I often write about differences across cultures but a conversation with Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivation Doesn't Work and What Does, whose work is to share the science of motivation and the tools for applying it, reminded me that we all share some fundamental commonalities. We want to spend time with family or friends, have fun, and learn or accomplish new things.

Continuing this month's theme of sharing insights from other thought leaders in the leadership field, I wanted to share some of what Susan shared with me.

For Susan, her work has revealed that, "no matter what our culture, creed, religion, race, gender, or generation, we all share the same basic human nature. We all want to thrive."

On a recent trip to Russia, she realized that while it's common to say "it's not personal, it's just business," that is actually not the case. In Russia it is common to take a more reserved approach at first and once trust is built, it's important to get to know someone more personally.

As Susan puts it:

"It doesn't matter where you live, as a human being you need to experience a sense of relatedness at work to thrive in life. People spend the majority of their awake moments connected to their work, yet organizations around the world tend to ignore people's feelings and consider the exploration of emotions inappropriate."

With this observation in mind, I have recently been reading What Men Don't Tell Women About Business, where the author, Christopher Flett, advocates for strict professionalism in the workplace. He believes it's a career-killer to share personal information, especially problems, at the office.

This may be true, especially for the Alpha Males he writes about but I believe that if we are spending more time at work and personal sharing is a motivator for many individuals and cultures, creating a more compassionate environment at work could be a business advantage.

Here are 3 ways Susan believes leaders can do a better job of making business personal:

  • They need to help people find meaning in their work.
  • They need to promote values-based behavior.
  • They need to remind people how their work contributes to a greater good.

I would add:

  • They need to encourage other leaders to take the time to listen.
  • They should prepare these managers with coaching skills.
  • They should leverage the diverse perspectives and cultures in the workplace.

By working around the world, I'm constantly reminded that we all have the need to feel connected and the desire to be challenged and do well. As Susan says, because of these essences of humanity, we need to focus on creating workplaces where people produce results and thrive--no matter where they live.