What are a couple insights I’ve had over the past decade working with individuals and teams across cultures and in a variety of businesses? For starters, I believe that for people to progress in life and in work - we must be able to bring our whole-selves to the table.
Another, is for success in our teams and organizations, it’s key to create a culture where people feel safety & trust, and where we can bring our whole-selves to work.
My experience has shown me that when we can bring our whole-selves to work, we feel more fulfilled, heard, part of the team, important, creative, happier, and we can have a positive impact on others around us and on the business. When we have a team operating this way, we feel energized, we problem-solve more creatively and we do our greatest work. Imagine the flip-side of when you feel like you should conform and pretend so that you don’t “upset” others, or just fit in. What’s the impact of that over time? On health? On the team? The customer? The business?
I recently sat next to two psychotherapists on a flight. The dominant topic of their clients is workplace stress. A lot of people are suffering from their work conditions.
An illuminating study by Deloitte found that more than half of us cover up some part of our identity at work to try to fit in—underrepresented groups feeling the most pressure of all to “cover” aspects of themselves. As the demographics of a nation change, it becomes ever more crucial to understand the implications of covering. The survey found that covering negatively impacts individuals’ sense of self and diminishes their commitment to their organizations.
So, how can you bring your whole-self to the table?
1) Embrace your Whole-Self – Wholeness means we bring all the aspects of who we are to work —our passions, strengths, vulnerability, relationships, quirks, talents, emotions, physical, social... not a complete list as you will have aspects you strongly connect with, but you get the idea. It allows us to be ourselves and alleviates the pressure to leave our authentic self behind during working hours.
2) Be Courageous - Your Whole-Self includes your heart. This is the space of feelings, passions and courage. It takes courage and vulnerability to speak your feelings and passions. For people and innovation to truly thrive, people need to be able to speak up without feeling they’ll be criticized for their ideas. If the culture doesn’t support this, people will suffer. Innovation will suffer. Your company will suffer. People will keep their ideas to themselves, and perhaps leave their job. If you are a leader, this is your opportunity to make positive changes.
3) Face Conflict - Sometimes conflict keeps us caged-up because we’re fearful of the outcome if we lean into the situation. On the other hand, if we face the fear and have the conversation we need to have instead of withholding our perspective, we will free-up much needed attention and energy, feel better from overcoming our fear, and communicate with the other. This is progress, and with a listening-for-understanding approach you will be sure to make steps toward resolution, connection and foster authenticity with the other. In a group development cycle, authenticity follows conflict.
4) Be Yourself - Oscar Wild said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” It’s important to be your true self and it’s important to evaluate if you are pretending to be someone you are not, just to stay employed at your current job. If so, it’s time to make some changes because “faking it” will hurt you over time. You don’t have to throw your career away, but look at how much you’re sacrificing and compromising to keep up your pretence. Can you make different choices in your current organisation? What if you try? What if you don’t?
If you’re part of the leadership, your people should have the right to feel safe and accepted to bring their Whole-Selves to the work they do. Having a Purpose and Culture that goes beyond just making money is a great start. Organizations that focus beyond profits and instil a culture of purpose are more likely to find long-term success. 91% of respondents (executives and employees) who said their company had a strong sense of purpose also said their company had a history of strong financial performance.
Your Culture should aim to promote healthy approaches and could include statements like: Collaboration, Fun, Trust, Transparency, Innovation, Agility, Respect, Togetherness, Authenticity,Clarity, Feedback for growth, Striving for excellence, Diversity, Safe to make mistakes, Challenge each other to be our best… These are samples from real company cultures. Culture statements should be defined by your team for clarity. A healthy culture will promote behaviors like collaboration, innovation, engagement, creativity, collective intelligence, happiness, wholeness and high performance.
People matter. You know your strategy won’t go far without your people behind it, believing in it and pushing through blocks. A healthy culture is full of people who feel valued for who they are and what they do.
Bringing our Whole-Selves to work and working in a culture that supports innovation, is a key to survive and thrive in today’s high-speed world. If everyone kept doing what they’ve always done, nothing changes. How will you grow and compete externally if you always play it safe? People need to be able to try new things, share ideas, and go against the grain. When we feel free, we do our best work and we not only survive, we thrive and progress. We feel it in ourselves, our teams, our organization and make a positive impact on our customers, our community and our planet.
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Dawn Hoenie is a facilitator, leadership development coach and trainer. If you're interested in learning more about facilitation, training, leadership development or unleashing your own unique brilliance with coaching, please connect with Dawn.