With few exceptions, I am the same inside and outside of work. I don’t have “work Jason” and “non-work Jason” and I don’t play any games necessary to differentiate them.
This has led, over the course of my career, to beloved colleagues often referring to me as the guy who will “say it like it is” or on the more disapproving side, as “TMI Jason” or will comment that my “executive maturity” needs development.
I think “executive maturity” means learning how to be authentic in every situation, not hiding selectively hiding parts of yourself to be well-received.
The executives I want to work for don’t water themselves down so they can be palatable to all. Admittedly, this doesn’t always work out for these leaders in today’s environment.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
So when we try to change ourselves to fit, who are we seeking to please? Or, are we whitewashing our individuality so as to try to please all of the people?
It’s incredibly hard to change who we are…especially as the years go by and we gain more and more confidence in our beliefs about…our beliefs.
The Dweck book on “Growth Mindset” is huge right now, and its lessons are valuable. If nothing else, it creates “awareness” to the ways we are stuck in our points of view.
“Growth Mindset” challenges you to not be fixed and to always be open for a change in perspective. In and of itself, that is pretty easy to do if you’re not a self-defined autocratic asshat and have the tiniest sense of collaboration and aspire to “success” that is not 100% synonymous with your “personal rewards.”
Acting consciously and consistently with a growth mindset involves taking risk in terms of your immediate term rewards. For the executive, “growth mindset” can be perceived by some as weakness or lack of commitment. For the individual contributor, “growth mindset” can lead to exploring things orthogonal to the defined company strategies and wondering if it doesn’t pan out, whether they’ll still have a job.
Either way, it is the “risk” that stops us from having a “growth mindset.”
You have to step in to discomfort in order to grow. You have to risk to learn. You have to accept uncertainty when you play outside the rules of the game.
The autocratic asshat has it much easier than the person who operates with a growth mindset in today’s environment. It is still a risk to stand up and ask a question, challenge a hierarchy, go a different direction.
So how do you know when it’s okay to be more definitive and convicted? How do you know this isn’t you being stuck?
CEOs and thought leaders are granted a greenfield where they have little risk in stating a future vision…they take a risk on the success of their leadership in execution but not on their statement of beliefs.
But what if that vision needs to come from somewhere else? What is every one of us had a Mulala Yousafzai or Mark Zuckerberg working for us or among us who felt they couldn’t freely share their point of view?
What is that person worried more for their families safety and security because losing that would be the absolute cost?
It’s ridiculous to think we’ve solved any of this or that statements of our “safe workplaces” actually mean anything.
How much safety have we created for respectfully sharing a difference of opinion?
We must end suppression of voices – obviously. Everyone has a seat at the table.
Once this is done, ensuring people feel safe and encouraged to step outside of their “lane” becomes mission critical.
And this is one place where we have very little bandwith to make mistakes – “one ah-shit can undo many atta-boys.”
When stories are told (fact or fiction) of people who were fired or pushed out because they tried something new, dared differently, or exceeded the bounds of the organization’s ability to comprehend what they were up to…when this happens, the damage requires that much more effort to repair.
“They say stay in your lane boy, but we do what we wanna do. They think this thing is a highway, but will they be alive tomorrow.”
I think we’re a long way off from the free exchange of ideas and the democratization of information that must transmit among every layer of people to create the next generate of human productivity.
But I’m not hopeless.
The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging we have one. Ask yourselves: are all voices heard? Is safety ensured for those that disagree? Is dispute when things aren’t working a safe harbor?
This is there era for all voices to be heard.
This is the era for our personal selves to be equally valuable, treasured, respected, and welcomed as our professional selves.
This is the era where we learn to say “that’s not me” and “I love that you are who you are” in the same breath.