For almost 15 years now, my colleagues and I have been working hard for Pyxis to be an organization where personal development is carefully nurtured so individuals can achieve their full potential. Of course, there were ups and downs, even times of great suffering and turmoil. That being said, as much as we can, we remain firmly anchored in our intention that we believe noble and that gives meaning to our daily activities:
- We practice our craft and share our expertise with discipline, passion, and pleasure.
- We create simply brilliant software and organizational solutions that improve the lives of users and teams.
Nice, but how does it materialize in everyday life?
Deliberately maintaining these intentions, we managed to experiment management approaches that are off the beaten track. As mentioned above, not always successfully, but we learn a lot, even about ourselves…
Therefore, when I give a conference, course, or workshop, I’m often being asked something like: “But in real life…?” I still sometimes feel a little spasm go down my spine and have the following interior monologue: “You think I’m not a real person living a real life just like everyone else, or what?” However, when I listen to the question with empathy, I can hear helplessness and, in some cases, an edge of desperation.
A general theme causing this type of reaction is the invitation to being transparent regarding emotions and to showing vulnerability. I really like the following quote from Brené Brown: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” In my opinion, it is unfortunately considered by many a radical, even eccentric, concept.
I firmly believe that, as beings, we relate to one another and that emotions are a key part of our life. In fact, emotions are an essential expression of who we are. They allow us to communicate. Positive emotions are resulting from a need being filled, while negative ones indicate the contrary. Wanting to hide our emotions may seem surprising. However, when we think about it, they reveal who we are deep down, and this is both stimulating and scary.
For my part, when I wish to ignore or hide my emotions, I’m also ignoring or hiding who I really am. Even though I’m convinced that it is way too often counterproductive and even unnatural to cover up or put aside my emotions, I don’t always manage not to do it.
It makes me sad to see to what extent our work environments are anemic emotionally. They are environments where it is required to put on a mask or shell as soon as we enter the office. Let me ask you a few questions: How do you interpret a simple gesture such as giving a token of appreciation in your workplace? Do you find it odd? Do you think it is a waste of time or something else?
Now, imagine yourself giving a hug to a colleague that you appreciate and that you haven’t seen for a while. What comes to your mind when you think about it? What would your colleagues think about what they see? Maybe they would find it awkward, downright odd, or even childish…
Where do these reactions or helplessness come from?
It is a very complex question which is partly related to our era as well as to where we are with respect to human evolution. I would like to provide you with a specific perspective that I hope pragmatic and that will allow all of you to explorer your own reactions.
Everybody has his/her own way to address this question because it’s conditioned by who we are (our personality, genetics, etc.) as well as by our life story. Most of us have a strong ability to invent stories that validate how circumstances and others are responsible for their difficulties and life’s limitations. In each story, there is some true. However, especially when I learned about theories of adult development such as Robert Kegan’s theory, I came to believe that most important restraints are within us.
Therefore, I invite you to explore, individually or with a few colleagues, the following question: “What is the high-potential self-experimentation I never dare conducting?” Then, I suggest that you ask yourself: “In the fear of what?” And again: “In the fear of what?” And so on. In fact, I invite you to focus on your feelings more than on what you are thinking.
This exercise is self-revealing and can be considered a simplified version of the immunity to change process developed by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. My colleague Tremeur is presenting it in the following post: Allergic to change? It’s possible and treatable! I hope you’ll find it useful and that it will provide you with tips helping you understand your own resistance, the masks you put on without even noticing it. I will be pleased if you share your ideas with me. Furthermore, do not hesitate to contact me, Tremeur, or Hélène, if you are interested in participating in our immunity to change workshop.
What about now?
To end this post, I’m taking the liberty of sharing a note written by one of my colleagues after a great work session. In fact, it’s that note that inspired this post:
I was seized with emotion when I left home to take the bus. I felt as if I was going to exit my personal space and enter the real world. Then, I thought, no way! Real life is what I live; it’s now. I live what I have to live without conditions; without conditioning myself to what it should be. Even though my bus ride may take longer because it’s not the express one, I must not refrain from living now…
I’m waiting for the bus and I feel good. I feel different and, at the same time, I am witnessing the moment. It’s as though I’d be a VIP customer behind the scene watching the show as I live through it while seeing its mechanics.
The bus is here. It’s almost empty. There is no traffic; so, we go fast. I do not feel like being elsewhere. It does not feel unreal at all!
For my part, life is what’s going on now! What about you?