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Did You “Show Up” Today?

Not long ago, I was walking passed a parked van, and the signwriting on the side of the vehicle attracted my attention.  The van was advertising a small business that helps people to lift and shift heavy items, and it’s possible to hire the van and a driver for a fee.  The part which attracted my attention is highlighted below:

Van with the words "We Show Up" on the side, amongst other signwriting


The phrase “WE TURN UP!” was displayed proudly in capital letters on the side of the vehicle.  I stopped for a moment.  I found it amazing that the van owner felt it necessary to mention the fact that if a booking was made, she or he will actually show up.   Surely that is something that could be taken for granted?  Surely this is a fundamental part of the job and something that a customer can expect?


When Showing Up Isn’t The Norm…

But then it dawned on me—perhaps in that industry it is common for people not to arrive, leaving people in the lurch and leading to disappointment and frustration for clients.  Perhaps it is common for people to take on too much work, ‘over-book’ and overcommit themselves.  If this is the case, then being the one company that guarantees to show up could be a real differentiating factor, and one that will increase repeat business and customer loyalty whilst driving better outcomes for the business and its clients.

This got me thinking.  Does this just apply to removal firms?

Shortly after seeing the van, this idea was buzzing around in my head as I met a colleague for lunch in a local cafe. We were there for about an hour, and it was an extremely busy day.  On several occasions, we struggled to get the waiting staff’s attention. The cafe staff that served us were friendly enough—but they seemed to be pre-occupied and ‘going through the motions’.  It almost felt like they were looking right through us—they were (understandably) wanting to serve people quickly and get on to their next tasks.   As a customer, that didn’t feel great.  My mind wandered back to the sign-writing on the van. It was almost like, whilst they were physically present, their attention was elsewhere.  Their mind had wandered to the next task (or a different task).  They weren’t truly present and didn’t appear to be fully listening.


It Isn’t Just Cafes: How Many People “Show Up” At Meetings?

This pattern isn’t unique to cafes (or vans).  I’m sure we’ve all seen a similar pattern in different business contexts, where people are physically present but appear to be mentally elsewhere.  Perhaps they are multitasking on a conference call, or thinking about what to have for dinner, during a meeting or workshop.  I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of checking our phones during a meeting, as we just need to see whether an important e-mail has come in.   Multitasking is quickly becoming the norm and almost the expectation.  Yet are meetings really productive when half the delegates are responding to e-mails and only partially listening?  I suspect that deep down we know that if we are flipping between an instant messenger, our e-mail, a document, all whilst trying to concentrate on a conference call, then our attention on all of these activities is reduced.   Our listening suffers, and the danger of misunderstanding increases.     And I am certain that almost everyone reading this will have let this happen at least once…


Whilst some tasks might lend themselves better to multitasking, perhaps there is value in us considering which activities really lend themselves to effective multitasking (and which do not).    In reality, there is rarely a lack of activity in organisations, but what is more common is a lack of focus.    Just like the van owner in the example above, maybe there is an advantage to us committing only to the activities we have capacity for and resolving to fully “show up” for the important stuff.


How do you help to ensure that everyone is ‘present’ during meetings and workshops?  Do you have any tips?   Please add a comment below, and lets keep the conversation flowing!


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About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

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2 thoughts on “Did You “Show Up” Today?”

  1. Basically, I think it’s a lack of professional courtesy at the root of this. Courtesy means treating people with mutual respect and is professional behaviour that works across social class.

    When employers or clients don’t get back to you after interviews is an all too common example of courtesy failure!

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thanks so much for your response.

      That is an interesting take on things, and of course employers (or recruitment consultants) not getting back is absolutely bad practice. And there is a strong case for professional respect and courtesy across all contexts.

      However, I wonder whether the pattern is even wider than this, and addresses how ‘present’ people are generally. Whether people really ‘show up’ to meetings. There are so many distractions competing for our time these days For example, someone on a conference call may be torn between being attentive (and being courteous to those on the call) and responding to an urgent instant messanger (and being courteous to the person who urgently requires information). In some organisations, “multi-tasking” seems to be the expectation — but this leads to divided attention (the irony being that the meeting will probably be held several times because nobody was really ‘there’ in the first place :))

      Focus, is so often, what is lacking.

      An interesting area. Thanks so much for your input!

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