If today was your last day on Earth and you could deliver a final speech to the world, what would you say?
That was the question we posed to our employees at Acceleration Partners last year. It’s the key premise of One Last Talk (OLT), a speaking series started by world-renowned clarity coach, Philip McKernan.
The program encourages people to speak their truth unapologetically, both to free themselves from the what is holding them back and compelling others to reflect on their own, deeply-hidden emotions.
I reached out to McKernan and asked him if he would be willing to conduct an OLT program as part of our AP Summit, our annual meeting where the entire company comes together for three days of training and teambuilding. We asked for four volunteers to work directly with McKernan to prepare their One Last Talks and deliver them to our full organization. We got eight volunteers, even though I worried we wouldn’t get any.
After months of hard work, four employees delivered their deeply personal talks to our entire 170 person team, and there were few dry eyes in the room by the end. The speakers’ truths were often representative of how they showed up to work and why, in ways that were previously invisible to colleagues. Chatting with each speaker after their talks, I could also sense a peaceful relief in each one.
To borrow from a popular phrase, the truth had set them free.
In addition to showing remarkable courage and vulnerability, these four speakers completely changed the nature of subsequent interactions at our summit and beyond. Suddenly, employees were sharing candidly with each other in the hours, days and weeks that followed, resulting in greater trust and connection throughout our team.
This experience was a clear reminder that meaningful growth requires us to step outside our comfort zone. Conducting the OLT program at our summit was a risk and asked a lot of our employees—both the speakers who bravely shared their stories and the employees who listened. And while it made many people uncomfortable in the moment, the result was a clear increase in trust, vulnerability and opportunities for stronger personal and professional relationships.
Slowly, but surely, our understanding of work/life integration is changing.
Slowly, but surely, our understanding of work/life integration is changing. Great companies don’t ask their employees to compartmentalize their personal and professional lives. Employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work and be open about their challenges both inside and outside work, which often have similar roots. When we feel safe to be ourselves, we build more trust with colleagues and perform better both individually and collectively as part of a team.
One Last Talk was also an exercise in increasing emotional capacity, a major theme in my latest book, Elevate. Emotional capacity is a measure of your ability to overcome limiting beliefs, your ease in adapting to adversity, and the quality of your relationships.
A huge part of building emotional capacity is pushing aside limiting beliefs and embracing uncomfortable or challenging situations. Obstacles are an inevitable part of life, and we can only be prepared to face it if we are willing to try difficult things and see what we are capable of doing under adversity.
This was an essential part of our motivation to bring OLT to our professional environment. We encouraged our employees to be more open, honest and trusting of each other. We built our collective emotional capacity by pushing each other beyond our comfort zones. Could your organization benefit from doing the same?