August 27, 2012

Bringing Work to Life

We've all heard the phrase “leave it at the door” which is a warning that when you’re at work, you should focus on work. But we're human and we work with humans and we have lives and issues and sadness and joy and events and those aren’t easily shut off.

In just the last couple of months, I have known of a couple who finalized their divorce, someone who lost their spouse, a couple who had to say their final goodbyes to their beloved pet, someone who lost a parent, and three people who lost their job. It’s a bit tough to be a robot in those situations. Stuff happens to all of us in our lives so it's unrealistic to expect it won't seep into our work.

Life Imitates Life

Leadership is not daycare but we are not machines. To tell people to ignore their world isn’t realistic. Sure, we have to be mindful that deadlines need to be met, but the human condition can help our professional pursuits. Many claim a life/work balance is important but few act on it.

I was on a client call recently discussing the power of collaboration. I asked each person to outline one or two specific examples where it helped a project they worked on, then outline where it played out in their everyday lives. It showed the human side of high potential leaders and provided context to how each were wired and brought themselves (not just their work experience) to each relationship and project.

Free Your Mind

Allowing your team to bring life to work can open up possibilities. It can unlock their minds to include situations outside of their work environment. It can create free discussion and brainstorming that may help solve issues that are too close to the team because they’re trying to apply work related tactics. It can create a more malleable atmosphere which will be more enjoyable and efficient.

This can panic some leaders who are used to conformed enterprise where co-workers focus linearly on actual tasks within a confined agenda. Change is scary and it’s much easier to manage rather than guide people to work freely and use all of their human experience during work hours. This is not to suggest your company becomes a free-for-all but nothing in work or life needs to be zero-sum.

Sharing Your Life

Something I like to do is to check with people on their highlight of the week. It can be work related, family related, or life related. Give it a try and you'll notice a measurable shift in your company.

We all want to be loved, noticed, and appreciated. We have fear and dreams, hopes and plans. We all want to belong and feel purpose. We are them, you are me, they are us.  It's not as difficult as it may appear. And a small shift can create the positive growth you may have been seeking by reminding everyone to focus on their job.

What happens in life can help what happens at work.

Kneale Mann

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