Don't be half of yourself

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My thoughts lined up during a conversation with Audrey, a 65-year-old woman, with whom we shared 15 days of life at the closest to nature in New Zealand during our family journey.

“We are the only species that have the ability to be unique, and we put in place a system that formats us all in the same way. From school to the professional environment.”

This is surely one of the main questions of our existence and the hardest, knowing who we are and being who we are. This is a full topic on the personal side of the life. I will focus here on the professional side.

First of all, let’s go through what does it mean to be half of ourselves. This is the moment when we do not express what we think for fear of what others might think. This is this moment when we feel stressed, angry or vulnerable and we hide this feeling to our collaborators. This is this moment we act as someone else to please others and avoid conflicts.

“If we all think the same way, there are too many of us”

This, is the worst thing we can do. Condition ourselves not to say what we really think to avoid embarrassment. Especially as a manager, leader or person with influence. This is disastrous as one of our goals is to create a safe place for debate to allow the best solutions to emerge. And how to create trust and safety if your collaborators do not know what your thoughts are? And how to generate great ideas if no one expresses what he really thinks?

To build an effective team, creating a trusted relationship with all your collaborators is key. Some may think trust can be built with pleasant exchanges…but that’s not true. Trust is based on real and rich exchanges. And this kind of exchange may exist only with the following elements:

  • First of all, learn to know ourselves. Recognize our emotions in order to understand them, to express them, and to act towards others by understanding how we feel. As an example, do not jump on a defensive mode when we receive a feedback, but accept it and make the exchange constructive. Doing this exercise on ourselves is also a great start to better understand others, read their behaviors, and act accordingly.

  • Knowing and recognizing is the first step. Expressing our feelings (concern, vulnerability, astonishment, exhaustion …) to others is the second step in developing a feedback mindset and facilitating some situations. It takes a lot of courage to be able to show its vunerabilities, its weaknesses as we attach great importance to what others may think about us. But what can help build trust with the team more than opening up ourselves?

  • Then, use this knowledge of ourselves to better manage the difficult times we experience with our collaborators by saying things as they are and not avoiding difficult exchanges. Knowing ourselves is key to prevent our feelings from directing the exchange. Understand what is happening within us and adapt our mental schema to transform these feelings or let them pass. It is easy to avoid talking about difficult subjects such as performance issue, because this moment makes us feel uncomfortable. That’s an attitude that is bad for the collaborator and for the organization. Telling things as they are makes it possible to create real exchanges, and then, for the collaborator, to understand expectations and act accordingly.

“Building trust requires courage”

This trust and this environment where everyone can be themselves, allows each collaborator to express their ideas, to debate, to contradict. These are the essential elements of a successful team. The manager’s role is to encourage everyone to bring and develop their “best self”, as well as to develop the spirit of feedback to enable the whole group to evolve in a constructive way.

One very inspiring book, Radical Candor clearly describes the kind of relationships that can occur when we fail to build an environment of truth and trust. Kim Scott organized relationships around four categories in which we can stand based on how we care for people and how we challenge them:

  • Radical candor
  • Obnoxious Aggression
  • Ruinous empathy
  • Manipulative Insincerity

By not saying things as they are, hiding our own feelings or keeping silent about our thoughts to avoid conflicts, we clearly fall into the “Ruinous empathy” or “Manipulative Insincerity” categories. This is the worst we can do, as by doing so, we avoid debates, we avoid telling people real expectations and why they fail, we avoid any improvement in the organization, and we avoid real relationships that shape effective teams.

TL;DR: Bring your feelings, defend your ideas, take risks and allow yourself to make mistakes. Do not act as someone else to please others. Instead, bring your best self to work and encourage people to develop their best self.

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