For us to truly succeed, especially in today’s business world, we must be willing to bring our whole selves to the work that we do. And for the teams and organizations that we’re a part of to thrive, it’s also essential to create an environment where people feel safe enough to bring all of who they are to work. The lines between our personal and professional lives have blurred more than ever in recent years, even inside the most structured and traditional companies.
Bringing our whole selves to work means showing up authentically, leading with humility, and remembering that we’re all vulnerable, imperfect human beings doing the best we can. It’s also about having the courage to take risks, speak up, ask for help, connect with others in a genuine way, and allow ourselves to be truly seen. It’s not always easy for us to show up this way, especially at work. And it takes commitment, intention, and courage for leaders and organizations to create environments that are conducive to this type of authenticity and humanity.
My research and experience have shown me that when we bring our whole selves to work in this way, not only are we more likely to create success and fulfillment for ourselves, but we are able to have the greatest impact on the people around us. And creating a culture that encourages us to show up fully allows us collectively to do our best, most innovative work together.
This is why I wrote my new book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Vulnerability Unlocks Creativity, Connection, and Performance. I’ve spent the past 17 years as a speaker and consultant, partnering with people, leaders, and teams in all types of companies. I’ve seen lots of examples of what works and doesn’t work for the success and engagement of individuals, managers, and organizations. And, in my own life and career, I’ve struggled at times with fears, doubts, insecurities, and an erroneous obsession with wanting to be liked by everyone. My commitment to authenticity and to bringing my whole self to work is an on-going practice, which can sometimes be challenging, but is always important.
I’ve witnessed, experienced, and learned a great deal through my own work and with my clients over the years. Of course, every work environment is unique. Being at Google in the heart of Silicon Valley is quite different from working for the City of San Antonio in Texas. Working for ourselves out of our spare bedroom in Ohio is also very different from leading a global team at Microsoft while being based in Europe and traveling internationally all the time.
However, regardless of where you work, what kind of work you do, or with whom you do it—bringing your whole self to work allows you to be more satisfied, effective, and free. And if you’re an owner, leader, or just someone who wants to have influence on those around you, having the courage to lead with authenticity allows you to build or enhance your team’s culture in such a way that encourages others to bring all of who they are to work—which will unlock greater creativity, connection, and performance for your group and company.
Here are five specific things you can do to both bring all of who you are to work and empower the people with whom you work to be as effective, successful, and engaged as possible:
- Be Authentic. The foundation of bringing your whole self to work is authenticity, which is about showing up honestly, without self-righteousness, and with vulnerability. It takes courage to be authentic, and it’s essential for trust, growth, and connection.
- Utilize the Power of Appreciation. Appreciation is fundamental to building strong relationships, keeping things in a healthy perspective, and empowering teams. Bringing your whole self to work is about being willing to be seen, and also about seeing and supporting the people around you, which is what appreciation provides.
- Focus on Emotional Intelligence. Your emotional intelligence (EQ) is often more important than your skills, IQ, and experience—in terms of your ability both to manage your relationships and to bring your whole self to work. EQ is both about you (self-awareness and self-management) and about how you relate to others (social awareness and relationship management).
- Embrace a Growth Mindset. Growth mindset is a way of approaching your work and your life with an understanding that you can improve at anything if you’re willing to work hard, dedicate yourself, and practice. It’s also about looking at everything you experience (even, indeed especially, your challenges) as opportunities for growth and learning.
- Create a Championship Team. The people you work with and the environment around you have a significant impact on your ability (or inability) to fully show up, engage, and thrive. And at the same time, the more willing you are to bring your whole self to work, the more impact you can have on others. Creating a championship team is about building a culture that is safe and conducive to people being themselves, caring about one another, and being willing and able to do great work together.
These concepts are fairly easy to understand on the surface. But like many important aspects of life, growth, and business, it’s not the understanding of them that makes the biggest difference, it’s their application. And, the application of these ideas takes real courage. We have to be willing to be vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown from the University of Houston defines vulnerability as, “emotional exposure, risk, and uncertainty.” The activities, relationships, and goals that matter most to us (both personally and professionally), are always going to involve emotional exposure, risk, and/or uncertainty.
Are you willing to lean into vulnerability and to bring all of who you are to work? If so, you can expand the impact, influence, and success of your work and your life.
Portions of this article are excerpted from the new book Bring Your Whole Self to Work, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2018) and available online or in bookstores.
In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the courage it takes to step out, take risks, and put ourselves out there. Even though I know how important this is for growth, in business, and for life – I still find it tricky, scary, and challenging at times.
I also realize it’s one thing to talk about putting myself out there and another thing to actually do it. With the launch of my new website and the announcement I made last week about my forthcoming book, Bring Your Whole Self to Work, being available for pre-order, I’ve been feeling both excited and scared.
Putting ourselves out there requires us to embrace vulnerability. I love Brene Brown’s definition of vulnerability, “Risk, Emotional Exposure, and Uncertainty.” I can’t think of anything meaningful or important that I’ve ever experienced or accomplished in my life (personally or professionally), that didn’t require risk, emotional exposure, or uncertainty. Can you?
This week I recorded my first video blog post in a few years. In the video I talk about some of the challenges involved in taking risks and remind you that it’s okay to feel scared when you step out…it’s all part of the process. This being human thing can be a trip, eh?
Be gentle and kind with yourself wherever you are in the “putting-yourself-out-there” process right now. It’s not always easy or fun in the moment, but you have more than enough courage and support to do it. And, whatever happens, you’ll grow, learn, and change in positive ways in the process.
Click on the image below to watch the video…
How are you currently feeling about taking risks and putting yourself out there? What things do you do to move through your fear or resistance? What support do you need? Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, comments, and questions below in the comments section below.
Like millions of people around the world, I was deeply moved and inspired by the recent speech Oprah Winfrey gave at the Golden Globe awards. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend checking out the video.
Oprah touched on, among other things, the cultural moment we’re in right now with respect to sexual harassment and gender equality. Over the past few months, I’ve been reflecting on my own thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions, and challenging myself to be even more aware, understanding, and inclusive. I’ve also been trying to figure out what I can do as a man to advocate for and support women – those whom I know personally and in our society at large.
Issues of gender inequality run deep in our country and our world. And while we’ve made a lot of progress, we clearly have more work to do. There are also layers of complexity and emotion to this issue that make it tricky, especially for us men, to fully understand and to address openly and effectively.
On this week’s episode of my podcast, I interviewed Will Marre, co-founder of the Covey Leadership Institute, who recently founded an organization called A Million SMART Women. He’s worked for the past thirty years creating breakthroughs at some the world’s top organizations including, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and Gap. He’s a thought-leader and trusted advisor on corporate transformation and the competitive advantage of female leaders.
Will and I talked about some of the dynamics of gender issues in today’s business world, how men can advocate for and support women in leadership, and how we can all remember that we’re in this together.
Some of the key things men can do to support women and empower female leadership are:
1) Listen. Listening is always important – it’s the key to communication and fundamental to connection. Now more than ever, it’s important for us men to really listen to women, hear their stories, and try to understand their experience at a deeper level. When we open our minds and our hearts to the experiences of others with curiosity and compassion, not only do we learn, but we make it safer for them to speak up and more likely that we can find common ground.
2) Advocate. Research shows that when women advocate for others in business it’s seen as a positive quality, but when they advocate for themselves it’s seen as a negative one. However, when men advocate for themselves, it’s seen much more positively. We all need advocates if we’re going to succeed and move forward in our careers. Given many of the gender-based double standards that still exist, male advocacy for female leadership is essential and valuable.
3) Engage. Thinking about and talking about gender can be challenging for us men for two main reasons. First of all, we aren’t always paying attention to it. Second of all, we worry that if we do engage about gender, we’ll say something wrong, offend some of the women around us, or be seen as sexist. Because of these things (and others), we sometimes shy away from doing or saying anything about gender at all. Even though we may be uncomfortable, it’s important for us to engage and to remember that gender equality and the empowerment of female leadership is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human issue that impacts all of us.
What can you do to create an environment that is as safe, open, and inclusive as possible? What can you do to support and empower female leadership? 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.