I believe that it’s time to give new meaning to old concepts. That it’s time to question our current perspectives on what’s considered as the status quo.
I’m talking about ideas, concepts, values that shape how we behave, how we prioritize, how we make decisions and how we lead in a business environment, in our lives, heck – even in our love lives (but for the sake of argument, I will focus on our business lives here).
For years now, I’m witnessing how many professionals, on every level of the career ladder, sheepishly repeats that their core values are integrity, reliability and that (obviously) they want to develop themselves, they’re good in a team and can work solo perfectly. Yawn.
I remember learning how to write a job application and it would start in the same non-surprising way, with the same boring words, repeating the same hollow phrases written in the advertisement. Why? Because I had been taught that’s what I needed to do. I need to follow a template, tell them what they wanna hear and repeat the same ol’ shit during interviews.
FOLLOWING WITHOUT QUESTIONING…
This is the problem: too many people don’t stop to question the norm, they simply follow it and adjust themselves to it, because they want to get and keep the job.
- Why have we accepted that we need to always get better, do more, achieve the best – at the cost of our own health and sanity? Yes, growth is in our DNA, but this pushy need to always improve makes so many people believe that they’re inadequate, which in turn blocks progression.
- Why do we believe that to be taken seriously, we need to dress appropriately for our gender, position, age, body type? Even when we deep down wish we could express ourselves differently, knowing that rules are simply ‘made up’ and may not be true for us? We’re confined, quarantined, by rules.
- Why are we okay with the (distorted) idea that in a work environment there’s only space for our inner ‘authority figure’ who is confident, solid, trustworthy and focused, but we forget there’s a part of us that feels vulnerable, maybe sometimes insecure and it simply wants to be expressed too, without judgement?
The questions are retorical and yet the answer is: because we want to be accepted. Even if it means that we deny parts of ourselves. Especially now that so many jobs are at stake: better keep it low, not complain, deny our inner humanness.
WE NEED TO REDEFINE VALUES
As long as we accept outdated definitions of certain values, we cannot really embrace the possibilities of the New Normal.
So, what do I mean with that?
I mean to say that values and words can hold a lot of different meanings. In my article about ‘professionalism’ I already argued that this concept needs a new perspective too. We need to redefine what professionalism means in a world that’s learned how great working from home, wearing sweatpants instead of high heels or a suit can be.
The same goes for reliability. We need to understand that somebody expressing their hesitation to work in the office again does not mean they’re unreliable, weak or too fearful. It simply means they are human.
As long as we don’t redefine values, giving more space to our human side – our flaws, insecurities, fears, hesitations, exhaustion, but also our need to connect, feel appreciated, and free to express themselves – people may step over their own boundaries again, feeling too much pressure to adapt.
Whatever cannot be expressed, will be repressed. Repressed can possibly become depressed. This is a little extreme, but it includes the dissatisfaction, high pressure, disengagement, even burn-out.
HOW CAN WE HANDLE THIS?
People simply want to be acknowledged. Heard. Understood. Seen. They want to feel appreciated, connected to a shared cause, they want to feel that they contribute.
In the old reality we focused on creating certainty (steady, predictable business), autonomy (individual needs) and growth (profits).
In the new reality we should allow people to experience a higher level of variety (to stimulate their creativity), connection (with the business and people in it), and contribution (to a greater good).
In short: we need to redefine values and their meaning, and make sure that we value the right things.
Leaders need to be the one guiding this new way. You need to redefine what professionalism means and lead by example. You need to make people feel they’re safe enough to express their anxiety, doubts or hesitation. Maybe even their fear of losing their jobs.
And if you’re a solopreneur? Then you’re STILL a leader and all these ideas apply to you as well! Your definition and expression of your values need to be YOURS. It’s how you will attract the right people and lead them by example.
It’s time to set a new standard that allows you to be you – fully.