The Power of Showing Up

Showing up begins long before you stand at the start. Prove yourself an exception in a world where people talk more than act. Intent without follow-through is hollow. Disappoint yourself enough times and empty is how you feel. Make yourself proud. Fill yourself up. Show up.   —Gina Greenlee, Postcards and Pearls: Life Lessons from Solo Moments on the Road

I n our world of 24×7 news, tweets, posts, pins, pics, email, video, and podcasts, it has become increasingly difficult to get anyone’s attention. The deluge of information is further exacerbated by a media-induced ADD that has caused us to consume content in soundbites, 120 characters, clips, and snippets. Traditional news outlets complained of this fact in the recent election by pointing out that people can now choose a source of information based on what it communicates, regardless of quality of reporting, and effectively tune-out all other noise. Of course, people have always chosen their preferred source of information, the point is that everyone with a Twitter handle (about 317 million active this quarter) has become a source of information. The volumes are truly staggering.

Part of the spectacle of social media revolves around “friends,” “followers,” and “fans.” We build our following to give and receive information. Much of the interaction in our circles revolves around “likes,” “retweets,” and “shares.” It would seem that our contact points are growing and we are now connected to so many more than we would have been otherwise. Or are we?

I suppose a “like” or “follow” might be construed as a connection but a curious thing has happened as our networks have grown, we’ve reduced our interactions to button clicking on posts and shares, often without even digging any further than the headline.  As easy as these mediums make it to interact with one another, they are really more of a platform for blasting our voice, image, or product into an increasingly disinterested world. As our networks have grown, our circles have contracted.

As our networks have grown, our circles have  contracted.

Sure, people may comment. But who is commenting? There are two types: your immediate circle who has a deeper connection with you or the broader world that may happen to see something you post and will typically only react if it irritates them. Granted, there are many different levels of “quality” in our social media networks. Some networks have a strong community based on shared interests. Many are much looser connections. To further complicate the situation, posts and shares get moved along the information superhighway to others who may or may not notice, like, or share but still register as a “view;” the mysterious “impression” we see referenced in social media ad bundles. Is 5000 views good?  Perhaps.

A side-effect of this circus and ensuing information overload is that it has gotten increasingly difficult to get people to “show up.” I use this term very broadly to describe how we engage with others. It can be seen in all types of interactions: potential transactions, requests for information, efforts to entertain, cries for help,offers to share, invitations to participate, and on and on and on.  Let me provide some examples:

  • Hiring. Over the last year, we’ve posted about a dozen positions. Each position has had great response – people submitting resumes expressing interest. Our single biggest challenge with hiring? Getting people to show up for the interview. Yes, those who have accepted invitations to physically interview simply not showing. This cycle has repeated itself at an alarming rate.
  • Buying. Over the last 12 months, we’ve had a number of projects within our companies for which we needed to purchase a product or help from another company. These projects ranged from construction, to equipment, to consulting. It has been staggering how incredibly unresponsive vendors have been to requests for information or efforts to purchase from them. In some cases, we’ve seen similar issues to the hiring issue above in which suppliers simply don’t show for appointments to sell or do work. One might argue that they must be so busy that they can’t do any more work but I think there is something else going on. I think it is a combination of information overload, the capacity to manage it, and possibly a lack of motivation.
  • Inviting. Throughout the year, we hold numerous events ranging from informational to social to launch-type events. Traditionally, we would mail physical invitations to prospective attendees. As time has gone on, the norm has evolved to emailed invitations and then promotion via social media. We generally get a good response but I’m always surprised at the number of people who simply don’t respond. In many cases, folks who I thought had stronger connections to our company or people. Are they not seeing the invitations, posts, tweets, and shares? Or, is it just another data point that appears on the horizon and disappears as quickly?

There is power in responding, in showing up. It is a gift. Yes, there has always been a continuum of folks who show up or not in varying degrees. The sad thing is that it has become easier than ever to show up, acknowledge, and engage with other human beings, yet, so often we don’t. We no longer have any excuses. We are a click, like, share, email, or retweet away from telling someone else that we noticed. We don’t even have to talk with them. We don’t even have to dial a number.

The sad thing is that it has become easier than ever to show up, acknowledge, and engage with other human beings, yet, so often we don’t.

Now, look at who is showing up for you. That is your circle. Those are the people who give a hoot about anything happening in your life. You know of whom I speak. They are the ones who are there whether they need you or not. They are the ones who want to see you succeed. They are the ones who like, share, retweet, or simply respond when asked. What about the rest of us? No, we can’t be intimate with everyone. We can’t engage in the same way with each person in our network. But can we do better? Can we show up just a little more when asked? If we can’t, then perhaps we need to consider why we remain a friend or follower and what we expect of those who friend or follow us.

That is your circle. They are the ones who are there whether they need you or not.

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