How can you be more human at work?

| August 31, 2015

Many workplaces are fear-based and overly competitive. Executive coach Leah Sparkes suggests to disrupt this culture and create a kinder and happier workplace.

I attended the Mindful Leadership Conference last week presented by the wonderful people from the Wake Up Project. The event was jam-packed with inspiring and thought-provoking speakers.

One of them, Golbie Kamarei, shared her story of how a conversation around the water cooler about her personal experiences with mindfulness and yoga led to a mindfulness program that reached 1500 employees across 17 countries. The organisation she works for is BlackRock, one of the worlds largest asset management firms and maybe one of the last places you would expect people to embrace mindfulness.

Mostly what I loved about her talk was how the simple act of her generously contributing her time and sharing her knowledge turned into a far-reaching program that has contributed to improving the well-being and performance of so many of her colleagues.

The other thing I loved was a challenge she proposed through a simple question: What is one thing you can do to be more transparent, more authentic or more human at work today?

  • Share a fear or worry you have
  • Be more transparent about the challenges you are facing at home or work
  • Admit that you’ve made a mistake or that you do not know the answer
  • How human of you! And thank you.

A theme that came throughout the two days was this notion of how many workplaces are environments that are fear-based and overly competitive. That people are viewed only through their roles, not as human beings, and how the need to wear the mask of that role (ever infallible, strong and perfect) is exhausting.

Another speaker, Samantha Payne from Westpac, shared a similar story of how she took responsibility to create her own culture around her; one that was supportive, transparent and balanced. Instead of just complaining about the toxic work environment she took action and began to share and integrate some of her personal mindfulness practices with her team. In a small way she has begun to create a kinder and happier workplace for her own team. I suspect this is just the beginning of the story for Samantha and Westpac.

Samantha also issued a challenge: Because culture is personal and every person contributes to it, why not disrupt it? Just like the disruption we have seen in longstanding taxi and hotel industries to make them better; why not disrupt your workplace or even your life?

How can you disrupt things to make them better? You might be amazed at the ripple effect it could have.