We focus on what individuals do for their teams, but rarely on what teams do for them.
Are we wrong?
Let’s be honest: virtual connection just isn’t the same as human-to-human contact. But it can be a valuable tool for developing and sustaining workplace culture.
Virtual connection is an integral part of our organizational culture. We have learned that our mindsets and behaviors are more important than the software we leverage or the habits we practice.
In deeply divided times, and with so many forces competing for our attention, a good conversation is rare. We can go days and months with only the most perfunctory interactions, often aided by social channels and digital devices.
Good conversations build trust, invite learning and break down barriers. But a good conversation takes work and practice – and, in today’s environment , a new set of skills.
Literature is a powerful storytelling technology that unites us across space and time. It invites us to reflect on our lives and our work and, in discussion with others, to share our voices. Literature makes us think.
To unleash the full power of literature, we need to bring it to new people in new places in new ways.
Navigating today’s workplace takes the courage and conviction to call out behaviors that limit inclusion and the full realization of human possibility. But work can be the hardest place to take a stand. We are least comfortable “taking on” colleagues, let alone superiors, when we are keen to prove ourselves as “team players.”
How do we create the conditions to enable the courageous conversations we need for our organizations to benefit fully from the plurality of human perspective and experience? The courage to champion true belonging and inclusion – and to have the hard conversations – takes time and practice, and a commitment to a culture of openness and respect.
Of the many metaphors we live by, not “judging a book by its cover” honors the people we encounter at work and in our communities, and acknowledges the depth and power of their stories and perspectives. By opening ourselves fully to the different experiences of others, we challenge our assumptions, view the world through other eyes and expose ourselves to new ideas.
But “don’t judge a book by its cover” also applies, quite literally, to books!
Participants often tell us that Books@Work introduces them to books they never would have picked up on their own. Reading with initial skepticism, some quickly discover themes and ideas that trigger interesting thoughts. Others are converted only in conversation, where the interpretations of others introduce them to viewpoints that they might never have entertained.
It’s officially a “thing.” Many corporations have enthusiastically embraced mindfulness and meditation to enhance employee experience. With outcomes both promising and proven, it’s no wonder that the likes of Google, Apple, Nike, JP Morgan and General Mills have invested in the belief that corporate mindfulness improves workplace wellbeing.
The numbers support the story. In a 2017 report on employer sponsored wellbeing, Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health reported that 86% of the 141 employers surveyed include an expanded definition of employee well-being in their business strategy. Specifically, 61% were already engaged in or considering mindfulness classes or training, up from 43% in 2016.
But meditation is usually a solo sport. Books@Work, like meditation, develops the skills to see things differently – but it allows colleagues to do it together.
If you could ask an innovative HR leader for her insights on your most pressing concerns, what do you think her advice might be? When Leena Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer at Unilever was asked just that, she did what a leader who values true inclusion would do: she asked for a diversity of perspectives.
We live in a results-oriented world. And many believe that the best way to get results is to be direct. After all, when we know exactly what we want to accomplish and what steps to take to get there, anything other than a direct approach is a waste of time.
But what if the problem is thorny and the solutions are less clear?
When we seek to make change that involves people of different backgrounds and perspectives, the direct path becomes hard, if not impossible, to identify. In issues related to organizational culture – team effectiveness, inclusion, wellness, leadership, among others – the inevitable salad of human emotions and personal agendas create complicated as well as complex challenges.