Does your organisation liberate or suppress people’s best selves?

perspectives Sep 28, 2017

Much of organisational life has been created based on a model of command and control, where people are treated as resources to be managed, rather than humans with vast potentials, to be liberated for the common good.

To evolve beyond this model and create more energised, creative and humane cultures, we need to replace thinking and practices which explicitly or implicitly suppress people’s best selves, with new thinking and practices that allow people’s best selves to be developed and expressed.

We can all impact our own and other people’s ability to be their best. We do this through our mindsets and judgments as well as our behaviours and choices.

Whether you are a leader, a culture practitioner or a team member, consider how you can influence these 5 key indicators of humane cultures in your organisation:

1. Ownership of my time

Time is a precious and limited resource. While flexible working can be easier in certain roles, the more autonomy we can offer all people over their time, the more likely they are to be their best selves. Ownership of time and how to use it, provides people with greater opportunities to explore interests, spend time with those close to them and to be more of their true selves. Each of us have natural rhythms of activity, reflection and rest. The world of regimented working hours keeps many of us from ever getting in touch with these rhythms and finding our natural harmony.

Practical application of this principle is found in a range of flexible work practices, including salary paid on outcomes rather than hours, job sharing and work from home. Building flexibility into workforce strategy and planning can help us to adapt to the needs of the people who contribute to organisations with their time, passion and energy.

2. Meaningful work

People thrive when they find meaning in their work. Meaning can include purpose, a contribution to something greater and experiencing personal growth and accomplishment. Whilst some individuals have found a way to connect their work to these attributes themselves, organisations can support meaning in work in a myriad of ways. Essential supports include connection to a clear organisational purpose which transcends profit, leadership and culture which supports personal growth, and nourishment of social networks. These supports go a long way towards engaging more humans in meaningful work.

3. Helps me to grow and evolve

Organisations that provide opportunities for growth and development can give people an opportunity to discover more of who they are and become more of their best selves. While formal learning programs can be powerful development opportunities, deep and sustainable development takes place as we apply new thinking and ways of working to the work we do every day.

Development which transcends basic skill building and training programs and supports the development of mature mindsets, wider perspectives and social and spiritual connection, can help people to become more whole and discover parts of themselves they never knew existed. Organisations who find ways to do this, liberate the potential of their people and develop greater organisational resilience.

Development of the whole person has a positive impact not only on the individual, teams and organisation, but on family and community life outside the organisation.


4. Makes the most of my potentials and passions

Those who have had the opportunity to explore and nurture their passions, tend to find a compelling purpose for waking up and making the most of every day. There are many ways organisations can support the discovery and bringing to life of potential and passion.

One way is for organisations to co-create opportunities for people to explore their potentials and passions even if this outside of their formal “role”. Another is to actively nurture people’s potentials and passions through conversation, development opportunities and creation or placement in roles that support this.

5. Safety to fail, learn, grow, challenge the status quo and speak up

One of the biggest barriers to people being their best selves, is the fear of being themselves. By the time people have entered the working world, they are lucky if their true self has survived their upbringing and the education system. An organisations role can be to open new possibilities and potentials for people, by breaking down some of the limiting beliefs human beings have adopted in their early life, rather than reinforcing them. When an organisation authentically creates a culture of psychological safety to be vulnerable, make mistakes, challenge how things are done and speak up, people are safe to bring more of themselves, their perspectives, gifts and talents to their work. Truly celebrating and harnessing diversity of thought is one of the most difficult and essential tasks for any organisation on this journey.

Are you passionate about creating more humane cultures? Join the adaptive cultures group, download the whitepaper or consider joining our practitioner community.

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