What Zoos Can Teach Us About Employee Performance

I walked into a client’s office yesterday optimistic and full of life. A great nights sleep, healthy breakfast and ahead of schedule. I was ready to conquer the day.

I sat down in my office disguised as a cubicle and jumped right in. Then an unexpected turn of events happened.  After my first meeting I started to feel drained. My Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah pep turned into a series of yawns and random walks around the building to revive myself. No worries, I recovered and got my groove back right before meeting #2. After meeting #2 all shit broke loose. I felt myself completely unmotivated and almost stir crazy. Yikes! I couldn’t even get myself to look at the computer screen let alone get anything accomplished. I was being overtaken by the ugh syndrome before noon! I thought, “Oh, no. What’s happening?”

I started looking around at all the gray–I noticed everything was literally covered in gray. All I could hear was the humming of the air system and florescent lights. Without realizing what was happening all my stuff was packed in my bag and I jetted out the door as fast as possible. I felt absolute relief once I got into my car and started driving away. From there I decided to work from home and the day began to turn itself around.

So what happened at the office? What in the world came over me? I’m not Sherlock Holmes but the mystery was not too difficult to solve.

First, I’m not alone. In fact, there’s a good chance most of you reading this blog have experienced this phenomenon multiple times in your work life. A phenomenon caused by one simple fact–you’re a living human being. Yep, being alive caused me to jump out of the cubical and run for the door. Here’s why…

When you’re at work, you’re no different from an animal in a zoo. Follow me here, it’ll make sense. Have you ever seen a wild animal running and playing freely in its native habitat? They’re happy and performing at their best. Compare that to an open zoo where animals roam in beautiful habitats similar to their natural environment? Not always ideal, but for the most part the animals are relatively satisfied. Now go a step further… Compare the last two examples to a zoo that puts animals in covered cages with concrete floors and glass walls where they stare at the same damn thing everyday. In the last example animals become depressed, slow, sleepy and unmotivated to interact and play with each other. For a human, working in gray cubical land can create the same feeling as being an animal held captive in a concrete cage.

Morale to the story… environment plays a significant role in how productive a person is at work. Air quality, lighting, plants, music, natural light and color all ramp performance up or drive it down into the ground. Even the direction you face in your cubical can play a significant role in how you feel and you’re ability to focus. Feng Shui at the office works. That said, if you don’t have the luxury of designing your office space try these tips to revive your mojo the next time you’re feeling squirrely at work:

  1. Drink water: Believe it or not water is scientifically proven to have the same “wake-up your soul” effect as coffee–but better! Water will keep you hydrated and alert without the crash. By no means am I telling you to stop drinking coffee. I love the stuff! Just keep it balanced and make sure you’re drinking more H2O especially on those days you need to focus.
  2. Just add color: I know, can it get more basic?! Yes, the human mind needs color. Again proven, lack of color is one of the most significant reasons you’re falling asleep at your deck. For you business owners out there, if your office is covered in gray you’re simply asking for employees to fall asleep. An easy fix for those who feel they have no choice, start splashing your work area with colors that energize and keep you moving.
  3. Plants, plants and more plants: Fill your space with greenery! And no, plastic does not count. If you’re scared of killing your new green friend buy a Chinese Evergreen, they’re durable, hearty and can go longer than most plants without water or sunlight. Here’s the deal, plants aren’t just pretty they’ll purify your air and keep you alert. If your office has a no plant policy break the rules and sneak one in any way! Your boss will thank you when they see your performance improve.
  4. Headphones: If you want to keep your groove moving at work start listening to your favorite tunes while cranking away on that spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation. From classical to death metal…makes no difference just so long as it makes your heart sing and keeps you focused.
  5. Go into the wild: Like animals you do better in your natural habitat. If you have the ability to work from home do it. If not, leave the building at least every couple of hours to breathe some fresh air. Even five minutes of fresh air and walking can turn your day around. And for those freeze babies who live in the arctic tundra with me, throw on a hat, coat and gloves and start walking! You’ll be glad you did guaranteed.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Email Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter. 

How to Make Love in the Boardroom

redefining-love-work-foster-sense-connectionPeople are looking everywhere for ways to feel valued and appreciated. We want to be surrounded by other people who are mindful of our needs in a way that says, “I hear you.” We want to be in the presence of other people who joyfully give us the freedom to be authentic and walk in our truth. We want to feel honored by other human beings with acts of integrity and compassion. We want our creative expression to be celebrated and recognized by others, to be forgiven easily without judgment, and to have other people take responsibility for their own actions. To sum it up in one sentence, in our personal lives we say, “I want to be loved.”

In business we don’t call it love. Oh no, that wouldn’t be politically correct. The word love may not go over well in the boardroom. Heaven forbid we use a word that might make people feel uncomfortable. Ironically, the very thing that makes people feel uncomfortable is the exact thing every human being in business is looking for from their leader and company. Rather, in business we call love “engagement”. You see, when people feel loved they want to give love. In business, we call this exchange of love “discretionary energy”—and this discretionary energy is evaporating from business faster than the speed of light.

Today people feel the void of love more than ever, and most businesses have yet to acknowledge the reality that the only way to have an engaged culture is to have leaders who show-up and live high-character values. Values that include: mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, and responsibility. In other words, having leaders who are able to show acts of love. It’s only then that people will become fully engaged and the business can create a high-performing culture.

What gets in the way of leaders being able to show acts of love?  Fear of becoming vulnerable.

Vulnerability is the magic ingredient to showing acts of love and receiving the love that others show. Not only is vulnerability the magic ingredient, it’s the hardest thing for a business to attain because it requires not intellect but heart. Vulnerability is the willingness to do something without a guaranteed result, having the courage to be imperfect, having the ability to be kind to ourselves first, and believing that the things that make you most susceptible and weak to the world are what make you most beautiful. The key to joy, love, and happiness is vulnerability.

In business, vulnerability is overshadowed by fear and shame. As a means of survival and protection from fear and shame people have become experts in denial. We pretend things that are uncertain are, in fact, certain; we pretend we are what we’re not; we put ourselves on a conquest to prefect our existence. All the while, at the core of our human nature, we want to be vulnerable and feel connected. We want to feel loved.

Together, vulnerability and living high-character values is the way forward in business—it’s the solution to employee engagement. Vulnerability is the only way people feel loved, and living high-character values is how love is shown. That said,vulnerability always follows character–it will never happen the other way around. When leaders show up living high-character values, exhibiting acts of love, the culture begins to feel safe. When a culture feels safe people are willing to let their guard down, become vulnerable and give love right back to the business.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profits. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil at ginasoleil.com and follow her on Twitter.

THE REAL STORY: Why Transparency in Business is Important

images (4)Are you transparent at all costs?

From e-mails to texts to the intranet, people are writing and reading 24/7. Writing is a great art and privilege. People rely on the written language for everything. It’s how we communicate messages, transfer information, gain alignment, and stay connected. That being said, “You can’t believe everything you read” is a statement that holds true in many businesses. To fuel healthy energy, you need to make sure that the messages being written in your business are transparent, and free from deceit, manipulation, and lies. If the words you’re choosing do not deliver a clean message, the whole story, and a positive intent, people will sense deceit a mile away. When they do, your business throws trust right out the window, and the toxic energy those words create will destroy the productivity of your business. People will go from wanting to work for you, to having to force themselves to show up and do the bare minimum just to get paid. No one wants to do anything for someone who uses deceit to manipulate their actions. You need to ensure that your business is not using the art of writing as a form of manipulation. It happens more than you think, especially when the financial stakes appear high.

Transparency is the bridge between truth and clarity, and it’s the action that keeps a business honest. Transparency is how a business delivers the whole story and presents all the details. Transparency is the living action of truth. You might be thinking, A business can’t always be transparent. Spin it however you want from a business leader’s point of view:

We don’t want too much information getting out. If all the information came out it would be detrimental to revenue and profits, and our stock would go down.

We don’t want to rock the boat and harm performance.

We don’t want to take people’s focus away from what they really need to be doing.

They don’t need to know all that information to do their job.

They can’t handle the truth!

Here’s the deal: The truth is going to come out sooner or later. All the information will reveal itself, whether you want it to or not. If you’re not transparent, the truth will start as gossip, and people will take the gossip as truth because that’s the only “information” they have to hang onto. A leader may break under pressure and share everything with a line-level friend, and that line-level friend will share her version of the truth with everyone else. Before you know it the news has spread like wildfire. Now the business has to spend hours fixing, smoothing over, and making excuses for why it wasn’t transparent to begin with; not to mention the effort that now has to go into rebuilding trust rather than nurturing the trust that already exists. Rebuilding is always more costly than maintenance.

As a business leader, you have choice. You can choose to be transparent by delivering truth and clarity with conviction, or you can you choose to only deliver a partial message that causes confusion and emotional turmoil. For every leader there is a defining moment: Someone will ask you to withhold the whole story. If you do, the people in your business will see you as a liar. I get it; you’re in a high-profile business, and some very important people who make six or seven figures are telling you to “Keep it a secret. Don’t show anyone. For your eyes only—and only while you’re in the club of leadership.” I get your reality, but here’s the deal: If you choose to continue the dysfunction by not sharing the whole story, you are a liar. That personal label never feels good, and it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of.

If you’re not being transparent, you can’t justify being frustrated that people aren’t doing what the business needs them to do. That’s like inviting someone to a meeting, not telling them the room number or time, and then getting upset because they didn’t show up. When someone has clarity because he inherently knows that he’s being told the whole story, he’s motivated to move the business forward.

Let’s take it a step further. When was the last time you were excited, motivated, and inspired to do something nice for someone who was deceitful and manipulative to you? When was the last time you walked up to your significant other or friend and said, “I really wish you we’re a complete liar. That’s the type of person I want to be around. That’s the type of person I want to give my all to. That’s the type of person who gives me energy.” Yeah, the green kind that comes in the form of slime. Yuck! If you think this is harsh, you’re right, it is. And it needs to be, because it’s the truth. It’s the whole story that no one wants to talk about. Or it’s talked about, but we don’t allow it to get personal. We justify it by saying “It’s my job.” No, it’s not. It’s called leadership dysfunction at its best.

We convenience ourselves that being a liar is okay as long as we’re getting paid to do it. The more we get paid, the more we’re asked to lie. The more we lie, the more toxic energy gets dumped into the business. You and everyone one else in the business are now caught in a cycle of perpetual deceit that generates enough destructive energy that your whole body feels like it’s stuck in cement and you can’t move anywhere—certainly not forward. Yet we still go back to justifying it. Hell, we even feel important when we make it to the top and get to be one of the few people who not only know the whole story but also get to lie about it. When you look at it from the perspective of being in a personal relationship, you know it’s sick, demented, and wrong.

Just thinking about being on the other side of deception is enough to give anyone anxiety and heartache. Think about the last time you were lied to, the last time you were impacted by someone who chose not be transparent and give you the whole story. Do you remember the feeling of heaviness? Can you feel it now just thinking about it? That heaviness you’re feeling is the toxic energy that lives in a business when the business is unhealthy. It’s the same heaviness that every person, from the part-time janitor to the CEO, gets to carry when the business chooses to withhold truth. It’s the heaviness that businesses are asking leaders at all levels to deliver to the rest of the people in the business. Congratulations—you’ve made it to the top. Now the question is, do you have the courage to change it?

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Email Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

How to Communicate and Get Results

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Destination Mapping is a communication process that works! It’s designed for one-on-one conversations, written messages and any presentation no matter how small. The process can be used by anyone who wants to become a better communicator, eliminate costly errors and/or have easy conversations that actually get results. Although the process is designed for business, it’s just as effective when used in personal interactions.

Here’s what the mapping process looks like.

  1. State your true intent. This should be the first sentence out of your mouth or out of your pen. The intent is why you’re communicating. The intent may be to change minds, provide information or create action. You need to make sure your intent is positive. If you’re not confident that your intent will be seen as positive to the person(s) receiving the message, don’t communicate the message. If you do, people will know the intent is sour and you’ll contaminate the culture of your business.
  2. Give people the destination up front. If the communication is successful, where will it get you, the people receiving the message and the business? Everyone loves to jump right to the how before making the destination crystal clear—that’s like asking someone to get into a car and drive without telling them where they’re going. Before you jump into thehow, you need to clearly state the where.
  3. Paint a vivid picture of the destination. Even in a one-on-one conversation you need to paint a picture of the destination. If you don’t, it’s no one’s fault but your own if the communication fails. A vivid image describes what the destination looks like, feels like and tastes like. This is how you help people emotionally connect to the message. When people emotionally connect they want to support you. If you skip this stage all you have are sterile words and an apathetic message that goes nowhere.
  4. Give the roadmap. Here’s where you share how the destination you just vividly painted will be reached.  If you want to reach the destination, you need to be crystal clear and provide step-by-step directions. That said, stay flexible and be willing to make changes–your way is not always the right way.
  5. Ask for input. Ask for input and be willing to incorporate the feedback—there may be a hundred different ways to get to where you want to go. If you are unwilling to ask and receive input don’t communicate the message at all. Healthy cultures thrive on reciprocity. Businesses that have a healthy culture understand that everyone’s feedback, regardless of the person’s level within the business, is important and should be taken seriously if the business wants to move forward successfully.
  6. Ask for commitment. No matter how small the communication, everyone giving or receiving the message has a role and needs to make a commitment—but they’re not going to make it, and follow through, unless you ask for it. The commitment might be as easy as agreeing to read the information, complete a series of tasks or be a sponsor and influence change from the top. Regardless of the commitment, if you don’t ask for it you’ll never get what you want.
  7. Do your part and follow up. Lastly, follow up with everyone who received the communication, gave you input or made a commitment. If someone gave you input, you need to let her know how you incorporated it, or provide specific reasons why the input was unable to be used—the reasons need to be valid and make sense to everyone involved. If the intent of the communication was to create action, then the follow-up needs to clearly state the progress. And if a commitment was made, send an e-mail to everyone involved that summarizes the agreement. Most importantly, let people know how much you appreciate their input and effort toward the destination.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

 

You’re Bloody Brilliant

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In case someone hasn’t already told you, let me just say, “You are brilliant.” In fact, you are the most brilliant person in your life. You are so smart that you have the ability to answer any life question, accomplish anything you put your mind to, and your ideas are so phenomenal they have the ability to inspire and motivate everyone around you to be better and more self-confident. Without a doubt, you are brilliant.

Now here’s the reality, you may not feel brilliant or that your ideas are phenomenal. In fact, you may feel the exact opposite. You see, our society, especially Corporate America, has taught us the art of self-degradation. In fact, most people have become so good at the art form they literally insult and condemn themselves out loud in order to save themselves from public shame and humiliation. People think things like, If I tell everyone how stupid I am right now someone may think it’s funny. They might even respond by telling me how smart I am–that will make me feel better. And then people might not think I’m so stupid. Reverse psychology at its best.

Here’s the deal: most people have been doing this self-degradation thing for years–some, since they were born. What you may not know is that self-degradation is a form of mental programing. The psychology is simple: the human mind will believe what is heard repeatedly as truth. In other words, keep telling yourself you’re stupid and you will believe you’re stupid. Tell a child, or a young adult they’re stupid and they will believe it for life. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a society where I am surrounded by brilliance not stupidity. Moral to the story: be respectful when you’re talking to yourself, and show compassion when you’re talking to others.

Today, make the choice to acknowledge your brilliance as truth. It doesn’t matter your IQ score, how far up the corporate ladder you’ve climbed, or what anyone else has told you in this life–you are brilliant. It’s now time to put your head up, stand tall and walk forward in this truth. And when you’re walking forward, and someone chooses not to acknowledge your brilliance, simply say, “I’m bloody brilliant”.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

How to get someone to say, “I love my job.”

I-love-my-job_employee-engagementI’ve seen my share of employee engagement programs. The best programs are those that show people they are valued, cared for and appreciated by the business and its leaders–programs that have people saying, “I love my job.” These are two of my favorite programs. Hats off to the fearless businesses that choose to put people first!

1.  Internal Humanity Budgets

Internal humanity budgets are funds that provide leaders with the ability to take care of the people on their team during times of need. These are funds that someone in need can receive similar to the way a grant works—no strings attached. Example scenarios include someone finding out he is losing his house due to circumstances out of his control. Another example might be someone needing to put food on the table after finding out her child has terminal cancer. A humanity budget is designed to take care of the basic human needs of the people inside the business.

It’s important not to make this complicated. The minute red tape gets involved, humanity budgets will become tainted with bad energy and complicated to disperse. The perceived hassle will automatically give leaders amnesia—they won’t remember the budgets exist at all. So make it simple. Make it one lump sum per leader. Make the budgets known to everyone in the business. Don’t micromanage it, and step away from the red tape. This is an exercise of trust, compassion, and freedom.

2.  Community Barter Sites

A community barter site is an online program that allows people to confidentially request help in times of need, for themselves or for other people inside the business. The site is barter only, and allows everyone in the business to confidentially respond to the needs of others. Again, no strings attached. Barter items may include groceries, clothing, and school supplies. The intent of the initiative is to give people in the business a vehicle by which to help take care of one another when people need help the most. The confidentiality of the program makes it safe for people to participate without shame or guilt.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

3 Fast Ways to “Destress” and Feel Human Again

adt-womanLet’s face it people, life is tough, and trying to remain calm and grounded feels virtually impossible among the day-to-day craziness we call “life”. In fact, life can get so out-of-control that at times you may not even feel human. You don’t know what you feel, but it’s definitely not human.

If you’re someone like me and the rest of the world, who needs a little assistance reclaiming your calm, here are three of the fastest ways to destress and feel human again. That said, here’s the deal: you need to commit to the process for a month. And the process includes all three steps. If you make the commitment, I personally guarantee you’ll feel better–more grounded, calm and back in the driver’s seat of your life.

Here are 3 Fast Ways to “Destress” and Feel Human Again:

1.  Morning Pages:
Each morning, before you do anything, write three pages of constant-stream-of-thought. The concept behind morning pages is that we subconsciously house damaging thoughts that we carry with us everyday. These thoughts block us from attaining our goals, feeling good, and being our best selves. When we write our thoughts immediately in the morning we allow ourselves to literally dump any and all negativity into the trash where it belongs–allowing us to be free and clear from the potential blocks preventing us from attaining our goals.

Important Note: Do not read your morning pages—at all. Many people choose to burn their pages at the end of 30-days, or simply toss them in the trash as a form of release. You may choose what to do with your morning pages,, but what’s important is that you do not read them during this experience. Think about it…. would you dig through the trash to eat something you threw out days ago? Why would you want to put those thoughts back into your head?

2.  Creativity Outing:
Your mind, body and soul is in need of a weekly dose of solitude and reward. The world is filled with noise that cloud our thoughts with fear and judgment; preventing us from remaining grounded, confident and clear about who we are and where we’re going. During the creativity outing you are literally cleansing yourself from negative outside influences. Humans are meant to create. When we create, we feel free. I don’t care if you go to a pond and line-up sticks, or decide to be a painter–what you do during the outing is your choice. That said, there are 4 rules:

  • You must be alone (no friends, no dates)
  • You must choose to do something creative outside your “normal” existence
  • You must be on your outing for a minimum of 2-hours
  • No technology

3.  Gratitude Reflection:  
The fastest way to get the results you want is by showing gratitude. It’s proven: what you put into the world is exactly what you will get back. Einstein himself, intentionally said thank you 90-times a day because he knew the Universe would reward him in beautiful ways for simply choosing to be grateful for the things already in his life. Every day, you are asked to write down 10 things you are grateful for. It’s amazing. When you actually stop long enough to be grateful for the life you have, your mind is able to find its calm and relax.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

Creating Ethical Cultures in Business

Do you have the courage to stand up for what is right? When you’re faced with a situation that you know is wrong, do you speak up? Or, do walk away and allow deceit and manipulation to flourish? The next time you catch yourself thinking, “Someone should do something.” Remember, that someone is you.

Thank you, Brooke Deterline, for sharing this message with the world.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

How to Live a Happier Life

Imagine_A_Happier_You_logoIf you’re not happy, there’s a 99% chance your life doesn’t align with your values.

What are values anyway?  Values are how we name what we find important in life and what gives us energy. Like the flour and eggs that help a cake become a cake, aligning your life to your values help you become a happy and balanced person.  Values are the ingredients that make the best you.

What are your values?  Be careful… I didn’t ask you for your parent’s values, the values of the business you work for, or the values of any other influence in your life. Many people fall into the trap of aligning their life to the values of something or somebody else due to their fear of judgement and disappointment–one day turning around and saying, “Why am I not happy?”

Today, make a choice to be happy. Choose to align your life with what YOU value and what gives YOU energy. You most likely won’t be able to align your entire life to your values overnight, but even the most subtle shift can have a profound affect on the state of your happiness.

Here’s how to start living a happier life:

Take a look at this list of values, and choose the top 10 values that jump out at you. These are the values that you instinctually know are important to you. Once you have your list, then narrow it down to your top-five values. To do so, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What moment has been the highlight of your life? Describe it. Why was it a highlight? Who was there? What did the environment look like, feel like, sound like? What words were spoken or written? How did you feel, and why? What value(s) was being respected or honored? 
  2. Describe a moment when you have felt wronged. Who or what wronged you? What did the environment look like, feel like, sound like when it happened? What words were spoken or written? How did you feel, and why? What value(s) was being disrespected or hurt?

It’s the values that were respected and honored, or disrespected and hurt, that are the most important to you. These values should be in your top-five list. Your emotional experiences are always the window to what’s most important to you. 

Lastly, look at your top-five list and ask yourself, “Are my current life choices aligned with my values 100%?” If not, start brainstorming all the different ways you could shift your life in order to honor your values. Skies the limit! This is your happiness we’re talking about. Don’t cheat yourself–shoot for the moon.  Now choose one idea and bring it to life.

Don’t stop there…. everyday make one shift, until one day you turn around and say, “Wow, I’m happy.”

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.

How to Make a Leader Better, Stronger and More Inspiring

argentina_flag_by_chokorettomilkku-d7idrpsIf you want a leader to change; to become more authentic, compassionate and kind, send them on a mission trip. If you want a leader to become better, stronger and more inspiring, send them to a place where the culture is rich in respect for humanity and the Earth. 

One of the greatest life-changing experiences I’ve had to date was when I went on a two-week mission trip to Argentina, from Buenos Aires to Patagonia to Iguazu Falls. Argentina is not a wealthy country. It was at one time, but the country has suffered great economic hardship, and many people are still living in poverty. And yet, as a visitor, you would never know that was the case. Every person with whom I came in contact had a sense of life inside him or her that I had never seen before. I could look into people’s eyes and instantly see and feel how much gratitude, appreciation, and love they had inside them. The people I talked with listened, asked questions, and cared enough to keep the conversation going, even though we didn’t even understand the words that were coming out of our mouths. In fact, many conversations ended up with both of us just laughing, because we had no clue what was going on.

When the trip ended, we cried. In two weeks amazing friendships had formed and no one wanted to leave each other. But we said our goodbyes, and in that moment I realized I was actually saying goodbye to who I was and hello to someone new. You see, here’s what happened on that trip: When I looked into the eyes of these people who had nothing, I saw people who had everything. I saw life. And I realized that they were no different from anyone else I knew; I was the person who was different. For two weeks I was immersed in a life without materialistic items, status, or money—those distractions were gone. I lived simply, because I didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. And with everything stripped away I actually noticed life, and I noticed it inside another human being. I stopped long enough to see, feel, and experience what it meant to actually connect with another human being—and change happened.

I came back to the States a different person; a better person. I started to look at life differently. The experience was an igniter, and it put me on a path where I started to align my life with my values and my purpose, and it helped me begin to understand what it meant when someone said “authentic relationship.” And I realized, once I was home, that if I stop long enough to look into someone’s eyes, life always looks back into mine.

Mission trips are important, but not for the reason everyone thinks they’re important. Sure, you physically help other people who need your help, and you have a significant impact on the world in amazing, tangible ways, but the real point of a mission trip, and the real change, is that you come back a different person—a person who begins to understand life. It’s that understanding that has the power to open eyes, and it’s that understanding that has the power to improve the well-being of humanity and change our world.

So before you jump into your next leadership course, or send one of your leaders off to another leadership course, consider this… Real change—in people, communities, and the world—only occurs through experience. If you truly want a leader to change; to become better, more authentic, compassionate, and kind, you need to immerse them in a culture where authenticity, compassion and kindness thrive. So rather than attending another leadership course consider going out into the world to literally be the change.

Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.