I just returned from the WorkHuman 2018 conference in Austin, Texas pioneered by a company called Globoforce. WorkHuman is a movement bringing thought leaders from around the world together to cultivate ways that make organizations more human-centered. My brain is exploding with ideas and new perspectives on some of our everyday topics including feedback, engagement, and work culture. The experience exceeded all expectations and so I’ve captured my key takeaways which I will expand on in upcoming articles. The world-class speaker line-up and plethora of juicy information dispersed was enough to propel even the most intensive knowledge seeker into stimulation overload.
Watch this recap video to give you a two-minute taste of the on-goings at WorkHuman 2018. (scroll down to “2018: That’s a Wrap.”)
Alycia’s Top 6 Takeaways
1. Your ego is not your amigo
Cy Wakeman opened the conference with an entertaining and meaningful talk about making the workplace more positive by eliminating drama. At first glance, the topic may sound elementary but she backed up her theme with data, personal stories, and tons of humor. Cy indicated that the ego is the primary source of drama and when left unchecked it has a negative impact on employee engagement. She went as far as calculating the number of hours of drama per headcount per day (2.5 hours if you’re curious) of which she can use to catch the attention of any CFO. Since drama is emotional waste that hinders productivity, Cy states that the modern-day leader’s new role is to eliminate waste by facilitating new (positive) mental processes. Leaders can do this by managing energy, not people; separating reality from suffering; and not focusing on change management but instead business readiness.
2. Connectedness improves outcomes
Shawn Achor, happiness researcher, gave an unbelievable talk bringing together seemingly unrelated themes including lighting bugs, streaking at Harvard, and an awkward “should we hug or is this a handshake” run-in with Oprah. Shawn’s enthusiasm for his research and lightning quick brain connections were apparent as he talked 90 mph to deliver his points with humor. Of all the points he made, the most meaningful to me was his opening story about the Miracle in the Mangroves. In Indonesia, there were lightning bugs on a tree and the people thought the tree was on fire but the lighting bugs were lighting up simultaneously. They show their light to signify mating and if bugs light up together, their success rate of mating goes up significantly. When people become more positive, more connections are made. Bottom line is we are happier and more successful if we are connected in our thoughts and actions.
3. Importance of recognition moments
Steve Pemberton is the CHRO of Globoforce and he moved the audience with his powerful story growing up as a foster child of mixed race and never finding a loving home. Throughout his touching recount of childhood, he weaved in distinct moments of recognition from people he refers to as “angels” that popped into his life. From an affirming smile from the spelling bee judge to a kind neighbor that brought him books to read, he says these are the people who helped him turn adversity into new beginnings. Every kindness matters in life and work. His story his so poignant that he wrote a book called, “A Chance in the World” which is now being turned into a major motion picture.
4. Neuroscience of feedback
Dr. David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute states that we’ve been getting feedback wrong this whole time. He states that there is a level of threat associated with all unsolicited feedback and either feedback does nothing or makes things worse. The 3 mistakes we are making about feedback include:
We think we hate feedback.
It’s best to focus on errors.
Feedback must be giver-driven.
As leaders and performance professionals, we need to move away from asking people if we can give them “friendly” feedback to training people to ask for feedback on specific aspects of their work or projects. The improved outcomes of this new method include:
Both sides feel less threatened.
You get receive feedback more quickly and regularly.
People get the specific feedback they need to improve.
5. Vulnerability and courage coexist
The incredible and dynamic Brene Brown had the entire crowd in stitches as soon as she walked on stage when she displayed a picture of a therapy llama named “Brene Brown.”
This shared laughter gave the participants a taste of other emotions we would feel simultaneously during her talk. She asks us to think of a moment where we exhibited courage that did not require vulnerability. Can you think of one? Similarly, the way being cool and in control is about comfort and self-protection, vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and joy. We must become comfortable with the uncomfortable to make big moves in the world. Brene explains the four pillars of courage:
Clarity of Values
As humans, we need to be seen and known and we can’t arrive at that point without being vulnerable. We can’t make the world a braver place if we don’t change the way we work.
6. Be a player in the infinite game
Simon Sinek. WOW! I’m searching for an appropriate word to describe him and I’m not sure if I can find one the encompasses the way he captures an audience as well as his deep knowledge and unique perspective. He is an exceptionally gifted, engaging, and thought-provoking person. The premise of his talk is that our life is finite, there’s a clear beginning and end, but life itself is infinite. To remain infinite, we must set up practices according to our just cause and create a world where the decisions we make continue when we depart and leave a legacy. As leaders, we should create an environment in our organizations where people can bring the best versions of themselves to do their best work. When people are working at their greatest potential, big things happen. Simon states that to be a player in the infinite game you must have 5 things:
A few of the other incredible speakers I had the opportunity to see and hear include:
Amal Clooney, Human Rights Lawyer
Salma Hayek Pinault, Actress and Social Activist
Eric Mosley, CEO Globoforce
Tony Schwartz, CEO Energy Project
Mike Elliott, EVP Chief People Office at JetBlue
Ashley Judd, Actress and Activist
Tarana Burke, Social Activist
Ronan Farrow, Journalist and Lawyer
Adam Grant, Best-selling author and Wharton Professor
Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer, WooHoo, Inc.
There were several interesting attributes of the conference that made it unique, including my favorite, the Gratitude Bar. Stay tuned for more about the Gratitude Bar and other cool features that made WorkHuman a top-notch experience.
Overall, I am very lucky to have had this opportunity to attend an invaluable 4 days of human connection, provoking thought-leaders, and fun. Thank you Globoforce!
Want to know more? Ask me specific questions like how did I get invited or let me know what you’d like me to expand on in upcoming articles!