Vulnerability, Love, and Work
It?s Feburary; the month of Love! What does Love have to do with the workplace? Well, everything I believe! (Maybe not in the way you are thinking?hang in there.)
As a Speaker, Trainer and Human Resources expert, I live and breathe healthy workplaces. I believe our workplaces reflect our homes and our communities ? in fact, I think they reflect the nature of all of our relationships. If one is ?sick?, so are the others. A valuable resource in one, serves the others.
More often than not, my workshops and keynotes are to business audiences (or audiences that are filled with people who have come together around their work?though they might hail from a variety of sectors like healthcare, government, manufacturing, or agriculture). When I am sharing a new strategy to apply at work, people end up relating stories about life outside of work. Most of the feedback I get is from audience members who found a tip or tool that works for a workplace situation ALSO works for a home situation.
That brings me back to Love and Work and the connection between the two.
I speak often on the topic of employee engagement. That is the new ?buzzword? in today?s workplace ? it?s the way we talk about energizing the workforce (we used to call it ?motivating? or ?empowering? ? but we kind of mean the same thing ?we want people to enjoy they work, produce well, and feel good at the end of the day).
Employee engagement is really about connection. It?s about people connecting to their work and to each other in a meaningful way ? so they can enjoy their work, produce well, and feel good at the end of the day.
Recently, I came across a researcher (and author and all around very cool woman) from The University of Houston named Bren? Brown. Dr. Brown has done the research on connection and here is what she found.
– Connection is why we are here ? it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives
Translate to Work: Connection gives purpose and meaning to our work.
– For connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen by others; we have to be vulnerable
Translate to Work: For connection (engagement) to happen, we need an environment that welcomes vulnerability
– Connection requires that we have the courage to be imperfect, to be authentic
Translate to Work: We ? especially leaders (since we all know they create the culture of the organization) ? need to let go of who we think we are supposed to be and embrace who we are
– Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, love and belonging
Translation to Work: We cannot experience the real payoff of engagement without being vulnerable?we cannot be our best without embracing our imperfection
– Vulnerability is a struggle for us because we numb it?it is not a comfortable feeling so we ignore it or cover it up with other things (food, alcohol, etc.); however, since we cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb vulnerability, fear, and disappointment, we also numb gratitude, joy, and happiness. Then we become miserable and start looking for purpose and meaning in our lives, which leads us to feel vulnerable, so we numb again (more food, alcohol, etc.)
Translation to Work: When we are inauthentic and suppress our imperfection, we also lack the ability to experience true engagement and job satisfaction?and when we numb our experience, we numb it at work, at home and in all of our relationships. Absenteeism, stress and conflict are the results.
– We focus on predicting, controlling and perfecting the people and things around us?and in so doing, we send the message to them (and ourselves) that perfection is the root of worthiness and since we know we are not perfect, we are not vulnerable and do not show our true selves, and so on, and so on, and so on?
Translation to Work: We ?play a role? at work; we are not our true, authentic, vulnerable selves?and we do not experience true joy, happiness and the benefits of real engagement!
I cannot do justice to Brene?s message?check out a short clip here.
I know there is some discomfort with the word love as it relates to workplaces (isn?t that against the law ? or at the very least, an unwise career choice?) Let?s reframe it?at work, I think about love as caring, valuing, and connecting to another person (or people).
I cannot be good at what I do if I do not care, value and connect with the people I work with in every conference audience, training workshop, and workplace that I visit.
And I know I cannot do that, unless I am vulnerable, authentic and imperfect.
Some of you who have seen me speak might be thinking??Oh, Deri?you are imperfect!!? I am very much okay with those imperfections?I can recover, laugh, and even use the slip as a great learning point?and move on.
However, I am not completely vulnerable. I have a story ? as we all do ? that I?d like to share. I believe that sharing this will allow me to be even more of who I am in my work?and it will allow me to ?up my game? in addition to experience more joy, happiness and ?flow? at work and at home.
I am sharing this story because I want to model what I believe we need to see more of in our meeting rooms and organizations generally today.
Here it is.
When I was 26 years old, I married a wonderful, kind man ? he was everything I thought I wanted in a life partner. His name was Kelly. We were married, blissfully I thought, for 8 months. Then, one day, he left me a note on our kitchen table stating that he was a drug addict?and four days later his body was found in his old home town. He had committed suicide.
This experience changed my life. I truly believe it made me who I am today. I am more grateful, loving, forgiving, and engaged because of that experience. I learned a lot from that terrible time in my life.
However, at first, it created very negative, horrible emotions within me. Shame was a big one. I was ashamed that I had married someone who would actually do this to his new wife and to his family. I was ashamed that I had been so naive as to not see the signs of his addiction. Then, I became ashamed that I was ashamed (after all, I chastised myself, he is dead and you are worried about your image!!!!) Another part of the shame was that I thought I must not be a very good person, if the one person who vowed to love me decided to leave the world in that way. I must be very bad. I must be to blame. It must be my fault. What is wrong with me? Whatever it is, I had better hide it!
Brene Brown?s message is ? imperfection is beautiful ? it is to be embraced, not numbed.
I am imperfect.
I have never shared that experience publicly before today. Even though I am a Professional Speaker (and story telling is part of that) I have never shared that story.
I believe a big part of that is because of what so many people in workplaces today face?we just don?t talk about uncomfortable subjects like that. It?s sort of ?messy?. That?s what the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) is for?and in fact, the less we hear about it, the better.
Is that also why so many people who experience depression keep it a secret? Well, I ask, how is that working for us? I believe the statistics show that we have higher absenteeism (disconnection) and depression and lower morale than ever before in our workplaces. Should we maybe start being more vulnerable?
I think that had Kelly done that (been vulnerable and shared his imperfection), he might still be with us today.
So, I say?yes, let?s do it! Let?s embrace vulnerability as the new sign of strength!! What do we have to lose? Who knows?but what we have to gain is the potential for increased engagement, joy, and happiness.
Sign me up! I am worthy!! How about you?
Deri Latimer, B. Mgt., CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of the top 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional, the speaking profession?s measure of excellence in professional platform skill. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri helps individuals and organizations optimize their performance by managing their energy; applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.