Inspiration comes from within. But before one can feel inspired, a series of needs must be met. Basic needs (food, water, and shelter) followed by the need to feel safe and then belonging. Leaders have an opportunity to create the space that fosters safety and belonging in the workplace.
Trust is not assumed. It is earned. And a behavior that I, as an employee, have found impactful to pave the way to a safe and trusting environment is authenticity. Employees are perceptive. They can pick up on nuance and contradictions, and when they do, it can quickly erode that feeling of safety and trust that leaders have to work so hard to cultivate.
There are moments in a leader’s tenure where she or he can decide how to cascade messages or prioritize direction, and leaders were tested in 2020. 2020 (and into 2021) challenges were fueled by the pandemic which disrupted revenue, careers, goals, and generally the way of life for everyone on earth. But it was also a wonderful opportunity for leaders to build trust with the sentiment that “we’re in this together.”
My inspiration today comes from learning of the passing of a great leader, Arne Sorenson. Arne was the CEO of Marriot (the 3rd CEO in 93 years), and had been battling pancreatic cancer. Not only was this a difficult year for Arne due to his struggle with cancer, but this year hit the hospitality industry harder than I can ever remember, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him trying to manage a company this size through a situation that he literally had no control over. I remember seeing a video of Arne addressing his employees soon after COVID-19 became a household term, and was struck with his candor and concern for his employees. Through countless testimonies of others that knew him, I knew that his message here was authentic. Here is that video…
My thoughts are with your family today, Arne.
Watch this video (above). Do you feel like you can trust this man? Do you feel like you could work for this man? I do. And I know that there are many today who mourn because of what Arne drew out of them. Inspiration. We, as leaders, can learn from Arne, and bring our authentic selves to work to create that safe and trusting place that lends itself to innovation.
(originally published on LinkedIn Feb 16, 2021)