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It takes a village. Have you built yours?
Here's why idolising the Elon Musk' and Jeff Bezos' of the world doesn't make any sense.
We live in a world that romanticises the solo artist, the self-made person, the leading actor, the CEO. I often get mad at how misguided and damaging this is.
(I was going to talk more about narrative this week, but this is my current hyper-focus so I'm going to indulge in it instead).
In reality, it's neither practical nor desirable to do everything alone. It's harder, lonelier, and never as good as when two or more minds collaborate.
Plus, it's boring. Don't you get tired of hearing about the same person who did something or another? Wouldn't you rather hear about a team that collaborated on an amazing thing?
Let me take you on a rant about how human connections rule the world and they make us better leaders, designers and overall humans.
Did you know “connectedness” is a strength?
For real, it’s one of the 34 themes in the CliftonStrengths assessment.
They describe it as the belief that everything has meaning, that we’re part of a larger picture, and people who are strong in connectedness are bridge builders who can hold a team together and make it greater than the sum of its parts.
Doesn’t that sound like an awesome superpower?
And doesn’t it sound like a fundamental requirement for managers and leaders?
When I did the assessment last year (didn’t like taking the test, but loved the results) my result for Connectedness (#2) made me feel super seen and validated. I always saw the pattern between human interactions and the success of a project, but I didn’t get much praise for it in the past - if anything, it got me labelled emotional, motherly or even gossip.
Please indulge me, let’s do an exercise!
Get a pen and a piece of paper, then:
Draw a line in the middle.
To the left, write a list of 5 things you’re good at and you enjoy doing (now’s not the time to be shy!).
To the right, write where you learned about each thing.
Here’s my list:
Now: look at the right column, close one hand, raise it in the air and… count one for each colleague, friend or family member you credited.
See what I did there? 😏
(Also, maybe you should text them now. Sounds like a good time to say hello 😉)
I've worked in this industry since I was 20, and I know I did not get here by myself. At every step, I received help and advice in many ways, from many people, who may not even realise they gave me tools. Every successful project I led was fuelled by a “butterfly effect” of people and events that aligned favourably.
So, what blocks all of us from taking full advantage of this beautiful web? Well.
Human-to-Human interactions are tricky, especially at work, where there’s often a power dynamic involved. So we tend to be careful, keep some distance and conform to expected behaviours. Maybe, maybe, we do some mild, inconsequential gossiping with one or two people to release tension now and then 🤐.
Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in our work-safe “persona”, letting it become a prison instead of a shield. Our interactions with our coworkers can become transactional, and we miss out on opportunities for connection and growth.
How connections (literally) give you energy
This is a fun story, it involves me dying in a puddle of sweat.
Healthy human connections can enrich you, support you and push you to do your best
A good leader creates environments for communities to thrive (and a good designer seeks them)
Everyone needs and deserves a community of their own (or more than one!)
One word of caution: in a healthy village, people don’t do power struggles; they accept you as you are, you don’t have to compromise your value system to fit in; they use kindness, not politeness; and the trust goes both ways. It’s absolutely ok to be picky about who’s in there.
So, build yours carefully, even if it takes time, it’s worth it.
See you next time!
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. This is not the first or last time I recommend it. I don’t read a lot, and this I read twice.