For the past year and a half as I've been building Adventure Awake, I've been lucky to serve a sort of dual role at Nordea in Copenhagen both as a financial manager and as the resident coach for my team. As one 12 year long phase of my life in the financial industry is coming to an end, so starts the new phase as an entrepreneur in the coaching industry with the absolutely perfect segue.
We do these daily morning check-ins in our team where we go through a series of questions that ultimately result in us feeling more connected with one another by the end of that half hour.
For a while we were asking the same questions every day ("Right now I'm feeling..." "Yesterday's win was..." "Today I will..." "This is what I need..."), until I noticed last week that we had found ourselves sleep-walking through the very meeting meant to wake us up and keep us connected with one another. The most popular answer to the prompt asking about what we needed had become: "Coffee."
Shit - if we aren't awake enough to think about what we actually need in order to add value to this business by the end of a 30 minute meeting meant to invigorate and inspire us, we need to change it up, pronto.
Our comfort zone is not a static thing. Just like us, it changes. What used to make us uncomfortable (our team had a particularly hard time asking for help and celebrating their successes about 6 months ago) probably won't after some time spent habituating to it. If we want to keep growing, we have to keep reaching for discomfort, which means continuing to face new unknowns. Mastery and specialization is ultimately a muse, and striving for it can easily result in a perfection-oriented mindset where our whole lives are rehearsed mundane productions and we never get the opportunity to really use our brilliance because our entire mindset is on autopilot.
It is my personal opinion that life is not meant to be lived this way.
So yesterday, when the time came for me to check in I admitted to feeling sassy.
I used to believe the office was not a place for sass. It was a place of professionalism and decorum and diplomacy and fancy ties. Emotional expression outside of a narrow range was something you did on your personal time.
I'm not sure who came up with this rule that we now all semi-unconsciously follow, but my guess is it was someone (or a group of someones) who really liked feeling in control of his/her/their environment, as though such a thing was actually possible outside of a vacuum. It's no longer new news that VUCA is a thing, and we need to start behaving accordingly.
Who are we to rob the entire word, and especially the place we spend 40+ hours a week, of the most interesting parts of ourselves? My sass is actually one of my most valuable attributes, along with my capacity for disruption. I wake people up and keep them on their toes. It's actually one of the main reasons people hire me, especially as a coach. To not be the very thing I'm known for out of perceived decorum or fear of appropriateness would be a damn shame and a true disservice to those around me, because in not being sassy and disruptive, I'm hiding my truth.
Suffice it to say, in fully embracing my sass like I do when it arrises, I had my team in our morning meeting yesterday skip over the usual questions and instead I asked them about which tasks or projects they were going to penetrate. I gave them a charge-y word often associated with sex and asked them to use it in the context of their work in a bank. I witnessed them move through the discomfort of how they interpret that word to getting REALLY TURNED ON about penetrating a bunch of stalled tasks in the office. BOOM: Inspiration and wake up on a Monday morning.
What followed was a conversation about how we gain respect and trust in the office. If we're going around openly feeling sassy and talking about penetration, that MUST mean we're going to abolish any semblance of respect we might have a shot at earning from our peers and leaders, right???
I've got a newsflash for all the professionals out there: we don't earn respect and gain trust just by wearing a tie and being in our chair eight hours a day. I have literally never worn a tie in the office and occasionally work from home, and I have a ton of colleagues who respect and trust me. They do so because I very rarely compromise on my truth in the office, even when my truth works outside the narrow range we're conditioned to function in and involves provocative language. Ultimately, the people I work with trust me because I give them permission to trust themselves.
Even a team as amazing as mine is at risk of going on autopilot when adhering to a standard set of obtuse and arbitrary guidelines, no matter how interesting and inspiring they were at the point they were introduced. Leading isn't about finding a fool-proof formula and executing it flawlessly and forever. It's about being versatile, recognizing when the people around us have leveled up and are ready for more, and then having the capacity within ourselves to actually let them grow, regardless of the "rules."