Bring Your Whole Self to Everything You Do.

We all have many “parts” that sit within our one body; father, daughter, employee, leader, neighbor, worker, religious believer and maybe even a baseball fan. You get the idea.

Here’s another idea; what if you brought them all together in whatever you did – like your day job? One unified whole, not just a part you pull out of some trunk when you needed it and then tuck it back when after use.

No more changing in and out of different roles; just one set of “you ” to think about taking care of for the entire day.

And yet that’s not what most of us do every workday. We park our other selves at the door to our workplace, and pick them up when we finish up.

PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi suggests a different route – performance with purpose she calls it – and argues that it’s the way of getting the best out of the people with whom you work. She’s got company, and as the goal for greater performance rachets up it turns out to be the counterintuitive, but effective way, is to rethink who we are at work.

Wharton’s Stew Friedman reports that 20 years worth of research on leadership and performance shows that “ when you bring the whole person to work, you get more energy, productivity, commitment, and focus.

It was a treat, then, to co-facilitate a leadership retreat with a group from one of the internationally recognized schools located in the Boston area last week. While the retreat’s goal was more effective teamwork and performance, the exec’s key message was that we’re only going to get there if we appreciate – and utilize- the diversity each member of the group brought to the team. In other words, bring your whole self to your work.

That idea of whole self, in essence using all the tools, skills and experiences from your life not just the ones that are marked “work,” requires a different tact – and encouragement – than the usual approach.

The University of Michigan’s Scott Page’s research shows that all types of diversity pays off in greater productivity for the workplace (and community place as well). A recent McKinsey study – “Is There A Pay-off from Top Team Diversity” - showed the same thing in terms of diverse boardrooms and corporate profitability.

But as Pam Fox Rollin has noted in her book, 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role :The Manual They Didn’t Hand You When You Made VP, Director or Manager-  ”Diversity of all sorts is valuable to an organization only when people feel free to bring those differences to work.”  And you can’t bring your whole self to work if you can’t bring what makes you special – and different – along with the other parts of you.

There are, however, at least three catches to the “bring the whole (and diverse) self to work”mantra. First, it’s not as simple as the old model. Second, it’s messier; it’s more complex (and also richer, and more interesting.) Third, it’s the only way most organizations are going to be able to engage, inspire, and optimize their human capital.

Todd Sears, who happened to be gay in a business sector, financial services, where bringing his whole self to work was not welcomed, is a great example of smarts, talent, and performance that escaped the Wall Street talent wranglers. Now, as the founder of Out on the Street,financial services firms pay attention to, as well as lobby and support him.

What does it look like to start to integrate your whole selves into work? Here’s one small example.

Last week I was with a (male) exec coaching client when one of his (female) direct reports swung by in the early afternoon. “Just got a call from school and my son’s sick. I’ll be cutting out to pick him up,” she noted. “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you out with,” my client said. “Hope your son feels better as well” he continued. ” “Me too,” she said. “ I’ll log on later to see if there’s anything up this afternoon and give you a shout if it looks like I’ll be out tomorrow. I’ve got back-up set-up in case that happens.”

The client from Boston last week was doing well with working through their differences – part of what makes good teams even better – when they surfaced some ideas around what that meant. Apart from some ideas around support, and having each other’s back, they also identified one in particular about what it’s like to bring your whole self to work. “Candor with care” they offered, will help you bring your whole self in a matter of fact way, and less the object of look at me attention, or even derision.

Hunch is they’re on to something.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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