Quizzical gazes. Pursed lips. Crossed arms. Awkward silences. These are the reactions we observe from, oh, around half of the people who join one of our workshops for the first time. Within just a few minutes we’re talking about “being more human.” We’re urging everyone to reflect deeply about their sense of calling and beliefs. We’re suggesting we all draw more from feelings, especially fear and joy. “Huh?” Hearing these ideas at the outset of a leadership development or culture change program triggers an interesting mix of discomfort and doubt: “What did we get ourselves into?”
But why are we so committed to urging work colleagues to adopt a mindset of “being human” together? What does this look like in practice? And how is this a strategic business proposition rather than just a feel-good employee relations exercise?
Why are we so committed to “being human”?
BraveShift’s foundational principle, Be Human in Our Mindset, directly challenges conventional thinking about sound management and proper behavior in the workplace. This principle pushes beyond what we describe as the predominant “mastery paradigm” that focuses us intently on competence, control and compliance. Instead we encourage taking on a new “artistry paradigm” that focuses us more deeply on calling, care and creativity in the workplace.
Just like you, we’re often inspired by those intriguing posts and videos from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and TED Talks about authenticity, disruption and innovation. And just like you we look for ways to make these exciting ideas more real. Which brings us back to “being human.”
We’re committed to Be Human in Our Mindset because we see the same challenges in so many organizations.
- Employees appear less engaged and connected today.
- The Millennial generation feels stifled and unheard.
- Espoused values fail to translate into team cohesion.
- People with leadership responsibility don’t quite know how to inspire.
- Decision-making that’s intended to provide transparency instead leads to more misunderstanding.
- “Innovation” remains an ever-elusive aspiration we read about but struggle to sustain.
We believe “being more human” is the best (and maybe the only) choice we have to rise to these challenges.
What does “being human” really look like?
For us a workplace where the majority of colleagues put into practice the discipline Be Human in Our Mindset is marked by recurring behaviors.
- LANGUAGE: People navigate fear, uncertainty and risk with honesty, using phrases every day such as: I feel, I’m afraid, I made a mistake, I want to understand you better, I have this big idea, I’m so excited, We’ve done something amazing here, We should take the risk.
- EMOTIONS: People express emotions in ways ranging from laughter to tears without being judged or shamed, and they discuss feelings as a tool for growing self-awareness and leadership.
- CONVERSATIONS: People habitually hold conversations that begin with expressions of mutual trust; are filled with a willing exchange of information, experiences and views; and conclude with statements of agreement and disagreement.
- STORYTELLING: People regularly use storytelling—in pairs, small groups and even large team—as an effective tool for creating understanding, resolving conflict, and building enthusiasm.
- DECISIONS: People in decision-making roles openly seek diverse input while specifying the manner and timing of how decisions will be taken and communicated.
That’s what it looks like. Not an abstraction at all. The hardest part about this is that it requires each individual, in small and subtle ways, to have the self-discipline to make it happen.
How is “being human” strategic?
You might be asking, “All this talk about being human isn’t really a serious business proposition, is it? How does this contribute to performance and to our bottom line?” Indeed, these are the questions we sometimes hear from CXOs who on one hand feel the urgency to invest in their culture and to unleash the best in their people, but who on the other hand feel the pressures of short timelines, tight budgets, and big commitments.
Well, if change and innovation factor into your business strategy, and if you believe the level of engagement and the quality of leadership at all levels impact your results, then Be Human In Our Mindset is a strategic choice. It means a commitment to some key principles:
- Organizations are collections of individuals who need a sense of meaning in order to give their best.
- Too much control and structure hamper the empowerment and creativity we hope to see.
- Emotions are potent sources of data for learning and building relationships.
- Reflection, storytelling and conversations are uniquely human abilities that can drive the change and innovation you all hope to achieve.
We believe that if you truly commit to acting on these principles, you can create a culture and a leadership style that draw on the personal calling that every person in your workplace possesses. Engagement, inspiration and creativity are uniquely human abilities, but none of us ever tap into those innate strengths because we’ve been commanded. We need the opportunity and the freedom.
Written by Daniel Doucette