Look, I said it time and time before. I'm one of the people who has had to train the uncomfortable out of myself when it comes to fluffy concepts at work. Not too long ago and with the occasional lapse today I find the touchy-feely nature of speaking about "purpose" and "soft skills" and "humanity" makes me very uneasy. It's why I have to balance it with my love of Agile, DevOps and technology in general where there's tangible stuff to grasp, dissect and argue about.
X Marks The Hard Spot
My best advice for staying with the necessary discomfort? Remember the $. Not in a profiteering sell snake oil fashion, but in an honest, real, "if X then Y" business sense fashion. The X is "make people feel safe to be vulnerable, curious and learning" and then the "Y" becomes "so they innovate". The X is "keep people engaged" and then the Y is "so they are more productive". The X is "help them keep open and honest" so that the Y is "so they create and make".
If anyone tells me they have a business where none of the Ys are necessary for profitability, not the creativity, not the innovation and not even the productivity then fine, they need none of the Xs either but I have yet to find a real example of that.
Which brings us to how the Xs are hard. Hard to define, hard to measure, hard to better.
Most of all, they are realistically, so foreign to our approach to work that they are first and foremost hard to talk about so the above other "hard"s can begin.
Building what we are building at PeopleNotTech forces us into all the hard conversations. You haven't lived on the edge before you have had to slice and dice a product-design-come-sprint planning session about increasing positivity in leaders. All the hard questions at once and then making them into an actionable MVP that betters reluctant leader's work lives.
Mens Sana in Corpore Sano
Why is it so hard? This one is easy enough to understand. Who reading this now hasn't heard about the power of various spiritual practices on the human psyche and an individual's overall wellbeing? One would have had to have lived in a cave to have avoided all the information on the benefits of Yoga, meditation and so on. Whether you just vaguely caught the tail end of a news segment or you spent time diving in the rich statistical data set that suggests that something as simple as a practice of gratitude (I know, even the formulation is slightly creepy!) can change not only our mental but our physical health as well, you are likely to be well aware of the advantages.
And instinctively, even if we reject the terminology -or, later on as we may attempt it, resent the effort or the perceived privilege that allows us to spend time and mental energy on the "fluffy stuff"-, we collectively know this to be true - tending to one's spirit and focusing on positivity and mindfulness can only be a good thing and mankind has always known this to be true.
Despite how old most of these practices are, modern life somehow deems it far more dignified and socially acceptable to be pushing oversized fluorescent truck tires around a fancy gym floor to the latest Kesha tune in order to tend to our physical bodies than to sit in silence for 10 minutes a day, breathe and think about deep stuff.
And if doing mental and soul exercising is deemed slightly kooky in a personal setting, is it any wonder that it is not even discussed in a work context, where the convention of robot-like demeanor and extreme super-human strength and exactitude are being seen as key values?
Is it consequently any wonder that every day we see more and more statistics to show that people's mental health is severely on the decline and the causation is firmly placed with their work lives?
We've spent the last design sprint at PeopleNotTech looking at monthly tasks to improve leader's EQs and checklists to get them to be better, mindful, positive leaders with happier and more secure teams. We've had to make some hard choices on which of the "fluffy" mind and spirit stuff is worth consistently putting in front of them and having them work on, and alongside Empathy and Leadership qualities that reflect in how they handle Psychological Safety indicators and levers, the most important one we've settled on is Positivity.
How Much For a Smile?
And boy is that fluffy. Fluffiest of all. And beyond how to be effective the techniques to improve the leader's positive outlook are the same as those all of us should employ in our every day lives but in a team/work setting, the questions it raises are interesting, to say the least, and the leaders we are interviewing want to know what of their dark humour? What of their dry wit? What about sarcasm and irony and coping mechanisms that keep them alive in their respective enterprise prisons? In general, what about their right to be negative? And those are all interesting debates and fair questions worth looking into a lot more and some courageous souls such as Dr. Richard Claydon have done just so in a considerate, academic fashion so a lot can be found in his work on irony and its place in the organization.
Thankfully the mere existence of the debates also intrinsically means people have understood the fluff need, they have accepted that they need to do the equivalent of mental and soul (!!!) heavy lifting to better their everyday spiritual resilience - noting, breathing, gratitude, celebration techniques so pretty much everything but Yoga (open to suggestions on how incorporate that too though;) all can be worked into both the individual's and the team's habits if we're smart about it and I think it's high time we become smart about it if we want a work culture that's safe and positive and therefore healthy and productive.
So when you sign up and subscribe to use our Emotional Intelligence Trainer don't scoff at one of the indicators of how you are doing as a leader and as a team is captured in our score on Positivity and your ability to grow in your mindfulness practice - just remember your Y and how it's worth the uncomfortable X.