Bringing Your "Whole" Self

I got an all-time favorite testament to the power of being authentic and bringing "all" of who you are to your work recently.  In a closing coaching conversation with a member of our leadership development cohort this young leader shared that one of his most powerful discoveries was the concept that when you invite your people to bring ALL of who they are to work each day, you get ALL of what they have to offer.  His team of 120 achieved 147% of their quota.  WOW!  That is leadership in action.  Inviting ALL of each team member creates that synergy where truly the result is GREATER than the sum of the parts.  The difference in this leader's presence between December 2015 to November 2016 was also substantially different.   

He commented that he came in with a tactical approach to leadership learning that was oriented around taking what he could apply at the surface level.  Reserved and quiet with somewhat of a skeptical look was his beginning posture.  Fully engaged, curious, giving, and oriented around what he could contribute was his leadership presence as we closed.  He began with sharing "just the facts" about work, and ended warmly sharing about his growing family and his challenges and successes in his work and life.  It is a gift to experience his changes and especially to hear how they contributed to his success.

outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

It is interesting to hear professionals express beliefs that we should completely separate our work and personal lives.  This seems especially challenging in our digital world.  That is not to say that I believe you should pour all of your personal life and vulnerabilities out for all of your colleagues to see.  Brene Brown offered a good metaphor for "appropriate" sharing when she talked about using "twinkle" lights to illuminate who you are versus using a floodlight.  The floodlight can be blinding and obnoxious.  The twinkle lights warm the space and make you feel "real" and authentic.  We are all humans with human opportunities and problems.  It is a gift we give each other when we choose to share those human experiences.

We warm the space when we show and share the right amount of vulnerability.  When I know something meaningful about my colleagues' life I am better able to be compassionate and to connect well.  It builds trust.  When we trust, we feel safe in giving more and we are more likely to overlook misunderstandings and assume positive intention in the other.  It is a lesson I have learned over and over.  It is always my intention to believe in the positive intention of the other and to offer unconditional positive regard.  Though I fail regularly, I am consistently happier and good results come more easily when I come from that place of trust--in myself and those around me.