Being There For Each Other

By Lori Hanau

What does it mean to be there for each other in our workplaces? And why does it matter?

These inquiries always give me pause. Isn’t it obvious? It has taken me a good part of my 59 years to realize how very far from obvious it is for a good many of us. In a business context, we are often given the message that these inquiries are trite, woo woo or that they are questions for our therapists, not our coworkers.

Fortunately, with the ever growing popularity of emotional intelligence, mindfulness and well being influencing our workplace cultures, a new work day is dawning.

In order to be there for each other, we need to be willing to care. This requires our capacity to be open to living from our hearts as well as our minds. This is delicate territory. Because it is delicate territory...because along with being strong creatures, we are also so subtle, gentle and brilliantly sensitive creatures, this is BIG territory.

Zooming out a bit more, the territory gets even bigger because we express our care through our actions. This is not just a mental activity. It is an activity of social action.

When I sold corrugated boxes for my Dad’s manufacturing company, he used to remind us all consistently to never underestimate what it takes to build quality relationships with our clients, coworkers and our other community members. The message at work was so clear through his actions. We were cared for. Steadily. Through the quality of our social engagements after work, through our health benefits but I think most impactfully it was how Dad listened to each of us. He knew the names of our family members. He asked us about our hobbies. He asked us for our opinions. AND YOU KNEW HE MEANT IT. The secret sauce. It was infectious. We cared for each other. Even when it was hard, when we clashed, which of course we did at times, this was our solid foundation. There was no doubt for any of us working within this cultural ethos, that the high quality of our relationships was the ground of our consistent success and sense of purpose.

My mentor, Angeles Arrien always reminded me that in any relationship we are engaged in, we are each responsible for 50% of that relationship. And we are each 100% responsible for showing up well within our 50% of the relationship.

How do I care to show up with my 100%? Does my boss, do my coworkers feel they can offer their true opinion in my presence? Do people feel safe giving me direct feedback? Do they feel heard and seen by me in our exchanges? Do they trust me to be reliable and come through on my deliverables? If not, why not? Am I brave enough to really want to know? Am I open to seeing my blind spots? Am I willing and open to be the leader in changing myself to become a more caring and connected being?

For it is when I am willing to go first in being vulnerable, to show I care first and foremost, that the potential for my light shifting any darkness, including my own, appears. Potency. I’ve created the space for radiance. Our radiance, our caring ways is a healing agent, a powerful force, a power source.

My radiance, my caring ways, is a healing agent, a powerful force, a power source. Repeat after me…..

Or when someone else is willing to take the lead by being vulnerable, possibly apologizing for a misstep or sharing something from their humanity that reveals their sensitivity and I don’t leave them hanging there by themselves in the conversation, the potential for radiance has arrived. Can I step in as a follower of caring, having them clearly feel that I am there with them, even as it will most likely be uncomfortable because I may not agree with them….until it's not. Until each of us and both of us together have found our new comfort zone through the honesty, the grappling and quality of our care.

At the heart of it all, I have found that it isn’t about agreeing. It's about feeling seen and heard and respected for our humanity at work.

Each of us - and all of us together need to debunk the narrative that we need to leave our hearts outside the workplace. That our hearts are unreliable and unnecessary, less valuable than the brilliance of our minds. Through this conditioning, what is abnormal to our humanity has become normalized. For sure, collaborative, relational practice, capacity building and skill building is valuable training and so doable.

Here at Global Round Table Leadership, we know it's time to turn the table on this narrative of the unreliable heart of us. Please join us in our community building effort to be there for each other in the workplace, from the inside out.

After all, we care to use our businesses as forces for social change, shifting from transaction to new action. Let’s start with the heart of our own cultures, building beloved community at work through shared leadership. (You can practice with us during our Building Beloved Community in the Workplace Webinar Tuesday, August 29th at 11:30am EST) 

 I feel it and I see it, don’t you? Oh my, the radiant sparkle of bravery we are a part of unleashing…...