There are six powerful words which are rarely used in the corporate world.
6. I’m sorry.
Let’s start with love.
Before you accuse me of going all ‘touchy-feely’, or snigger at the thought of love and ‘corporate’ being used in the same sentence, humour me. I’m not talking about romantic love, but love at a broader, conceptual level. What about the following for starters:
Ask your direct reports, “what do you LOVE doing? What completely lights your fire?”
Demonstrate variations of love in the way you interact with others at work – kindness is a perfect example of ‘love’ in action.
So is connection. Warmth. Compassion. So is just listening (without judgement or problem solving) to a colleague who is stressed and at breaking point, instead of scurrying down the corridor so you don’t have to deal with their (and your own) uncomfortable feelings around fear or sadness or not coping or whatever.
What are the courageous conversations you are not having right now, which need to be had?
What would you do right now if you were not afraid?
Where can you be more courageous as a leader? In your life?
While interviewing Shane Anselmi, MD of Overland Footwear, he said, “there was not much joy about the place” and that really struck me. Joy brings engagement, passion and happiness. And there’s a squillion research results which demonstrate the link between these things and organisational performance.
How can you bring more joy into your workplace?
I love this quote which really nails the power of joy in our work:
“When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of creation is completed inside us, the doors of our souls fly open and love steps forth to heal everything in sight.” – Michael Bridge.
When was the last time you heard raucous, belly howling, fall off your chair laughter at your workplace? If the answer is “I can’t remember”, there’s an opportunity to bring more fun into your professional environment.
One way to start is by taking the mickey out of yourself a bit. As a leader, self-deprecating humour is always a safe bet. Another idea is to do something just a tad silly. Dance walking down the hallway to your next meeting is for the more courageous amongst you, for starters.
In case you don’t know what dance walking is, check this out…
Karl E Weick (2001) articulated it powerfully when he said, “when bewildered people ask, “what’s the story?”, leaders can answer this by saying, “I don’t know what the story is, but let’s find out…”
Give up your all powerful, all knowing archetype of the leader. Authentic leaders are OK with saying “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” and “I stuffed up, I made a mistake”. Effective leaders are not afraid to demonstrate vulnerability in this way.
What ever happened to a good old fashion apology? Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is too often replaced with spin and half-truths. It’s as if admitting we were in the wrong, conveys incompetency or weakness.
But the irony is that saying ‘I’m sorry’ illustrates we are human AND that we take full responsibility for our actions. This also shows people honesty, which is so integral to building strong relationships.
If the above six words are rarely spoken or demonstrated in your workplace, I dare you to be courageous. Model these concepts. Weave these evocative words into your conversations. Demonstrate yourself what you want to see in others.
And – I’d love to hear how you get on.
Do you have any words to add to this list? Please leave your comments in the space provided below.