Paul Vander Heide launched Vander Mill in 2006 with his...LISTEN NOW
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On a colorful Autumn commute this past season, I found myself stuck behind a rural caravan in a no-passing zone. There was a tractor in the road ahead holding up the flow, but I wasn’t rushing to extinguish fires, no big deal. I cracked open my driver’s side window and allowed that white noise of Michigan’s October air rushing past, to coax me into a bit of tranquil self-reflection.
I was brought back to a common reflection of mine, the awareness that I have never been exceptionally talented when it comes to compartmentalizing different aspects of my life. As I am sure other businessmen have before, I struggle to navigate the necessity of putting on different metaphorical hats in various situations. The “husband hat” is my latest acquisition (and obviously favorite). My “brother” hat looks strikingly familiar to my “friend” hat, both of which I sometimes forget I am wearing instead of the “boss” hat. The “entrepreneur” hat is fun and, quite frankly, looks great when you twist it backwards.
Fashion sense aside, the point is the compartmentalization of the different roles that I have taken on and the difficulties in maintaining a balance. At its best, the chameleon character gets exhausting and, at worst, it bleeds unauthenticity. For years, I have been sorting through my metaphorical closet space, trying to streamline my hat selection. Some, I give away, others wind up on the curbside. The goal is to simplify myself in a more distilled and encompassed mode of being. Ideally, this mode is one that integrates all aspects of my identity while engaging with the world. As an entrepreneur, I have always strived for this sort of authenticity and, in that pursuit, have worked to cultivate my own voice, my own ideas and my own philosophies into the workplace.
For me, my whole life; my family life, my work life, my social life and my spiritual life are all one. There can be no separation and compartmentalization as they all have a delicate interplay and interconnection with one another. Each facet of my life is but a note in the symphony of my life’s song. For the most part this philosophy has brought me much joy and has allowed for a more authentic and genuine experience in all aspects of my life, most notably in my work life. I no longer feel the pressure of having to be the “boss,” “the entrepreneur,” the “leader.” While I may take up all of those responsibilities, I no longer feel the pressure of molding those responsibilities into some prefabricated version of what those roles are or what others claim they should be.
This approach has allowed me to be humble, vulnerable, and personal. It allows for a truly more sincere and authentic version of self, creating an experience that graces your work life with humanity, humility and opens up space to craft more authentic and connected experiences with one another. It brings the human aspect of our life into work and not the periodic moments we let our guards down.
I believe that our shared humanity is the great connective tissue from which we can engage with one another and, I might argue, could be a superpower of sorts in guiding our teammates and our business to their greatest potential. Allowing ourselves to move away from our preconceptions of traditional workplace culture allows for meaningful conversations and connection. I believe this is the humanity the world (and our employees) are looking for.
There is an infinite range of ideas, opportunities, and experiences to be shared and communicated by your employees. All they need is you, a leader, to throw away some of those traditional hats, reconsider your working relationships and make space for what you want leadership to look like. Wear a hat of humility, vulnerability and open-dialogue and you will be amazed what abundance can be gathered.