Has anyone ever said to you, at work, “Don’t take it personally. It’s just business. It’s just work, there’s nothing personal about it.”
Maybe someone says, “It’s a tough year, and I know it’s hard, but we’re going to have to cut your departmental budget. But don’t take it personally.” Or they say, “I really appreciate the work you’ve been doing on this project, it’s great work. But things have changed and we’re going to have to pull the plug on it. But it’s not personal.”
We hear this all the time. But the peole who say these things just don’t get it. The only way that I can not take my work personally is if I turn myself into a cog in someone’s machine. Machine parts don’t take things personally. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my car mechanic say, “Your carburetor hasn’t been performing at it’s best recently. I think you’ve been undermining its confidence.” No. Machine parts don’t take things personally.
But I don’t want to be a machine part. I want to be a human being. And we human beings, we take things personally. And we take our work very personally. And our best work, when we bring our personal best to work? It doesn’t get any more personal than that.
Getting people to bring their personal best to work is the pinnacle of leadership success. If we want to lead people to bring their personal best to work, we have to get personal. It IS personal.
So just how personal do we need to get? There are boundary issues here, of course, but we can be willing to work with people not just in terms of their task assignments, but also in terms of how those tasks affect them personally, at the level of their personal attitude. Attitude is the sole determinant of whether someone brings their personal best to work or not. In all our leadership initiatives, whatever technical or strategic issues may guide us, we can also be guided by an awareness of how our leadership is affecting people’s attitude.
Am I trusting enough to invite their trustworthiness? Am I generous enough to invite their generosity? Am I in touch with my own fears enough to support them through their fears? Am I attentive enough to invite their attentiveness, but not so attentive that my attention precludes their own?
Making work personal requires self-awareness, so we know what our own attitude is in the moment, which can actually be surprisingly hard to know. Self-deception is more powerful than we often notice. Making work personal also requires awareness of others, as people, so we know what attitude the task is provoking in them, and if that engages their personal best or not. This personal approach isn’t an invasion of privacy. It’s the right kind of generosity; the generosity of letting people find joy and fulfillment in their work.
To speak with Crane about support for your organization’s leadership development, or for personal performance coaching, please call him at (902) 240-5904, or click here.