“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.” – Brené Brown
I was recently talking to a friend about some of her challenges at work. She sells high-end scientific equipment and just completed a record year of sales, $5.5M, earning her the position of top sales person in the US market. She was sharing about the interpersonal issues that “title” had created with her colleagues. As we dove in, it was apparent that the culture in her company, intentional or not, is competitive, ego driven, individualistic and founded in a scarcity mindset. If she was winning, that meant someone else was losing and doggonit, there were people losing who wanted to bring her down so they could have a little piece of the success pie. We were interested in discovering how her colleagues might increase their curiosity and ask how they could replicate what she was doing in their own territories, so everyone wins.
It generated a lively discussion between us about leadership and the dynamics of team culture. What would it take to revolutionize her relationship with her colleagues and that of her company to being team oriented, purpose driven, and where one person’s success was a team success? I just happened to be reading Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Leadership” which factored into the equation and provided some inspiration and food for thought, about what it would take to transform a culture and generate a team vs. me environment. What we unearthed in this discussion is applicable to any industry and is of most relevance to any manager and leader of a team or organization, including your law firm.
- Purpose: What is your personal WHY, your company’s WHY, your department’s WHY? What is the greater purpose for which you exist that is outward focused? How do you foster that outward service mindset and create a team focused on a mission that is about more than our own profits, egos and degrees? Are your hiring practices aligned with this mission? Or are you stuck in the old paradigm where degrees and experience are worth more than attitude/mindset? Having the right people in the right seats should include hiring and screening practices on behavioral traits and attitude.
- Leadership: Brené Brown said, “Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.” As a leader, how much time are you spending with your team members individually? How are you coaching and mentoring them? How do you ensure they are challenged? Do you ask what they are loving and what they are not about their day to day work? How do you show them you are confident in their abilities even when they make mistakes? How do you remove any perceived personal limitations? How do you keep a pulse on your team’s emotional needs?
- Vulnerability: Culturally, it’s easy to focus on looking good rather than embracing our own imperfections. One of Brené Brown’s lessons is that one can never be courageous without being vulnerable, which means accepting our imperfections. She explains that counter to what many people may assume, vulnerability is not weakness. The awareness and acceptance of our own shortcomings and the ability to share require courage and confidence. As a leader, your ability to be vulnerable and own your mistakes can greatly contribute towards creating a culture that is centered around authenticity and growth. The willingness to take a risk and try something new that is innovative can only happen when we are willing to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Ownership: Not as a possession but as a way of being and acting. Taking 100% responsibility starts with the leaders and managers of any organization. Do not confuse blaming others with holding others accountable. Those are two very different mindsets. A leader steps up and takes ownership of mistakes when they happen, and looks for opportunities to prevent those from happening in the future. However, they can simultaneously hold a member of their team accountable to a standard of excellence while granting grace. The long game here is a culture where everyone can take ownership in their roles.
- People-centric: A paradigm shift is necessary to start relating to each person on our teams as human beings with their own needs, desires, and goals. A team should not be seen as a business resource only used as a tool to accomplish success. Rather, they are your only way to accomplish your goals. When we only (or mostly) focus on the bottom line and don’t invest time in developing relationships and the human needs of the team, we end up with people who are disengaged that will eventually leave. Understanding and aligning your team’s human needs with those of the company is critical to avoid the cost of turnover; not just in dollars but the impact in loss of velocity to accomplishing the success you’re aiming for.
- Connection: How many people go to work and don’t have true connection with their colleagues? How many are lonely for 8+ hours per day? Do they feel like anyone cares? If you have anyone on your team that fits that description, what can you do to engage them and ensure they feel like they matter?
- Clarity & Accountability in our roles: What are the results that each person on the team is accountable for producing? Is it written in their job description? How are they mentored, coached and inspired to meet those results? Are they challenged and fulfilled? Do they feel like they are engaged in meaningful work that makes a difference? Do they know how much they are valued? That they are connected to a team with one mission and that others are counting on them?
Today’s generation has less interest in trading time for money while the need to find fulfillment and purpose is becoming increasingly important. Therefore, we need to transform our cultures to being relationship and people focused. Get to know your team, your co-workers. What motivates them? What is their why? Provide plenty of opportunity for team collaboration.
These conversations are not necessarily mainstream and managers are not given the proper training to transform to that of empowered leadership and team building. Awareness is the key to curiosity which breeds purpose and a team who is inspired by acts of service and being a contribution to our communities. How often do these conversations happen with your team? If you answered, never or seldom, who is starting that conversation with your team, clients and community? It starts with a choice and willingness to be the ONE… the one who is: not willing to jump on the bandwagon one more time and can disrupt the status quo to try something new, even when it’s uncomfortable. Keep in mind that the status quo may be personal, not just cultural, and the courage to break through from comfort to vulnerability, is a calling you cannot ignore on your fulfillment of a larger purpose than your own self growth and accomplishments.
Practice Leadership Coach
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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