e. see them and their story with compassion).  What do I need to do to show up as both?

If you and your team aren’t using the Four Fold Way to talk about how you and each other are showing up, what language do you have?   How do you invite other people into this language to ensure they understand it the way you do? If you don’t have a shared language, how is that affecting communication and accountability?

Accountability is a big pillar in our leadership culture.  While it’s easy to agree on the benefit of holding each other to the standards and values we’re aligned around, it can often be difficult to do- especially when we’re giving feedback about “how we think someone is.”  When we communicate our perceptions in the language of “how I/you are showing up,” we are holding up a mirror that helps us and others see our actions, behaviors, and energy in a more comprehensive light. We can agree with what we’re seeing, we can be surprised by it, it can illuminate the gap between who we thought we were being and who we actually were or it can confirm that we’re walking our walk and talking our talk.  The key is that with this knowledge we can learn, grow, and make choices from that greater understanding. Talking about how we’re all showing up is an act of care and support. How will you invite more of it into your life?

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