Jennifer Wines, Vice President at Fidelity Private Wealth Management.
The acceleration of the work-from-home culture over the past few months has required lots of logistical and emotional gymnastics. Seemingly overnight, we invited our corporate computers into our homes. Many corporate employees, including myself, rearranged their homes and routines to transition to this different mode of working and living. Further, the accelerated adoption of remote work has affected many industries, including my own — finance, an industry traditionally known for its formality and rigid structure.
After a few months of sorting out our new work-from-home routines, we discovered that productivity can in fact happen from the comfort of our homes (some more comfortable than others). Now, with this foundational realization in place, we have a golden opportunity to pivot our attention to a more meaningful challenge, and that is the fuller integration of our professional and personal selves. This fuller integration is important because it holds the keys to unlocking hidden potential, in the form of authenticity and trust. Let’s unpack this.
As a backdrop, many of us typically embody the professional aspects of ourselves within the structure of our corporate offices, and the personal aspects of ourselves within the comfort of our homes. This fragmented approach is being shattered right now. So the question becomes, which aspects of ourselves do we bring to the table when our corporate computer sits on top of our kitchen table?
In my experience, fuller integration of our professional and personal selves allows for more authenticity at work and at home. But what is authenticity, anyway, and why should we care about it? For me, authenticity is acting in a way that is consistent with one’s beliefs. It is aligning our thoughts and our words, creating congruence between what we think and do. Further, coming to the table, authentically, requires us to drop the outdated, work persona that we adopted in our rule-ladened corporate offices.
The professional can be personal. In fact, it should be. When we bring our true character into a Zoom meeting, for example, people sense it. I believe this is a form of tacit knowledge. And being authentic just feels good and allows us to operate more fully in the world. Let’s face it: We can tell when our colleagues’ or family members’ actions are authentic, in other words, true to their character, because those interactions feel fluid and engaging.
Let’s take this one step further. When we sense that someone’s actions are authentic, then we are more inclined to trust that person, whether in a professional or a personal context. And trust is powerful in both because relationships move at the speed of trust. Therefore, when we more fully integrate our professional selves with our personal selves, the outcome is greater authenticity and consequentially greater trust with those around us.
There is power in authenticity and trust, particularly in our increasingly digitalized world, as we strive to truly connect from one home office to another through new means of electronic communication. Building true connection within ourselves and within our relationships is also vital for our mental well-being. We are more connected now than ever, but it is the quality of our connections that ultimately matters. Therefore, it’s important that we consider integrating our personal and professional selves in a time when it is most appropriate and most needed.
This all sounds great, right, but how do we approach this?
To thoughtfully integrate these two routinely bifurcated aspects of ourselves, we can start by thinking through how much we personalize our work and how much we want to going forward. In other words, we can consider how tightly associated our work persona is with our true, personal character. One exercise I found helpful was visualizing the concept. Think of a Venn diagram where the left circle represents your work persona and the right circle represents your personal character. The overlapping, intersection of these two circles represents how integrated (or not) your two personas are.
My visualization looked like two circles overlapping 25%, which means there’s a prime opportunity for fuller self-integration. My left work persona circle is filled with rigidity cloaked as “professionalism,” striving for perfectionism, conscientiousness, curiosity and strategic organization. Whereas my right personal character circle is filled with quirky jokes, letting go of perfectionism, conscientiousness, curiosity and unscheduled time. Where the two circles overlap, there are conscientiousness and curiosity.
Of course, this is an oversimplification, but it helps to visualize the two-persona Venn diagram and what characteristics fill each part. Ultimately, my goal is to integrate my professional and personal self up to 50%. There are certain aspects of myself that are best suited for my workplace (wherever that may be), and other aspects best suited for my personal life. This awareness helps me to become more intentional about this shift, in showing up for work authentically and thereby building deeper trust with those around me.
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