I've been engaged in personal development pretty much my whole life. It really started when I was a teenager and I took the EST training.
Have you heard of it?
It was intense.
I enrolled when I was just 16. The problem was that the minimum age for enrollment was 18. So I lied about my age to get in. It wasn't really a great start for a program focused on integrity, but somehow I was allowed to stay through that first training weekend and completed the course.
I was hooked! I loved how people were encouraged to be real, messy and imperfect. I loved how alive I felt when I was bringing all of me, the real me, to that experience.
The EST Training sparked my interest in what has been a lifelong journey and exploration of who I want to be and how I show up in the world. Throughout my life I have experienced a variety of approaches. I've taken workshops, read books, attended seminars and worked with a coach. Each experience taught me something valuable.
Some of these experiences were supercharged. A long weekend with Tony Robbins is like going to a therapeutic rock concert. It’s intense and exhilarating and exhausting. People are inspired to be and do better for themselves when they leave.
And yet for me, the pull of the status quo has always been so strong that unless I had some sort of structure or system in place, I just would go back to my old ways. It was the path of least resistance.
In my work with teams and organizations, I see a similar trend.
Sometimes people call me and they're excited about engaging in a workshop experience with their team. They’ll say, “I really want to create some change in my team. What can you give me in half a day?”
Sure you may inspire some new thinking in a half day, or provide a new perspective. And it’s really just the beginning of a conversation. In order to create real sustainable change that has a lasting impact, we have to commit to practicing new behaviors over time.
What's your experience with making lasting changes? How have you been successful in adopting new behaviors and habits?
I'd love to hear your thoughts. And as you embrace new ways of being, remember to be brave, be kind and take good care.
Have you ever noticed that some people have two versions of themselves?
They have their real self and then they have their work self, and the two can be very different.
Why might someone do that?
Why might somebody choose not to bring their real, genuine self to work?
I had a mentor who said that we take our representatives to work. You drive up to your workplace, park your car, and then you leave your real self behind in the car. Maybe you put the window down for her so she has some air, but you want her to stay there where it's safe and protected.
Then you take your representative inside to interact with others. It's your representative who risks rejection, blame and criticism and your real self is safe and protected.
When a mistake is made or efforts are criticized, the representative doesn't get hurt because it's just a facade. It's not the real person, the tender vulnerable being who cares what people think and wants to belong.
This might be an effective tactic short term, but long term, it doesn't work. We are hardwired for connection. We need to feel connected to other people and recognized and valued for who we are and what we contribute.
This sense of belonging that comes from being seen and appreciated creates sustainability and retention in the workplace and increases engagement.
Brené Brown makes the distinction between fitting in and belonging. She says that fitting in requires us to change who we are. Belonging allows us, requires us to be who we are.
The message of fitting in is ”How do I mold and protect myself so that I'm safe in this environment?” When we focus on belonging, the message is that “I show up and engage as my real self, my full self, and I'm accepted - not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am.”
Do you bring your real self to work? Do you feel a sense of belonging or do you feel like you have to change yourself to fit in? And if it's your representative showing up and not the real you, what's the cost of that choice?
Until next time, time, be brave, be kind and take good care.
We’ve all done things that we wish we could have done differently. Sometimes we replay the scenario over and over again in our minds. And when we are resilient and at our best, we are able to look at the mistake objectively, and learn from it, increasing our confidence, knowledge and abilities.
But what if others don’t move on?
You are resilient. You learn from your mistake, and are ready to take on new responsibilities. But you notice you aren’t getting them.
Because your manager hasn’t moved on. He holds onto the mistake you made and is unwilling to give you more responsibility.
What happens then?
I was recently talking with a leader who had been at her organization for over 20 years. Several years ago, she took a risk and created a new project that she was excited about. She had put a lot of time, energy and thought into it.
The project failed. She was disappointed, of course, but she learned from it and gained new skills and critical thinking abilities as a result.
But her manager didn't forget it. He continued to reference the failure during their conversations and in meetings, and would occasionally even make subtle jokes about it.
This manager could not get past this one mistake. His inability to move on took his toll on the leader. She became more cautious. She became less engaged and less invested.
This dynamic eventually led this skilled and valuable woman to leave the organization. She could no longer tolerate being reminded of a mistake she had made years before, one from which she learned and grew.
What’s this mean for managers?
If you're a people manager, what do you do when someone makes mistakes?
Do you bring it out into the light, discuss and examine it together in order to help your team to learn from it so that all can do better next time?
Do you try to ignore it, in which case it’s likely to happen again?
Or, as in the above, do you hold it against someone when they fail, using it as a subtle shaming reference?
Being a leader requires self-awareness and intention. I invite you to share your ideas about how you were able to turn a failure into a great learning opportunity for yourself or your team. Let’s talk about turning mistakes into development opportunities the support even smarter risk taking and innovation.
Set up time to talk to me now at https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=13527478&appointmentType=12509667
Have you ever gotten mixed messages from someone at work? You know, like when your boss says:
"Hey, bring your ideas! We really want to innovate and get some new initiatives going here!"
Then . . . when you share your ideas, they're dismissed or ignored. Talk about mixed signals!
That doesn't feel good. And it certainly doesn't create an environment where people feel inspired to bring more of their ideas.
There’s been a lot of talk about Google's study on psychological safety - a term coined by Amy Edmondson - but most people don’t fully understand what psychological safety is. Sometimes the best way to show what something is, is to show what it isn't. So when you bring your ideas, these responses are NOT psychological safety:
"Yeah, but…. that's not really the direction we need to go."
"Yeah, but, ugh, we just don't have the budget for that.”
"I've tried that somewhere else. It flopped.”
“That's not going to work here.”
"Not really what we're looking for. Anybody else have an idea?"
What do you think when you hear things like this? After hearing all of this, how likely are you to share your ideas next time? And most importantly, who loses in this scenario?
You do, sure. But the company does too. With leaders actively discouraging ideas, innovation comes to a standstill. Employees don’t feel like what they have to offer is valued. And eventually, they leave or disengage.
On a scale of 1-10, if you have to be operating at a 6 (at minimum) to not get fired? Well, this kind of environment leaves you with people working at a 6.1, just barely enough to stay under the radar.
Does this sound familiar to you?
What if the manager reacted differently to all those ideas he’d asked for?
“That's really an interesting idea.”
"Tell me more about that.”
"How did you come to that conclusion?”
"How do you think that would impact these other parts of the organization?"
"Oh, what if we took that idea and added this to it?"
Reactions like this, that honor the contributions people have made, spark an inspiring conversation that encourages new thinking.
What are the things you're doing in your organization to create trust and safety for other people, so that they want to be invested in their work? Because at the end of the day people want to feel excited about what they're doing and to know that what they're doing makes a difference.
If you want to talk more about how to create a psychologically safe workplace, let’s talk.
A while back, I was talking to a client, Peter, and he had been experiencing a lot of stress. He was telling me that he was feeling the weight of the organization, like he was having to hold the whole organization together.
That's a lot of stress for one person to feel.
As we were exploring it further, Peter shared a recent interaction with his manager. His manager was reflecting on a project and told Peter that he really appreciated the quality of his work and the effort he put in – that he had done a great job.
It was nothing more than a one-on-one, heartfelt conversation recognizing Peter for work that mattered.
Peter said to me:
"That felt so good. It felt great for somebody to know what I was doing and to appreciate it, because I think a lot of the work I do is behind the scenes, invisible. People don't really know about it. So to hear my manager say that he saw it and he appreciated it felt incredible."
These moments of recognition matter.
When was the last time that someone recognized you for your efforts? Can you remember someone sharing genuine gratitude and appreciation for your contributions?
If you can remember that moment, you remember how it felt. And how important it was to you.
In general, we don’t recognize people enough. We have a tendency to point out the things that people can do better in an effort to help them grow, but not to highlight all the things that are going well.
Regular recognition and appreciation is just as crucial to growth. It gives us confidence that we’re on the right track, and motivation to continue taking on challenging tasks that push us to expand our skills and abilities.
More motivating than money?
When I was talking to Peter about how great he felt about the recognition he received, he was sure to add, “You know, if they want to give me more money, I'm not going to say no!"
But the money wasn't the driving force behind his motivation.
Daniel Pink says you just need to pay people enough money to take the money conversation off the table. What motivates them to stay, grow, contribute and add value? It’s the intangibles, like gratitude, appreciation and recognition.
Finding out how to recognize your people
Shortly after working with Peter, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with his manager. When his manager asked me what motivated Peter, I was able to tell him about how much recognition and appreciation for his efforts meant to him.
The manager was so relieved to hear this because he had no idea how to support Peter in staying motivated.
The truth is that most people don't know what motivates others unless they do some very intentional trial and error to figure it out. So what can you do if you’re not lucky enough to just have me walk in and tell you how to motivate your people?
Ask during onboarding. Ask during one on ones. Ask after you’ve given recognition. Make it clear that you care about giving them what they most need.
I have a list I've created of 10 great questions to ask your direct reports in your one-on-ones. Just shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to send you a copy.
What does digitizing old photos have to do with your workplace satisfaction? At first glance, not much.
But as I’ve delved deeper into my own home project of digitizing my photos, something unexpected has occurred to me.
I used to be so joyful.
I don’t mean that I’m unhappy now. But when I look at photos of me when I was little? That’s a whole different level of joy.
In the photos I found of myself at my fifth and sixth birthday parties, I was alive. I was silly. I was playful. I was joyful and happy. I can imagine myself being loud and literally carefree, not caring what anybody else thought about me.
And then as I progressed through the years and started finding my pre-teen photos and my teen photos, there's a noticeable shift. There’s a lot more restraint. I was learning to notice other people's reactions to me and be appropriate in how I behaved.
I learned to pull back on that joy and aliveness and make myself smaller.
Have you ever noticed this in yourself?
Where have you restrained your joy in your life and work? Imagine a world in which you could bring all of that messy, alive, fun, playful crazy self into your work, into your life.
What would be possible?
I was talking with a client recently who's an executive in her firm and she was telling me that she was unhappy in her work. As she began to think about her options and the possibility of making a change that would allow her to focus on what she was passionate about, something noticeably shifted in her...something became unlocked and she lit up - I could sense a new spark of aliveness.
She visibly shifted...and I saw that childlike spirit in her as she imagined what it would be like to do something that fully engaged her, something that sparked joy.
If you were to live in a world in which you could bring your full being into work - including all of that joy and unpredictable, messy authenticity - what would be possible for you?
What would it be like to share a full belly laugh with one of your colleagues? Or really celebrate the success of your team?
For so many of us, we've learned to numb ourselves. While we might shut down to avoid the discomfort of anxiety, stress, fear or overwhelm, the truth is, we can't selectively numb. So when we numb the hard feelings, we also numb our joy and full expression.
Today, I invite you to think about what you were like as a child. What do your photos show? Some may have to look back even further to find the truly free and expressive child. How have you pulled back in order to be appropriate, fit in, or gain approval from others?
Then ask yourself this: Where can you find a little more joy at work this week? And what would be possible if that joy spread throughout your team.
Want to talk more?
If you are inspired by bringing more joy and aliveness into your life and workplace, let’s chat! Reach out and book time to explore what’s possible: Click HERE