People Leadership for the Long Haul
A few months back, as New Zealand was entering lockdown for the first time, I ran a set of webinars to support leaders and their people to navigate a brave new world of work. One of the most popular webinars was called “Remote Doesn’t Have To Mean Remote”, which I led with my colleague and flexible workplace expert Gillian Brookes.
We focused on how to provide the three needs that everyone has during periods of uncertainty and disruption. As it turns out, these three needs are just as relevant for the long-haul journey we now find ourselves on, beyond the acute turbulence of the early days of COVID.
What are those needs?
The first is Belonging.
The second is Bringing.
The third is Becoming.
Let’s have look at what they mean, and how to use them to create a culture that enables people to be at their best during the good times and the bad:
Belonging is the sense that I matter. When I know that I belong, I can breathe out. As human beings, we’re wired to connect. Neuroscience shows us that a sense of social connection is a fundamental driver of motivation and fulfilment. If we want people to show up at their best, the place to start is to create a sense of belonging. That simply might look like a check-in on how people are doing at the start of a team meeting. Or a quick walk around the office to say hi at the start of the day. With this, you lay the foundation for good work.
If you asked your people “who here wants to make a difference?”, my guess is everyone would raise their hand. ‘Bringing’ is about bringing a positive impact. In other words, doing worthwhile work. When you know you’re doing work that’s contributing to a goal that you believe in, oxytocin and dopamine are released in the brain. We feel good, and it motivates us to carry on.
Recently, the World Economic Forum has emphasised that if we want people to thrive, it’s not just having a job that counts. It’s having a job that provides meaningful work. And what better way to get a sense of meaning than to know that your work is bringing a positive impact to others?
If belonging is about ‘I matter’, bringing is about ‘it matters’.
Just as we’re hard-wired to connect and to seek meaning, we’re also hard-wired to grow. That's what ‘becoming’ is all about. We’re particularly motivated when we overcome a challenge and realise the potential that was untapped. This is the mastery drive that Dan Pink talks about in his research on motivation. The more we have that sense that we’re a little better, a little more skilled today than we were yesterday, the more we’ll be motivated to keep going. When we see ourselves improving, we can say “I’m growing”.
Combine The Three B’s
Just like a fire needs the three elements of oxygen, heat, and fuel to burn brightly, so too do people need the three elements of Belonging, Bringing and Becoming to shine at work.
When we deliberately pay attention to cultivating these three B’s, we end up with a fourth: Being. Being productive. Being well. Being fulfilled. Isn’t that what we wish for our people? When we ask them “how are you going?”, I think we want them to reply with “I’m great”. Right?
In times like these, the workplaces that will thrive beyond the current crisis will prioritise the three B’s to create the fourth. As leaders, it’s our work to ensure we create the conditions for the three B’s to be present and thriving in our workplaces.
How might you do that?
For more resources, check out:
- The Remote Doesn’t Have To Mean Remote webinar recording and resources here.
- Jeremy Leslie’s great work on Belonging
- A brilliant podcast episode, Putting People Purpose First, profiling Nikki Gatenby and her award-winning company, Propellernet
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