Go Ahead, Bring Your Soul to Work
This may sound strange, perhaps hard to believe, yet it’s true: even accomplished leaders need permission from time to time.
I spend my day speaking to leaders of all stripes – it is literally what I do for a living. Huge organizations and small, C-suite and middle management, for profit and nonprofit, this is what I do, and what I’ve been doing for years and years now. And one thing that comes up again and again in many of these conversations is something to this effect: “I’m one person at home, another at work.”
So I ask you now, does this describe your situation at all?
- At home, I’m generous and giving.
- At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
- At home, when I’m with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy each other’s company, typically with no agenda at all.
- 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!
- 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 part of being a leader, that’s all.
- 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? Does any of it strike a little too close to home?
The fact is, we’ve all felt it – and many of us have felt nothing but these feelings their entire careers. Many of us, especially those of us who cut our teeth in the Twentieth Century, who were inculcated in the Industrial Age management philosophy still ascendant today… many of us in that boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way, and that some folks are living this better way right now.
There’s a better way, and that some folks are living this better way right now.
The permission I referred to in the opening paragraph? Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves at work, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful at work as we are at home. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what evidence you give them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me just to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped; who would rather be “right” than happy.
Some people are already on board with this message of whole-self-all-the-time. If you are, too, then that’s your chorus. It’s important to recharge your batteries with your chorus and gain new insights from their experience.
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 up with examples. Gather those examples! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader is: 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’ll bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.
Statistics won’t get you where you need to go.
People are screaming out for positive, uplifting change. That 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, polishing off their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize in 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 many 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 the complete you, the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you all day every day, and not just at home?
Here is your permission.
Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.
Or if you don’t want to take it from me, take it from Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ Patagonia. Chouinard is 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 every worker and leader, rather than just their backs, hands, and left-brains.
Chouinard founded a company with bringing one’s soul to work baked right in as an essential ingredient of the workplace. It has served them all well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.
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 of ours.
*The title of today’s post is “borrowed” (*ehem*) from our friend Scott Mabry’s blog elumn8, whose tagline is “Bring your soul to work.” It’s a great blog, from a terrific leader. To read Scott’s first post with us: Three Dimensional Leadership.
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