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I’m gonna level with you; I was legit scared to go to mandatory work training called Heart of a Leader. You ever read those articles about introverts who screen phone calls (even from their friends), come up with last-minute excuses not to go to social gatherings and disappear for days on end?

Ahem, yeah, that’s me. Classic introvert.

Unlike you extrovert-types, social interactions drain me of energy even though I enjoy being around people. It’s just how I’m wired. I live in my head, and I have a naturally quiet energy. So when I heard I’d be going to a two-day intensive training that somehow involved screaming, crying and other really overt expressions of emotion, I was a tad distressed. OK, a lot distressed.

Developing the Heart of a Leader

For the uninitiated, Heart of a Leader is a two-day leadership training that aims to help participants get out of their comfort zones so they can start leading from their hearts instead of their heads. There are no lectures or PowerPoint presentations during this training. It’s all group participation in a variety of high energy activities lead by Brandon Johnson, also known as The Positive Energy Guy.

Mika and Beth participate in a Heart of a Leader activity

Mika (left) and Beth (right) sit knee-to-knee during a Heart of a Leader training activity

If you’re skeptical, that’s OK. I was skeptical, too. In fact, I remained skeptical until the end of the first day – which had gone from 8 in the morning until past 10 at night – when the final activity ripped me straight out of my head and tossed me right into my heart. Woo. It was a doozy.

I’d spent that day with a small group of my coworkers, watching them open up about their fears and vulnerabilities and listening to their stories about their families and life experiences. I went through the motions of all these activities, which were meant to push us all closer together, but I wasn’t truly bonding with anyone. Not really. As always, my heart was shackled to my head.

But that last activity on the first day of training changed everything for me.

Letting Go of the Old School

OK, I admit it; I’m a bit old school when it comes to my opinions about what a professional company culture should look like. You go to work, leave your emotions at the door, do your job, go home. Simple, right? Ha. If only. I don’t know why I’ve held onto that belief for so long, even after having countless human interactions that directly counter this misconception. Luckily, the leadership team at Practice Velocity, where I work, recognize that building a successful business is far more complicated than that because people are far more complicated than that. We’re not automatons; we’re living, breathing beings with complex thoughts and emotions. And with that complexity comes the challenge of building a company culture that people truly want to be a part of.

The key to building that culture at Practice Velocity? Trust. Trust that we all have the best intentions – for each other and for the company. Trust that we’ll do the right thing when faced with hard decisions. Trust that negative feedback comes from a place of love and compassion. Trust that lively debate is never meant to be hurtful. Trust that we’re all in a safe place when we walk through those doors every morning.

A Company Culture of Trust

To build trust, you have to be willing to let down those walls. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. That’s what Heart of a Leader training did for me. It shattered my old school notions of company culture by showing me that emotions are a part of who we all are. We can’t simply leave them at the door; we carry them with us no matter where we are. To deny our emotions – to deny our hearts – only serves to deepen the chasms between us. You can’t build trust that way. And without trust, you simply can’t build a positive company culture.

Practice Velocity isn’t interested in my old school notion of work. They aren’t in the business of hiring people who just show up, do their jobs and go home. Yes, they absolutely want skilled employees, but we all know skills are pretty easy to find. Finding the right kind of energy is what’s so challenging. That’s why Practice Velocity sends all of its employees through Heart of a Leader training. It’s a hefty investment, not just financially, but in time away from the office and from our families. But the investment has proven worthwhile because employees come out of it with a better understanding of how they directly contribute to Practice Velocity’s culture. It’s taken us from a traditional work culture to a pretty atypical work culture, and that’s what makes us – every one of us at Practice Velocity – so extraordinary.

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