Dear Debbie: How Do I Balance Personal and Professional at Work?

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Q: My team openly shares some of their struggles, both personal and professional, in the office. As the team leader, I want to show my human side and share that I experience similar struggles, but I don’t want to come across as weak or not having it all figured out when they need direction. How can I find a balance in sharing personal and professional struggles?

A: It’s hard to open up in the workplace. It’s hard to let people see you and know you. It’s even harder to do this if you are a leader. But, I would suggest, it’s also where you come into real power.

Authenticity is not a weakness. It is the quality of a true leader.

For many of us, coming to terms with this is a paradigm shift.

Even a decade ago, there was very little vulnerability in the workplace. We all plastered on smiles, lived in the shallow end and brought a performance-only mentality into work. For those of us who led as women in a man’s world, it was doubly hard. Never let them see you sweat.

Find a balance between personal and professional

But the world is changing for the better, and we as leaders have an opportunity to reshape the culture to be more giving, forgiving and healthy.

The challenge is finding balance.

Balance is a complicated idea. We are endlessly working toward the perfect balance between work and family, or between productivity and rest. But that’s quite tidy and not how life works. We ourselves, along with every person on our team, live in flux, with different events impacting “how we are doing” at any given moment.

Because of that complexity, there is no exact formula for how often and what types of personal sharing should happen in the professional workplace setting. Sometimes people will share more about what’s going on, and others will share less. This is a balance that you, as a leader, need to support.

Create a safe space for employees

In a healthy culture, sharing won’t happen all of the time in excess. Unchecked, vulnerability can devolve into habitual complaining or pessimism. It’s up to you to manage this. A good leader moves these conversations toward solutions.

Be accessible, forming a safe space through your own honesty and vulnerability. Then, as a leader, be the uplifter.

Respond to sharing with a confident, optimistic perspective that reminds everyone of where you’ve all come from and where you’re headed. Remember, an important outcome of sharing personal and professional failures is to make celebration richer. People can trust that their sharing will be well-received and they will be challenged to solve problems and grow.

We all have a mix of good and bad experiences, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Tapping into the nature of our individual experiences is what connects us. This connection builds a foundation of trust, which is the basis for all inspired work.

Your humanity is not a weakness. True leadership and true strength come from being open and transparent. When we can be authentic, overcoming our own ego, we elevate everyone to a new level of camaraderie and teamwork.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of Debbie Biery.

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With more than 20 years of experience in the real estate industry and a certified life coach, Debbie Biery is a firm believer in the power of communication, authenticity and self-awareness. She combines that experience with a desire to serve others and empower them to be the best version of themselves by helping them embrace failure and choose each moment as an opportunity for change and growth.

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