One of the biggest business buzzwords today is “authenticity.” After centuries of simply hiring people to complete tasks, organizations are inviting them to bring more of themselves—their personalities, emotions, humor, style—to work. What’s driving this trend? Studies say the more you can be yourself at work, the higher your job satisfaction, level of engagement and performance. Customers like being served by people who are genuine and relaxed, not scripted. Millennials, especially, want authentic workplaces and leaders. Used to sharing their feelings on social media without fear of judgment, they are less interested than previous generations in conforming for it’s own sake and hiding their individuality.
Accomplished. Entitled. Ambitious. Impatient. Compassionate. Self-centered. Team-oriented. Job jumpers. These are some of the wide range of terms used to describe Millennials. Born between 1982 and 2004, Millennials will soon be the largest generational group in the U.S. workforce. Millennials have their own generational distinctions, but they also share several important values with the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who preceded them. A report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value showed similar percentages of all three generations want to make a positive impact at work, help solve social challenges, work with a diverse group of people, be part of a successful organization, do work they care about and find work-life balance.
According to surveys of companies around the world, emotional intelligence is one of the most critical job skills of the future. Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ (for emotional quotient), is the ability to: 1) recognize your own emotions and manage them without letting them control you; and 2) understand what others are feeling and use that knowledge to work with them productively.
High-performing organizations invite people to bring their “whole selves” to work. That means all their passion, personality, joy, excitement and creativity. It also means their grief and fears. These “dark” emotions are as much a part of life as happiness is. We all lose loved ones. Marriages end. We battle serious illnesses. We worry about our children and our ability to support them. Sometimes we lose hope that things will get better. Some people respond by bottling and burying their sadness and fear, especially at work. That’s what John Wayne would do, right? It feels productive, but over time these trapped feelings can lead to anxiety, depression and disease.
Of the four FISH! Philosophy practices, people tell us Play is the most difficult to understand. To help, we decided to go to the experts: Kids. Play is essential for child development. Through play, children take charge of their lives. They create rules. They test new ideas. They work together. Because their playmates can quit the game at any time, children learn to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.
Mindfulness has been getting a lot of people’s attention lately. That’s good, because mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s the intentional practice of living in the present, aware of what is happening around you and inside you. Focusing on being alert sounds easy—like drinking a cup of coffee—but it’s not. Studies show people spend almost half their time doing one thing while thinking about something else. Typically we obsess about events long past or problems that have not happened yet.
Your brain loves to make life easy. So it hard-wires your frequent actions and thoughts into habits. That saves you time when performing everyday routines. But it makes it difficult to replace habits you know aren’t helpful, like overreacting in certain situations or fighting every change.
Your organization’s most important source of energy doesn’t come from the local power company. It comes from your relationships. The dictionary defines energy as “the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.” Its synonyms include enthusiasm, spirit, passion, drive, vigor and get-up-and-go. It’s the effort you want to give vs. being forced to give.
“Stop and smell the roses” is more than a good reminder. It’s good science. Our brains use more neurons to detect negative experiences than positive, and install them into long-term memory much more quickly. The reason? Evolution. In an interview with The Atlantic, Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains it was vital for early humans to learn from dangers such as predators or storms. You could go a few days without a positive event like finding food or mating, he says, but if you did not avoid the predator, you died today. Over thousands of years, that “negativity bias” was hard-wired into our genes.
Human beings don’t like change. The familiar feels comfortable, even if it prevents us from moving forward. I recently found a classic Harvard Business Review article by Paul Lawrence that explored why we resist change—and what we can do about it.