Issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, age, disability, and religion and more can be hard for us to address authentically, since they bring up things that are both deeply personal and difficult to understand from our various perspectives and worldviews. They also touch on issues of privilege, oppression, bias (both conscious and unconscious), and opportunity. These things can elicit strong emotions and reactions for many of us, for a variety of reasons.
For people of any minority group—which means just about everyone except us straight white males—the reality of the group or groups they belong to can raise issues of pride, challenge, identity, and struggle for them, especially at work. Inclusion is about all of us doing what we can to think about, talk about, and be aware of these issues, and about creating an environment that is as open, understanding, supportive, and as safe as possible—which isn’t always easy and can be understandably messy and uncomfortable at times.
The term covering was coined by sociologist Erving Goffman to describe how even individuals with known stigmatized identities make “a great effort to keep their stigma from looming large.” Kenji Yoshino, a constitutional law professor at NYU, further developed this idea and came up with four different categories in which we “cover”: (1) Appearance, (2) Affiliation, (3) Advocacy, and (4) Association.
In essence, we often do what we can to cover aspects of ourselves that we believe might put us out of the “mainstream” of our environment. Yoshino partnered with Christie Smith, Managing Principal of the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion, to measure the prevalence of covering at work. They distributed a survey to employees in organizations across 10 different industries. The 3,129 respondents included a mix of ages, genders, races/ethnicities, and orientations. They also came from different levels of seniority within their organizations.
Sixty-one percent of respondents reported covering at least one of these four categories at work. According to the study, 83 percent of LGBTQ individuals, 79 percent of blacks, 67 percent of women of color, 66 percent of women, and 63 percent of Hispanics cover. While the researchers found that covering occurred more frequently within groups that have been historically under-represented, they also found that 45 percent of straight white men reported covering as well.
Issues of diversity and inclusion impact all of us. And while they clearly play a significant role in the lives and careers of women and members of every minority group, it’s important that we all be willing to look at and talk about these issues, and do what we can do to create an environment that is as inclusive as possible. For us to do this, it takes authenticity, emotional intelligence, and courage – both individually and collectively.
A big paradox of being human is that on the one hand we’re all unique—by virtue of how we look, our background, our race, our gender, how we think, our religion, our skills, our personalities, our age, what we value, our histories, our orientation, our socioeconomic status, and so forth—yet on the other hand, the further down below the waterline we go on our iceberg, the more we’re alike. We’re all human beings and we experience the same emotions—love, fear, joy, shame, gratitude, sadness, excitement, anger, and more.
If we can be as mindful, sensitive, and aware as possible in honoring, understanding, and respecting our many differences, do what we can do support and empower those who may be underrepresented, and, at the same time, remember that we’re all in this together…then we can create teams, enviroments, and cultures of real inclusion. And, when we do this, everyone benefits.
What are you doing to create an inclusive environment around you at work? What else is needed to make sure that it’s as inclusive as possible?
Portions of this piece were excerpted from Bring Your Whole Self to Work, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2018) and available online or in bookstores.
A few years ago, I was talking to Erica Fox, who at the time was the Head of Learning Programs at Google. I had partnered with her and her team quite a lot over the years, delivering seminars for Google employees around the world. After attending one of my seminars, she came up with an idea of how to engage her direct reports in a positive way. Since she was leading a remote team of people who were located in various cities, it was challenging for them to connect in a personal way. Even with the use of Google’s state-of-the-art video-conference technology, there’s nothing quite like being in the same room. And as anyone who leads or is part of a team that is distributed across multiple locations knows, it can be difficult to connect effectively and personally via conference call or video conference.
During her next weekly meeting, Erica asked each of her team members to share something they were grateful for from the previous week—it could be something work related or something personal, so long as it was something that they genuinely felt grateful about. She asked them not only to share this verbally with their teammates, but also to write down what they were grateful for on a Post-it note and stick it somewhere out of sight in their work- space (like inside a folder or desk drawer). She thought it would be fun for them to find the Post-it note again sometime later and be reminded of the positive thing they were grateful for that they shared with the team.
The exercise was fun and set a nice tone for their weekly team meeting that day. It allowed people to connect with one another in a more personal and positive way, even though they weren’t all sitting in the same room together. It went so well the first time she tried it, she decided to do it again the following week. Some of the people on her team were more into it than others, which is often the case for things like this. She did it a third time in their next weekly meeting. She decided not to do it the following week because she thought it might be getting a little old, and she wasn’t sure if the people on her team were all that into it. But when she started that next meeting without doing the gratitude exercise, to her surprise a number of her people got upset. They had been ready with their Post-it notes and had already planned what they were going to share. So she decided to do the exercise again that week and made it a standard practice for her subsequent weekly team meetings, which helped improve their personal connection and team culture even though they didn’t all work together in the same location.
Erica later told me, “In addition to generating a practice/routine of appreciation, it also allowed us to share more about ourselves (in small bits) with each other, which ultimately led us to more openness, vulnerability, and safety within our team. And these things invariably led to better work results as well.” She continued, “An unintended outcome of this gratitude practice was that people became more comfortable sharing small ops eventually. We had a standing team-meeting agenda item that was called ‘milestones, celebrations, and fantastic flops.’”
These types of activities and practices matter for teams. Kim Cameron and some of his colleagues at the University of Michigan published a research article in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science that found that a workplace characterized by positive practices like the one Erica did with her team at Google can help people excel in a variety of ways.
Cameron and his colleagues theorized that the three main reasons these types of practices benefit teams and companies are that they
- Increase positive emotions that broaden people’s resources by improving their relationships with their colleagues and by amplifying their creativity
- Buffer against negative events like stress or failure, improving people’s ability to bounce back from challenges
- Attract and bolster employees, making them more loyal and bringing out their best
There are also benefits to the bottom line. Cameron et al. summarized their findings by saying, “When organizations institute positive, virtuous practices they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness—including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity.”
What can you do to bring more gratitude to your work and your team? Share your thoughts or questions below in the comments.
This is an excerpt from Bring Your Whole Self to Work, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2018) and available online or in bookstores.
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.