October has been all about masks here: the masks we wear in our workplace that make us feel stronger, more capable – safer. As we said at the start of the month: “We all have masks we wear, personas we adopt. But some feel like an extension of ourselves and some like an imposition on ourselves.” We put on our heaviest, scratchiest most imposing masks when we’re afraid: afraid that we’re not good enough, smart enough, old enough, young enough, man enough. Enough.
We’re suggesting it’s time we say just that: Enough. Enough with hiding. Enough with letting fear drive our workplace behavior. Enough with masks that suffocate our true Selves, keeping our most unique – and likely most valuable—contributions from driving our careers.
So we’re daring you to start peeling away those masks, little by little, every day for the rest of the year. Yes, it’s a game of Truth or Dare that only you can play with yourself. Being truthful about what scares you and daring yourself to take small risks to reveal more of yourself, “creating hairline fractures to a lifetime of patterns.”
Because here’s the thing: Nobody else can take your mask off for you. Only you can. But it doesn’t have to be dramatic, daring or even dangerous. Subtle daily shifts can start to reveal a fuller, more productive expression of your humanity. And those shifts normally happen in conversations:
- By using language that reflects fear and uncertainty with honesty: I’m afraid. I feel that…. It’s risky but…. The more you start sentences with phrases like this, the more natural it feels to lean into your fears.
- By committing yourself to the constructive use of emotion in your workplace conversation: not to derail a process or distract from your purpose, but to inject more passion, integrity and originality into a conversation.
- By telling stories in conversation that give people a better understanding of your broader life, as well as your passions and purpose. Stories help us connect around shared humanity and shared purpose. Simple. By introducing stories – in addition to data, ideas, and graphics – we bring a richness to our discussions that will translate into results.
Little tricks, right? Nothing to set alarm bells ringing. But the treats? They’re considerable. And it turns out the treats for you are the same as for your company:
- Greater creativity: When we’re not busy hiding our thoughts and opinions we create a more efficient marketplace of ideas: landing on the good ideas faster, unearthing innovations as quickly as possible.
- Better engagement: Without the masks we engage with each other more openly and productively, with less time spent on problem solving and conflict resolution.
- Stronger relationships: Relationships are the fabric of our workplace; without the heavy masks we lessen the micro-aggressions and petty disagreements that fester when fear is ruling our workplaces.
- More joy: Yup, we used that word and we’re sticking by it. If you don’t think joy at work matters then you’re wearing the heaviest mask of all. We spend most of our lives at work; we pursue our sense of purpose through work. Devoid of joy, we – and our employers – flat -line.
Ultimately taking off our masks – celebrating our individuality and humanity – isn’t a sympathetic choice, it’s a strategic one. As we said last week, “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.”
Written by Jillian Reilly