The ‘Who am I?’ series is all about trust, because I believe it’s not one-sided and building a resilient team at work is as much about how we treat others as it is about how we behave ourselves: the old proverb, ‘treat others how you’d like to be treated’ springs to mind. This sounds common sense, but part of being able to do this is to bring to work our authentic selves and to be able to say, ‘ this is how I am feeling right now’ and for that to be okay. I love where I work at the moment, because my team demonstrate they care every single day about each other and that makes it such a great place to work. I think I have a rare and beautiful thing as in my 20 or so years at work , it is the first time I have found that sense of belonging across a whole team rather than a few people-centric individuals. I don’t think it is down to leadership that this has happened either (although that is important component) , it is more about a colleague camaraderie or a unified language where we all feel like we are in it together and can be open and honest.
Chapter 3 : Who am I? – the trusting series
I have a great book to review today which encapsulates the essence of this togetherness much more beautifully than I ever could. I will go on to talk about Dr Amy Bradley’s The Human Moment in a minute, but those that follow me will know I always have a song that I reference in my blogs. I was lost when trying to think of a song that resonated with this chapter. So true to the theme, I opened up to a trusted friend who used to be my Manager who has helped me through some really difficult times. She said instantly ‘oh that’s easy: you’ll never walk alone.’
I can’t think of a more pertinent song for right now, as we need to feel a sense of belonging more than ever since the onset of this pandemic. The optimist in me feels something good must come out of something so profoundly life changing. The opportunity to capture the learning is immense and we need to grab it with both hands. So, onto Dr Amy Bradley’s book which I think provides some answers about the future of work and great food for thought. The consistent theme of the book is around compassionate leadership and Dr Amy comes from a place of raw experience following a bereavement. She writes about how a ‘human moment’ -a letter from her manager at the time of a personal tragedy she experienced meant everything to her and how she went on to turn a desperately difficult life experience into a vocation through researching personal trauma and professional growth.
Amy’s book is so fitting for today as she states ‘never have we needed our colleagues so much, yet never have we felt so isolated with one in six of us feeling we have no one to talk to at work about the things that worry us’. Despite the wonderful technology that we have been able to master to connect us during this tough time (and it is truly phenomenal the advances) it hasn’t and can’t replace real human connection. I think this pandemic has taught us how much we have all missed being able to feel that sense of connectedness as community comes in so many forms and it is not just visual.
How much did we take that for granted in the busyness that preceded the onset of this virus? We mustn’t do that again!
The book also demonstrates some really powerful illustrations of doing things well but also when both managers and colleagues really got it wrong. It struck a chord with me as I experienced a bereavement of a close family member a very long time ago, but I still remember how it felt when no one had been told in the office that he had died and a colleague asked me how he was. I really felt for her at that moment because she wasn’t to know but I was so angry. I’d not been in the office for three weeks – busyness had overtaken human compassion, and no one thought to mention it before I returned… I never really forgot it. However looking back I can see it with a more objective lens that it was not really anyone’s fault, it was the human condition of how we have come to associate at work as ‘professionals’ – that was at fault, where compassion can be very much secondary. As Dr Amy points out compassionate behaviour’ comes from a place of readiness’ and some people have just become not available to listen, too busy etc, not realising that it is that behaviour …i.e.… the ability to not hear and respond to the pain –that can change how we perceive work in a long-standing way. As Dr Amy describes it is a ‘sliding doors’ moment. You’ll never get that moment back.
So following COVID19 why don’t we invest more at work in the importance of empathy and compassion and hearing the true voices in our organisations rather than what we often want to hear –i.e. that which feels most comfortable?
I believe people in the main are well intentioned, most people want structure when they fall on hard times and will strive hard to seek normality when nothing around them feels normal and they can feel themselves losing their grip. I also know that others can see that pain is there but also that determination that people want to get past it. Often however we have lost the ability to find the right words to say or actually to just listen and support. This is true of both colleagues and managers alike:
Cue the lines from Gerry and the Pacemakers:
‘Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone’
I feel our colleagues shouldn’t walk alone but know they have our support. Personal trauma and breakdowns can lead to absolute breakthroughs, or suffering as- Dr Amy describes- can actually lead to ‘greater self- insight’. People who have been through really tough times often become more ‘in tune with themselves ‘ to use Dr Amy’s words so, rather than something to be feared, they are often the very people who have come to realise what is important in life and these are wonderful gifts for an organisation to tap into.
So, what does this mean for organisational culture? Well there are some great takeaways at the end of Dr Amy’s book (8 lessons in total) that organisations can do to demonstrate compassionate leadership. This in turn should drive and embed a supportive culture. What’s great is they are simple things and therefore not difficult things to do. I encourage and highly recommend that you read the book and put into practice its teachings. By adopting these practices, it is argued compellingly that we can get better loyalty and engagement through making our people in our organisations feel they don’t need to be:
‘afraid of the dark’ and see that ‘at the end of the storm there’s a golden sky,’. Words from Gerry and the Pacemakers but something Dr Amy has experienced herself through finding her purpose.
It would also be really remiss of me not to mention two other colleagues who have also inspired me this week with their energy for the human cause – Mike Vacanti, Garry Turner and I had a really insightful conversation about their #humansfirst journey which I am sure they will correct me on to say ‘our ‘ humans first journey. They too are definitely wonderfully compassionate colleagues also looking to bring out the best’ self’ in others. Do look at this work too it is really ground-breaking and a powerful network to be part of.
So, who am I? you may ask? I have discovered I am a work colleague, but also a friend who can be called on any time.
Hope this helps someone today.