Sharing our burdens as leaders

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At our last all-company meeting – which took place on Tuesday, 5th April – our Chief Marketing & Brand Officer, Theodora Gatin, gave a shout-out to Rudolph de Kock, who is our newest software engineer (having joined our team in December of last year), and our Founder and CEO Sarah Hawley quickly echoed her sentiments. “I was going to say the same thing.”

The crux of the shout-out was that Rudolph has been adding value across the company in a variety of different ways – above and beyond the job that he was hired to do on Growmotely’s globally-distributed IT team. This has not gone unnoticed. Upon receiving said praise, Rudolph went on to explain that the reason he’s able to add value in these unique ways, is because of “the environment he finds himself in”. Most notably, because of Growmotely’s ‘Transparency and candour‘ value, which gives him visibility across the company, so he knows where he can add value.

It’s true – our ‘Transparency and candour’ value rocks our world and delivers gifts to us every single day. But there was something a bit deeper at play here that I wanted to explore. Something that our ‘Transparency and candour’ value couldn’t deliver by itself if our leaders at Growmotely were less ballsy. And what that is is this: here at Growmotely, as leaders, we strive to share our burdens with our team members. We fight against the urge to shield them from our burdens. We share. We don’t shield.

Many of us have been conditioned to shield – or to protect – our team members…and heck, our family members as well, from certain realities and truths. And often in the name of doing it for their own good. Hmmm. Who is this serving? Or – perhaps the real question is – is this serving? Well, perhaps not as much as we think, or in some cases, perhaps not at all.

Let’s take a closer look as to why it might serve us, as leaders, to share our burdens with our team members a bit more – and shield our burdens from them a bit less.

⁜ The more we share our burdens, the more we open ourselves up to receiving the incredible resources that the people around us have to offer. In fact, sharing is one of the foundational mechanisms that allows creation and co-creation to happen. If we don’t share what we’re struggling with, we will almost certainly miss out on receiving beautiful gifts from our team members. Let’s remain open to receiving these gifts.

⁜ Humility. How is your ‘humility game’ these days? Humility is an emotional state-of-being that – amongst other things – allows us to grow as humans. And, although it might seem counter-intuitive, it is one of the things that gives us our personal power. A passage in the Tao Te Ching serenades us with this idea: “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.” When we avoid situations that ground us and render us humble, we miss out on so much learning – and on opportunities to enrich our character.

⁜ We feel lighter. Sarah Hawley shares – in her book Conscious Leadership: a Journey from Ego to Heart – about the time when she “came clean” to her team and shared with them transparently, and with candour, the truth about a difficult financial situation the company in question was in at the time. “It was one of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had. I shared exact numbers and details around the poor decisions I’d made that had led us to this point. I spared myself nothing and laid myself bare. I promised them I’d operate in a fully transparent manner moving forward, that I’d include them in our decisions.” And then. “After the meeting, and in the days following, I felt lighter. Deep inside, I knew I’d just significantly leveled-up as a leader.” In addition to all the obvious benefits of feeling lighter, isn’t it true that when we feel lighter, as leaders, we are able to navigate with more clarity and we have more resources with which to act on that clarity?

⁜ ‘Stinking Thinking’. I remember learning this phrase as a child – from my mother. She would use this to describe a way of thinking that was off – a way of thinking that, well, stunk. This is why we go to therapists. We can air our thinking out, and our therapist can let us know when our thoughts are rancid. Stinking Thinking can creep into teams and companies as well. When our leadership teams lean towards sharing and lean away from shielding this presents an opportunity for the team members getting a whiff of the thinking in question to hold their nose in protest.

Amazing! Are you starting to understand why we lean into this way of showing up? Great. Of course – it’s not all about us as leaders, so let’s explore some of the reasons why sharing – not shielding might be beneficial to those (our beloved team members, for example) on the receiving end.

⁜ We invite others to shine. Let me take you back to the beginning of this article. Our man in Pretoria – Rudolph. Remember how our CEO and our CMO showered him with (deserved) gratitude and praise at our last all-hands meeting? This might not have happened had our leadership team not been committed to sharing their burdens. How would Rudolph have known that certain skills he possessed could be leveraged to help solve pressing company challenges in teams outside of his own if leadership had decided to shield these things from him – and ‘for his own good’ to boot?

⁜ Letting people in on what it’s like ‘at the top’ is a gift. At 26-years-old, I started working as an employee in a small boutique coaching firm, where my two bosses gave me a very clear directive – and in no uncertain terms – once I knew my way around (more or less): Act like you’re the CEO. Push the thinking forward all the way, and then keep us in the loop as to what you’re up to. This directive served my growth immensely and helped me understand quite early on – and in an embodied way – that (as Sarah Hawley likes to remind us all) everything is made up. When there’s no one to whom permission is to be asked, the buck stops with you, and the realization comes sooner or later that everyone is winging it to an extent. Everyone is out there making the world up as we go along. The sooner people get this, the more resourceful, competent and creative they become.

⁜ We allow people to dwell in a place of greater coherence. NLP teacher and author Ian McDermott wrote – in one of his many poignant blog posts, “I’ve come to learn that when I’m confused there’s usually a very good reason. Too often people lack the confidence to regard their unease, their confusion or even their distress as something which is trying to tell them something. The feelings are feedback to us from ourselves. Paying attention to them can help us tap into what I call the wisdom within.” As humans, we absorb a million different cues from all over the place. And when there is an attempt to shield important and often relevant information from us, we can be left feeling slightly confused or sometimes massively confused. By contrast, when burdens that affect the collective are shared with us, even if those burdens are hard to swallow, we now – at least – are living in more coherence and the confusion has dissipated. Living in coherence is always preferable to living in incoherence, even if the veneer of the latter is rosy.

⁜ “If you grow up in Portugal, you speak Portuguese.” If we model sharing – rather than shielding – our burdens with our team members, they will normalize this way of being and carry it with them as an integrated part of their person as they move throughout their career and their life. What a beautiful gift to give.

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Really, there is a Venn Diagram when it comes to how we – as leaders – benefit from sharing not shielding and how our team members benefit from this practice. The overlap is considerable. One of the most fundamental overlapping benefits is that life – and business – is much richer, much more meaningful and much more rewarding when we are sharing the most pressing and the most real things with our people…so that we can all experience the deepest, most relevant and most important conversations that the world has to offer us.

This is the Future of Work. And we would love for you to join us.

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Conscious Leadership: A Journey from Ego to Heart

In her latest book CEO and Founder Sarah Hawley takes you through her personal journey of stepping into a more conscious way of leading, by living a life of integrity, bringing more compassion and love into our lives and our businesses, and empowering those we lead to reach for their highest potential. Sarah’s story will inspire you toward discovering your unique heart-centered existence as an entrepreneur, leader, and human.

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