Let's not be weird. Just because we are so professional
This is the thing of our times.
To create distinct spaces out of our lives. One for our professional selves. The other for personal. And many more in between. Suppressing our real-selves so much that we become confused about who we really are.
We even pass on this weirdness to children. We teach them to behave in certain ways at school. In front of others. But differently at other times.
May be it begins there.
How confusing it must be.
We go further. We show one curated side for Facebook. And another for LinkedIn. Sounds almost schizophrenic.
And then later in life we go about expressing in odd ways to provide respite to our suppressed selves.
Buying a BMW when we grow bald. Or, a Harley for the weekends to make up for that startup we didn't start. Or getting a tattoo in odd places to make up for the unsaid.
It adds up.
We can behave however we want in our little silos but it doesn't matter inside. Everything unifies within our mind and body. One area of life affects the other - the mind doesn't care if something is personal or professional.
It's all the same.
The movie Inside Out took the time to explain what happens inside of us. And how that affects our outside. Here's the science behind the movie.
Being weird results in business problems
When we suppress ourselves at work, we cause big business problems. Even without realizing. Or intending.
On a hot summer afternoon when a family is playing dominos, the father-in-law suggests that they drive to Abilene, Texas for dinner. Everyone "agrees" that it's a great idea (because of the other). In the end after a long, sweaty drive, everyone realizes that no one really wanted to go to Abilene.
Abilene's Paradox explores this fundamental question:
What if our problems stem - not from conflict at all but from agreement?
Watch this video that explains what the paradox is. It'll make you smile.
Organizations big and small are plagued by this weirdness. Because we suppress what we should be saying. We don't speak up.
We think we are either too small or too big. Or, it's not our role. Or, we fear ridicule. Or, we are too shy. Or, we don't care enough.
We don't have the courage to speak clearly when we dislike something. In decent ways.
This problem of suppressing ourselves goes all the way up. CEOs and Board members. Clients and vendors. Business partners. Entrepreneurs and their investors.
Here's what a CEO once told me in a moment of openness. He can't change their software because he'll "appear stupid" in front of his board. Decisions then have got nothing to do with real things. It's got to do with our weirdness.
This weirdness hurts the team, the organization, clients and investors. Wrong decisions aren't reversed. Costs spiral. Profitability is compromised.
It ultimately comes back to bite you. Whoever you are. In the form of a work environment that doesn't enable you to perform at your best. You stop enjoying your job. Start looking for another. And the cycle begins again.
A simple tool we used this week at work
We observed recently that there was a recurring theme in one of our teams. Reviews were longer than normal. Conversations hovered around people, not work activities. People expressed themselves in odd ways. Defiance. Artificial harmony. Quick agreement. And so on.
In a meeting this week, we did this simple exercise. We first made people capture their thoughts/feelings under these columns.
What do they LIKE and DISLIKE about their team?
Some of them struggled to be open even with themselves (they'd keep thinking, thinking and tapping their pen). Even though they knew no one would ever read their notes.
After that we sat in a circle (instead of in rows). So that everyone would see each other. People slowly started sharing what they liked about the team. And what they disliked.
Clear themes emerged. Stuff that everyone knew but no one talked about. It helped junior team members understand what their leaders struggled with. It helped senior team members realize how their actions affected the whole.
Spirit of the warrior
I recently came across the Spirit of the warrior. We need to say what's inside. Not just for our sakes. But for the sake of others. The distance between inspiration and action must be minimal. In fact, there should be no gap at all.
It's only then that we live and express ourselves like we are meant to. Without fear or hesitation. With clarity. Simply.
Yes, that'll be good for your workplace. And you.