“Cultivate Cultures Through a Soulful Spark of Humanity”
At a company event where I was a speaker, I talked with the organization’s newest managers. I was shocked at what I was hearing. I asked this group how they engage their people, get to know them, and invite them to bring their best selves to work. Each looked at me as if I was saying something inappropriate. One manager dared to share what they were thinking with me. He said he was taught not to know their people and keep it to work stuff. My brain went numb for a minute – these leaders were losing sight of what it means to be people leaders, instead becoming disconnected and robotic in their managing approach. It gave me plenty to work with for that particular keynote speech.
I shared the pitfalls of what can occur when people are treated like mechanized parts and compared this compartmentalized mindset to how people prefer to work; this approach is quite the opposite of what the newer generations in the workforce are craving today as they search for meaningful work and cultures that stimulate happiness. These managers will find it challenging to connect with employees looking for these values, which will stall growth, limit potential, and suck any joy out of the organization’s culture.
We need more leaders that will openly embrace more human interactions instead of pushing people away. There is a sense of fear – managers worry about getting in trouble or being unable to make tough decisions if they get too close to their people. Some of my previous managers took a step further and even encouraged me to use fear as a way to lead. I pushed back to teach in a way that was more authentic to me, infused with kindness and care. This approach has served me well throughout my career.
I recently interviewed Mindi Cox, SVP – People & Great Work at O.C. Tanner. She is one of the most inspirational leaders I have met in my life. Mindi lives out her passion in alignment with the O.C. Tanner’s (https://www.octanner.com) business mission “to help people thrive at work” and bring out the best in people all around the world. Both she and her company firmly align with their people-first motto with a conviction to connect people with a bigger purpose.
Mindi is not your typical leader. She sets her true north to align with people, as her title implies. She desires to create a culture that delivers an experience where employees have autonomy, are all-in, and have a deep sense of belonging where they feel connected and valued.
I reached out to her to learn more about her purpose and how it connects to this mission to help people thrive at work. Mindi lit up and said she sought her authentic purpose diligently and now has one word she openly now lives by. Admittedly, she was reluctant to share or use this particular word in the workplace until she realized it was authentic and exactly how she wanted to show up at work AND in life. Her one word is L-O-V-E, and she believes it is “the core human principle that opens doors to superhuman capabilities.” Mindi was initially unsure if she should share this purpose word with work colleagues. Until she realized, “if I cannot share love at my job, then where would I share it?” Her vulnerability and willingness to share love at work inspire greatness!
Mindi shares her love in ways that allow her people to feel safe, empowered, and represent themselves in an environment that welcomes and cares for one another. Mindi notes that the word doesn’t limit holding each other accountable or having tough conversations. It merely changes how the conversations occur with empathy and commitment to the relationship. For example, Mindi notes you can give tough feedback by using thoughtful language like, “I trust you because” or “I know I can share this feedback without judgment” as ways to open dialogue for a safe conversation.
Through these practices, Mindi serves with heart and inspires others to cultivate workplace experiences that invite a soulful spark of humanity where people are valued and respected. Trusting and empathic relationships form the foundation for people to discover and create amazing breakthroughs. Mindi is a breath of fresh air, and we need more leaders like her in our world.
Ironically enough, I heard another leader speak at a conference recently and how she also hesitantly welcomed the word, love, as her power word. Melinda Dransfield, Chief Well-Being Officer at Happiitude, said, “Love is the common connector across our global community” and notes “how the more people feel they too are loved, they will grow and thrive.” Read more in her article on linked-in: Judge-less-love-more-unlock-power-belonging-melinda-dransfield.
At first, I felt love was only for family and friends, yet now I agree with these courageous leaders that how we treat and take care of each other everywhere we show up in our lives is a positive living condition. Upon further reflection, I recall a few particular moments where I thought I was doing the right thing and now realize that I was showing love for people at work in ways I know how to share love. It is possible!
- Being an Ally: I actively speak up about acting as an ally for others. One time it led to a woman letting hundreds of colleagues know I was the voice she didn’t have. She is now paying it forward and actively chose a new role on a public platform with a loud voice to resolve systemic racism. When we give love, we make it safe and inspire others to love too.
- Embracing Emotion: Many people have cried or shared frustration with me about their roles, feelings of unworthiness, or even mistreatment by others. I have become comfortable and accepting of these human emotions over time and guide people to become stronger in the end. Genuine care builds trust and belief in ourselves and one another.
- Develop for the Greater Good: I changed my path as a people leader and now encourage people to develop any skills that excite them, regardless if it directly impacts their role. People have thrived in this environment and discovered outcomes they deemed were once impossible.
Our world and the people in it could use every bit of love these days. It begins with each of us choosing our path, checking the language we use every day and living by it intentionally. I challenge us all to accept this word, love, in our vocabulary in meaningful ways to cherish each day with love for each other so we can all thrive in ways that bring us a feeling of inner peace and transcendent happiness for the rest of our days. It starts within, you can do this, and it will make a difference.