For several weeks I wrote about the seven practices leaders should employ when contending with this subject: Leading in a Crisis: What to Do When the Storms Are Raging. Over the past four weeks, I have been teaching on Keeping It Real.
Keeping it real is more than just telling the truth. It is about living an authentic life. It is about being truly you at home, at work, at school, in the community, during worship, out shopping, or wherever you find yourself. Many times I have heard professionals say, “I must be like this at work. But when I’m off the clock, I can be myself.” This is troublesome. While we are teaching clients about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are aware that women and minorities are trying to fit in. They are trying to make personal adjustments to be a part of the organization. However, there should be movement from the people AND from the organization. We will address the organization during another post. Today, it is about the individual.
Dare to be different. Organizations that perform at suboptimal levels often do so because they have not created an inclusive culture. As a result, employees do just enough to not get fired. In an effort to stay employed, they will adopt the corporate persona while watching the clock, looking forward to quitting time. Even non-exempt employees will wear the company mask well while watching their virtual clock. Their hypocrisy is not bad in and of itself; it is a survival technique. I want to challenge individuals to move from surviving to thriving. Some organizations may not have realized it yet, but they need to hear from you. They need your contributions based on your unique experiences. They need to hear diverse perspectives. When you adopt the company mindset and only share what the leaders want to hear, you do a disservice to both the organization and yourself. Look. You do not have to right every time. No one can be. Your team may be searching for a solution. Because you think differently, you may have the answer within that needs to be shared. Katherine Johnson was a black female working with white men at NASA during segregation. She did not apologize for her differences. She used her strengths. This brings us to the next point.
Bring your strengths. What a blessing it is to work in an environment where your passion and purpose can be realized. Katherine Johnson’s passion was mathematics. Her purpose was to use her passion to propel the United States ahead of the Soviet Union in space exploration. By using her strengths, she paved the way for those who would come after her. Yes. She was gifted. However, everyone is endowed with strengths in certain areas. As one discovers their passion and purpose, they will discover their strengths. Once you learn your strengths, or better yet, use and sharpen your strengths, you can become more engaged at work, more productive in your role, and more fulfilled. You will feel empowered because you are operating in your strengths zone. There are various tools to help a person discover her strengths. Gallup does as good a job as anyone with the CliftonStrengths assessment for about $50. When your strengths match the need of the organization you both win. You contribute at an optimal level and the overall performance of the company increases. There are too many talented people in the wrong roles. Find your place. Asked to be reassigned. Live authentically and discover where you fit best. Don’t look to be liked. You cannot please everyone. But seek to be respected by utilizing your strengths and standing on your principles.
Stand on your principles. It has been said that a person who will not stand for something will fall for anything. There will come a time when you will be asked to do something that goes against your core values. To be respected, please model integrity in every interaction. John Maxwell was asked by his publisher to write a book on business ethics. He said no. There is no such thing as business ethics. It is just ethics. In his book, Ethics 101, Maxwell asserts, “Companies that are dedicated to doing the right thing, have a written commitment to social responsibility, and act on it consistently are more profitable than those who don’t.” By extension, we can apply the same concept to individuals. Ethical companies consist of ethical individuals. “Ethics plus competence is a winning combination.” Unethical behavior is not sustainable for success. Stand on your principles and do the right thing. Jim Blanchard said, “If we had only one rule in this company, it would be the Golden Rule. If we’ve got that one right, no other rules are necessary.” It can be convenient to do the easy thing over the right thing. I want to encourage you to never violate your principles. Trust is built on integrity. If I can trust you and you are competent, I am more willing to promote you. So protect your character, walk in integrity, stand on your principles, and live your authentic life.