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“The strongest oak tree of the forest is not the one protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.”

― Napoleon Hill


One of my favorite business books is a relatively obscure one by Patrick Lencione called Getting Naked, a story about a conventionally run company fixed on protecting their image, engaging with caution, and hiding their inadequacies. In the story, they merge with a young, open-hearted company with a philosophy of rolling up their sleeves, jumping in to help without reservation, all while sharing what they don’t know. The older company is initially alarmed and unsettled by this approach. As you might already guess, the young company’s approach wins the day. Lencione’s story is at the root of why one of LifeWork Systems’ core values is friendship; treating everyone we meet like a friend with whom we decide to jump in quickly, give our all and best, while being transparent about what we know and don’t know. In friendship, one doesn’t pretend and self-protect; one helps. This is one way we cause our purpose; to create of a world in which all people love their lives.


I look at what’s happening in business and in our society right now, and I see too many people making decisions based on fears about possible hits to their personal and professional reputations. Self-interest and self-protections are transactional; they work directly against growth and evolution, stunting relationships and innovation. Consider the greatest thoughts leaders and change agents of today and from the past; the religious, political, and business leaders, the top athletes, anyone who has contributed to amazing leaps forward. Almost always, their reputations were in tatters, if not with most people, then with large swaths of people.


I personally see this in the Colin Kaepernick’s, the Greta Thunberg’s, the Nelson Mandela’s, and the Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s to name just a few of my favorites. Whether you agree with these people and their philosophies or follow those quite different, you know the kinds of people I describe. They disrupt the status quo to bring about breakthroughs and extraordinary results. In business, these include trailblazers Tony Hsieh who integrated core values into the operations of Zappos and then told the whole world. Or Dan Price who insists all his people make $70K per year or more and that the highest paid is capped at four times that of the lowest paid. Such people show up in many places. They are in sports, including how the NBA operates, making sure all teams are provided a level playing field, or in our most courageous visionaries, scientists and religious prophets, those people who faced or still face – fans AND persecutors.  Love AND hate. And they barely notice. They’re too busy living from integrity, conviction, and courage, perfecting their craft, even when threatened, denigrated, and abandoned, sometimes by those who love them. In all walks of life, they are driven to accomplish and achieve the exceptional and helpful, and they operate from purpose, values and vision for themselves and others.


In 2002, when I first started my company, I met with multiple marketing experts who told me repeatedly, “You can’t sell a business owner or executive on the idea that they should want to cause something positive for their workforce. They only care about their profits. They don’t care about the happiness of their people.” I was stunned and disheartened to hear this. What I came to realize is that win or lose, I didn’t want to work with those leaders only concerned about their images and profit margins. I was happy to discover they are not the only ones out there. Now, more than ever, if you want a successful company, you must stop protecting your reputation, stop hiding and taking without thought of others, and instead roll up your sleeves, jump in to help, give and be your best, and be open about your strengths AND your weaknesses. Be a friend to all you meet. You will do so much good, enjoy great fulfillment, rock your role and relationships, and be proud of your life and work. Stop protecting and focus on excellence, authenticity and helping. You are needed to be this right now, for yourself and for our world!


Why People Hire Judy Ryan and LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages. We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based Teal workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.  You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

This article is published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly in Judy’s column The Extraordinary Workplace, December 2021.