If you’d asked me in 2004 whether I’d consider working in human resources again and dealing with workplace resilience, the look on my face would’ve been similar to the one my daughter gives me when I try to sing harmony with her: Um… seriously? No. After 11 long years in HR, I was ready for a change. I craved entrepreneurial agility, an experience I didn’t think I would find in a field known more for stability than innovation.
In 2017, my perspective shifted when I combined my integrative wellbeing work with HR consulting to create a radically different system for a resilient workforce. Then, in 2021, I picked up a copy of Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord, and I was sold. Patty, also known as my new hero, has made me more hopeful than ever about the future of HR and workplace resilience and culture.
Her approach with Powerful intersects with my Five Archetypes work in some pretty, well, powerful ways. The result? Actionable advice on how to move from reactive to resilient, no matter what life (or work) throws at you.
What makes this book so memorable? Patty McCord’s primary Archetype, of course.
Unstoppable people understand and leverage their Five Archetypes. Knowing your mix of the five avails you of a foolproof framework for growing self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy in every interaction.Your primary archetype illuminates why you see the world the way you do, why others think you’re bonkers sometimes and precisely how to bridge that communication gap 100% of the time.
After reading Powerful through the lens of the Five Archetypes, I believe Patty’s primary archetype is Wood. Here’s why that matters: Wood people are fearless visionaries who stop at nothing to make a project succeed. They can’t tolerate outdated systems and processes getting in the way of getting things done. And in the course of the book, the author revealed that she:
- Used to love the thrill of winning a debate
- Likes giving feedback with radical honesty, not fearing confrontation or workplace resilience
- Doesn’t fixate on metrics that don’t matter to company growth
- Believes intuition is important
- Doesn’t believe retention is a good metric of company wellbeing
All Wood traits! If any of these sound familiar, you just might be a Wood person, too.
My Fire reaction to Powerful, and how it reminded me of my resilience.
What situations trigger fears or insecurities for you? Does fear ever cloud your thinking or creativity?
Fear thwarts productivity in the workplace and costs companies in miscommunication, missed opportunities and misuse of limited resources and overall workplace resilience. Yet too often, people shut down, give into fears and tolerate dissatisfaction rather than bring up uncomfortable issues at work.
Patty asks us to challenge this tendency with what she calls radical honesty. I admit when I first read this, I felt an immediate uncomfortable emotion arise. Ouch. Radical honesty? All the time? I took a breath, exhaled and reconsidered.
I’m a primary Fire. We can’t easily tolerate uncomfortable emotions. This intolerance is Fire’s work throughout a lifetime. To succeed, Fires need to be aware of this tendency, become resilient to it and realize the benefit of uncomfortable conversations.
My breath helped me view Patty’s radical honesty from a growth mindset. Instead of shutting down to her theory, I reflected on it and welcomed a fresh, new perspective. Radical honesty works when you empathize with the diverse ways each archetype interacts with the idea itself.
Can empathy and radical honesty coexist in the workplace?
Google, Forbes, SHRM and more outlets are touting the importance of empathy in the workplace. While the sentiment is spot on, who among them has defined exactly how to do that, and do it well? Raise your hand if empathy is a core value in your company. Now, keep your hand up if you believe you actually have an empathetic workforce.
Leaders today need to know the how. We know the whys of empathy, but without clear guidelines on how to execute, leaders often get stuck trying to balance their idea of empathy with their need to uphold work expectations.
For example, how does a CEO practice empathy toward leaders who are fearful of following a directive such as laying off a team member, or firing a client? Is it possible to have an empathetic culture when you require people to take actions that they despise?
Now, take Patty’s concept of radical honesty. What if your CEO announced tomorrow that all staff would be expected to communicate with radical honesty 100% of the time? Would you feel fear, anxiety, worry, anger? Or, does the idea of a workplace steeped in radical honesty make you feel secure?
In Powerful, Patty writes, “A workplace that practices radical honesty encourages transparency and openness in an environment where everyone feels secure, seen and appreciated so we can have productive problem solving.”
And yet, a recent Deloitte study showed 70% of employees admit to remaining silent about issues that might compromise performance. Why? What are folks afraid of? What’s holding us back and keeping us from being radically honest with each other?
This is where the Five Archetypes framework becomes essential. With it, we can predict what people fear in the context of work, and identify ways to help them feel secure. People who feel safe speaking up are more creative problem solvers, more innovative, better at networking and sales. So, to have empathetic workplaces where radical honesty is possible instead of workplace resilience, we first need to establish a psychologically safe work environment.
From a Five Archetypes perspective, safety is never one-size-fits-all. But, once you know your team’s archetypes, you can ensure a secure environment for them all to create and innovate within.
Data-informed vs. data-driven decisions at work. What’s the difference?
What gets your heart pounding more: data and facts or intuition and instinct? Powerful argues that your answer says a lot about how you relate to others.
In Powerful, Patty argues that using data to inform rather than determine workplace decisions may be the way to go. She explores the limitations of making solely data-driven decisions, pointing out that we’ll never know what people would prefer if offered more options. Take a Coke or Pepsi taste test for example. In this scenario, we will never know what people would like if they had more options, like Dr. Pepper (my vote!), Sunkist, Tab, or Mellow Yellow (am I dating myself here?).
From a Five Archetypes perspective, over-relying on facts and data is an unbalanced Metal behavior. The archetypes system helps us thrive in relationships, so it’s important to understand how Metal tendencies can come across to others. Wood and Fire types have to work hard to understand, empathize with, and value Metal’s rigid, fact-based thinking.
Let’s make work better, together.
Conflict at work is an everyday occurrence. The Deloitte study cited in Powerful also reveals that 50–75% of people won’t voice potentially detrimental issues due to workplace resilience at work if doing so might bring up uncomfortable emotions. More people feel strained in their relationships and communications every day than feel connected and joyful about work.
Calling all business leaders: You don’t have to be satisfied with a workforce where the majority of employees are checked out and frustrated. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I can help. I’m a total human behavior geek who loves improving work life.
Ready to use the Five Archetypes method to solve conflict? A word to the wise: It’s not a quick fix. It’s an intentional slowing-down. A practice. A new habit and mindset. And it starts with a breath. Only then can we achieve the culture of “transparency and openness” that Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility so deftly illustrates.