Most people in the workplace are hungry for one of two things and maybe both of them. They want to have respect from others, and they want to respect their bosses.
The ingredients to gain or deserve either are easily recounted: Work hard. Work well. Be honest. Keep counsel. Communicate. Be a team player. Share credit.
Here’s one more: Speak from your heart.
That’s the underlying advice from Joe Plumeri, a former CEO of Willis Group, Citibank North America and Primerica. Plumeri, now vice chairman on the First Data board, is on the speaker and author circuit, extolling the value of being yourself.
Even in the highest-powered board rooms, he says, it’s OK to show your feelings and passion. When they’re well reasoned and sincere, most people will respect you for it. And it’s a requirement for leadership — to be able to transfer your passion to others and make them feel good.
“Harry Truman standing on the back of the train had no Teleprompter,” Plumeri wrote in “The Power of Being Yourself.” “He spoke in honest, plainspoken language, and he spoke directly to the people, directly from his heart.”
A lot of how-to-succeed advice counsels against revealing emotion. Never let them see you cry. Don’t raise your voice. Keep your feelings to yourself. Play it close to the vest.
Plumeri disagrees. If you “put your true self out there” people will “have an authentic sense of who you are,” he wrote, believing that in the long run it’s worth the risk.
You can probably come up with plenty of workplace examples about times when displays of emotion hurt rather than helped career advancement. Obviously, there’s a line between effective and counterproductive passion.
It occurs to Plumeri, as it does to several business leaders I’ve heard from in recent months, that the business world’s increased reliance on texting, voice messaging and email communication imperils the ability to convey passion in appropriate ways.
Electronic communication can’t replace meeting in person or even having a direct conversation on the phone. Tones of voice and facial expressions go a long way toward revealing feelings and true meaning behind the words.
From Plumeri: “The single biggest risk of life in the Internet age is to convince yourself that letting your fingers dance over a keyboard or thumbing your smartphone amounts to engaging in life. It does not.”
Another advantage to actually speaking your mind (politely and respectfully, of course), Plumeri notes, “is that you’ll remind yourself of what you really think and feel.”
Do that, and you’ll have a barometer for whether you’re in the right place at the right time.
Do that, and your colleagues may see a thinking, caring individual instead of an automaton in a hierarchy. Displaying a true self is usually better than faking it.