Should leaders talk about their private life? Niraj Kapur reveals how letting others in can be good for business
Once upon a time, there was an entrepreneur. He spent decades in the corporate world and had become disillusioned with the lack of culture, long hours and the exhausting commute. As a result, he decided to set up his own business to make sure his life was set to a higher standard. After many years of struggles both personally and professionally, he began sharing his personal journey on LinkedIn and this directly helped him get more followers and rebuild his business into one that’s consistently profitable.
This is a common story in 2023 as more people start to reveal more about their personal lives on business or professional platforms.
There are criticisms that personal posts should be kept on Facebook and business posts should only be used on business platforms. However, this is missing the bigger picture. Also, these same critics are often the ones not achieving success on social media.
Here’s why and how leaders should talk about their private life at work, and how it can actually result in better outcomes.
1. Leaders are seen as out of touch and overpaid
Sharing bits about your private life makes you appear more human and people want to know who you are behind your job title.
Showing vulnerability and kindness are powerful ways in which to do this. It takes courage to share your vulnerability with staff and discuss the challenges you’ve had to overcome in setting up a franchise, from putting in long hours and sleepless nights to worrying about finances.
Kindness is one of the most underrated skills in business: the better you treat people, the better they will perform. Of course, some will take advantage of your kindness, but most will appreciate it.
People often mistake entrepreneurs for being insane workaholics who put profit above everything else, but I have coached hundreds of entrepreneurs and start-up businesses and most of them are good people.
2. Helps you be more relatable
Being able to share your origin story makes you more relatable and likeable. When that happens, your staff will put in the extra effort.
Origin stories are an important way to communicate with your staff in less than 60 seconds to let them know why you do what you do. Storytelling is one of the world’s oldest art forms and helps people connect with you on a deeper level.
No matter what their position at work, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, from family issues, money issues, and imposter syndrome to health challenges. This is your opportunity to inspire people by letting them into your world.
Taking on a franchise is a massive responsibility, and you often will feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Your origin story and how you share it will help you to push forward.
3. The magic of 1:1 meetings
Talking to people on stage is powerful. Writing an email to a mass audience can be helpful.
When managing staff, one-to-one meetings are an effective way to test this out, because it’s one person, not a mass audience. It allows you to understand and influence the person you’re talking to.
Always be testing and looking for ways to improve your communication and how much you reveal. Lack of communication is a huge problem at the top.
4. Walk the floor
Top leaders like Richard Branson and John Maxwell will “walk the floor”. This means they talk to everyone, not just those in senior management. They ask people how they are and listen. They engage. They ask more questions and show they care.
5.Stories are how we connect
Storytelling is how we communicate, engage and make more sense to others. It’s also the reason I started this article with “Once Upon A Time”. It gets people more deeply involved.
I attended a Tony Robbins Unleash The Power Within (UPW) event in London back in 2018. Almost 13,000 people turned up at the London Excel on a warm April day. I’d never been part of a conference this big before, attended by people from all over the world. Different languages, diverse attitudes and tremendous energy filled the room.
If you don’t know Tony, he’s the world’s top peak performance coach who has worked with Hugh Jackman, Serena Williams, Pitbull, Connor McGregor and many others. I was struggling with my mental health at the time. Having set up my own business, I missed the regular income, pension and perks of my career in London. I was struggling to provide for my family and, as a man, this affected my ego. As an entrepreneur trying to make a difference in sales and speaking, nobody knew who I was, and nobody cared. I also didn’t like having to start over, aged 45.
During the four days of the UPW, we worked 12-14 hours a day. It was emotionally draining. I also learned more than I ever had before. I went back to work feeling like a new person and started to grow and develop. I could only do that by investing in myself, opening myself up to new possibilities and being vulnerable.
By sharing this personal story, I’ve encouraged others to invest in themselves and take on board new opportunities.
As a franchisee, you need to have so many skills, like an incredible mindset, and also the ability to inspire people to buy into you. The same goes with being an entrepreneur.
It requires not just slick ways of talking to people and charisma; you need to take people on a journey with you – one that may have many ups and downs. Being able to share your private life in a way that enables people to communicate with you only helps.
6. There’s no need to share everything
How much information should be shared? Too much detail is overkill.
You can talk about the struggles you’ve had to endure from sacrificing family time, health and friendships without going into every fine detail. Avoid any discussion of sex, politics and religion – these can lead to anger, controversy and judgment. Sometimes, it’s more powerful to say nothing at all.
Staff want to be led and motivated and have leaders to believe in.
This is your opportunity to share not just your struggles, but also what makes your business special to inspire others to come along with you.
How not to navigate your private life at work…
- Never talk about your private life if you’re bragging about your income, expensive holidays that staff can’t afford, or shopping for a new Porsche. I’ve seen leaders talk about this in front of staff and it impressed nobody; it just made others feel inferior.
- Be careful not to stick your nose into somebody else’s private life, like asking people if they’re married or how many children they have. Likewise, you should never ask about a person’s sexual orientation – it’s none of your business.
- Always respect people’s choices without judgement.
How to be authentic in business:
- Share your personal story
- Be vulnerable
- Be human
- People buy into those they like and trust
Things to avoid:
- Don’t show off
- Don’t reveal everything
- Don’t ask inappropriate questions
- Don’t stick your nose into other people’s business
Niraj Kapur is a LinkedIn trainer, TEDx speaker, and author of Business Growth: Lessons Learned from Divorce, Dating and Falling In Love, available on Amazon
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