Leading with Heart, Growing with Purpose

I had the rare opportunity and privilege last week to lead Live In the Grey’s first ever Life@Work Culture conference in the Hudson Valley. Our vision to facilitate a conversation about the Future of Work came to life, with over 150 people and culture leaders joining us from a diverse array of companies, including General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, SOMA, and Warby Parker. Together, we experienced a transformational two days while exploring a content-rich program focused on leading with heart and growing with purpose.

It certainly wasn’t lost on me that many of the leaders in attendance (people like Liane Hornsey, former decade-long global HR leader at Google and now Chief Administration Officer of Softbank, Mita Mallick of Unilever, Stephen Garguilo of Johnson & Johnson, and Katie Burke of Hubspot) are not only responsible for creating the culture at these notable companies, but that our collective conversation and the ideas we shared might well directly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of their employees.

But, it was only when Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll and former CEO of Squarespace, stood up to say that he felt as though he were at the first of what would eventually become the future SXSW of Culture in the Hudson Valley, that the potential reach and magnitude of this conversation truly hit home.

For context to the nature of this conversation, let me tell you a bit about what we’re up to at Live in the Grey. We focus on helping companies create authentic workplaces where people can bring their whole selves to work every day. Our curriculum meets the demands of today’s modern workforce; it is both designed for and tailored to help workplaces provide personal and professional development for employees, becoming, in the process, places that shatter the outdated work-and-life, black-and-white thinking that has long governed institutional cultures — until now.

At the Life@Work conference, we convened an incredible group of committed culture-makers who are driving this conversation forward. These are global leaders dedicated to imagining new ways of motivating their employees, and envisioning new tools for learning that help their teams to achieve the unimaginable.

To shape this conversation, we explored a number of emerging themes: Diversity@Work, where we unpacked the oft-untouched discussion of hiring for sameness; Mindfulness@Work, where we experienced its benefits through guided stillness practices; and Design@Work, a conversation led by the design director of workplace strategy from Herman Miller, which focused on the importance of creating physical environments where teams can thrive.

It was an immensely powerful two days, the totality of the experience difficult to convey in a few short paragraphs. Perhaps the most useful way to sum it up is to share the four words I shared with attendees as part of my opening and closing remarks.

Recharge: We know it’s important, but it’s only when we actually do it that we truly feel the impact.

Over the course of two days, we took the time to connect with nature and our colleagues, while also engaging in a deeper discussion about what it takes to lead with heart and grow with purpose. It took stepping out of the conversation to have it — a reminder of how important it is to recharge yourself.

Remember: What makes you come alive? Why are you in the role you are in today? What’s at the heart of what you desire for your people? In the words of our panelist Susan Lee, Head of People at Warby Parker: what are your “non-negotiables?”

At Live in the Grey, one of the ways we explore this question is by knowing our Values. For the conference, we led attendees through our Values@Work Experience, a guided process that helps people discover and articulate what they value most and least. It’s an eye-opening experience, one that not only allows you to lead from an authentic place, but also provides a powerful framework for setting goals and intentions that are values-aligned.

Reconnect: Get in touch with yourself, with others, with new ideas.

I’ll share a personal story here. At the start of our weekly meeting at Live in the Grey, we have a vulnerability practice. We each take a few minutes to share something our colleagues would only know, “if you really knew me.” I don’t hold back in these sessions. It’s not just “for the team.” I’ve been known to share what’s deeply on my mind and my heart, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I am inspired to do this for a simple reason: our company values are chalked on our wall. Authenticity is one of those values. If I can’t embrace authenticity as a leader, how can I run a company where it’s so prominently printed on the wall? Each week during this practice, I am reminded of my passion for fostering workplaces where radical honesty is revered. Reconnecting to self, to why I do what I do, continues to be my rocket fuel. I invite you to Reconnect to “why you do what you do,” and inspire your team members to do the same.

Reimagine: As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

What lies at the heart of that solve is re-imagination. Things are happening quickly: the atmosphere of the workplace is evolving, the needs and expectations of the people in it changing rapidly, company attitudes and priorities shifting alongside them. A new model is being born. But this doesn’t happen by itself, nor is it easy. Change always requires passion, purpose, and power. This is the conversation we have chosen to lead at Live in the Grey. We are honored to partner with culture leaders like our phenomenal speakers and attendees to reimagine not only what’s possible for our workplaces, but how we will make it so, together.

Below is a short video and photos of this amazing and transformational two-day event. We so hope you will join us next time. We are just getting started!

Please send us an e-mail to info@lifeatwork.co if you’d like to be added to the invite-only list.

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