Todd Dewett | April 19, 2021
We spend so much time at work, yet the relationships are often quite fake. We’ve been told that at work we are to be professional, not personal. That’s partially good advice. The goal is not to create traditional friend relationships. However, we’re not supposed to be simplistically “professional” either. Too often that translates into relationships that are heavily filtered. They are distant, cold, transactional – and fake.
Somewhere between personal and professional is a sweet spot. It is a place where we are professionals first, but also a little personal and human. That’s where magic happens. It’s where we see increased candor that leads to trust and rapport. In a team setting, these are key traits that support a feeling of commitment, a desire to grow, and an interest in innovation.
Thanks to our overreliance on professionalism, we problematically filter everything. We filter what we think. We filter what we say. We filter how we look. We filter how we behave. This can be viewed as a form of social intelligence. You see reasonable expectations around you and attempt to meet them, but… you often end up filtering the real you out of the picture. Plus, all that filtering is exhausting.
Authenticity is the superior choice. It’s a form of honesty. It’s about how you express yourself and interact with your environment. It includes being a bit more candid, personal, and vulnerable. That makes you real. It makes you human. As it turns out, humans crave honest connections with other humans, yet we resist this need every day.
I’ll admit that getting real is not risk-free. When you speak up, express yourself, and embrace authenticity, not everyone will like it. That is acceptable. Over time, on average, others will support a more authentic you. Not only do you seem more honest, but your authenticity also validates them, since they wish to be a little more real too.
Start now. Begin small to reduce the risk. Speak up for once when you usually bite your tongue. Wear those crazy shoes. Share a story about one of your most difficult learning moments. Ask someone a personal question and show interest in them beyond their role.
Be authentic. Be candid, personal, and vulnerable – and interested in these things from others. Do it for you. Do it for the team. Authenticity is free, freeing, and powerful – so stop filtering.
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How can you help your employees and colleagues experience more meaning in their work? The answer is not money. Money is a useful motivator, but generally not a prime motivator. There are simply better answers, such as:
Inclusion in decision-making. Give people a voice and learn how to collaborate far more than you dictate. When people feel ownership, their performance is far stronger. They persevere more in the face of challenges. They tend to be more creative.
Positivity and helpfulness. Is the general mood at work positive or negative? If you are the leader or have influence, it’s your job to raise the bar. More smiles. More helping hands. More high fives. More genuine ‘thank you’s. Encourage laugher. Clampdown on unnecessary negativity.
Fair and transparent processes. How all key decisions are made should be well-known. Even when full inclusion in decision-making is not prudent, full openness must be apparent. Clear and timely explanations should be delivered. People must believe the workplace has integrity and that they are being treated justly.
Connection to the outcomes. Don’t assume they understand the contribution they are making. If they process paperwork for mortgage applications, show them the occasional picture of a new homeowner smiling in front of their new home. Have people who work downstream go say hello and thank you to the workers upstream. Use a picture, a video, a real person, or something else – help them understand their contribution.
Until next time – stay safe, go learn something, maybe help someone, or at least do something interesting!
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