The Yearning for Deep Human Connection at Work

By Simon Confino, originally published in the Huffington Post

Simon Confino and Frederic Laloux

As founder of We-Q, the collaborative intelligence App, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Frederic Laloux, author of Reinventing Organizations. Fredric talks of the need to restore “our birthright” of deep human connection back into the contemporary workplace. A link to the entire interview is below, but what follows is a description of the key themes, their relevance to the contemporary workplace, and their link to the effectiveness of We-Q.

Fred believes that in many organisations it is dangerous to show our true selves. We all too often hide behind an unspoken agreement to be ‘professional’ i.e. making decisions based on reason rather than feelings. This creates toxic cultures, products and services, because we develop them from a limited part of our true selves, and they subsequently satisfy only a narrow part of people’s true needs. Frederic talks of our deep wish to ‘get stuff done’, and how this need is so often frustrated by ineffective and dysfunctional cultures, which sap our energy and productivity. Even in super effective cultures with great relationships, there is often ‘a huge poverty of meaning.’ In an era where we face a catalogue of global challenges, Laloux argues that the biggest unspoken question in many organisations, is:

Why are we doing what we are doing?

Our doubts remain hidden: “too often aren’t we simply feeling good about doing the wrong thing?” he asks. As we try to ‘do the right thing’ for ourselves and our families, we worry “maybe I’ve dedicated my working life to something deeply damaging.”

On a recent leadership programme a man, proud to be factory director for an iconic chocolate brand, admitted to a crisis of meaning triggered by his teenage daughter “Dad, aren’t you just selling obesity and diabetes to children? That’s nothing to be proud of.” We all too often collude with a system which is asleep and refusing to wake up. We are caught in a self-serving paradigm and unwilling to be the whistleblower to ourselves, our families and our colleagues. We can’t envision an alternative.

“Dad, aren’t you just selling obesity and diabetes to children? That’s nothing to be proud of.”

Fredric’s powerful and radical analysis aligns with our own within the We-Q company. We-Q was created to enable working teams to have new and more effective conversations about the big and small things that really matter. In other words to show more of their humanity! In developing the We-Q App we sought to help teams shine a bright light into the dark corners of their group dynamic, feelings and beliefs, and have new powerful but safe conversations. We call it, ‘making the invisible visible’.

We delved deeply into the research into what supports effective team culture. As working consultants and coaches, we noticed how people struggle to find a happy balance between four seemingly competing needs. We call these ‘Pillars’ of which each has five sub-aspects.

1. ‘Being Fully Myself’

In most corporate cultures we leave our true selves behind as we enter the door in the morning and regain it when we ‘tap out’. This costs us heavily in the long run and contradicts our deep wish to be fully accepted and welcomed to bring ourselves fully to what we do. There is a huge cost to the organisation in terms of human capital squandered. If we are not able to be ourselves, mental health problems, low productivity, burnout and high staff turnover follow.

2. ‘How we Behave’

We typically work in tight knit ‘family’ teams. Each has its own unique culture. Some are toxic, some happy and productive, most somewhere in between. We yearn to be part of healthy team dynamics with high levels of psychological safety where we communicate well, stick to agreements, and trust one another.

3. ‘Getting Things Done’

We are hardwired to be productive and put our lives to good use, to serve and create. It is therefore depressing to be part of a dysfunctional team which struggles to get things done. Conversely, it is a joy to be part of a team with high levels of collaboration and productivity.

4. ‘Doing the Right Thing’

We want to find a way to satisfy many seemingly contradictory stakeholders. Ourselves, our colleagues, our clients, families, friends and ultimately our conscience towards the health of all living things, for the well being of the planet itself.

In an ideal world we would love all four pillars to be healthy. In ‘reality’ we feel we need to compromise. Perhaps we work in a sales driven organisation and feel the team scores highly on ‘Getting Things Done’ but low on ‘Doing the Right Thing’. Or we may work in bureaucratic organisations or a Third Sector organisation and feel we score highly on ‘Doing the Right Thing’ but low on ‘Getting Things Done’ or ‘How we Behave’.

Or then again we might work for an ad agency on a glamorous Vodka account, (as I used to) and score very high on ‘Being Fully Ourselves’ How and ‘Getting things Done’, but very low on ‘Doing the Right thing’.

It is very revealing when an entire team use the We-Q App and score themselves. A bright light is shone into the team culture, making the invisible of the group dynamic visible and focussing the team on the conversations they need to have to be ‘All Together Brilliant.’

 Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine