At a recent conference, I listened to many speakers tell a room full of CEOs not to worry about AI (artificial intelligence) and robots and other technological advances – it was making space for us to be more human. Now, this proposal posed an interesting thought for me – are our business leaders really ready to be “human” never mind being “more” human?
Being Human in the Workplace
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what it means to “be” human, in the workplace:
- Bringing emotion
- Being kind to others
- Creating a sense of belonging
- Trusting and caring
- Forgiving mistakes and learning
- Empathizing with others
- Truly valuing the differences
- Embracing and owning our vulnerabilities
- Showing compassion.
As we all dive deeper and deeper into our exploration of what it means to “be” human I fear the speed at which people are being asked to work and the constant shifting and stretching of performance targets sees humans honing their skills to be more of a “human doing” than a human being. You just have to take a look at culture and engagement surveys, they are consistently showing how we are losing our humanness – sacrificing it to get stuff done and achieve results for shareholders! It has increasingly become about the shareholders and their financial returns, and in the short term too, making it even more challenging for business leaders.
Being human requires vulnerability – are we ready for this?
I don’t believe our leaders are ready to use more of their humanness in the business world. It takes courage, requires trust and involves great vulnerability – most leaders we’ve encountered are not ready for this. They have spent years building highly effective protective shells enabling effective and efficient business performance. When pushed many still resort to the old fashioned “bully-boy” tactics and push their corporate weight around when wanting to make the decision they want to make for the “good” of the business.
For years business people have been told how important it is to be professional, that there is no place for “emotion” or being human in the workplace, that as you progress through the leadership echelons it is important “not to be too friendly” (read this as “too human”) as it clouds your judgement. We have even gone as far as labelling these skills as “soft skills” and thereby diminished their value – I mean, really, what current business leader wants to be soft?
Put into context, these same business leaders are constantly presented with KPIs to achieve in order to retain their position and their remuneration – these KPIs place great emphasis on shareholder/owner satisfaction and returns – equating to bottom line performance and share price! Getting things done, achieving results is far more important than “being human”.
Yet let’s pause and take a look at what we are creating by reflecting on the wise words of the Dalai Lama:
“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
Your competitive advantage – being more human!
Being more human, in business, is going to be your competitive advantage in the future – so get ready if you are a leader – to be more vulnerable. Take more conscious time to build trust and have the courage to “be” human and sacrifice your current intent to “be professional”. Instead, bring compassion to the people you work with every day for over seven hours a day!
This is going to be your competitive advantage! So counter-intuitive to what is currently being spruiked.
There are still too many CEOs looking for KPIs to measure the success of their Leadership Programs – they are certainly not interested in developing their leaders to be more “human”! Sadly we see an increase toward intellectual development in opposition to the more organic and real development of emotional intelligence – and this is where the competitive advantage lies. The organisations who see and value the importance of being human and valuing the humans working within their teams are the organisations that are building their competitive advantage for the future and are AI ready.
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