Written by: Mike Robbins
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.
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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.
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