Archive for November 2017

Men…We Have to Do Better

November 29, 2017

Hearing the news about Matt Lauer being fired by NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior made me feel sad, angry, and confused in many ways. Over the past few months with everything that came out about Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo campaign that exploded on social media, and the men who have been singled out for their harassment, abuse, and even assault of women like Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, and many others…in addition to the prominent stories over the past year or two about Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump, and even going back to Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton, and others from many years ago…it has been overwhelming, disgusting, and hard to understand for me.

I thought I was aware of some of the issues and challenges women face both in the workplace and in our culture, but these past few months have taught me that I really have no idea. I’ve been with my wife Michelle for 17 years, we have two daughters who are 11 and 9, I was raised by a strong single mom and in a house with a strong older sister. I interact with women personally and professionally every day…doing the best I can to respect and honor them as women and as fellow, equal human beings.

And, as all of this has been unfolding in the media and our culture over the past few months (and over the past year or two), I’ve been trying to pay more attention to my own male entitlement and some of the unconscious gender bias I have…especially as a straight, white, man who has so much privilege on so many levels. It’s hard for me to see this and is also painful to fully acknowledge.

Additionally, I have spent time thinking about some situations, relationships, and interactions I’ve had with girls and women in my life since I was an adolescent. Although I don’t think I’ve done or said things that would fall into the category of harassment, abuse, and especially not assault, there are definitely a few situations from college and my early twenties that I regret.  I’m also sure I’ve made a whole host of comments over the course of my life that I may have thought were “funny” or “benign,” which probably hurt, offended, or scared some of the girls or women around me.

The word “reckoning” has been used quite a bit in recent weeks and months to describe what is happening in our culture with respect to how women are treated by men. I think that is definitely something that is going on. I’m finding it incredibly painful and difficult to see…but I think it’s important on so many levels that it is coming out.

I notice that it’s often harder for me to process and make sense of some of what I read and hear about when the men involved are ones whose work and talents I like, respect, and admire – like Bill Cosby, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, John Conyers, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, and now Matt Lauer. When it’s people like Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, and Donald Trump…whom I don’t like, respect, or admire…my feelings are, unfortunately, a bit different.

I wish this weren’t the case, although I recognize this is part of being human and also part of the divided and polarized world in which we currently live. Clearly, however, we’re seeing that harassment and abuse of women is something that cuts across all political, social, business, racial, status, and economic lines. And, for all of these high-profile stories we’re reading about on a regular basis, there must be literally millions of other stories like these happening all over the country and the world – in workplaces and everywhere.

Men – we have to do better! We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and at each other as brothers and ask what it truly means to be a good, strong man in our culture. How do we honor the positions of privilege, power, and influence some of us find ourselves in specifically and most of us men hold within our families, places of business, and communities? How can we take our support and respect of the women and girls around us to a deeper and more real level? It’s truly a time reckoning – not simply for the victims of abuse and those who perpetrate it, but for all of us as a society and especially for us men.

Even with all of this, I believe that the vast majority of us men are not preying on women and abusing our power…there are a lot of good, kind, caring, aware men in the world. And at the same time, we all have work to do and blind spots to pay attention to. I know this post itself is filled with my own bias and many blind spots (most of which I can’t even see).

We also have to do more listening and to have more awareness, empathy, and curiosity…to pay more attention to what life and work are like for the girls and women around us.

I want our girls – the ones growing up in my house and the ones growing up throughout our world, as well as all women – to know they are safe, loved, supported, respected, celebrated, and honored for who they are, what they do, and the talents they have – not just as sex objects and for the pleasure of us men.

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‘Whole Self’ Culture Key to Thriving Organizations

November 15, 2017

How does a culture of healthy, high expectations, balanced by nurturance, enable individuals and organizations to achieve greater fulfillment, competitive advantage, and success? How can companies create an environment where their employees feel safe and encouraged to take risks, give more of themselves while maintaining balance, and deliver results? And, what does it mean to individuals to bring their ‘whole selves’ to their work?

My new book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work, is scheduled for release in May, 2018. In it, I examine what I’ve learned over seventeen years as a researcher, writer, and speaker regarding workplace dynamics and how an environment of authenticity, healthy risk-taking, and support helps both individuals and companies thrive.

When we enthusiastically challenge our employees to bring their best—their whole—selves to work, we and they reach new, higher levels of creativity and performance. Individuals’ passions and talents are engaged. They connect—with their own aspirations, and with others. As they do, teams and organizations push farther. Reach higher. Grow and succeed.

But, individuals need to feel safe to bring all of who they are—and that takes courage. My experience and research has shown that when we nurture and support employees, their fulfillment influences those around them to aim higher for the organization’s collective success.

Consider implementing these steps to help attract and retain employees committed to personal and organizational growth and success.

First:

Encourage your employees to embrace their vulnerability. We erroneously think being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. It’s not. Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s essential to encourage healthy risk, change, creativity, collaboration, growth, and results. Dr. Brene Brown from the University of Houston says, “You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”

Next:

Encourage your employees to have ‘sweaty-palmed’ conversations. A mentor once said to me, “Mike, what stands between you and the kind of relationships you really want is probably a ten-minute, sweaty-palmed conversation you’re too afraid to have.”

Too often we avoid conflicts with others because we’re afraid of the consequences that come with speaking up. Yet, when we muster the courage to start those sweaty-palmed conversations we strengthen our ability to resolve differences while deepening our connections, building confidence, and contributing to collective success.

Remind your employees to:

Stop trying to just survive. When we do things that truly matter to us, it’s tempting to hold back and play it safe. Don’t!

I learned this playing baseball for much of my early life, on into college and at the professional level. Some of the most disappointing moments I had weren’t when I failed, but when I held back—due to my fear of failing. Encourage your employees to let go of their obsession with survival and instead take risks. Go for what they—and the company—want and need to succeed. As one of my early mentors pointed out: “Mike, you’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it. You have to remember. No one ever has!”

As I mention about in my most recent TEDx talk, whether you run a business, manage a team, or simply want people around you to feel safe and empowered to bring all of who they are to their work, there are two components to creating an atmosphere of authenticity that leads to greater levels of engagement, performance, and success:

  • Healthy, High Expectations. High expectations are essential for people to thrive. We almost always get what we expect from others, but if we demand perfection many may fall short. Employees will feel they’re not set up to succeed. Healthy, high expectations challenge people to do their best, without pushing for insatiable, unhealthy perfection.
  • High Level of Nurturance. People want to feel they’re seen, heard, and valued—not just for what they do, but for who they are. A high level of nurturance creates a safe space for employees to make mistakes, ask for help, speak up, and disagree. Nurturing environments are filled with compassion and empathy. People feel supported.

We often think in order to have a high bar we can’t be nurturing. Or, we think if we nurture people, we can’t expect a lot from them. The goal is to do both, and to do so passionately.

Asking our employees to bring their whole selves to work, and creating an environment that allows them to do so, is no small feat. It takes courage on everyone’s part and can, at times, go against conventional wisdom. However, technology companies must do all they can to attract, develop, and engage the best people in today’s competitive global economy.

Creating an environment where employees feel safe and encouraged to flourish will help your company attract individuals committed to your organization’s success.

What can you do to create an environment where you work that is conducive to this type of culture?  Share your thoughts below in the comments section here on my blog and/or join the conversation we’re having about this on my Bring Your Whole Self to Work podcast.

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