Travelogue Part 3/4: Search for Wholeness

Here you can read part 1/4 and part 2/4.

“Search for Wholeness” is the aspect of the Teal Organization which sounds a bit esoteric to me. It’s not as easy to grab as self organization. However, it’s all the more important and a key part of our success. When I say success, I don’t necessarily mean the economic figures, but the joy we’ve developed at work.

Wholeness is best expressed with a quote from one of our contributors Karl, who recently joined the team: “I soon realized, at /gh, I’m not only considered a human ressource, but a whole human being – the company culture allows everyone to unfold. Besides exciting projects, I can also grow as a person.”

Wholeness means that we strive to integrate the whole being into working life. This includes feelings, needs and the resulting doubts, moods and contradictions. In contrast, in orange, performance oriented organizations, only the rational part of the human mind is appreciated. This leads to a culture in which people wear a “professional mask” and hide other parts of themselves. This sucks a lot of energy, and neglects an important part of human intelligence.

At first I thought we haven’t had much progress for this aspect of the teal organiaztion. At a closer look, however, I’ve discovered a few qualities of our culture which I think belong into the category of “wholeness”.

Here is what I found:

Values

Values are rather part of the green aspect of an organization. We work with shared values since years. I want to mention them in the context of wholeness anyhow, because values can be an important guide along the way.

We identified our shared values with the “Mountains and Valleys” exercise.

These are our shared values:

These values aren’t just a nice buzzword to be posted on the wall. We refer to them often in day to day work decisions and they provide guidance whenever we need orientation.

Appreciation Round

Every three weeks, we have a so called “meta meeting”. We start this meeting with a kudos round in which we openly share appreciation for one another. It’s not about praising people. It’s about what someone has done, that has helped me or the team. This is invaluable feedback by which we learn how we can enrich each others lives.

For me, these are the best ten minutes. Time and again, I’m impressed how supportive the team is and how much energy is unlocked by expressing gratitude and apperciation.

Non Violent Communication

Non violent communication has become more popular recently in business. This doesn’t surprise me, considering that it can be a very effective way of communicating. For us, it became more than just a means to an end. It’s an attitude, that deeply changes how we relate to each other and our customers.

The basic assumption of non violent communication is that our behaviour is driven by our needs. Unconsciously, we apply strategies to manipulate the world, so our needs are going to be met. These strategies are often ineffective and create unnecessary harm and suffering.

If we recognize, that all human beings are happy to contribute to one another’s well being, we can spare all the strategizing, trying to force people to do what we want, and learn to ask instead. This is much more direct and joyful.

This form of communication requires a lot of practice and change of attitude. Sometimes we seek support from an external NVC coach. Also, in case of a larger conflict, a mediator trained in NVC can be helpful.

Safe Space

If we communicate non violently, a safe space arises. Safe means, we can express ourselves without being afraid to be judged by others. This is a basic requirement for us to be able to drop our professional masks. In many work environments, these masks are worn to protect oneself. Everyday work is often experienced as a sort of “fight”.

Safe space also means that one is being heard. When someone raises an issue, the meeting facilitator makes sure the group is staying with the person’s issue and others don’t distract with their own agenda. Being truly heard is rare in a world of perpetual distraction. When meeting participants aren’t distracted with their own agenda, the intelligence of the whole group is focused on the person’s issue.

Retrospectives

Retrospectives in combination with safe space are very powerful. We know retrospectives from Scrum, a framework for agile software development. We use Scrum for larger software projects since years.

During a retrospective, we reflect about the process and see how we can improve it. It’s important to be willing to learn from failures and don’t take them personally. This is a lot easier in a safe space, where one is not judged for mistakes. Failures are more considered an opportunity to learn and grow.

What’s next

We have a lot of ideas regarding wholeness which we haven’t tried yet. For instance, we have been talking about a sort of peer mentoring program, in which the team is mentoring one another in a more formal manner. If you have ideas on how to bring more wholeness into working life, please let me know on twitter.


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