I recently listened to a TED Talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshman at Stanford University. In the context of parenting, she talks about how we are raising our children as bonsai trees: carefully groomed, perfectly manicured, ever-presentable and close to perfect specimens.
She contrasts this to encouraging our children to be wildflowers: beautiful, unique, abundant, and blooming where they are.
And I thought…wouldn’t it be great if we incorporated the same in the workplace?
What if corporations encouraged more wildflowers?
Too often, people believe they have to adhere to a certain model of what “good” leadership looks like. Lythcott-Haims identifies core principles that can be applied just as easily in the workplace as with raising children:
Treat each person with respect: No matter the work, people want to be seen, heard, and valued. Our role as leaders is to know what motivates – and inhibits – performance for our team members. Before they can accomplish work goals, our employees “need to know they matter as humans.”
Be a good team player: Interestingly, research tells us that one of the most important factors in determining professional success is doing chores as a child. Lythcott-Haims says that this teaches the important lesson that “…there’s some unpleasant work. Someone has to do it. It might as well be me. I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole. That’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.”
Deliver results: This seems to be a mantra of mine. I find that I repeat it in blog posts, in 1×1 conversations, in coaching sessions…the fact is: Results Matter. Lythcott-Haims attests that “self-efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to outcomes.”
Be resilient: The ability to effectively deal with change is a marker for successful leaders. We often learn far more from our mistakes than through success. Lythcott-Haims talks about fostering resilience in children (read: your employees) so that they develop “…the habits, the mindset, the skillset, the wellness to be successful wherever they go”. Your role as a leader is to teach, to groom and to develop.
There is no one role model for what “good” looks like in the workplace. Success comes from multiple avenues, and from very different people and perspectives. Our role as leaders is to bring out the best in people. Here’s to more wildflowers at work!