Do I bring my whole self to work each day? Do I really want my colleagues to bring all that they are to the workplace? If your answers are no to these questions we might be missing out on a lot of engagement and productivity.
I had a pair of pull-on work boots that I used to occasionally wear with jeans to work. As I progressed up the corporate ladder I stopped wearing jeans, and those boots have long since fallen apart.
It makes me wonder whether there are other parts of me that used to come to work that have been left behind as I’ve grown older. I think that most of us choose, either mindfully or not, to bring some parts of our experience and value into the workplace, and to leave some parts of ourselves at the door. How do leaders in organisations make the most of the talents that people in their teams possess?
The “organisation as machine metaphor” refuses to die. Implicit in this metaphor is that each person who’s in the company can equally fill any other role in the company as long as they have the right skills and experience, and can follow the system (rules). Also key is that there’s no need for creativity and original thinking, as the thinking has already occurred and been systematised. In this type of work it’s no wonder that people leave their creative and playful selves at home.
I’m not thinking about radically new ideas here, but it has got me thinking about what we do at Ruah that might be allowing people to “show up” in creative and generative ways.
We had no idea how to fund it, or what was involved, but we took a punt on her skill, passion and enthusiasm
There are some great examples where people have really followed their passion and created something out of nothing. The work that Jenny Middlemiss did in creating the “Secret Squirrel Business” book, website and videos was just amazing. Jenny came to Ruah and pitched an idea to write a book for people living with mental illness. We had no idea how to fund it, or what was involved, but we took a punt on her skill, passion and enthusiasm. A punt that paid off in spades.
Another example is the work that Meagan Shand at Ruah did in setting up the “Our Wellbeing” project, which provides resources and activities to people living in the wheat-belt of Western Australia. Again, her vision and drive has helped find the resources and partners who have made a number of activities occur over the last two years. In both these examples space has been given to fail, refine, and flourish.
The efficiency needs of an organisation still exist, but we need to use technology to find ways to continue to automate processes, freeing up our people to be doing creative and thinking work that they may not get the time to otherwise do. Like many firms, Ruah is experimenting with how we can use new technologies to our advantage. We are quickly taking on more mobile approaches to work and have a vision that will allow people to do their work productively wherever they are. We want people to try out new ways and report back on what is working for them – let’s do more of that.
It’s also really important to provide ways where people can show their individuality and passion to their team mates. One of the practices at Ruah is to start meetings with a reflection. Team members take turns to organise these beginning few minutes in their own way – maybe read a poem, show a TED talk, talk about something meaningful to them etc. These reflections times are special to most Ruah staff as we learn about each other, and we collectively allow the space for each of us to bring something more of ourselves into the workplace.
I need to use use my power, such as it is, to break down the barriers, to open up the spaces, and allow people to bring more of themselves into the workplace
As a Chief Executive I might be seen as the “guardian of the machine”, the ultimate protector of the way that the organisation currently is. I think much more more importantly I need to use use my power, such as it is, to break down the barriers, to open up the spaces, and allow people to bring more of themselves into the workplace. Then maybe the creativity and other skills that may have been left at the door can be brought inside.
What are your examples where you have allowed people to more fully “show up” at work?