2013 sees the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Having a dream is something most of us relate to…if we slow down enough to connect to our dream. Some dreams are personal; some go beyond ourselves and extend to the world we live in…our communities, our workplace, our nations, our planet. I have quite a few of these dreams and I want to share one with you today. The dream I have for the workplace.

My dream for the workplace is that there will come a time when people know how to express their whole and true selves at work and are supported in doing so by the organisational system and culture within which they work.

This is a BIG dreamin many ways.

The aspect of BIG I’ll consider today is the personal aspect. The BIGness for you as an individual within the workplace. My next blog will explore the BIGness for the organisation you work within.

For you as an individual this dream of expressing your whole and true self at work might feel BIG because it is a long way from your current reality.

I get this. I really do.

I worked in a large organisation for 12 years. I know what it is to grapple with the challenges of staying true to self (and even knowing what that is to you) within a complex organisational system. Looking back I understand now that I left this environment because I had lost connection to who I really was and wasn’t expressing from that place. I didn’t know HOW to be my true self AND follow the path I was on to partnership in the firm. I have more insight on that now and in my current capacity as a change agent operating outside organisational systems, I often work with people facing similar challenges. I still face them myself albeit their flavour has changed.

Discussions I have with my clients on this theme of being themselves at work may use different words…words like authenticity, whole self, heart centred…but it all boils down to the same thing…taking off the mask and presenting our real selves in the workplace.

This can be terrifying (!) and I’ll say more of challenges later, but first let’s build a case for actually aspiring to be you at work (for the benefit of those who are doubting my proposition that being you at work is a good thing).

Be You At Work…because

  • Being you at work creates improved performance (research now supports this) and so you benefit personally through the fulfillment this brings and the organisation benefits too through your high performance
  • Being you at work creates alignment within you and enables you to express your potential in full
  • Being you at work can be a pilgrimage of sorts…towards the centre of who you really are
  • As human beings, the more we are able to show up and be accepted for who we are, the more we open up, expand, grow and realise our potential
  • In being our whole-self at work we relate to work differently. We are more likely to enjoy ourselves, to tap into our inspiration and creativity, make stronger and truer connections with our colleagues and find deeper meaning in all that we do
  • Being somebody we ARE NOT at work becomes increasingly exhausting. It takes a lot of energy because we are separated from our-self and this isn’t a natural way to be. Sooner or later the tension within will become unmanageable and personal difficulties can arise

Of course agreeing with this and aspiring to be ourselves at work doesn’t mean we get to play the “this is just how I am card” in attempts to control and get our own way. This isn’t what I’m talking about here. Nor am I talking about reacting emotionally and hurting others in the name of true expression (true expression harms no-one). Working and collaborating with others harmoniously towards a common goal is an essential part of organisational life. Paradoxically the truer we are to ourselves the more likely we are to achieve collaboration and harmonious ways of working.

Now back to the challenges of you being you at work.

There are quite a few. They come in many forms and operate at both personal and organisational levels. Let’s look at the personal challenges now.

Challenges at a Personal Level

To Be You At Work you need to know who you are and how you operate within a complex system of relationships. This can be a life long journey of self-discovery which first and foremost involves permission from YOU to be on the journey (permission is significant on many levels and can be a tricky one as often it lies deep within our unconscious).

To Be You At Work involves acknowledging and transforming fear based mindsets that show up… “I’m not good enough”, “I feel like an imposter at work…I’ll be found out soon”, “If I speak up, I’ll get a black mark against my name…I might even lose my job and jobs out there are scarce right now” etc etc. I could go on. Some of our deepest fears about our worth and survival can surface in the light of being who we really are at work. And that’s why trust is so important…organisations are you listening?

To Be You At Work takes commitment and a skill-set most of us haven’t been taught. These skills include….knowing and being you, aligned presence, purposeful action, authentic connection and communication, mindset mastery, energy technology, resonant expression, managing boundaries, self care, recognising and honouring feelings, relaxing to renew and flourishing through transformation. These BYAW skills support us in our personal evolution and in nurturing the strong relationships we need to be ourselves at work.

Working with these personal challenges of accessing permission levels, transforming fear-based mindsets and developing BYAW skills will most likely need outside support. However, there are things you can do yourself right now to begin the journey of being more of who you are at work, always acknowledging that change starts with one small step at a time.

You can explore how you currently relate to your work/the meanings you attach to ‘work’. What shows up for you when you ponder these statements? How do you react? How do you feel?

  • Work as a means to earn money…
  • Work as a job…
  • Work as service…
  • Work as connection…
  • Work as growth towards wholeness…
  • Work as an expression of the fullness of you…
  • Work as creation…
  • Work as fun…
  • Work as play…
  • Work as integration…
  • Work as purpose…
  • Work as evolution…
  • Work as community…
  • Work as [fill in your own words]…

You can consider these questions:

  • Are you in touch with who you are right now, underneath the mask? And if you are, what’s your relationship like with this person…do you accept and respect him/her unconditionally?
  • What’s your vision and purpose for your life and your work?
  • Are you interested in and do you care about being you at work?
  • What does being you at work mean? What would be different from now? What personal qualities would you need to nurture and grow?
  • What do you need to be you at work…from yourself, from the people around you and from the organisation?
  • Are you willing to engage with your place of work in the spirit of co-creation and service?
  • Are you willing to consciously align your vision and purpose with the vision and purpose of your workplace?
  • Do you want to be part of the (r)evolution of the workplace brought about by people expressing their whole and true self at work? If you do, what conversations can you start in your workplace to bring this into the light of day?
  • How can you create safety within yourself as you embark on the journey of Being You At Work?

You can commit to:

  • Learning and growing in a self directed kind of way
  • Noticing the triggers at work that take you away from your-self and creating strategies to stay centred
  • Being true to yourself at work to the extent that you are currently able
  • Treating others with respect, being present for them, listening to them and acknowledging your differences
  • Aspiring to work within healthy boundaries, respecting yourself and others and communicating from the true place inside of you
  • Valuing and aiming for relationships of real connection

Let me know how you get on with these ponderings, questions and commitments…I’m interested. I’m sharing my dream for the workplace with you because dreams only become reality when we start conversations with others and co-create together.

At this stage of where we are in our own human development and workplace evolution, being you at work may not be easy and possibly raises more questions than answers. And that’s ok. Questions and tension are all part of transformation, growth and evolution.

And there’s no “one right way” with all this. We work in different organisations. We are all unique as individuals and start from our own starting point. Your experience of and journey to expressing your whole-self at work will be YOURS. AND…you can’t do it alone. Your workplace plays an important role in supporting and nurturing you being you at work…graceful segway to my next blog where I will look at the organisational aspect of you being you at work.

And with that I will take my leave for now.