I’ve been slowly but surely making my way through Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and happened to land on the chapter about work this week. There was one section that complemented this week’s podcast episode perfectly and I knew I had to share it here:
To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, leaders must re-humanize education and work…Sir Ken Robinson speaks to the power of making this shift in his appeal to leaders to replace the outdated idea that human organizations should work like machines with a metaphor that captures the realities of humanity. In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Robinson writes, “However seductive the machine metaphor may be for industrial production, human organizations are not actually mechanisms and people are not components in them. People have values and feelings, perceptions, opinions, motivations, and biographies, whereas cogs and sprockets do not. An organization is not the physical facilities within which it operates; it is the networks of people in it.”
Rodney Evans, this week’s guest, shared a similar perspective. In her opinion, the main problem with work is that the systems that shape it are built for the factory floor, treating everything like an assembly line. Since the overwhelming majority of work today is knowledge work, requiring some level of judgment, experience, or thought, the mindset that drives production doesn’t make sense any more.
In her job as an organizational designer, Rodney helps businesses understand both what’s wrong with work and how to run an organization that sees people as people, not cogs and sprockets.
Specifically, she does this by helping them become more people positive and complexity conscious. Being people positive means recognizing that people want to contribute and have meaning in their work. It also acknowledges that people can change and adapt, particularly to innovations that improve the workplace. Organizations that are complexity conscious reject outdated systems that don’t serve them, finding new mindsets and ways of working that are based on human systems. They create ways for their workers to live meaningful, productive lives through their jobs, not in spite of them.
But that’s not where it ends.
When your job nurtures and encourages your motivations, values, and innovation, you have the space to shape your work around your identity, rather than creating an identity that fits your professional environment. You don’t have to chameleon, as Darryl says, your way into success.
As freelancers, it’s easy to think that we dodge this trap. After all, how can your business be anything but people-focused and you-centric when you’re the only one involved?
Unfortunately, it’s even easier for us to fall into this way of thinking than most. We’re constantly having to sell ourselves and our brand to new clients, so it’s natural to start thinking, “What do they want to see?” rather than just showing up as yourself.
Depending on the client, you may also end up in jobs where you are only seen as part of the machine, rather than a valuable member of the team. When all of you isn’t valued or wanted, you will naturally retreat behind the mask of “professionalism,” becoming a producer and nothing more. The more you hide, however, the harder it is to find clients that value your humanity and the more you will struggle to be an active part of the teams you join.
If we want to re-humanize our work and reignite our creativity, we have to change the systems that aren’t working with our businesses. That might start with self-discovery, using counseling or coaching to understand who you are, what you need, and what you want to shape your life into. Or maybe you need to show up more in your work. Offering ideas during projects, saying no when something doesn’t align with your values, and building human connections with clients are great ways to start.
More than anything, take time to discover what your creativity has to offer. Learn what brings you energy and how you can use this contribution to empower other people’s contributions. Once you’ve figured it out, determine how you can best honor yourself in the work you do.
And then be brave enough to pursue it. Whether you need to delete old content to start anew or adjust your services to reflect what you do best, take the leap. It may take time, but you will build a more whole-hearted, meaningful life that includes all of you and everything you have to offer.
Get the full story here to learn how Rodney discovered who she is, how this self-discovery is helping her transform work, and tips for doing the same for yourself.
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