It was 5 years ago when I discovered the real secret of life after a walk down Pearl Street in Boulder Colorado.
I just happened to have my eyes wide open that day – one of those rare ones where for whatever reason, there was a hightened sense of awareness of my surroundings.
I wandered through candy stores and ice cream shops, and watched kids playing in the water fountain. I saw people dancing to street performers, and in wide-eyed wonder as the jugglers and magicians did their thing.
It was there I figured it all out.
Never grow up.
Here’s what I said at the time:
“Adulthood” as our society has defined it is the bane of our happy existence. Being in the open, wondrous, and joyful mind-set of a child as often as possible is the key to opening our hearts and minds.
I took that secret, wrote about it, and then ran with it.
All the way to the office.
Yep, I figured something else out in the wake of that “ah-ha” moment, and that post – the secret has to apply to EVERYTHING pertaining to my life, including my chosen vocation.
Leadership, that is. The more human kind.
There were 7 original keys to that secret, and here are examples of how I’ve incorporated them in to more human leadership:
1) Enjoying the Simple Pleasures - The best example of this was the time I bought old style metal lunch boxes for my management group adorned with their favorite characters or musicians (think Batman & Superman, the rock band Kiss, or on my box, Elvis), filled them with a nice box lunch, put the managers on a bus, and took them to a picnic area near Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. It was so simple – just us, some lunch, and a famous geyser. But it was one of our best meetings ever.
2) Emotional Honesty – Once we had forged a solid trust, I could have a temper tantrum at a private manager’s meeting, and let off some steam. They could do the same. They were invaluable at keeping us all stable and focused (and sane).
3) Desire for Acceptance - I wrote about the best example of this in the original post - my drive to create executive presentations that would please my mentor and boss. I know that I worked that much harder on those PowerPoints knowing that if he gave me that “attaboy”, I’d be happy as a clam (it’s amazing how hearing those words from someone you admire, or a parent, makes such a difference).
4) The Therapy of Music – At one meeting in Colorado with a local team of about 50 people, I broke the tension of a particularly intense meeting by breaking out into a version of “Bennie and the Jets“, complete with a call and response section at the end. It worked like a charm. As a matter of fact, I used my karaoke skills on many occasions to inject a little music therapy into the proceedings, as well as have a little fun (yes, that is allowed in the business chambers sometimes…)
5) Wonder and Curiosity - By instituting a culture of continuous incremental improvement, as well as a focused and relevant metric set, we had ample time and opportunity to exercise our learning muscles. A great example was our “operations dashboard” report, which was our chance to sit in a room for two hours and dig, and dig, and dig, and dig into the numbers. We were like mad scientists in a labratory, looking for magic formulas, clues, and problem solutions that would keep us on the path to greatness, and we loved it. It was like Christmas Eve every time that report came out.
6) Being Truly “Present” – This was always a hard one; there are SO many distractions that can pull you away from what is happening right in front of you. The best example in this digital age is the ability to keep away from the smartphone and/or computer during a conversation or a meeting. That was one of my big pet peeves when I was in the board and meeting rooms, and it still is today.
7) Exuberance - Pure unbridled joy is a great feeling, and it’s not usually associated with a business experience, but we worked hard to inject those moments into our workplaces. The best opportunities were when we could celebrate our successes together, at annual meetings around the holidays. We created a festive atmosphere, added a few wacky musical skits, and in that room, when the volume of joy and laughter was deafening, I was like those kids in Boulder on that beautiful sunny afternoon.
Bring the real secret of life into your workplace, and you can take your more human leadership to another level – one of personal fulfillment, and a difference-maker for the lives of the people you lead.
And you’ll never have to grow up.
Cotton candy, anyone?