Be Honest, Be Kind, Be Curious.
These are the values I raise my children by.
Challenge, Excellence and Transparency.
These are the values I run my business by.
When setting up my business I thought long and hard about values. Are values important? Do we need them? Does any business really live by them? I selected our values as I believe we should always ask ourselves are we doing the right thing, are we being the best we can be, and do we have integrity.
It was on the weekend I suddenly realised my business values actually mirror my personal life values. I can hear you are all shouting “D’oh Michelle, wake up!” But I previously hadn’t made the conscious connection. Such synergy, now I have realised it, is of course not surprising as it proves my theory that we cannot separate private and public. We are a product of our upbringing, our experiences and our community. For years I have been pushing the link between what we are doing with learning in our private lives being brought into a corporate learning space. We usually leave ourselves at the door of the corporate, which means our employers are not getting the best of us. So I’m not surprised, and indeed I am pleased, that Kairos Modern Learning is living and working true to my life beliefs.
Having realised this connection, what next? Oh no! How unprofessional to bring my private self into my work self. It is simply not done to bring our whole self to work. Work life vs personal life; they shouldn’t meet right?
Just for a while let’s meander down the kind, honest, curious path of business. Would it be that terrible? Bear with me, it won’t be long before you can return to a safe, self-interest, risk free, game-face, salaried haven.
Challenge and Curiosity
Children exude curiosity and challenge, resulting in great determination. Think of a baby learning to walk, falling over and getting up again and again. Us adults need to be more curious, more childlike, more determined in the face of challenge. We all know business is notoriously risk averse, so largely avoids being too curious. Consequently adult humans drive our evolution at a much slower pace than children. Are we lazy? Do we like the easy life? Are we sacred? Do we simply fear change? I don’t think so. Inherently human beings are amazing! We moved from living in caves to flying into space. How? Simple: curiosity. We challenged ourselves to be better. How cool is that! Often we were motivated by need – food, war, health. Let’s be realistic here, it is not wondering, thinking, or imagining that has forced mass food production, artillery and penicillin. But whatever the motivation, whilst hard work is the key it always starts with curiosity and challenging the status quo.
In business we tend to forget to ask why and what if. We give ourselves constrained freedoms for discussion – everything must fit with strategy, fit within budget, fit within company culture. I am a realist, of course – if a business makes no money, people lose their jobs. But why do we have the strategy, budget and culture? What if they are wrong and actually the reasons we are unsuccessful? By challenging everything we can be assured of robustness and value curiosity.
To start being curious is more simple on a micro level. Do you really know your staff? Do they like tea but you only provide coffee? Are weekly meetings actually productive? Should you go for a walk instead? Are you starting using gut feelings instead of just hard data? Are you sitting on untapped talents? Does your team enjoy their work? Happy teams are productive teams – is your team happy? Are your teams challenging themselves to be the best they can be? Are you? Be curious. Find out. Know. Evolve.
Excellence and Kindness
In being excellent, we should always be the best we can be. We should seek our own personal growth, both privately and in business. In doing so, that is not about climbing over people, indeed it is helping them up with you. It is not about keeping employees who don’t pull their weight either – anyone who knows me understands I am a fair but firm boss who takes no slacking. Yet being firm doesn’t mean being unkind. Language is the key. You can even fire someone but still be kind. Talk to them, explain why you’re not happy, ask why they are not pulling their weight, learn about them, work together and be clear about intentioned outcomes. Get to a place where your adult to adult conversations move things back on track, or move towards both agreeing it is time to part. Then be excellent and be kind in helping them get something new. Each leaves that situation feeling good about themselves, not devastated.
Kindness in the workplace is not embarrassing your employees intentionally. Know them better. Don’t simply bring cake in every Friday if you have a team full of diet addicts. A gesture of kindness shouldn’t need food or money attached. Asking if someone is OK, and meaning it. Giving time for a genuine and productive conversation. A smile. We spend so much time with our colleagues, why wouldn’t we want to be excellent in a kind environment?
Transparency and Honesty
I can only be true to my value of Transparency if I incorporate the ideals of honesty, kindness and curiosity into my business, because that is the whole me. In offices up and down the land we are forever having half-truth, opaque conversations. Agreeing with our boss rather than saying what we really think, driven by fear and huge mortgages, and resulting in poor collaboration.
Yet we are all adults. We should be able to have adult to adult conversations. We should be able to acknowledge our fears and feelings openly in a workplace. Yet we don’t. We leave feelings and personal life (and arguably personality) at the door of the office. The result? We sit in frustration. We don’t innovate. We go home with anger and disrupt our families. We even hate our boss – a strong emotion if ever there was one.
Being honest is not simply being unkind. It is not being rude to colleagues, then saying “no offence” as if that makes it ok. It is being rational, fact based, open about how it makes you and others feel. It is acknowledging. It is working on relationships. It is openness about structure, pay, and reward. It is understanding there is a life outside 9-5. It is helpful. Most of all, it is successful.
Overall, I guess what I am talking about is mindfulness or well-being at work. I’m no neuro expert, but as a parent I know that being honest, being kind and being curious has been a good way to raise my children. I also know the unconscious mind is clearly an area humans still have to explore as my unconscious mind has lead me to live my public professional life in the same way as my private family life, and I only just realised it. Clearly my unconscious soul could see how Honesty, Kindness and Curiosity are a good way to have a healthy, happy, successful business of Challenge, Excellence and Transparency. What are your personal values, and are you living them at work?