It’s not just what you say or how you say it

Rachel Rider
Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant

In case you’re wondering, everyone in the room already knows how you’re feeling. This is why it’s so important to not only be aware of how we show up, but also intentional about it. 

Simone, VP of Ux at a well-known tech company, is a perfect example:

“I don’t know where to begin!” Simone burst out as she paced back and forth in front of her stand-up desk, crossing and uncrossing her arms.

“Well, where would you like to focus?” Alison, her MettaWorks coach, asked. 

“I don’t know… There’s so much—all these different things going on…” Simone had recently navigated a difficult issue requiring her to fire a longtime employee. 

“The thing with this employee…” Simone began. “The team’s all disrupted, everyone’s on edge… We’re behind on our biggest project…! Leadership, trust I’ll make it happen, but—I can’t get anyone to focus. Firing him was the right thing to do, but everyone liked him… So. Much. Drama.” 

Simone paused and turned toward the screen, burying her face in her hands. Through the situation leading up to the termination and since, she’d been spinning like this for several sessions—highly activated, in a repetitive cycle of scattered thoughts about her team’s distraction and declining effectiveness. 

Simone’s progress with her coach Alison had stalled as she continued to perseverate, repeating the same issues, never quite settling. 

“I just don’t understand! How can I show up as a thought partner with my peers, no problem, but then freeze when it comes to my team? And this mess? What is up with—” Simone shook her head and started to pace again.

One of the things that distinguish our methodology here at MettaWorks is what Alison did next

“I just want to check in with you,” Alison interjected gently. “Do you mind if I reflect something back?” 

“Sure,” Simone nodded. 

“As you’re talking, I’m starting to feel, in my body, like the early stages of a panic attack,” Alison said. 

Simone’s mouth opened in an “o” of surprise. 

“It feels like I can’t get enough air, my throat feels tight, and I feel almost shaky,” Alison continued. “My heart even feels like it’s beating faster…” 

We call this response body resonance. As coaches, when we feel something in our bodies, that often means we are picking something up from our client or someone else—if we didn’t feel that way before we interacted with them.

“As I was feeling this,” Alison continued, “it just made me wonder if that’s what’s going on for you. Because—the sensations are really intense. You can feel it in the room.” 

“Yes. Right. Oh, my God,” Simone confirmed, her relief palpable. “You just gave me language for something I haven’t been able to articulate. That’s it! That’s exactly what’s going on!” 

“Okay,” Alison said. “How does this feel as a place to focus?” 

Simone nodded. Then realization dawned over Simone’s face. “So, if I’m having this effect on you, what am I doing to my team??” she asked.

“Right,” Alison agreed. 

Simone sighed. “So what you’re saying is, my team isn’t distracted and missing deadlines because I fired their coworker… In fact, I may be contributing to the panic and chaos in the room?” 

Alison smiled. “Bingo. It’s nearly impossible to be intentional or strategic with that level of emotion in the room”

Crap,” Simone said, then smiled. For the second time that session, her relief was palpable. 

When her coach acknowledged the energy or “vibe” that Simone was putting out into the world, it completely changed the conversation. They could actually move past Simone’s spinning to begin unpacking her experience and get to the root cause of her anxiety and sense of paralysis, and her team’s resulting dynamics. 

Now solving the right problem, Alison could provide Simone with tools and techniques to down-regulate her nervous system so that when she walks into the room, she can set a different tone. (We’ll share some of those tools in future articles.) 

Though this MettaWorks coaching approach is unique, the body resonance Alison described and mirrored back is a common human experience. We all feel people’s energy. Thoughts and emotions both have energy, and those energetics impact us interpersonally. 

If you walk in cranky, everybody in the room knows. Likewise, if you walk in with a sense of ease, everybody picks up on that, too. It changes how they respond to you.

Everyone picks up on your energy as a leader, and it has a huge impact on any room you show up in, even virtually. This is why it is vital to be aware of it and in charge of how you show up. It matters even more than what you say.

Simone’s team members were picking up on her energy and responding accordingly even if no one had language for it. This new awareness helped her show up better with her team, so they were able to get back on track. 

It goes the other way, too: you can leverage body resonance, and read the energetics of interactions with your people. All this improves your relationships with them. And your relationships are what dictate your success at the executive level. 

If you’re ready to shift your energetics to take your leadership to the next level, let’s talk.  

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Rachel Rider
Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant

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