We all know the world is changing. And that companies are evolving at a break neck pace to adapt to the many challenges they face from the political, social, environmental, and mental health challenges that are prevalent in the world. Companies are innovating, changing the way they think about business, working to become socially responsible, and building a diverse workforce.
All of this is super important, but there is a possibility companies have it backwards. As Simon Sinek says “you have to start with your why?” Companies that truly start with their “why” embrace these challenges by creating an environment where their employees can step in and make a huge impact that aligns with a common purpose for themselves and for their customers/clients. Not only that, companies actually inspire each person’s career, while igniting change within the individual and the company itself.
However, it is not the company’s “why” that should be the only focus. When an employee knows the why, they align with why the company makes a difference in the world and what value they are contributing and providing personally. Since employees have their own personal goals, when a company inspires every individual to bring their real self to work while giving them the tools needed to grow, something magical happens.
Take the story of Verizon’s former CEO who worked as a cable splicer’s assistant out of high school. Ivan Seidenberg started at the bottom of the telecommunications industry and worked his way to the top with the help of a company that allowed him to grow, learn, and advance himself. He understood the core values, vision, and mission in the company… and the why. And he did his best in every role to support and create value, while supporting the company’s core. He was a pillar in the transformation of Verizon, becoming a leader in both the traditional phone market and the wireless industry.
What are some of the challenges employers face, and how can they inspire their teams?
Not every individual in your company will climb to CEO, but harnessing an environment that inspires growth and possibilities can mean great things for your company.
With the current job market going through record high quitting rates, it is coming to light that most individuals are prioritizing their personal path to fully align with their career path and not the other way around. People are more focused on what makes them feel whole. Feeling whole also translates to making a difference at work. Parallel examples of this outside of work are: making a difference in sharing life with a significant other or growing a family or making memories with extended family. Paving an environment where people can share their concerns, can ask for help in learning, can raise their hand to help in new areas and take a risk to step out of their comfort zone will create more CEOs of the future.
Here are some ways that build a culture of inspiration:
Create a healthy work environment
It is also important to realize that an environment where people can be more transparent and able to share when they are less happy, they are feeling burnout, or stressed is important to a human’s psychology.
Clearly this discussion is taking place in public. More people are talking about their mental health. Though not everyone is Simone Biles, in the spotlight, expected to perform flawlessly every time she takes the stage. But imagine for a moment that you are someone so good at your career that you excel all the time. Not only do you gain recognition within your organization, but you gain recognition outside of your organization. Everyone sees you as a subject matter expert (SME) and a go to person.
Okay, so maybe you are already an SME, but imagine the pressure to continuously be good at what you do. The pressure is so strong that you don’t want to let others down, yet the pressure becomes so much that you end up having to.
That is exactly what happened to Simone Biles. She was on the world stage, and she had to back down. The pressure was too much as she risked injuring herself. This created transparency and got conversations started. She received praise for being so open about her personal health and taking care of herself. Unfortunately, there were also critics that said her job is to push herself to the limits.
This is such an important topic in the work place and has come to the forefront of conversations. Have you noticed lately that more individuals are on LinkedIn discussing their mental health struggles, that they have kept hidden from colleagues? There is a common theme that the more visible you are the more scrutiny and expectations others put on you… or that you feel you have to put on yourself.
So how can you as a company be supportive? Build a culture of transparency. Acknowledge that your employees are real people with real problems. No human is perfect. Let your employees know that it’s okay when they feel they are struggling, to take a moment and relax. Realize that employees can’t be the same, bright, individuals if they are struggling inside. Imagine this in an easy way, for just a moment: You whack your toe on something you didn’t see sticking up. It is throbbing. Try to be happy, though the pain is excruciating. You can’t be happy when you are in pain. They are opposite feelings.
There are some companies that are also being supportive by adding mental health days as regular sick days and supporting their employees so they can mentally be present, therefore inspiring them to come to work being their best selves.
Create a work environment that has a higher purpose than revenue and profits
Have you also noticed that companies are advertising that their product/services are green, sustainable, or cruelty-free? Or maybe you have heard of the CEOs who receive bonuses for sustainability efforts at the end of the year. That’s because consumers’ care. In addition, many individuals are wanting to work for a company that cares for the world we live in. People have always wanted to live in an environment that is clean and healthy. Many are now including sustainability into their life’s mission and want to be part of a company that supports their mission.
Companies who automatically care for the environment are showing their employees they care for their wellbeing outside of work. If you don’t feel your company is caring for the environment or being green, here are some things other companies have done: They have changed their packaging to compostable. They have found ways to reduce the amount of travel their product goes through to reach the consumers. They have reduced the amount of time a person spends on the road in the car, with hybrid schedules. Most companies have already gone paperless. And something as simple as providing every employee with a water bottle and a thermal container with their name imprinted on it, will cut down on plastic bottles, coffee cups, etc.
Lead with inclusion and you strengthen diversity and equity
Diversity, equity, and inclusion has topped the list of hot topics for the past several years. After all, when we support one another, no matter what race, disability, sexual orientation, or gender we have, we inspire each other. Most of the media talks about underrepresentation and discrimination. The root of those problems is inclusion. If we include everyone, we build diversity and equality become much more visible.
Think about it for a moment. If you were the kid in gym class that did not get picked for a team right away (consistently), when you were picked did you feel inspired? If you picked those kids first, they would have felt included and been inspired to give their best. As it was, they performed to the level the team captain believed about them. Not inspiring others to be their true selves, without prejudice in their careers, limits their growth.
Upskilling can also help in building an inclusive environment. If you find that your company is not as inclusive in certain parts of the business or that diversity lacks in functions or levels of leadership. Allow your employees to train in areas where there may be gaps. In my own company we have a culture of learning. I inspire my team to take the time to learn and it is a part of their work week. The outcome helps innovation and different ways of looking at a challenge. I also enjoy knowing that I am inspiring growth within my employee’s career.
What a culture of inspiration looks like if these ideas are implemented
It embeds your employee into your why and aligns them with the culture. When you “include” your employees, care for their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the bigger community or world, you build a place where they can feel embedded. What does that mean?
Embedding an individual means making them feel included in your organization and an integral part of the organization’s success. It means they feel ownership in the success of the company. They authentically speak highly about the company, its products, its purpose, and more to anyone who will listen. They recruit good people to the company and they don’t want to leave a good relationship. They see a future and feel they will retire from the organization.
Needless to say, there are many ways that you can inspire the next Ivan Seidenberg of your company. The best way to do this is to build your why, include all backgrounds in being a part of your why, tie it to the community and align it with the greater good of the world. This will inspire creativity and embed employees in your company.