Are you hanging from the grapevine?

The grapevine.  That’s a small word for something that causes such heartache in so many organizations.  The need to talk about the people around us has been with us for as long as human beings have walked the earth.  I’m sure that there was at least one person in every group living in every cave who felt it was their duty to report on what everyone else did.  Back then, following the established rules and being part of a group was a matter of survival.  The cave gossip probably filled a very important role in alerting others to possible dangers in a world when anyone who colored outside the lines could literally jeopardize the survival of the group.

After thousands of years, gossiping has moved from a survival tactic to a near professional sport and we’ve migrated from the cave to the water cooler.  Now we can even gossip in near real time with email and texting and we see examples daily that no secret is safe in today’s technological age.  But why do we do it?

Before we go any further, let’s admit that we’ve all done it.  I know I have and while it isn’t something I’m proud of, I believe that it’s important to understand why I did it and maybe why you do too.  I think there are two major reasons that people engage in gossiping.  First, and most often I suspect, we want to feel like we belong.  In my experience, gossip is not often positive and is usually used to cast a shadow on someone else.  By doing that, we believe that we gain a little status and they lose a little.  That was important back in the cave when the higher the status meant the better you ate and the more resources you had access to.  Today it isn’t as cut and dry, but the concept is still the same.  If I can make you look like less of a friend or co-worker or leader than I am, I win, don’t I?

The second major motivation is what I call ‘fishing’.  When someone knows something we don’t, it’s time to get the rumor mill churning with wild abandon.  By putting any theories we can think of out there, we hope that one of them will stick and that we’ll find out a little more information than we had before.  No one wants to feel like an outsider and so often information is used as a means to define our place in an organization – that pesky status again.  The more I know, the more important I am and therefore the higher my status is in the organization – at least that is what many seem to believe.

So my challenge to all of us today is to not just be another grape on the vine.  When you’re tempted to share a juicy morsel, really stop and consider why you’re doing it.  Chances are it is for one of the two reasons above and wouldn’t you rather have who you are defined by building someone up rather than tearing them down?  To me, being true to myself doesn’t allow for a trip to the water cooler or a quick ‘ fishing trip’, no matter how tempting that may be.

SoulWork: Say Please, Say Thank You!

As another Monday rolls around, I’m ready to start off the week by adding a touch of authenticity to a few simple words – saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’.  Most of us use these phrases every day, but I wonder how much of that is truly heartfelt.  I was taught as a young child to say ‘Please’ when asking for something, and ‘Thank You’ when someone does something for you.  It was common courtesy and I have to admit, I usually don’t think that much about it.

This week, I’m going to give myself the challenge of actually being present when I use these expressions.  I’ll use them when I really want to express the sentiment, and not just say the words out of a sense of obligation or ‘political correctness’.  Common courtesy is a great idea, but I think it loses something when there isn’t real intention behind it.  We call them expressions because they are intended to express a genuine emotion, but so often at work we use them without thinking, much less feeling.

So think about your intention when writing or saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’.  Very likely we all define these words differently, but the definition is less important that being mindful of that intention.  For me, ‘Please’ implies a feeling of respect toward the person that I’m making a request – and that I’m making a request, not a command.  ‘Thank You’ is most often purely an expression of gratitude and appreciation.  Simple words, but potentially powerful when they are genuine and sincere.

That’s our SoulWork for the week!  Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I really mean it!

Are you owning or just renting your career?

Why do you go to work?  It’s not a question we often ask ourselves, at least I can’t say that I do.  For many of us we do it because that’s what is expected of us or we need that paycheck or any number of very practical reasons.  But I couldn’t help but wonder today, ‘How did I get here?’.

At first I thought the answer was an easy on – I’m here because of all of the many decisions, big or small, that I’ve made throughout my life.  They’ve led me to this moment, working for this company in this particular role.  But that didn’t feel quite right to me.  As I looked back over my professional life, I’m afraid that I’ve often made decisions trying to control or in reaction to someone or something around me.  If I’m really honest with myself, I’m probably where I am by accident rather than intention.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t worked hard, grown in knowledge and experience and even ‘moved up’.   It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or a failure.  It does mean that it’s time for a change.

I think I’ve been ‘renting’ my career rather than ‘owning’ it.  What that means to me is that I’ve allowed people or events to fuel my emotions and drive my decisions.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made every decision and own the consequences of each of them, but I haven’t always made choices for the right reasons.

It’s very often too easy to place blame or justification for what do in the words or actions of others.  When we do that, we let go of our power to own our careers, and our lives.  Ask yourself a few questions…

  • Do you worry about who gets promoted around you?
  • Do you get upset when you find out that someone has a higher salary than you do?
  • Do you spend time trying to decipher intent behind a comment or in an email?

These are just a few examples of the behaviors that may indicate that you’re a ‘renter’.  I know I’ve fallen into these traps before and I would suspect that many of you have too.  When we are consumed with what happens with the people around us, how we perceive they think of us and what they have that we may not, we lose focus on what really matters, ourselves.  We give everyone around us control over how we feel and react.

Ultimately, you have control over yourself and nothing else.  Realizing that can make all the difference in your life – I know it has in mine.  When we stop trying to control everything that happens around us and take control of our own words and actions, you send a message to your Soul that says you are really ready to live your own life.  You’re ready to become an ‘owner’, not of anyone or anything around you, but of you.

Bring your Soul to work day!

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’m about to open up a conversation about the Soul in the workplace.  I’m not talking about any particular definition of the Soul.  That definition is something that each of us comes to in our own way, and at least for me, has evolved as I have grown.  But I am talking about that part of each of us that goes beyond where we live, our family, our friends and yes, even our jobs and titles.  For me, it is the part of me that knows right from wrong.  It speaks to me through that little voice of intuition, gently nudging me in one direction or another.  It doesn’t judge me, is always forgiving and is always there when I need it.  It is the core of ‘me’ and I believe, is of you too.

But is that a conversation that is relevant in the professional world?  I know it’s a little scary for me because we’re not supposed to talk about (or even have) feelings at work – much less talk about our Souls.  But, as I approach what will likely be the mid-point of my working life, I’m discovering a whole new way of thinking about who I am professionally.  I am finding that the things that have driven me for the past few decades no long seem like they’re enough or even relevant to who I am becoming.  There is a part of me that is ready to let my soul, that real, authentic part of me shine through.  That little voice is telling me that I’m ready for this journey, and for this conversation.

I hope you are too and that you’ll join me on the way!