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Bring Your Whole Self to Work: An Inspiring and Insightful TED Talk

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Being our true selves at work, while a fairly simple concept, is harder than it might seem. It means having the courage to be vulnerable with one’s coworkers and managers, says author and motivational speaker, Mike Robbins, in his 2015 TED Talk, “Bring Your Whole Self to Work.” 

Using universally relatable, as well as enormously entertaining examples from his own career, Robbins encourages viewers that authenticity at the office and in all aspects of life can be scary, but is well worth the risk. Vulnerability, says Robbins, is the “key to growth and trust.” 

Leaders can create great environments around them when they are willing to model the behaviors that they want their employees to display. Being vulnerable and transparent, setting high standards while nurturing potential and showing empathy and compassion during difficult challenges, are just some of  the leadership behaviors that lead to empowered employees and thriving cultures. 

Perhaps what makes this TED Talk so captivating is Robbins’ own authenticity. Robbins allows himself to be vulnerable with his audience. As a result, Robbins is likable, humorous and highly inspirational. 

“Bringing our whole selves to work and creating an environment which supports this are no small things. They take courage on everyone's part and, at times, go against conventional wisdom. However, when we're willing to show up fully and we encourage others to do the same, that creates the conditions for all of us to thrive,” says Robbins.

Click here to watch the video.

Great leaders connect with their people


We love this TED Talk because it captures something that we have found to be true time and time again. Great leaders who are willing and courageous enough to be transparent in not only what they believe, but in their weaknesses, failures and insecurities help them and the people around them to be successful. 

At Aerotek, we spend a lot of time studying great leadership inside and outside of our organization. We are constantly seeking to learn what makes great leaders effective, what they believe in, what drives them and what it is about who their whole selves that inspires and motivates the people around them to want to also become great leaders.

We recently spoke with Jerry DiBartolo, director of business operations at Aerotek, about his leadership journey and how he successfully leads three of Aerotek’s largest operations in upstate New York.

He shared, “The day I really became a leader is the day I decided to lead as myself and be my authentic self, not what I thought I needed to be. When I did that I started to build real relationships with my people, real trust and real respect. That was better for my people and much better for me. I never truly wanted to be a leader who led by fear or authority, but at a certain point in my career I thought that was how I had to do it. Having mentors who could show me a relationship-authentic approach to leadership was not only much more enjoyable and inspiring for me, but much better for business and the organization.”

While being transparent and vulnerable with the people around you may be hard and uncomfortable, it can also lead to relationships and a work environment where everyone can thrive. Moments like these are an invitation to all of us to reflect on the questions: Am I being my whole self at work? Am I setting goals for my people while also nurturing who they are?

As a leader, it’s important to create an environment of trust and openness. It cultivates a mindset where people don’t feel the need to be perfect to succeed, and that it is alright to fail. As long as they work hard and uphold core values, they are accepted just as they are. And in turn, it’s about being willing to do what it takes either for yourself or as a leader of others to transform those failures into lessons that will make yourself, the people around you and the organization better. 

When you are leading as your “whole self” ― insecurities and all ― it will become much easier to sustain long-term success and be an effective leader.