by Judy Ryan
“Many of us live in denial of who we truly are because we fear losing someone or something-and there are times that if we don’t rock the boat, too often the one we lose is ourselves...It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay.”
— Dennis Merritt Jones, a universal speaker and author
As a CEO for 20 years, one of my daily prayers is, “Please release me from the need for love, approval and acceptance from others.” It’s not that I don’t need or want these things; it’s that I don’t want to need them from a person when I’m serving. This topic may be unexpected for a business publication, but I’m in the business of culture transformation and that’s always people transformation.
Good leaders must know how to lead their people in the direction that strengthens the most authentic and expanded version of themselves. In order to do so, leaders must understand what makes humans feel a healthy sense of belonging and significance so they can be themselves without fear of loss. This can only be taught and modeled when leaders also know what they themselves need.
I have a saying I use with clients: “If you can’t say ‘no,’ you can’t say a real ‘yes.’” The same is true about authenticity. I can’t lead in the best way possible if I’m concerned about being loved, approved of, and accepted by others including my customers. Once I make not losing someone the motivation for my actions, I have become transactional, voiding the value of any offer or service. Then I’m buying, not providing, and the price is often the sale of my soul and watered-down service—not a great look or favor to those you lead. One of the bedrocks of my culture model is that every person must be given the conditions and conversations in which they experience psychological safety. Only then do people feel safe to be authentic. Otherwise, they suffer; experience anxiety, depression and fear; and tend to withdraw their creativity and initiative. This situation creates a team of people who lack the innovation and vitality for their life and work that’s necessary to support a healthy, productive, competitive business.
To help your people, you must support authenticity in yourself and your staff. Here are four elements of the work I do to help people nurture courage in themselves and others using encouragement practices:
1. The first is affection - creating conditions that include kindness and validation so that everyone feels important, seen, heard, and connected. Affection is only possible when gossip is eliminated, open communication and trust are high, and people are supported in learning how to be caring and supportive, even when challenges arise.
2. The second is compassion - being with one another as they learn and grow. Compassion is why we rotate leadership of small review sessions: to ensure everyone knows what it is to both lead and follow. Compassion is why everyone has a partner with whom to give and receive monthly mentoring. Compassion (with curiosity) are promoted at every turn. Otherwise too many drown in criticism and intolerance for self and others. Compassion means ‘we are all in this together.’
3. The third is confidence - speaking the highest truth without equivocation. Confidence is declaring that people are great or want to be great, and if they’re not, there is a darn good reason why. Confidence is communicating that problems mean change is needed in a system or team. Confidence speaks of the highest mission and visions.
4. The fourth is trust, not only in one another, but also in the goodness of people at their core. Trust allows us to listen without rushing to fix, convert or change people. Trust is respect, receptivity, disclosure, and recognition that it’s ok for us to be separate, amazing human beings and to acknowledge differences with appreciation and curiosity.
I care enough to risk losing people because I know good leaders realize the importance of their commitments and their constancy. People can be fickle, and life goes its way, but a strong leader remains constant.
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!