The Power Shift Podcast – The Power of Noble Work with Anne Gotte

Sharon Melnick:

Welcome Anne, to the Power Shift Podcast. Let’s just start with a little bit of context here. You have a vision of the workplace, and how employees could be treated. When I first heard you talk about this, I thought it was so beautiful and inspiring. Could you start off just helping our listeners hear directly from you?

Anne Gotte:

Yeah, absolutely. First, thank you so much for having me and thank you for your really kind words. It’s a funny way to open a story, but I always tease and kid a little, although I’m serious that I knew I wanted to study organizational behavior, organizational psychology, human resources. Before I knew what any of that was called. Probably by the age of seven, or eight, I knew that I wanted to do this kind of work, and so well my peers in second grade were thinking about their lives as astronauts or rock stars, I was really already thinking about the workplace.

While I didn’t have the tools or the maturity to really understand what that would look like, I knew that I wanted to work to make work better. It was a fundamental belief in my little body, even then. The reason I came to this conclusion so young in life has a lot to do with how I experienced the workplace as a child. By that, I mean to tell you about my mom and how I was raised. My mother had me when she was young, very young, she was uneducated, unskilled and poor. That makes life a lot more difficult than it could otherwise be, as you can imagine, particularly with a young child until.

For my mom, work was less about finding her purpose, or being able to enjoy a meaningful career. She was often really struggling to find sufficient employment to cover our living expenses and to provide for myself, her and soon thereafter, my young sister. I experienced directly the impact of someone who doesn’t find joy or purpose or meaning in their work, and how much that affects their wholeness. I think that as leaders or as employers, we may underestimate the impact that we have on really the full human experience that we contribute to.

I saw my mother who is brilliant, and creative, and funny, and earnest feel smaller because of her work. Work for her was often an experience that was depleting. Seeing that and experiencing the consequences of that helped me understand how pivotal work is as a relationship or as part of shaping a person’s identity. I really think it’s that foundational to how we think of ourselves, how we shape our own self-concept. Ultimately, for companies to get this right, how you can win by really harnessing people’s energy and power and commitment to a greater purpose. That’s been my whole life’s perspective on how we can think about work, how we can bring nobility to work, and how when we do that, really special things can happen. Then the absence of doing so, really significant consequences can occur as well.

Sharon Melnick:

That’s profound when you really look at the true opportunity that we have, in terms of creating culture in our workplaces, in our society. Tell us, how did this feed your sense of mission?

Anne Gotte:

Well, for me, it became really clear that I wanted to contribute to making work noble. I believe that work has this inherent nobility to it. I mean, this idea of work, if we really break it down, whether it’s paid work or unpaid work. The work we do in our households, the work we do for organizations, it is about an earnest an active effort to contribute to something outside of yourself. It’s really noble in and of itself. We only cease to experience with nobility if we destroy it. Work inherently begins as noble. I think about this a lot. I think that fundamentally, maintaining or revealing its nobility lives in thinking about work through three lenses.

The first is meaning, I think that we have to work to endeavor ensuring that all employees or workers around the world understand that their work is meaningful. That doesn’t necessarily have to be as lofty as having an articulate personal purpose that’s fully fleshed out. I think a lot of us are still looking for that. I do think the idea of, I do work that is important. I know if I’m doing it well, I can understand the impact of my work and why it matters, is foundational to work feeling noble. I think the second around-

Sharon Melnick:

We’ll get to the second and third, but I’d love to ask you a question about that. Where do you think that sense of nobility comes from? Does that come from the person who is the worker bringing that, and or does that come from the environment or the valuing that occurs in the workplace?

Anne Gotte:

I think it’s both, Sharon. I think that fundamentally, the connection between those two is what allows the nobility to really take place. I think it’s this idea that if you believe that fundamentally, people want to contribute and want to do well.

Sharon Melnick:

I believe that.

Anne Gotte:

I do too. There’s this inherent element of people seeking meaning in their work and seeking to create meaning in their work. I think the conditions need to be in place, whether those are cultural, whether they’re based on management systems. In manufacturing, for example, there are all sorts of systems you see in plants that are fundamentally based on creating meaning at that shop floor level. I think it’s the connection between the two. Then I think it gets to the second piece really, which is around dignity and community is the third.

Anne Gotte:

I think having an environment that is full of respect and learning and curiosity and listening and empathy, really nesting under dignity. Community is working with and for people who make you feel as though you belong, who give you the opportunities to learn and who challenge you to become better. When you have those three pieces, meaning, dignity and community, I think that those are the building blocks for noble work. I think that they live almost 50/50 with the individual and the context that the individual works in. Where you don’t have both participating, that’s when you can run into trouble, I think.

Sharon Melnick:

I think that’s right. When it comes to culture change, I do think of it as like, that is the full solution that each individual has to take responsibility for his or her part, what each of us bring to it. My mantra is like, “Be impeccable for your 50%.” Like, what you bring, and as well, and it’s always an interaction with the culture that is creating, or that the environment within which you are operating. I’m so excited to hear your ideas on how we can actually bring this to life in the workplace. Before we do that, I’m just curious, is there a difference for people who are knowledge workers and people who are hourly workers when it comes to this sense of nobility?

Anne Gotte:

No, not at all. In that it is necessary and deserved, and in that organizations can create it. There’s no difference at all. What might be adaptive is how you need to work to create the conditions for nobility across worker types. That is an operational reality or an organizational reality that may shift based on the kinds of work or the kinds of work environments that workers find themselves in. I would offer that where it is harder to create, we have to work harder to create it. The idea that it’s optional, or that some populations are perhaps more amenable to noble work, I fundamentally disagree with, I think that all work is noble. Back to our earlier conversations, so long as we don’t adulterate it, so long as we don’t destroy its nobility through a lack of insuring and furnishing those pieces around dignity and community and meaning, then it’s inherently noble.

Sharon Melnick:

I love that, work is inherently noble. Thank you for saying that, and thank you for saying that companies that are getting it right are being thoughtful about how to bring this experience to all of their workers. Thank you for that. We’re here on the Power Shift Podcast, so what does a sense of nobility in the workplace have to do with power?

Anne Gotte:

I think a number of things. The first thing I would mention is that work for many has been a place where they feel powerless. I think that an absence of nobility creates a dynamic and a belief in workers that they have no power. I think fundamentally, enabling the conditions for noble work, by definition, enable associates, workers to embrace and embody the power that they possess and contribute that power toward a shared outcome. I think that there’s a tremendous connection there.

I also think that there are a lot of misconceptions about power. I think sometimes we think about power the same way we think about energy, that it’s fixed, that it can be transferred or changed, but that it’s ultimately finite. When we think about power that way, you see structures that can live within organizations that are distributive by nature. I have power, you have none. I have control and authority. I have ideas and currency and influence in an organization. That has to come at the expense of your power. Of course, that’s not true. Power isn’t finite. In fact, it’s the very opposite of that, it’s generative. When we’re intentional about it, using power thoughtfully in organizations, creates more power.

Sharon Melnick:

Amen. Yes. I’m singing along with that one. Did you see that personally in your mom? Because if she was a worker who didn’t have a lot of a sense of control, what was the effect on her? Then what is the opposite that if her company could have brought more of a sense of nobility?

Anne Gotte:

Well, she cycled through a lot of companies, I should start by saying. I do think that for people who are underemployed or who don’t experience nobility and work, you do see chronic unemployment, high turnover, absenteeism all of those things we read about I experienced in my household directly. My mother worked for more companies than I can count with both of my hands. Here’s what I would offer, work made her feel small. Work with not a place where she brought her power, nor does she see it as a place where she could flourish and grow and evolve her gifts. Instead, it was something to be endured. Work was something to be enjoyed. I always thought that that was such a shame.

Sharon Melnick:

Squandered opportunity.

Anne Gotte:

Such a squandered opportunity, it’s a beautiful way of putting it. We spend so much of our creative energy as workers, we give so much to our work, regardless of what kind of work we do. To think about a lifetime of power, of creativity, of contribution, of impact, somehow sub-optimized. To me, it was an unacceptable outcome.

Sharon Melnick:

How did that reverberate, just in terms of how she was as a woman, as a parent and your family? How did that reverberate?

Anne Gotte:

Well, a couple of different ways. I think that it had significant impact for many years on her self-concept. I’m very proud to share that when I was in graduate school, actually, my mother went back to school and earned her college degree. I remember tutoring her.

Sharon Melnick:

Wow, what a story.

Anne Gotte:

It’s a story with a really happy ending. It took a long time. For many in her case, there are millions that were similar to hers. It takes years to be able to climb out of that. I would say, the first thing that it did was it definitely impacted her self-concept. Her sense of what she could do and what she could be, was largely shaped by her experience as a worker. The second thing it did, was changed how she showed up as a parent. She spent a lot of time with my sister and me making sure that we were incredibly intentional about our own dreams, and our own intentions.

 

Frankly, the work that was necessary to be able to achieve those. I think she wanted to make sure that we had a really different experience with work, and emphasized things like choice, pursuing passions, working really hard, education as foundational. I mean, these are all values that were part of our household. I think, in part because they were values that she didn’t get to experience herself. She did the very next best thing, which was put conditions in place for her children too.

Sharon Melnick:

That is an incredible story of resilience. Because she wasn’t empowered in her work life, so many hours of her day, you can only imagine what was going through her mind for hours and hours a day as she was working to support you. Yet, she was able to alchemize that. She was able to be “in her power” in terms of how she showed up for you and the values that she nurtured you with. Well, now I know, now I understand how you have become the leader that you’ve become today. That’s really an incredible tale when you think about it and the resourcefulness that she had, that she could keep her sights on the long-term vision of who she wanted you to be in the world. Amazing.

Anne Gotte:

I think that too. I’m pretty lucky.

Sharon Melnick:

Talk to us about that idea of being in your power, and what do you see in the workplace when it comes to employees? Or do you see people being in their power? How can we leverage more power or empower people in the workplace?

Anne Gotte:

I think that the way that I would think about people being in their power at work is feeling and being aware of the fact that they’re doing work that is noble. I think in terms of how we can do more. There are a few things I would talk about, the first is the role of managers. I think managers play such a tremendous role. We make this sometimes so grandiose and unapproachable, that managers don’t always see themselves as capable agents of change. Really, so much of creating nobility at work and power and nobility is about the small things that any one of us are equipped to do, so long as we choose to. What are easy things that a manager can do to create meaning? Well, they can help employees on their team, in small waves, understand how the work that they do contributes to something that’s important.

That’s the first thing, and it’s not hard. If they can’t do that, the question should be, why is anyone doing this work? That’s pretty straightforward. The second thing they can do is understand what the employees care about, what the employees care about. They may be doing this body of work now, do they always want to do that body of work? Are there other things that they hope to connect to over time? What are the different ways that an employee can grow on their team or in a different team in the same organization? How can the manager be a steward and really feel part of that journey with the employee, instead of feeling threatened by that? I think sometimes that, that happens.

Sharon Melnick:

That is so right. Even just a couple of points that you’re giving there. It’s like the example that we were talking about with your mom, it’s like she had an ability to think through, process and be resilient to what she was experienced, so that she can bring you a different environment or inspiration. What you’re saying there is like, a manager has an opportunity, a manager creates the weather on the team. They can create noble weather or ennoble weather. It all has to do really with the way that they manage themselves, because they have to be inspired and really connected to the mission in order to inspire others.

Sharon Melnick:

They have to be able to lift up from the bottom-line pressures of the work themselves, so that they can actually see another human, and what that human wants, in terms of their development for their career, or just to connect on an emotional level. I see this again, and again in my work, and when I’m coaching clients, it’s really helping them to be in their own power, so that they can then use that power to spark a result, an outcome, getting things done, and to create a culture in which everyone can find. If you can’t do that inside of yourself, you can’t bring that to other people. It’s not the only step, but it’s the first step. I really appreciate you bringing that to light.

Anne Gotte:

Absolutely. It’s fundamentally important. Most employees experience the company through the weather, as you just talked about, that their manager creates. They have no idea how decisions are being made, or what things look like five, or six layers up in a really up close and personal way. The manager plays such a fundamental role. Other things do too, the company’s purpose and culture is certainly bigger than a single manager. You’re right, a single leader has a huge opportunity to elevate the work, to inspire their teams, to create a sense of meaning, of dignity and of community. They can do all of those things. They can do that as a first line supervisor, they can do that as a chief executive officer. They all have the same tools. How that comes to life exactly, of course, looks different. Those mechanisms are the same. They are the same.

Sharon Melnick:

Meaning, dignity, community. Love that. You’re in a leadership position. You’re talking about the manager that’s directly interacting with the rest of their team. What about at a leadership level? If you are Queen for the day, which I would vote for, what would you do with your magic wand? What could leaders get started with and then maybe what’s the bigger picture vision to move workplaces towards a sense of nobility?

Anne Gotte:

I love this question. I’m going to start with the easier ones. Then I’ll give you some harder ones. Because if I had a wand for a day, I would use it to solve some pretty tough problems. I’ll talk to you a little bit about that, but some easy ones. I talked to you a little bit about the role that managers can play around meaning. Around dignity, a couple of things. How can employees receive a clear sense of what’s expected? How do you win in this role? Really know the rules of this game. Am I clear on how to be successful and a high performer? Or do I feel like I’m figuring it out? Thinking about how people use that energy, and whether it’s used for things that are productive, and generative, or whether it’s really dysfunctional is important.

Sharon Melnick:

Yeah, where are your 60,000 thoughts a day going to? That’s right. Want to figure it out or actually doing it?

Anne Gotte:

That’s right. Exactly. Let’s remove as much of that noise as we can. Managers play a tremendous role. I do think that, that is a respectful and dignified way to treat people. This is how you win here. This is what we need from you. I also think that we shouldn’t underestimate the conditions that managers and frankly, organizations can create for the work environment. I know that, that’s different now during COVID. Not all employees have the benefit of working from home in this environment, and even those that do experience some work environment.

What are we doing to create a work environment that is safe, both physically and psychologically, that is respectful? That really honors the worker’s physical and emotional experience at work, that is so crucial. I like to think about this idea of, what if we treated workers the way that we treat guests coming into our home? That we centered around their feeling of comfort and belonging so that they’re not distracted by those things. They can really reveal the best of their talents to us.

Sharon Melnick:

That’s a big idea for a TED Talk right there. What if we treated our workers the same way we do guests coming into our home? That inherent nobility, that’s absolutely beautiful. I want to start getting into the accountability part of it. Here it is, why isn’t this happening already?

Anne Gotte:

I think there are some little reasons why it doesn’t happen, and I think there are some bigger reasons. I think sometimes managers don’t do this because they’re concerned that they’re going to get it wrong. Some of these things I’m talking about require risk taking, they require vulnerability. A manager has to be willing to engage in a conversation about which they don’t control the outcome. That’s really hard. I think there’s a familiarity and a comfort and a control and a power, of both power, I would argue, but a power a sense of power in being directive and ignoring the context of work, or the broader lens of how your worker is experiencing their work. It’s scary. That would be the first one. I think the second one is-

Sharon Melnick:

What’s scary about it? I understand what you’re saying, you have to be vulnerable, you can’t control the outcome. Just break that down a little bit. What’s scary? Is that the thing that is holding us back from having this enormous benefit of nobility in the workplace?

Anne Gotte:

In part, and I think I’ve had conversations with hundreds of managers over the course of my career who-

Sharon Melnick:

Yeah, share with us.

Anne Gotte:

… felt as though conversations like this could get them in over their head. I don’t know how to talk to employees about connecting the purpose of their work, because when I try to do so, I may reveal my own lack of understanding about what we’re trying to do as a company. I haven’t taken the time to tell my manager that I need more clarity. There’s a vulnerability in revealing that they themselves, and you talked about this a moment ago, how can you give what you don’t have? You can’t pour from an empty cup. There’s a piece there that’s really important. We shouldn’t underestimate that. The second thing, though, that I think is maybe as important, it’s this distorted sense of humility. This, “Surely I don’t play that big of a role in how the employee experiences their workplace. I’m just a supervisor.” Or, “I only speak to them a few times a week. Do they really even care what I think?”

It’s this idea of, I call it distorted humility, because I actually think that it is benevolent. I think that people are just, they have a smaller self-view around the role that they play as a leader. They don’t feel as comfortable stepping into that space. That in and of itself feels maybe too powerful, and it makes them uncomfortable. I’ve seen this with many leaders, they’re more comfortable saying, “No, this team, I mean, they’re fine. They’re running themselves, they know what they need. I don’t need to get into the mix. I don’t need to really interfere and I don’t know that I can add a lot of value here.”

Sharon Melnick:

That’s just so interesting. I want to harken back, actually I think it was the second episode of the Power Shift Podcast when we had Ron Carucci who’s also a fellow member of the Marshall Goldsmith Top 100 Coaches Community. He did a 10-year study on power, how executives use power in the workplace. You know what the number one abuse of power is?

Anne Gotte:

No.

Sharon Melnick:

When executives don’t use the power they do have.

Anne Gotte:

Yes.

Sharon Melnick:

Isn’t that interesting? That’s exactly what you were saying. Of course, that’s counterintuitive, not what we would have expected. I’m sure we have a litany of examples of abuse of power. It’s exactly what you’re saying right there is that, that we have this enormous missed opportunity. I think what you’re saying is, it’s really because people are not connecting to their own effect on people, or just there’s something in themselves. Like you said, they’re not sure of the purpose, or they’re afraid of too much of that sense of connection, and whatever it means for them.

I just want us to really get this, it’s like, because of our concerns inside of us that are all our own personal limitations, that it’s keeping us from this sense of nobility that has all of these downstream effects, financial, bottom-line for the company, the health and well-being, the discretionary effort of your employees, innovation. Community health mesh, I mean, it’s like every important metric could be traced, if what you’re saying is true, and I believe it is, to the inside workings from our own limited human shell.

Anne Gotte:

Yes. I completely agree. It’s interesting, it’s definitely counterintuitive that, that would be the number one abuse of power. Is neglect not a form of abuse? It’s very intuitive to hear you say it, I go, “Yeah, of course, of course.”

Sharon Melnick:

Because of my own avoidance of something.

Anne Gotte:

Am I willing to step in? Am I, as a manager, willing to step into the power that I possess, or something getting in my way? Whether it’s fear or discomfort, or, again, this distorted sense of humility. The third thing that comes up for me at times is, and you just set it beautifully, I think that we sometimes fail to acknowledge the expensive cost of not doing this. I think that sometimes people fail to realize, if you only get a fraction of what your employee is capable of giving, that’s really costly to the organization’s growth objectives. Whether that’s top or bottom-line, whether that’s longer-term metrics around innovation, pipeline, etc. It’s such a costly error.

I’ve used that to refrain with managers. Here’s the opportunity cost of your choices. Do those feel like the right ones? The other thing I talk about a lot with first line managers is how frequently they are part of dinnertime conversation. I think it’s a visual that helps people understand the role that they play in the families and friendships and relationships of the people on their team. We’re so quick to assume that there are these artificial barriers between who we are at work and who we are at other times. The reality is, we have one soul, we have one body, we are one person at a time.

To think that work and all of the impact that it has on us ends at 5:00 or whenever your shift is over is ridiculous. I always know the names of my mother’s supervisors. My children know the name of my supervisor today. Of course, we talk about this. It’s helping managers realize, whether you step into it or not, it’s there. It’s like when little ones close their eyes when they’re playing hide and seek and they’re standing in the middle of the road, but they can see you so they assume they’re safely hidden. That’s this, it doesn’t work when you’re little and it doesn’t work when you’re a leader either.

Sharon Melnick:

Oh, my God. Anne, that is brilliant, we don’t have object constancy about power in every interaction. That is absolutely brilliant. What a wise mentor and advocate you must be for all of the people in your company and within your network. Now we’ve come to the moment that I’ve been waiting for, which is, so you’re the head of Talent in your organization. You’re very, very experienced. What can we do? What are you doing to instill in the talent that you are developing this power that we’ve been talking about?

Anne Gotte:

This is where my magic wand is.

Sharon Melnick:

Why don’t we do it?

Anne Gotte:

Exactly. I don’t know. In some cases, there’s no good reason why we’re not doing it. In some cases, we are doing it, we just need to do it more and we need to get it done more broadly and we need to go faster. If I had a magic wand, and I start with a magic wand, because then I’ll build it into where the magic wand has been used for good within my company, within Ecolab and where we have maybe some room to go. I would do three things. The first is that I would create equitable access to opportunities. People can find noble work more easily and more readily if there is equitable access to opportunities in order to prepare and become qualified for those experiences.

I think part of why so many people around the world don’t love their work is because they’ve fallen into something that they did out of necessity versus choice. I think a world where people have more choice over how they work, and what they work on is a world that’s worth pursuing. I would love to think about how to create more equitable access for the experiences that prepare one to do noble work. I think the second is, and it’s related, but it’s different, is how do we remove perceived and real? I think both are there, perceived and real barriers to changing one’s mind.

I think it’s a strange life where we are educated for the first 22 or 23 years of our lives, only to be followed by 50 years of work in that field. This paradigm that when you’re your youngest, we invest in you. Then you have to use that investment for the duration of your life to do whatever that work is. Not have the opportunity to experiment and try new things and put something down that doesn’t fit anymore and pursue something that you think you’ll like more. I think there are real barriers to doing that. I think that there are barriers that we create for ourselves. If we make work sticky, and that gets in the way of I think pursuing nobility in work.

The third thing and it gets closer to the work I do at Ecolab is, if I had a magic wand, I would use it to reveal and uncover the latent talent that exists in so many people. We have such imperfect ways to examine or judge or select talent in the world. That’s not a commentary on my organization, it’s a commentary on all organizations. We have imperfect information. There’s such a symmetry between what is knowable, and what is known about an employee or about a candidate, talents, interests, background. I’d love to find ways, and technology is helping us with this already, to get closer to those latent skills and be able to architect solutions that better position people to do work that is noble for them.

At Ecolab, one of the things that we’re spending a lot of time on is around building out technology, processes and cultural elements that really create visibility and access for 44,000 employees around the world. How do we know them well, how are we clear on what they’re good at, what they are aspired to do, what experiences and talents they have that we may not be using in their current work? Which are nonetheless incredibly valuable and could be used in other ways. We have a promise at our organization that says, we believe a world of opportunity exists within our growing company. We believe a world of opportunity exists within our growing company.

The work then is to figure out how to make that true. How do we create a world of opportunity for anyone worker that can look different based on what that world should be for them? We spend a lot of time there. There’s a couple of other things we do that I could talk about, as well. I’ll pause for a moment.

Sharon Melnick:

Sure. I’m sure listeners are interested. You’re a leader, I want to bring this home in terms of like, let’s make it real. You’re a leader in this company, you have these ideas where you totally have your finger on the pulse of what needs to be done. Tell us, how are you using your power? Or what does a leader come up against as she tries to use her power for the good of all?

Anne Gotte:

I think there’s lots of ways that I’m lucky enough to be able to use my power and that’s, by the way, something I don’t take for granted. I feel a real sense of obligation and a real luxury to be able to do the kind of work that I do. I feel really blessed to be able to do work that I care deeply about. Because I know that, that’s not true for everyone. I feel the way someone with a full tummy feels thinking about people who haven’t had enough to eat. I feel really, really blessed and want to help fill other tummies. One of the things that I spend a lot of time doing at Ecolab is creating better pathways for people to move into different roles. How do we make sure that if they are ready for a change, it’s a change within and not outside our company? That’s one thing.

Perhaps another I’ll mention is, we spend a ton of time not only training managers on the fundamentals of people management, but how we deliver training to managers and to individual contributors is foundationally grounded in the idea that people can learn from one another. It’s not only what you teach in an organization, my team owns learning and development for the company. It’s how you teach them to learn. We’ve really busted the idea that you learn from an expert only or you learn from someone who is senior to you positionally, you learn from all sources.

 

Much of our learning is designed to take place in community, learning across boundaries for people with really different perspectives. That’s a design principle that we take really seriously and that anyone could replicate. Frankly, it makes the work easier. We have a management course that we call Manager Central at Ecolab, and they are literally sharing over 200 instructors around the world that make that class come to life. It’s the only class they teach. They’re not professional trainers. They’re sales leaders, they’re finance leaders, they run businesses. They also know a whole lot about the fundamentals of being a manager and they share those lessons with others around the world. When you do that, you elevate the role of the teacher because you create access. You tell your employees by your actions that all of us have something to share and teach, as well as, all of us has something to learn.

We take that really seriously as well. The third thing we spend a lot of time doing is listening. It’s really hard to know how to solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. I think sometimes leaders at all companies are eager to make progress and seem decisive. Really diagnosing what’s going on in your organization where things are getting stuck is really important. I think if managers or leaders are listening to this, and they don’t already have really active tools and processes in place to listen to their people, then that should be really the first place they start.

Another thing I would mention is how important it is to create an inclusive work environment, the idea that meaning and dignity and community, for me are the same as they would be for everyone. It’s just a false premise. You have to really understand what’s the plurality and the diversity of our organization? How does that affect the myriad of needs that we should be thinking about, and working to honor?

The last thing I’ll say, and I saved it for last, because I think it’s most important, and I’m lucky enough to work for a company where it’s very compelling. We have to make sure that people understand the why of their work. They have to feel really connected to the purpose, if not their own purpose, let them find meaning purpose over time, but absolutely connected to the purpose of their organization. I work for an organization that I feel good about, that I’m proud of, that does things that I feel are in line with my own values as a human being. We have lots of programs, initiatives, cultural expectations, tools that work to support those things. Those are a few that I’d offer.

Sharon Melnick:

Fantastic. I know our listeners are probably just thinking to themselves like, “I’ll have what she’s having.” You know what I mean? Like, “I want to be able to bring this to my organization.” My final question to you is, I imagine that it hasn’t been just smooth sailing and green lights all the way every day or trying to make some of these changes in your organization. What enables you to show up in your power?

Anne Gotte:

That’s a great question. I think the humble acknowledgement that not showing up in my power has consequences for stakeholders I deeply care about.

Sharon Melnick:

It’s always connecting it to your bigger sense of purpose, which is exactly where we started. Anne Gotte, I thank you so much. You walk the walk of bringing nobility. You have given us such an inspiring roadmap and created a vision, at least for me, of the ideal of what really we could and should be working toward. Thank you for joining us on the Power Shift Podcast.

Anne Gotte:

That’s my sincere pleasure. Thank you so much for the conversation, Sharon. It’s a lot of fun to talk with you.

Sharon Melnick:

Is there a gender element to this?

Anne Gotte:

I think in some cases, there can be. Particularly when we think about the manager side, the barriers that one may encounter in stepping into their power. We know because research tells us that this can be harder for women than it is for men. It can also be harder for people of color than it is for people who are white. It can be harder for any number of reasons. We know that those in the workplace that are marginalized do experience more difficulty owning some of the elements that we’re talking around leadership and feeling as though they can assume that power that’s necessary to have the impact that they need on their team.

Paradoxically, we know that it is those very same groups that are more effective in building empathic relationships and creating conditions of inclusion. Yet, I do think that it’s a bit more uncomfortable or clumsy for women, especially, to step into their power. I think on the associate side, or on the worker side, there can also be a reluctance to step up or self-advocate. We’ve seen the research and read the articles that talk about a man being willing to apply for a role, if you meet some of the qualifications. Where women, needing to meet 90 to 100% of the qualifications before they would consider submitting for a role or applying for a role.

We know about organizations that have experimented with self-promotion practices where they say, “When you’re ready to be promoted, you put yourself forward and we’ll evaluate you.” Thinking that, that was empowering, thinking it would create more inclusive outcomes. To the exact opposite, their promotion rates for women and people of color plummeted in those cases, because it was more likely that a man or a white majority employee would be more confident putting themselves forward for a consideration to promotion. We’ve got to think about how we support and enable leaders and workers being in their power, regardless of how they might come to that naturally. What are the extra reinforcements, encouragements, systems and processes that we can design to really ensure that regardless of your difference, and in fact, because of your difference, you’re able to be wildly powerful and successful in your work?

Sharon Melnick:

It’s the grand irony of everything that we’ve been talking about today is that, if you’re a human, if you’re a leader, if you’re a manager, you inherently have that nobility. You can create that nobility around you and contribute it from yourself.

Anne Gotte:

Yes, I completely agree. I think we have an obligation to make sure that, that feels true for everyone. That they see themselves in that story, even if that story may feel less familiar to them because of their background or circumstances.

The Power Shift podcast is all about redefining the idea of “power” and how women use it for good, not with the traditional idea of force. Listen to thought-provoking and practical interviews to help listeners understand power from every angle– how a person gets ‘in her power’, how power works in the workplace, and how power can shift.
Host Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who’s a best-selling author, speaker, and sought-after executive coach who helps women executives be an intentional Culture Carrier in their organizations and helps women get promoted to next level opportunities. Because every woman in her power is a Change Agent!
You can listen to The Power Shift Podcast with Dr. Sharon Melnick here at these links:
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