Leaders: Is Your "Work" Self the Real Deal?

(Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking post was originally published by our valued content partners at SwitchandShift. We are republishing it for the TalentCulture community, with permission. Why? Not because we’re seeking more attention from Google — but because Ted’s message is important. It bears repeating.)

For years now, I have devoted my waking hours to interacting with leaders from all walks of life.

From bootstrapped young ventures to huge business conglomerates. Middle management newbies to C-suite veterans. Non-profits and for-profits, alike. You name it — if it’s about leadership, I’m there. Understanding what makes leaders tick is literally what I’ve been doing for a living for as long as I can remember.

A Troubling Trend

Along the way, I’ve seen a few patterns — and this is one issue that comes up again and again. Sooner or later, at some point in a conversation, a leader will say something like this to me: “I’m one person at home, but another at work.”

Sound familiar? Try this scenario on for size…

At home, I’m generous and giving.
At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
At home, with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy one another’s company, typically with no agenda.
At home, when I volunteer, I get lost in my work. When I’m done, I feel good for hours afterward. It’s the highlight of my week!
At home, I’m joyful.
At home, I’m the real me.
I wish I could be the real me all the time. If only!

On the other hand…

At work, I’m analytical and objective. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count.
At work, if you can’t prove it with hard data, don’t bring it up!
At work, I’m guarded. You have to watch your back.
At work, I make the tough decisions. It’s simply part of being a leader.
At work, I only give to my peers in strategic ways, if it’ll benefit me, too. I don’t want to be taken advantage of!
At work, a lot of my time is spent on pointless tasks. That’s why they call it work, isn’t it?
At work, I work my tail off. It’s draining. That’s why they pay me, right?
At work, I’m a stripped down version of the real me.

Does any of this ring a bell? Maybe a little too close to home?

The fact is, we’ve all felt it. Actually, many of us have felt nothing but these feelings throughout our careers. Many of us (especially those who cut our business teeth in the 20th century) have internalized the Industrial Age management philosophy still prevalent today. Many of us who are in this boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way — and we don’t even recognize that some leaders are actually living this better way, right now.

Give Your “Work Self” Permission to Be Fully Human

It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say “permission”? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful — at work, at home, wherever we are. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what you say or do to show them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped — those who would rather be “right” than be happy.

Some people are already on board with this whole-self-all-the-time concept. They’re ahead of the curve. If you are, too, then there’s your chorus. Focus on them. It’s important to gain new insights from their experience and let them recharge your batteries.

Your Reality Is Your Story

The vast middle? Those are what I like to call the “willing skeptics.” They aren’t sold on your message, but they’re open to being convinced, if you can back your claims with examples. Gather those examples! Share them early and often! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader does. Be a storyteller. Statistics won’t get you where you need to go. Examples of thriving companies running on modern, human principles? That’s what the willing skeptics are looking for. Put your willing skeptics in the position to think, “If they can do it, and they’re like us, then I bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.

People are hungry for positive, uplifting change. The 70% of workers who are disengaged and disaffected? They know there must be a better way, and they’re on the lookout for companies that are living it. They’re polishing their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize how they lead — the corporate equivalent of the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago.

The thing that doesn’t show up in surveys (but should) is this: It isn’t just workers who are unhappy. Even leaders yearn for a better way. They yearn to bring their whole selves to work – to bring their souls with them when they walk through the company doors each morning.

Is that you? Would you like to be a complete you — the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you — all day, every day — and not just when you’re at home?

Here Is Your Permission

Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ clothing company, Patagonia. Chouinard is the author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read hundreds). It’s a blueprint for how a company can grow to incredible success by embracing the “whole” of everyone in the organization — rather than just their backs, hands and left-brains.

Chouinard founded a company where bringing your soul to work is baked right in as an essential ingredient of the organization. It has served them well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.

And so I repeat — bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness. It’s also essential to the success of your company, as we tread ever deeper into this more “human” century.

(Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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