There’s a perception that leaders shouldn't be personal with their employees. Why is that? When you show people you care about them, they’re not only more interested to show up for work, but they are more inclined to help the business succeed.
We recently learned from an occupational health consultant that people are afraid to talk to managers about how they feel, because they worry they’ll get a negative response. This worries me, because we know of examples where emotional support has led people and places to prosper.
Zita Cobb has shown us how people can reach their potential through the economic growth of Fogo Island. Reputation Institute CEO Kylie Wright-Ford has shown us that when leaders are themselves at work—willing to open up about their hobbies and family and friends—people are more drawn to you.
Anyone can be more caring, even if the feeling doesn’t come naturally. Caring is about how we listen, how we talk, and how we build trust—here are some talks and conversations that have inspired me this month:
Five Ways to Listen Better a TEDGlobal 2011 Talk With Sound Expert Julian Treasure
In this 2011 TED Talk, Treasure says we spend 60 per cent of our time listening but only retain 25 per cent of what we hear. The art of conversation is being replaced by personal broadcasting through channels like Instagram. Look around the next time you’re in a cafe, bar, or restaurant, and count how many people are on their phones and not interacting with each other.
So, how can we train our minds to focus, especially when a strength of being a good leader is to listen more and talk less? Treasure shares five ways to re-tune our ears for conscious listening, starting with silence. He recommends practicing three minutes a day to reset our ears.
Grow The Puzzle Around You by Jessica Livingston via Founders at Work
Janet Bannister, partner of Real Ventures is someone I always like to hear from for her honest approach; Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y Combinator is another. I especially enjoyed Jessica’s recent post about her life before Y Combinator and how she grew into her role. She speaks confidently about how she tapped into her strengths to bring a unique leadership style to startups.
She said, “but the things that made me well-suited for it were so far from the qualities most people associate with startup founders. I'll list them so you can see for yourself. I was the social radar, a good event planner, maternal, empathetic, a straight shooter, and not driven by money or fame. Think how far that’s from the profile of the typical startup founder you read about in the press. Maternal? Since when was that an important quality in a startup founder? Let alone the founder of an investment firm. And yet it was critical to making YC what it is.”
Livingston gives nine learnings from her experience and asks us to grow the puzzle around us. “You are a jigsaw puzzle piece of a certain shape. You could change your shape to fit an existing hole in the world. That was the traditional plan. But there's another way that can often be better for you and for the world: to grow a new puzzle around you.” Livingston’s story is a powerful example that we all have something unique to contribute to our community.
Lead With Authenticity via HBR Podcast: Women At Work
I’m a big follower of HBR, so I was happy to see that they launched a second season of this podcast.
The conversation covers a lot, but the main thread is how to define authenticity: is it behaviour that matches your intentions? Is authenticity wearing whatever you want to work (dreads, tattoos, sneakers)? Is it being a straight shooter? Guest Tina Opie says when someone asks her a question, she’ll say, “do you want to hear the truth? Do you want to hear what I really think, or do you want me to say something to appease the situation? If you ask me..I’m going to be super direct.” She says people know this about her now and for some reason people like it.
In a culture of niceness, being direct with someone or saying how you really feel can come off as abrupt, but I believe the key is being clear while being kind. Opie gives us some examples of how to create this culture at work.
There are a lot of important conversations that happen around days like Bell Let’s Talk, but the reality is we need to talk about our mental health all the time.
I came across this conversation from Caissie St. Onge, an Emmy-nominated comedy writer, where she did something really important - she put the responsibility on family and friends of people who are struggling. She started a thread on Twitter and said, “So many messages telling those who are struggling to reach out. Fair enough, but part of what depression does is mutes your ability to reach. If you’re not depressed and you see someone struggling, you reach out. If you don’t see someone who used to be around, you reach out.”
Her point is that as someone who isn't struggling, we don’t always know what to do. She shows us how we can help and what questions we can ask anyone at anytime.
How to Become a Nurturing Leader via The Art Of
If you’re someone who is serious about personal growth then you’ve likely read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I enjoyed this short clip from Duhigg about how to become a nurturing leader via The Art Of, a Canadian organization that engages influential people worldwide to share leadership lessons.
He said, “one of the best things you can do as a leader is to show people their own behavioural patterns.” He believes most of our emotional lives exist at the office, contrary to the popular belief that work is a rational place. “For a leader, your responsibility isn’t just about leading around work, but leading around life. People want someone to help them understand who they are. They want to have a sense of self-discovery.”
Watch the clip to learn how a leader can change people from just employees to an army of people who believe in a company or a cause and want to work to make it something that's ubiquitous.