Vibrant workplaces result from embracing a fundamental truth - that employees can feel called and encouraged to do their best work.
As WorkHuman 2017 drew to a close on Jun 1, its 3rd and final day, a celebratory feeling shone through each event attendee’s eyes, and on each Globoforce team member’s face.
Globoforce is the brainchild of and force behind WorkHuman, an annual conference and year-round conversation to help Human Resources (HR) professionals bring more happiness, authenticity, enlightenment and inclusion to the workplace. Read my reflections on the growing WorkHuman movement, and highlights from Day 1 and Day 2 of WorkHuman 2017.
We were feeling celebratory for many reasons. The event had gone smoothly, professional relationships were forming or strengthening, speakers were filling our hearts and minds with new possibilities, and many attendees had relished an unwind party the night before. But we all knew what we were waiting for, what we were looking forward to, what we were ready to hoot and holler over when she graced the stage.
Our wrap-up keynote speaker that afternoon was former First Lady Michelle Obama.
To say spirits were high would be an understatement.
We couldn’t wait to hear her stories, because part of us knew they would help us value our own.
But we needed to be patient for just a little longer, as we were treated to a few more sessions before she spoke.
Day 3 began with a keynote from Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley about the state of fostering more human workplaces. Quoting modern-day business leaders and the Dalai Lama, Eric emphasized the importance of acknowledging the whole human and of understanding there shouldn’t be a different person at home versus at work. Life and work now infuse each other, and our HR tools need to embrace that truth. He shared 6 HR megatrends, urging us to consider the more continuous roles that business leaders need to play to retain their employees and elevate their organizations. He also unveiled new Globoforce products that facilitate these roles, then ended by reminding us that a company’s culture is its destiny.
One final round of conference track sessions followed, with 6 speakers sharing ways to navigate this brave new HR world of continuous employee conversations, inclusive leadership processes, social learning spaces and family-friendly policies.
Then it was time.
A conversation with Michelle Obama
Despite reassurances we’d all have a seat in the ballroom, the same ballroom we’d inhabited for all 3 days of keynotes, lines still formed and surged with anticipation into the dimly-lit space. We were about to listen to Mrs Obama in an on-stage conversation with Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance. As an accomplished executive who grew up in a broken foster care system, Steve grew to value the power and grace of his story, chronicling it in the 2012 book A Chance in the World and 2017 movie of the same name.
When she finally emerged on stage, love for Mrs Obama rolled through the ballroom in thunderous applause. And when we settled back into our seats, a halo of mutual appreciation enveloped her stories of unconditional love for life, people, family, children and work.
Through her words, Mrs Obama urged us to embrace the truth of our story, to know there’s no right way to be human. “Our stories are all so rich and unique and different and special. That’s what makes our country special, and makes the world go around.” She’s learned that in valuing our story, we can then be authentic in it and live a happy life.
She spoke passionately about children - her own and others - about how they inspire her with their pure joy and hope, lift her up with the possibilities they hold and keep her focused on being present with them, respectful of their well-being and conscious of the choices we make in their long-term interest.
She urged the women in the room to love and prioritize themselves, and the men to start conversations that make that possible at home and at work. She spoke to our better angels, to create productive work environments that also build healthy families…to not wait for the law, but to do it because it’s the right thing to do.
And true to her sense of public service, she reminded us to embrace the truth that the vast majority of Americans want the same things in life - safe streets, healthy kids, clean air, jobs, a good income, to live in peace. Contrary to deliberately negative portrayals in the media, her travels as First Lady have taught her Americans are kind, good, tolerant, empathetic and compassionate.
She encouraged us to be bold, to step outside our comfort zone and make a new friend, to treat each other with a little more of that empathy and compassion. She made it clear that making an inclusive impact doesn’t have to be big and bold. We can start right around us - in our homes, churches, schools and neighborhoods. We can be more mindful of and proactive with the messages our children get in all these places, and our small but consistent acts of positivity are what will make a difference in the lives of people every day.
Finally, she spoke lovingly and excitedly about the work that lies ahead for President Obama and her - writing their books, building their presidential library and adding value to the causes they care about by amplifying the good work already being done.
We could have spent all day with her in that ballroom. As she waved goodbye in another thunder roll of applause, she had planted seeds in our hearts - seeds of passion for our own work, a sense of value for our own story and the courage to embrace our own truth.
And as we streamed out of WorkHuman 2017, we had learned the most important truth of all.
We can and do belong.
[Disclosure: Globoforce, host and sponsor of the WorkHuman conference, grants me a free pass to attend and cover the event as an influencer. Unless otherwise sourced or quoted, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own.]
I’ll continue to post deeper post-conference reflections on my magazine LeadfortheWorld.com. I hope you’ll join me there.
Want to use the value of your story for something you care about, but don’t know how best to harness that desire? Join my free 5-day writing experience ‘Write with Inner Power’ and learn how to craft your impact and express your truth.