We’ve all heard speeches from sports stars and high achievers across diverse fields acknowledging the inspiration and support they received from their family system (chosen or biological) in pursuing their goals and attaining excellence. What is it that is integral to a healthy family system that provides such potent fuel for personal elevation, and what culture and strategies need to be in place for organisations to tap into a similarly inspiring and motivating force?
The people we consider ourselves closest to are those who allow us to be our most authentic and vulnerable selves. Consider for a moment those people you feel closest to, and you might find that being able to be both authentic and vulnerable is what elevates those relationships beyond most others. For those who may feel challenged by biological family, we invite you to consider your closest friends and those you trust most as your “family”. As the saying goes, “Friends are the family we choose.”
Gauging the level of authenticity and vulnerability that we feel safe to reveal to another person is largely determined by the degree to which they reveal theirs. It is a reciprocal process, a two-way street.
The old paradigms that subtly implied, or loudly declared, that family and feelings, (our individuality, personal initiative, free-thinking and speaking our truth) should be kept separate from work are now proven to limit capacity and place a ceiling on potential.
We know the fuel for commitment and sense of purpose that being part of a family can provide. On becoming part of a new family, it is common for individuals to reassess their hierarchy of priorities and set inspired goals for the future. It follows, then, that the more your team is regarded as a family, the more its performance is elevated as something worthy of its most inspired achievements.
“After all, if your life is everything outside the workplace, then that leaves a bleak notion of what work is—something that we’re forced to trade off against joyful living.” (Robert Kegan, An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization).
We invite you to consider the following questions:
1. How does my leadership inspire an experience of family?
2. What parts of myself do I save for family and keep separate from colleagues?
3. How might my leadership, team and organisation benefit from bringing more of myself to work?
Often there are qualities we have that our family at home loves us for, that we show very little of, to our team. Often the masks or walls we put in place to ensure we don’t reveal particular traits, both positive and negative, to our colleagues are more imagined than real. Have you ever been surprised, for example, to see what a great sense of humour someone has around their family whom you had previously thought of as very serious and reserved when in their professional role?
Promoting a greater sense of family for your team will enable them to feel their best and, consequently, create and perform at an elevated capacity, which is an obvious win in terms of economics. But turning up each day to a workplace environment that feels like the best version of family and a home, where you are able to be your authentic self, will be the biggest win of all. Win, win, win.