I had the great privilege of doing a TEDx talk in Asbury Park NJ a few weeks ago.
My subject was “Reclaiming Humanity at Work”.
The experience of doing a TED talk was really interesting.
The two driving factors for a TED talk are that it needs to be “an idea worth spreading”, and that it should be a part of your own authentic story.
As I went through many revisions, I realized that this theme of “humanity at work” really is at the crux of all my work and my own story. Humanity is a theme through both of my books RISE and MOVE, and is foundational element to all of the leadership and organizational work that I do.
I was excited to have the chance to specifically talk about it.
My own story
As I look back on my own career, one of the threads that stretches from the beginning to now, is that I was never someone that sacrificed my humanity to succeed.
What I mean by this is that we all feel pressure to conform sometimes. Many newly promoted managers who are not sure what they need to be doing, think part of the requirement is to act like a big shot. But as soon as you go down this path, you sacrifice your own humanity, and you disrespect the humanity of others.
As my roles got bigger and bigger, and the roles themselves became more powerful, I remained the same person — the same person with a bigger responsibility — but the same person.
As I described in the talk, if you are willing to show up as your true self and respect the ideas and the humanity of others, you get access to a critical kind of organizational information and support that you will never see if you insist on acting like a big shot. (I plan on writing more about this soon.)
Feel Happier at work
What I hoped to share in this talk is a way of working and finding success that people can feel great about, so they can feel happier and more satisfied at work.
If you are willing to show up as your whole, true self, and respect the humanity of others at work, you will actually be at your most powerful and credible. You will also be at your most effective because you will engender the support of others.
And you’ll feel happier because if you feel like the real, interesting, happy person you are on the weekends is somehow not welcome at work, to go through the personality lobotomy every Monday morning to turn into your work-appropriate self is really painful!
“Who are your enemies?”
I have been asked that interview question for my whole life as I was growing my career.
I am recalling being in my twenties, sitting across the table from a grizzly and embittered executive who would ask me, “Who are your enemies?”
When I would fail to produce a list of enemies, the interviewer would look at me with disdain, like I was the most irrelevant person on the planet, implying, “How can you claim to be competent if you haven’t made powerful enemies?”
That scene seems so ridiculous to me now. Because, you know what? I ended up doing OK for myself without leaving a trail of bodies and enemies in my wake.
I built my own success by making friends, and helping others to succeed too.
Win-lose or win-win?
The idea that “for me to win, you have to lose”, never made sense to me. If I can win AND you can win, how does that hurt me? Why is that not better?
I have found that by respecting people’s humanity, and making them feel like winners and heroes, that you can build a tremendous amount of loyalty and power in your organization.
I was able to win because they were able to win.
I am grateful to my mentors and to all of the people who jumped in the boat with me so that we could create success together.
And I am much prouder that I have a group of friends and supporters too long to list, than I am ashamed that I can not name my impressive list of enemies.
So I was grateful in this TEDx talk to have the opportunity to share this idea that is very important to me: Respecting Humanity at Work is not only good for the people, It’s good for business!
I have stayed true to myself and the the humanity of others throughout my whole career, and I find it very gratifying when my work helps others find this path to success as well.
Hope you enjoy the talk and I’d love to know what you think.