Anyone who has met Cy Wakeman in person can see straight away her authenticity, sincerity, and passion for helping leaders end workplace drama and bring about breakthrough performances in their people. And when she agreed to a Q&A and book signing on this first day of Workhuman, we were thrilled so many of you would have this pleasure – and so many did! It. Was. Packed.
Moderated by writer, speaker, and entrepreneur Laurie Ruettimann – another longtime advocate of the Workhuman movement – here are a few nuggets of wisdom from Cy’s perspective.
Cy began her career as a marriage and family therapist. The skills she used in these sessions remained useful even as her calling changed. “What I teach comes out of my background, and that’s teaching people to be better consumers of their own behavior. When I became a leader, I saw how traditional leadership practices are disconnected from the psychology of behavior – and that isn’t going to work. Why I had success is because I called people to greatness and realized that’s what was missing.”
According to Cy, breakthrough performances happen when engagement and accountability meet. In fact, Cy thinks personal accountability is the driver of both employee engagement and organizational results. What steps can leaders take to develop that accountability in both themselves and their teams?
Learn to tame those egos.
Stop believing everything you think. That narrator in your head, that judging commentator – that’s your ego. The act of self-reflection can get you away from seeing the world through the lens of the ego and, instead, use all of your intelligence.
“When you start feeling stressed, it means you’re believing your thinking and you need to start questioning your thinking. When you pause, you get neutral and move into this bigger part of your brain. We need to modernize leadership development from the thought that I have to teach you to be something you already aren’t. When we’re in low self, we’re in ego. When we’re in high self, our potential is limitless. Leaders need to learn to switch the toggle from low to high on their employees. People are not fundamentally broken.”
Work with the willing first.
Instead of enabling those who don’t want to get on board with change or vision, stop giving them a third option to “stay and hate.” Accountability is the mindset that you can have impact in your circumstances – the opposite is learned helplessness. People who are accountable don’t vent. Venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection.
How can leaders stay in even when there are barriers? “That’s where crowdsourcing is answer, having a network, a universal brain to pick. Then take ownership. Accountable people mine their experiences for success and failure. What if you got feedback and worked hard to find out why it is true?”
Cy ended the Q&A with this piece of advice, “Challenge your people, quit rescuing them. Foster self-reflection. Hold space for people who come to you. But this doesn’t work if you’re preaching and teaching. It only works if you’re saying, ‘I care about you.’”
If you’re attending Workhuman, there’s still time to hear Cy speak. Her session, Employee Engagement Is Broken: Unlocking the True Driver of Employee Performance, is Wednesday, March 20 at 10:15 a.m., where she’ll share lessons from her newest book, “No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement, and Drive Big Results.”
And don't forget to check out our review of Cy’s book for this month’s Workhuman Book Club!
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