Coaching Conversations with Women Leaders – Chapter 2: Honoring the Whole Self

In the last chapter I described the qualities of anima (female energy) and animus (male energy).  I also suggested that leaders who can integrate both into their leadership style will be more successful leaders in the 21st century. However, the primary question that many leaders return to is how does all of this translate into results in the work environment? Furthermore, what are the strategies that organizations should pursue in order to honor and foster this balance?

In the following chapter, I will first provide more insight into this feminine or anima mindset, and then share additional examples of organizational strategies that high performing companies such as Trader Joe’s and Google have employed to achieve this balance.
 

Chapter 2: Honoring the Whole Self

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the anima (feminine) mindset is the generative and holistic energy required to develop and nurture the social fabric of the environment. When one finds him or herself in this anima mindset, an inner voice might say the following:

“see me, the smart and successful leader,”

“see me, a great mom,”

“see me, the energetic volunteer in schools and community,”

“see me, the loving and grateful daughter that will take care of my elderly parents,”

“see me, the social architect that connects the family and friends,“

“see me, taking care of my health and appearance so that I can feel good about myself and lead and take care of others…”

The feminine mindset does not see these as disjointed presences with solid boundaries.  Rather, it views these components as an interwoven tapestry of thoughts and feelings with a profound impact on personal happiness and leadership effectiveness.

Feminine cultures encourage personal stories and celebrate the make-up and preferences of people. These cultures consider knowing individuals on the team, and connecting with each an essential aspect of leadership. Cultures that only emphasize business acumen, presence and a “just the facts please…” mentality, diminish the social and emotional intelligence and the creativity needed to navigate and win in a competitive and challenging world. Leaders with a healthy balance of anima who work in organizational cultures denying or preventing them from expressing their “whole self” report earlier signs of loss in motivation, loss of leadership, resonance, and eventual burn out and separation from their organizations.

Leaders with the feminine mindset notice when organizations take active steps to make it possible for them to feel whole.  For example, organizations that sponsor and genuinely engage in causes that benefit communities and societies are seen as being more interesting places to work. Organizations that take an active interest in the spouses and children of their employees set a platform for success. Examples include:

  • Spouses being interviewed prior to expatriate assignments to help them understand the implications of international assignments for them and their children, and what can be done to help orient them and make the transition as painless as possible
  • Provision of onsite childcare allowing better integration of leadership capabilities with care giving needs

Feminine cultures are also more open to multidisciplinary and integrative thinking. These organizations have softer boundaries regarding career planning and roles/responsibilities. A more informal communication style is practiced, and decision making is less rigid and hierarchical.  These organizations operate primarily in the service of great ideas/innovation, customers, and their employees.  Trader Joe’s, the retail food chain, is a great example of this concept.

Mallinger and Rossy report the following from their study of Trader Joe’s:

The Crew members” (the moniker for store employees) are selected, in part, because of their expressed enthusiasm and energy. Training includes skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, and product knowledge. Crew members handle a multitude of responsibilities including, cashier, stocker, and customer interface, and are evaluated on a quarterly basis. Turnover among full-time crew is 4 percent yearly, substantially below that of traditional supermarkets. The managerial structure is relatively flat. Crew members report to the “first mate” (assistant store manager), who, in turn, reports to the “captain” (store manager). The store atmosphere is highlighted by a South Seas motif, and crew members often wear Hawaiian shirts and banners throughout the store convey that theme. There is a casual ambiance; new products are identified on chalk boards arranged in key locations. Crew members reported elevated levels of ability to influence, commitment to teamwork, and  level of achievement orientation. They also indicated that they felt empowered to make decisions, were collaborative in their relationship with others, and were motivated to high levels of performance. These characteristics were demonstrated by the extent to which they were enthusiastic, hardworking, outgoing, and team and customer oriented.”1

And here is how Google describes how its culture celebrates the whole self:

“It’s really the people that make Google the kind of company it is. We hire people who are smart and determined, and we favor ability over experience. Although Googlers share common goals and visions for the company, we hail from all walks of life and speak dozens of languages, reflecting the global audience that we serve. And when not at work, Googlers pursue interests ranging from cycling to beekeeping, from Frisbee to foxtrot.

We strive to maintain the open culture often associated with startups, in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. In our weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings—not to mention over email or in the cafe—Googlers ask questions directly to Larry, Sergey, and other execs about any number of company issues. Our offices and cafes are designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play.” 2

In your experience, what have you observed as examples of specific initiatives or cultural traits that honor the “whole self”?

What are the consequences of not integrating these attributes into the fabric of the organization?

How would you rate your own leadership style with respect to the previous posting on the relationship-based mindset, as well as this chapter regarding leading with the “whole self”?

 

1. Mallinger M, Rossy G. The Trader Joe’s Experience. Graziadio Business Review. 2007;10(2).
2. Google. Our Culture. Available at: http://www.google.com/about/company/facts/culture/. Accessibility verified August 6, 2012.

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