Have you ever worked with someone whose values changed the moment they left the office?
Many business owners experience a disconnect between their personal values and spiritual beliefs and “the way business works”. Separating our personal life from business life is a way to protect what we value. When life ends we are one person, whole, complete and perfectly imperfect. I discovered this at my lawyer’s funeral.
Craig’s son notified us of his father’s death. He invited Randy and me to the service after finding a wallet photo of our children in his father’s office desk. I expected to see people I knew at the memorial reception but everyone else was family or friends. His children confided that Craig had kept his work life completely separate from his home life. I felt privileged that chance events allowed me to meet his family.
Knowing I was career-oriented, Craig used to peer over the top of his glasses and caution me to make time in my life to have a family. After our second child was born, it was Craig who prepared our Wills. I’d given him the wallet photo as “evidence” that I’d taken his advice to heart.
Craig provided legal counsel that saved me money over the years. The photo was a gesture of my appreciation for his unsolicited advice about work-life balance. I wanted him to know that his contribution made a difference for me. A token of my gratitude.
The internet is crowded with claims that gratitude can make you happier. Some say a daily ritual of recounting what you’re thankful for can change your life. Even Harvard praises the healing power and benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude as a daily practice is great for individuals.
I have been consciously taking down the invisible wall that separated my head from my heart. Today my life is simpler and my heart is filled with appreciation for where I am in my personal life and my business. I can honestly say I am genuinely happy.
Practicing gratitude in solitude is great for introverts. Our own thoughts can leave us happy and smiling. We get to have the life altering conversations from inside our comfort zone. By that I mean talking to ourselves. People outside of ourselves may never know how they have impacted us.
I believe there is something equally simple yet exponentially more powerful than gratitude.
Acknowledgement is the action of expressing appreciation toward another person. It is a way of showing you noticed someone or something.
Where gratitude is great for individuals, acknowledgement is terrific for businesses, organizations and families. Acknowledgement is gratitude expressed through communication in a way that makes an impact in the world.
Acknowledgement touches other people at an emotional level. It has the power to move people to action, to give them courage. When gratitude acts in response to another person it provides benefits to the person acknowledged AND to you.
Positive appreciation inspires people. When unexpected it can make someone’s day, put a jump in their step. It is a great way to reinforce the kind of actions and behaviors you want to see more of.
Acknowledgement is exponentially more powerful than gratitude. That’s what I was saying to Craig through the gift of the wallet photo of our kids.
Traditional approaches to business development and human resource management have created a fixed mindset when it comes to standards and ideals about success. The separation between “business” and “social/family” is more damaging to human development than we realize.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you use appreciation too often, you could diminish the feeling you’re trying to convey. Particularly when your words lack depth and meaning. Moral platitudes fall into the category of sarcasm and judgment. Shallow remarks and “happy speak” are meaningless.
Acknowledgement is consistent with the principle of the "Structure of No Structure" I introduce to organizational leaders. It is a powerful way to notice and incrementally release the gifts and talents in other people.
As business owners we are simply noticing what works. With each behaviour-enhancing, system-improving acknowledgement we are “collecting” new dots so we can connect the dots later.
Acknowledgement is powerful enough to create a culture shift. It lifts people up with enough force to start an upward spiral.
For people to become capable we must first believe them capable.
This premise of believing someone is capable is equally foundational to employee development as it is to raising children in any society. When you gaze into the face of a young person, especially someone who has survived on the street for a long time, you will see the cracks in our society reflected back at you in their eyes.
Most of us can’t be with people whose life experiences and behaviours we don’t relate to or understand. Those of us in the “normal” world don’t know them, don’t want to know them, or can’t accept them. I believe it’s important to acknowledge those who can hold space for others in ways that we are unable to for various reasons.
One organization I appreciate has taken an entrepreneurial approach to the streets, literally. They are helping to transform one young life at a time.
The Doorway is a self-funded, choice-based approach that releases “trapped potential” in street involved youth. Using a critical path method of planning that’s proven effective in business, they make young people aware that there is a doorway to walk through. Staff and community together hold space and opportunity for individual young people to learn from their mistakes and plan their own steps to getting off the street.
You access dramatic change, the kind of change that gives you a quantum leap forward, by confronting what you don’t know, what you don’t want to know, or what you don’t think you can deal with or accept. This is your blindspot. Whatever is hidden there impacts your current reality by holding you stuck in a pattern of scarcity-thinking, denial, defensiveness and unconscious action. If you’re not getting the results you desire in life or in business, acknowledgement is the way to begin a new appreciative inquiry.
Pivotal moments in my life followed a “fight, flight or freeze” moment. I was hell bent to do one thing (or to do nothing) but someone or something intervened. An unpredictable insight or opportunity opened up that revealed something in my blind spot and shifted my point of view.
Some of those transformational moments were warm and welcoming interactions. Some were harsh and unwelcome. Both types contributed significant value and changed the trajectory of my life in ways I may not have recognized or appreciated for days, months or years.
At Possibility.ca we create a safe, judgement-free space for people to re-examine their life and business experiences in new light. Often the opinions, beliefs and judgements you formed about yourself and others in the past are holding you back. It's valuable to objectively reconsider if there is another way you could interpret what happened to you. This is the first step in harvesting seeds of new opportunity and growth... even from tragedy.
If you want to bring about lasting and systemic change in your life or your business, there are no shortcuts. Your blind spot contains the clues and puzzle pieces you need to construct processes that move you toward your ideal future. Get curious about your recurring patterns. There’s no place for “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, or finger pointing in the fact-finding stage. Just get crystal clear.
No matter how spontaneous and unstructured you may think you are, your life is a series of recurring patterns. It’s how the human brain is designed. No one is immune.
Before you can influence the behaviour patterns of your team, you must first take full responsibility for the patterns hidden in your blind spot. You are the catalyst of what takes place around you. You have more power and influence to construct your ideal future than you know. Take time to explore the human systems while learning a gentle process that affects lasting change. It takes practice and a very specific process to reap the rewards.
Leading change has little to do with how much power, money and status you have. Even if you are starting from scratch, starting with nothing, you already have everything you need. In fact, having nothing may prove to be your advantage. After all, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. So why not give it your best shot? The more rigorous you are with yourself, the bigger the impact you’ll have with others. We are intrinsically connected. You are capable of becoming the high leverage point in the system you want to change.
What system do you want to change? Who could you acknowledge in a conversation to get the ball rolling? I'd love to know.