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The Surprising Truth About Humility and Leadership

Humility has become a hot topic in the leadership realm, and quite a few people believe it’s the key to being an effective leader. They are right, and they are wrong. Humility is an incredibly important trait, but many people have a faulty perception of it.

When most people envision a humble person, they think of someone who is self-effacing and responds to a compliment with “Aw shucks! That’s awfully kind of you to say.” This isn’t true humility, though.

At its core, humility is about living as close to the truth as possible and being “down to earth.” It comes from the Latin word “humus,” a noun referring to nutrient-rich parts of the soil that help plants grow. Somewhere along the line, we stripped humility of its power. It became synonymous with passive, meek behavior.

There’s tremendous strength in humility. Humble people are more open to outside opinions and willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake. They’re more inclined to self-reflection, which allows them to look at interactions and pinpoint how they could have done a better job. Genuinely humble people understand their limitations and constantly strive to improve themselves because they want to be better. More importantly, humble people are confident in their abilities.

In other words, humility can make for great leaders who are open to outside opinions, recognize limitations, and are confident in their strengths. Think of a friend or colleague who listens to and heeds others’ opinions while exuding a calm, quiet confidence. That is the picture of humility.

The Perils of an Undergrown Ego

People who “aw shucks” their way through life aren’t humble — they’re actually exhibiting a form of vanity. That self-effacing attitude might seem diametrically opposed to vanity, but they both relate to a lack of self-awareness.

Vanity can be defined as “inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance” as well as “something that is vain, empty, or valueless.” Think of these two situations as an overgrown ego (excessive pride) and an undergrown ego (self-effacing).

Someone who has an undergrown ego fails to see the real value of his or her contributions. This often comes from an external locus of control, which is fancy psychology jargon for basing your decisions on what others will think. The U.S. is rampant with this issue — people frequently won’t do what is right because they’re afraid others will dislike their decision.

This fear can have serious ramifications in the workplace, causing people to speak up less, take fewer risks, and overstay their welcome in dead-end jobs. Essentially, workers with undergrown egos become doormats and console themselves with the notion that they’re being the “better person.”

Guess what? They’re just as much to blame as the people who undervalue them. There’s a certain level of respect everyone should be afforded. Consistent failure to demand that respect is a sure sign you struggle with low self-esteem. Considering an undergrown ego often stems from a fear of rejection, it’s ironic that self-effacing individuals typically face rejection because of their low self-esteem.

In addition to frequent rejection, an undergrown ego can lead to fewer promotions, lower salaries, and a lack of credit where credit is due. And don’t forget the toll it can take on your personal life. People will continually take advantage of you (because you’ll let them), and you could struggle in the dating realm because of a lack of confidence.

I could go on and on about the costs of an underdeveloped ego, but you probably get the drift. There are serious drawbacks to an excessively self-effacing attitude.

Grow the Undergrown

If we have an underdeveloped ego at one end of the spectrum and an overdeveloped ego at the opposite end, the best course is to find the middle ground. But how exactly does one “right-size” an ego? The following steps can set you up for success:

  1. Stop rationalizing. Right about now, you might be brushing off the notion that you have an undersized ego. Perhaps you believe you’re “just a nice person.” Or maybe you insist it would be rude to accentuate your strengths in the workplace. These are telltale signs that you’re trying to rationalize your behavior. Stop it. Stop it now.
  2. Focus on the possible. I don’t know about you, but I love to think about possibilities. Concentrating on what’s possible in any situation can pull you out of a spiral of doubt and present you with options. Instead of letting rationalization win, you can choose to move forward.

Admittedly, making the right choice isn’t always easy. But even if you screw things up, at least you’ll know that you were confident enough to make a decision in the first place. That knowledge puts you one step closer to right-sizing your ego. Think about how your relationships would improve if you had the courage to take control of your own life.

  1. Stay positive. Over the past year, I started to practice gratitude. I focus on everything I’m grateful for God providing, which can help put things in perspective. This mental shift helps me remain mindful of the good things in life and stay positive despite anything life throws my way.

Instead of worrying about what might go wrong in any given situation, think about what could go right. Keep negative thoughts in check, and spin things in a positive light if you find yourself feeling pessimistic.

  1. Be true to yourself. Spend time working to understand who you are at your core. Internal reflection will shine a spotlight on your main competencies, giving you the opportunity to practice and refine what makes you, well, you. The more you focus on your strengths, the more confidence you’ll gain in your abilities.

Get to know yourself better. Ask yourself, “What am I good at?” “Where am I happiest?” and “What do I value?” Defining these characteristics can uncover your limitations. Once everything is on the table, you can figure out ways to use your skills to push past your limits.

  1. Take baby steps. Humans can only change one or two things at a time. In fact, it takes about 66 days for any new behavior to become a habit — and that’s only after doing the action with some regularity.

Don’t try to change everything at once. Pinpoint the most important thing you want to change, and focus on it for at least two months. Once you develop your desired habit, move on to the next challenge.

  1. Forgive yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. We all do. But confident people forgive themselves and move on. Give yourself license to do the same.

View each mistake as an opportunity to learn a lesson. The key is to understand why you messed up and change your approach before tackling a similar task again. True failure lies in not dusting yourself off and trying again.

Humility is all about looking at the truth of yourself: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Genuinely humble people are able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, using them both to move things forward and accomplish goals. Ditch the “aw, shucks” attitude and spend some time getting to know yourself. Your ego will appreciate the tender, loving care, and you will appreciate the results.

Photo Credit: Stefan Semerdjiev Flickr via Compfight cc

6 Ways Vision Will Inspire Your Employees And Culture

Even as kids, we developed radar on leadership. Consider the classic schoolyard game, Follow the Leader. Everyone has to do exactly what the leader does, or they’re out. Growing up, I remember watching that game dissolve time after time. The leader would start doing scary climbs or huge leaps, and the followers felt put at risk. The leader would make seemingly pointless changes in direction, the followers got frustrated. Finally someone would yell, What are you doing? You’re a terrible leader! And set off a culture mutiny.

Since we left the playground for the workplace, what’s changed? Not much. Though these days, vision’s become a buzzword — to the point where She’s a leader with a real vision can simply mean Nice marketing strategy. But still: effective leadership, particularly at the juncture between the old ways of working and the new, requires far more than a charismatic, alpha personality, and far more than a good PR team.

Here’s how to hone its critical ingredient, Vision, To Stay On Pace With The Future of Work:

1) Vision Is Mission Plus Tech Strategy

True vision involves a clear mission that informs every strategic action and decision. Bring that into a talent management context for a moment. If a CEO’s vision includes attracting the best and the brightest minds to the organization on a global scale, a visionary talent strategy will include a platform that’s social and mobile, agile and timely, shaped with this clear target group in mind. If it doesn’t, the strategy isn’t supporting the vision.

2) Vision Should Come From Within

Consider our iconic leaders. They appear to be so filled with their vision that they’re incandescent with it; lit from within. Steve Jobs is a great example: he lived and breathed his vision; such a part of Apple’s mission that “Think Different” could have had a black turtleneck as a flag. Such distilled strength gives a brand coherency and momentum. But to transmit your vision to others and inspire them, you first have to be filled with it yourself.

3) Vision Is Creative

What makes a leader stand out is that their ability to conceive of an objective that may not even exist: stores serving nothing but fancy coffee, cars a working family can afford to buy, a system of storing data without physical form or shape, yet nearly infinite capacity and capabilities. Then, when it comes to problem solving, where one person sees a dead end, the leader sees a road ahead. Bolstered by an unshakeable faith in their own vision, leaders see obstacles as opportunities.

4) Vision Takes Tenacity

It takes tenacity to adhere to a vision and defend it against the prospect of failure. But leaders roll up their sleeves and the world throws in behind them. Consider the recent news that insurance giant Aetna and retail mammoth Walmart are both raising wages is bound to cause ripples in the pond, as businesses are forced to similarly act in order to keep pace and attract employees — that’s one of the byproducts of a firmer job market. But the cost of these decisions is immense: Walmart, for once, has 1.3 million U.S. workers. It’s not hard to imagine the resistance such a strategy could come up against within the organization, and how hard fought the battle to get it done.

5) Vision Takes Vision

No, it’s not a typo: vision requires a sense of the big picture and a laser-sharp view of the future. This kind of foresight takes practice, but it’s part of what keeps the train on the track. Leaders need to be able to look at past performances, whether successes or failures, and be able to use that to predict future outcomes. Further, a leader can envision more than one possible outcome, and still have it adhere to their stated objective.

6) Vision Requires Communication

None of this will go anywhere if a leader doesn’t also have the tools to convey that vision to the organization, and inspire them to get the job done. That may also be why marketing has taken such a hold on the term: marketing is about creating the most engaging expression of an idea. Implicit in our ability to convey our vision is that vital compact that leadership needs to have with employees: one of consideration, and inclusion, and respect. Together, we can do it, as the slogan goes. And that, drives employee engagement and helps talent attraction and retention across the board.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Why Accountability Matters in the Workplace

A 2014 Partners in Leadership study on workplace accountability revealed some contradictory results: 82% of respondents said they had no ability to hold others accountable, but about 9 out of 10 employees cited accountability as one of the top development needs they wanted to see at their organization.

Employees want to keep their peers accountable to the demands of their jobs, in the same way they want to recognize them when they do good work. But when employees have no system of accountability in place, things can very quickly fall apart. This is why accountability matters, and why you need to invest in it.

‘Mistakes Were Made’

The phrase “mistakes were made” has been dropped by politicians so often that books have been written about it. It makes great use of passive voice, but it also speaks to a general lack of accountability in a system. Does the person uttering it want to cover their own skin, or are they part of a system that has no way of holding anyone responsible for their actions? Either way, it’s a cop-out. The phrase acknowledges problems only after they’ve been discovered, it holds no one responsible for them and it tries to move on from those problems without anyone actually having learned anything.

Why do I highlight this phrase? Because it’s a perfect example of why accountability matters. When employees (and let’s be fair, managers do this too) don’t hold themselves responsible for their actions, it prevents anyone from learning from them. This ends up perpetuating those problems until someone comes along and points these problems out. It also creates a culture of mistrust among employees.

For example, a 2013 survey found that 11% of managers said at least half of their employees avoid taking responsibility. Do half of employees really shrug off their mistakes? My point is that it doesn’t matter; what matters is that those managers believe they do, and that’s the distrust I’m talking about. That distrust will lead to bigger problems down the road unless something gets done. But what do we do about this?

Accountability Is a Culture Problem

I really can’t stress enough how much of a culture problem accountability is. When no one trusts each other to do the work they’re assigned, employee morale takes a hit. Employees feel like they can’t trust their bosses. They feel devalued. And when employees aren’t valued, they’re less likely to be engaged with their work; the American Psychological Association’s 2018 Work and Well-Being Survey found that 91% of employees who feel valued at their job are motivated to do their best, compared with 41% of those who don’t feel valued. So it’s a domino effect: Low accountability leads to mistrust, which leads to low morale, which leads to worker devaluation, which leads to low engagement, which leads to low productivity.

So the first step to creating more accountability in the workplace is to revamp your culture so that accountability fits within it. Make sure employees know that they’ll be accountable for their work by creating guidelines about how you’ll monitor their productivity. Set weekly goals and deliverables so that employees are motivated to complete tasks on a regular basis. Most importantly, make sure you’re following your own rules. Minda Zetlin offered some great advice: “Perhaps the best way to create a standup organization is to lead by example. Make sure employees understand what you expect of them, and that you’re holding yourself to the same high standard. Follow through on your promises, own up to your mistakes, and give feedback even when it isn’t easy.”

Balancing Accountability and Autonomy

Earlier I mentioned the need to monitor employee productivity, but the idea is important enough to expand upon it. Just how do you track someone’s productivity? Do you monitor their every action, making sure they’re always on-task and getting results?

I wouldn’t advise it. Being on top of your employees like that is a recipe for disaster, and is likely to cause even more distrust in the workplace. No one wants to be micromanaged. Plus, the second you have to leave on business they’re back to their old habits. So it really doesn’t fix anything.

The key to accountability is to passively track work without being overbearing. Have employees create to-do lists (whether they write them down or you implement a software solution) for the things they’re directly responsible for. Then leave them alone. Autonomy can be a productivity booster in the right situation, and accountability means nothing without it.

When you’re micromanaging that’s not accountability. Part of accountability is responsibility. Let them make mistakes. If they’re slacking, give them feedback on it. If their lack of work is a consistent problem, that’s when you address it.

Accountability matters because not having it means no one can be held responsible. Creating accountability, then, is about creating a culture where people value responsibility, and where people understand that accountability involves a certain degree of autonomy. Accountability is important, but when implementing it into your workplace, make sure you’re giving employees as much as you’re asking from them.

This post was originally published in October 2015. It was updated in July 2019.

How To Encourage An Entrepreneurial Spirit At Work

What does Joe from accounting have in common with Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Beyonce? He might not have the dance moves down and he’s probably never seriously considered moving to Mars, but maybe he shares these leaders’ entrepreneurial spirit.

Take note next time an employee advocates implementing new software or starts questioning the current budget breakdown. Embracing change, taking initiative, and risking failure are all signs of an entrepreneurial spirit—and encouraging that mindset in your employees can result in huge benefits for your company.

Traditionally, we think of innovation coming from the top down. It’s the CEO who has the vision, right? Conversely, startups are commonly associated with a company-wide culture of entrepreneurial energy—a smaller organization means employees have more contact with the founders and so a kind of creative contagion takes place. But leaders at larger organizations can also inspire an entrepreneurial spirit in those they manage or supervise.

When every employee feels empowered to experiment with approaches, offer new ideas, and question the status quo, better ideas are borne—and productivity and profits margins naturally increase. So whether your focus is on creating a strong workplace culture or you have your eye trained on the bottom line, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your employees just makes good business sense. Here’s how to do it:

Hire Carefully

When it comes to growing your company, you’re looking for entrepreneurial spirit—not entrepreneurs. Hire the latter and, before you know it, you’ll be back to reviewing resumes. But if you choose your questions carefully, you can discern whether a potential employee’s passion can be harnessed for your company’s benefit, or if it will forever be directed towards his own projects. Consider asking what concerns a candidate has regarding your company. The answer will reveal how committed he is to making your business better, as well as how willing he might be to offer feedback that challenges the status quo—a sure sign of an entrepreneurial spirit.

Empower Employees To Take Risks

That means creating an environment where it’s safe to fail. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, offers the example of an aerial trapeze artist: provide a net and your performer will attempt new, ever more challenging feats. To foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the workplace, you need to ensure a similar net is in place. Never reject an idea out of the gate—instead, thoughtfully discuss it. Even if the suggestion is eventually turned down, your employee will understand why and be more likely to provide additional feedback in the future.

Trust Employees To Rise To The Challenge

When a suggestion makes sense, ensure the initiating employee is involved in the follow-through. People feel a natural sense of ownership over their ideas and co-opting them will only result in a future reluctance to share. Connect your employee with the necessary resources to realize her suggestion and watch her entrepreneurial spirit take root.

Publicly Recognize Employees – Sometimes

Not everyone craves credit. It’s important to offer quieter employees a more suitable platform to share their ideas—maybe even anonymously. Consider leaving a suggestion box in a quiet corner of the office. While you’ll still want to acknowledge these contributions regularly, an anxious employee can take heart knowing his name will not be attached to any idea he offers. In time (and if you follow step two on this list!) quieter employees may become more comfortable letting their entrepreneurial spirit show.

Practice Transparency

Michael Kerr, president of Humour at Work, says it best: “If employees are being asked to think like owners, then they need the same level of information that owners receive.” An open and honest dialogue is key to letting an entrepreneurial spirit shine through. Hold nothing back, and your employees won’t either.

In Conclusion

For employees with an entrepreneurial spirit, work is more than just their nine-to-five. It’s something that provides real purpose, provided their contributions are supported and appreciated. By encouraging innovation in your own organization, you’ll keep these employees where you want them—on your team, and not the competition’s. In return, you’ll see higher productivity and profits—and more importantly, you’ll get to come to work every day with people as inspired, passionate, and creative as you are.

 

Image: bigstock

Build on Strengths, Avoid Weaknesses

At your next set of performance reviews, what are you going to talk about with your employees? You may discuss what goals were met, next year’s objectives, or where their performance needs improvement. But new research suggests that more than fixing flaws, managers should be concerned with building on strengths.  In a recent Forbes article, Joseph Folkman shares research that reveals that “70-80% of leaders and employees benefit more from improving what they are doing right.

If someone on your team is a great writer but lousy at spreadsheets, the tendency is to try to help the employee improve his or her spreadsheet skills. A better practice is to hone this individual’s writing skills. People are less likely to make huge strides in something they’re bad at or hate doing, yet there is a common notion that doing more of those actions builds a more well-rounded employee. On the contrary, as Folkman says, our strengths are what make us successful. The following tips will help you learn your employees’ strengths, build on them, and ultimately reach more goals with your team.

1. Be a good listener

Performance reviews should be a dialogue, a time for managers and employees to have an honest discussion about what hinders performance and what gets the most positive results. Talk to your employees about areas where you see them struggling, as well as where they see trouble for themselves. Explore what they do that has the most impact, what they love doing, and where those intersect. Let your employees give honest feedback, and listen well — chances are they already know where their strengths lie.

Ask them to relate their feedback to examples of actions they’ve performed and successful initiatives in which they’ve participated, then do the same with your own feedback. Grounding the conversation in real examples helps illuminate the path forward.

2. Cultivate strengths

Don’t let your conversation on building strengths and boosting impact end after the formal performance reviews. Cultivating your employees’ strengths is an active process. Weekly one-on-one discussions and periodic informal feedback are the best ways to reinforce what you discussed. Work with all your employees to let their strengths shine, and provide them with the resources to utilize and enhance their abilities on a daily basis. Consider this a business strategy – the more they can relate their strengths to your goals, the more goals they’ll meet.

3. Beware the fatal flaw

This is Folkman’s single caveat in his discussion of strengths in the workplace. He defines a fatal flaw as “a competency in which you receive strong negative feedback results (and/or poor performance review results) or below average capability in an area that is mission critical to your job.” The latter portion of the definition is the most important. Everyone has flaws, and we need to accept that to work with the premise of strengths-based coaching.

A fatal flaw is different in that it prevents someone from performing their job in spite of their strengths. This idea should be approached with caution since not all flaws are fatal flaws, but Folkman does advocate addressing a fatal flaw before playing to your employees’ strengths. Beyond that, build strengths and watch as you realize more goals and achieve higher productivity!

Employees often have a well of potential that remains buried by managers who focus on working with their flaws. Instead of pursuing the ideal of a well-rounded employee, great leaders bring out their teams’ strengths and help them learn to use their talents for the good of the organization. Incorporating the idea of strengths-based coaching into your managerial style will lead to enhanced productivity and fantastic results for you and your company.

Nobody Does It Better, But You Still Need to Delegate

As a new manager, one of the critical skills that must be learned and embraced is delegation. Many new managers struggle with letting go of tasks and responsibilities that they are proficient in because they think these skills are what set them apart from their team members and got them their first management position.

When working with newly minted managers, Carly Simon’s famous song “Nobody Does it Better” often comes to my mind. Many new managers struggle with delegating because they have been performing the task so well for so long.  Letting go of comfortable tasks, though, is part of your role as a manager.

Learning To Let Go

Does this sound familiar to you? Are there tasks and responsibilities that you are currently doing that should be delegated?

I recently was working with a young and new manager who had recently been promoted to Operations Manager. Overnight he was given the responsibility to lead a team of seven. From the minute I started working with him, I would hear the phrase “I’m so busy” come out of his mouth often.

The question I always start with when coaching “reluctant delegators” is, “What do you want your role to be in 12 months?” And the obvious follow-up is, “What responsibilities will you need to change and additional knowledge gained to be successful in that new role?”

These two questions started him thinking into the future for the first time since he had taken on his new role. And as we got further into the conversation he started to identify tasks that he was currently doing that he should and could delegate. That was the easy part of the process.  The difficult part was identifying whom he could delegate to and what training was required before the task was delegated.

During the next coaching session he had identified whom each of the tasks was going to be given to, what training they were going to get, when he would know that they were ready to completely take on their new tasks, and when they were officially going to be responsible for the activity.

At the end of the process, he had identified enough responsibilities and tasks to delegate to free up an entire 12 hours a week. And what was he going to do with this “extra” time? Spend it leading and not doing. Now he had time to meet with his team members each month to review their progress and help with their development. He also had time to take on some significant projects that he had been reluctant to start because of his past time constraints. He was now truly leading and managing, and getting things done through others.

Five Steps to Effective Delegation

If you are in this position and want to be spending more time managing versus doing, I suggest you take these steps:
1.    Spend some time self-reflecting about those things you should stop doing, start doing, and doing more of in order to be a more effective and productive manager. If you’re unsure, ask your manager for feedback.
2.    Those stop items should then be prioritized.
3.    Determine whom you could delegate the responsibility to. Why do you think they are ready?
4.    Train those employees who aren’t ready before handing tasks over to them.
5.    Track and measure their progress, and provide them with the necessary feedback to make any necessary adjustments.

Remember, nobody does it better than you, but as a manager you need to delegate and start getting things done through others.

About the Author: Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is also a Vistage Chair. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. Beth is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA and is a Certified Managerial Coach. Her expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. Beth’s latest book on executive leadership, “Are You Talent Obsessed? Unlocking the secrets to a workplace team of raving high performers” was released in 2014. Read Beth’s blog at Executive-Velocity.com.

 
photo credit: Nguyen Vu Hung (vuhung) via photopin cc

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…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

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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