Updated: May 8
Whether you’re the newest intern or CEO, most people in an organization recognize that everyone has a functional role to play in a highly organized setting.
In fact, much of what we reward or punish in such systems revolves around the willingness and proficiency in playing one’s functional role in that system – not the ability to form quality relationships.
Technocratic systems require highly specialized roles to function as intended. This isn’t necessarily an inherently bad thing. It is simply a reality of work in the 21st Century.
However, there’s a potential danger inherent in such systems. Over time, the adequate performance of one’s role can be mistaken for the presence of strong relationships and connectedness.
On the surface, everyone is performing well. Underneath, there’s a coldness and lack human warmth.
If the goal is relational connectedness and not only functional performance, it is essential to bring our full selves to our work relationships – and none of us are fully defined by our technocratic roles.
Where strong relationships exist, people are likely to embrace their functional roles with more ownership and motivation.
Connectedness always beats metrics as a predictor of group performance.
We have a story, interests, and areas of knowledge and expertise that go beyond our work lives. We have families and deeply held beliefs that shape our worldview and how we understand ourselves.
While levels of intimacy and comfort in sharing of our fullest selves will naturally vary between people, some level of intimacy and sharing around these aspects of ourselves will enhance any workplace culture.
On a professional level, this helps others to understand how we see the world and make decisions in our professional role. On a personal level, it makes it more likely we will connect with those around us beyond our professional roles.
Consider making time with your colleagues (during work time) to discuss questions like the following:
What brought me to this job/work?
What do I value most about what I do here?
What do I appreciate most about other people here?
What’s one thing I wish was different about working here?
What something about me that no one here knows?
What relationships in my life outside of work are most important to me?
In ten years, I see myself….. (fill in the blank).
These questions aren’t magical. They’re just examples. However, if real connectedness is important to your organization, then you need a culture that makes time and space for people to talk about things like why they show up every day, what makes every staff member unique, something important about their life outside of work, and how this job fits into their future dreams.
This is how a colleague becomes a friend and a supervisor becomes a mentor.
If people in your organization are not used to sharing like this, it might feel risky at first. There might be resistance, or even a little suspicion. True. However, taking thirty minutes from a staff meeting a few times a year to talk about things like this is probably a lot more interesting than the usual agenda and it will pay dividends – in both performance and satisfaction.
For those who worry this is too touchy-feely or mismatched with your organizations culture, trust me… great leaders know their people, they don’t just “manage" them.
Whether you’re a soldier, software coder, police officer, teacher, or small business owner – you have people working you, not just employees. The more they know one another the more they will give back – to each other and to the organization.
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