The conversations you can’t afford to avoid

In New Zealand the process of weaving is an important and practical part of Maori culture. It represents people and tribes coming together into a single indivisible wholeness – the weaving together of many strands of information, insight, knowledge and wisdom into a story of its people.

“Maori weaving is full of symbolism and hidden meanings, embodied with the spiritual values and beliefs of the Maori people.” – Erenora Puketapu-Hetet, 1989.

An organisation is a rich tapestry woven by the story of its people – their personalities and journeys layered with experiences, attitudes, hopes, beliefs, and dreams.

People are the lifeblood of an organisation. Organisational success is a long game.

Over time, people come in and out of organisations. They play their role for the duration they’re there; to continue to weave the tapestry – to contribute to themselves, each other and to the current chapter of change creating their organisation’s story.

Leaders are simply caretakers of their organisation for as long as they are there, and any leader can truly shape the experience people have around them.

There is no one right definition of leadership. Yet the definition has changed. Leadership has moved from managing the process to the performance benchmarks set, to engaging and inspiring people toward shared goals and vision. This shift starts with how much leaders value people, believe in them and genuinely care for them.  It can’t work any other way if we want people to bring their best selves and whole selves to work.

The more you know someone, the more you tend to care about them

Everyone is dealing with their own bag of concerns, problems and issues. No one is holding it together all the time.

Someone shared in a recent LinkedIn post I was contributing to:

“We must acknowledge that what happens outside of the office quite often influences what happens inside. If you ignore one you put the other at risk.  Leadership should be wholistic and recognise that the world, and ourselves, are far from perfect”. 

Shelley shared with me she’s just found out that her husband of 5 years was unfaithful. She had no idea. She’s in shock.  The course of her life changed the instant she found out. “How do I go on Toni?” she asked? “How do I show up when I feel like I’m falling apart?”.

Leadership has got personal

Someone’s mindset at any given time is shaped by their perceptions of how things are for themselves – in and out of work. One in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy₁.

Leaders need to be able to have personal conversations and find out ‘what’s on top’ for people, and not shy away from conversations about work issues, mental health, stress or life situations outside of work.

These ‘real’ conversations are a grey area in many organisations. Leaders don’t know how to initiate them and/or don’t believe it’s their place to have them. More and more though, organisations are appreciating it is their place to have them.  Leaders won’t have all the answers and nor should they. Leaders can though, help channel someone in the right direction if additional personal support is required.

We won’t always get the conversations right, but we should be encouraging the conversations, not with answers, but with curiosity – Kylie Bishop, Group Executive, Medibank

How connected in are you?

People will only speak up when it’s safe to do so. When was the last time you created space and time for people to open up and share what’s on top for them?  The sharing doesn’t have to be highly personal – it’s about ‘connecting in’ and seeing how things are for someone. How would your team perceive the quality of relationship they have with you?

We know each other very well. When you really know your team as whole people, just not people in a job; you get the right to all those great ingredients of trust and integrity.  This is not a nice thing to do, it’s a commercial thing to do. The more you really know and understand your team, the more you can do with your team, because they know there is trust. John Coull, Ex-Executive Director Telstra

Success depends on how people work together, treat each other and communicate. Everything happens through conversation.

What genuine and vulnerable conversations will you have this week that show you can be open enough to listen, connect in, and show you care? I’d love to know.

https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report—tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8

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