What does humanity in business mean to you? Based on my background as a customer-centric strategist, you might expect me to (yet again) point to the need to shift focus from products to customers and employees, care about them, improve their lives and meet their core needs. I could point to piles of research about the ROI of doing exactly that.
But what would be the point of yet another article about something you already know? You’ve known this for years. Heck, I’ve been writing about humanity in business since 2005. I used to think that if I could just tell the right story, show the right data, and articulate all the case studies, the needle would move.
But business is a complex system: we’re sitting at an unsatisfactory equilibrium point with stagnating satisfaction for everyone. Most of us are burned out, but we keep forging ahead anyway, doing the same things while expecting a different result. So what I’d rather talk about now is why no real progress has been made, and what we can do about it.
The answer lies within each of us
We can’t go directly at the problem and expect it to change, just like you can’t smooth your hair or adjust your tie by reaching towards the mirror. The outer world is a mirror of our inner realities. And if we look around and see an absence of real humanity — an over-rotation towards left-brain analysis, short-term ROI, emotional guardedness, fear of diversity, workaholism, tech obsession, political games — well, there’s only one way to fix it. Not out there, but within each of us.
After my year-long sabbatical roaming around the world with my camera, allowing myself to step off the never-ending hamster wheel of business as usual, I was able to revisit this problem with fresh eyes… and more importantly, a newly awakened heart. I discovered that I was trying to fix something in the outer world that I needed to deal with myself: my own lack of humanity.
I’d bought into the lies.
“Emotion has no place in business” was a convenient lie to believe, because I wasn’t comfortable with my own emotions.
“Vulnerability is weakness” was a convenient lie, because I detested the idea of vulnerability. I had built my armor over the years, and I’d be damned if I was going to take it off.
“Logic is better than intuition” was the lie beaten into me at a management consulting firm that didn’t know what to do with my brain wiring: a bottom-up, pattern-matching insight engine that didn’t conform to their linear, top-down process.
“More is better” is a convenient lie that masks an inner belief of “not enough.” It keeps us chasing an elusive goal instead of creating meaningful and satisfying work right now.
I could go on, but you get the point.
We allow humanity to bloom within our workplaces by deeply listening to our own suppressed needs in order to better listen to those around us. Honoring our truth so that we can honor the truths of others. Discovering the paradoxical strength and safety in vulnerability. Unlocking the wisdom of our whole mind — which goes beyond our brains into our bodies and emotions — to tap our full human potential.
This is what we’re all yearning for: the freedom to be true to ourselves in life and work. And this truth ripples outward from courageous leaders to their teams and employees, and beyond to customers and partners. This is what “change starts with me” means.
The coronavirus shutdown has given us a chance to reflect on what’s really important. The time has come to make a choice: return to business as usual, or take the step into a new way of living and working where we all can thrive.
If you’d like to practice authenticity in a safe, small group of peers, we invite you to consider our Groundbreaking Leadership experiential group coaching program. Click here for more details.