When I tell people that my training and speaking programs address emotional intelligence, people development and people management, a common reply is, “Oh, you do the ‘soft’ stuff”! Somehow, that response while innocent, bothers me because implied is “fluff”, not the “real” stuff. I propose that SOFT is very significant today in enhancing our quality of work and life. Important stuff for today’s leaders who must maintain resilience, keep their values high and their lights bright.
Quality of Work Life
For a long time we were told to keep our heart at home. Business was business. Home was home. Emotions had no place in the work place. The validity of that philosophy is challenged by statistics of work place productivity and satisfaction. In a recent study, 85% of approximately 55,000 people who quit work every day in the United States, do so because they feel their work is not appreciated. Approximately 40% of people at work say they could double their productivity “if they wanted to”. A growing apathy is seeping into the work place culture. Leaders and some very good workers are “dropping out” because the price isn’t worth the effort. I refer to this state of affairs as the “whine of the soul”. It seems like we’re wanting more and paying the price for leaving our heart at home.
In Latin, emotion means, “the spirit that moves us”. I’m wondering if it isn’t the human spirit that we need to engage to bring more vitality, creativity and meaning to our work life.
Below are some simple ways we can begin to engage our heart and bring more of ourselves to work.
- Look at ways in which you can express your unique potential. What skills/talents are not being used at work, that if brought to work, would make a difference?
- Get to know one new person or one new thing about a person once/week.
- Acknowledge that it is our choice everyday to come to work here and not somewhere else. Share your thanks for things people do everyday, not just special occasions.
- Express concern for each other as people. How are your kids doing? Did your husband get that promotion? How do you feel about this or that?
- Know how your work and team members’ fits into the big picture of your organization. How does what is done add to the mission of the organization?
- Make decisions consistently from your values. Choose people that support them.
- Set and maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect. Expect the best from every one and then support them in achieving it. This is affirming and honoring.
- Sharpen your manners. Two “soft significant” things are commonly appreciated by employees across the country–“A simple thank you” and “A good morning/afternoon greeting”.
- Constantly tune-in and ask, “Is this worth a piece of my time and energy?”
Inner Quality of Personal Life
I was on an airplane to a presentation in a different city. The sun coming through the window blurred the notes I writing so that I had to stop. I tried three times to resume my writing. Finally, I was forced to put my pen down and look out the window. Bright poufs of clouds shown luminous with rainbow arches, looking almost like holographic stickers kids play with.
Surprisingly tears rolled down my cheeks. The beauty of the scene reminded me how long it had been since I was in touch with me and the “softer” reasons for doing business–my purpose and my making a difference. I had bought into the concept that if I worked harder and longer I’d get more done. I had allowed my “doingness” to pinch out the passion of my work and rob me of time to reconnect with myself and what was really important.
I keep that moment with me as a reminder that “time out” is really “time in” and there is a flow to life, if I choose to hook into it.. Without time to process all the input we receive, we may catch facts on the fly, but we lose the wisdom of the experience. Most of the times when I give myself permission to “be”, I gain clarity, insight, a different perspective and renewal. Reflection and Renewal are important to stay resilient. Yet we resist, because we don’t have time. However, studies reveal that if you spend more than a half an hour of concentrated effort on a single task without a break, the length of time to solve a problem can increase as much as 500%.
Consider “softer” ways of being that net great profit in terms of performance and well being.
- Find a “home” place. It is said we take work, home; and home to work. We are in need of a peaceful place that feels “home-comfortable”. Carve it out and cocoon.
- Look for synchronicities and coincidences. These tell us there’s more than what meets the eye.
- Breathe in beauty and feel your heart open.
- Ask people to share their story. Listen with your heart and be filled by the light in their eyes.
- Look a favorite photo and recall the memory.
- Honor silence and space.
- Ask for a time-in when you arrive home before you engage and get caught up with the night.
- Remind yourself you’ve lived through all the events in your life. Celebrate your courage. Learn from your pattern. Know, you have “bounce-ability”!
I believe ‘Soft’ IS significant. We need to bring all of ourselves to work and to home. We need to tune in to our head and our heart. When we do that, life has a sense of higher purpose–that invaluable gift that connects the dots of our “”doings” and creates meaning, constancy, quality and authenticity.