Yesterday I was sitting in my front room, with the cat climbing up the curtain behind me and my five-year-old son singing in the room next door, holding an important meeting with the Managing Director of another company. I could see his family’s coats hanging on the back of the door in his background, and artwork displayed on his walls. The meeting was no less important than those we used to hold at boardroom tables, and yet we both brought something individual to the experience. We brought a piece of ourselves, and we didn’t really have a choice about it.
So what happens when we embrace that? What happens when our whole selves arrive at the office? Wherever that may be. And what does this demand of our communication?
The much talked about 'new normal' is beginning to feel a lot less new now. It’s just the way we live our lives - we've become accustomed to change, uncertainty and the need to adapt. As we’ve transitioned, some amazing things have come out of it, and there have been two major shifts I've observed this year.
Making it count
The pandemic has made many people reflect on what's really important to them. The fragility of life has been brought into sharp focus and it's inevitably led to us asking ourselves the big questions - "What's it all about?", "What do I really want out of life". This, coupled with many people on furlough with time on their hands to reassess, has seen house moves, career changes and even small businesses set up. People are no longer as willing to settle for something that doesn't fulfil them on a grander scale.
Add to this the lack of separation between work and home, when dining tables have become desks and bedrooms have become boardrooms, and it's even more crucial that work and life marry together to become something more unified.
Bringing your whole self to the table
The second shift is in no small part related to the above. This new way of being and working demands a new way of communicating. We're beginning to have no choice but to bring our whole selves to work, and there are glorious benefits to reap when we do. When we're truly present and not afraid to show our authentic selves, it creates connection on a much deeper level.
I've had lots more conversations than usual over the past few months where people use lines like "we love your company because..." and "we're picky about who we work with but we'd love to work with you". It's part of the conversation now - people are more value-driven and care more about who they interact with.
So, how do we bring our whole selves to our interactions? Here are three key things to think about:
1. Speak from the heart
Be fully prepared to speak from the heart in your speeches and presentations. People see through it when you don't. The best way to ignite an audience is to share your personal magic - and we all have it! It comes from knowing and sharing your values, which you can find out more about here.
When speaking with clients or even pitching for work, don't be afraid to tell them exactly why you think it's a good fit - what aligns you? Genuinely communicate why you believe in their company.
2. Make sure meetings are a safe space
Meetings can be a great safe space to practice. For those who are more on the introverted side, we need to give them the opportunity to show themselves and be seen and heard. Rather than addressing a question to a whole Zoom call, go round each person individually, inviting them to speak, then make a point to recognise their ideas and achievements.
For extroverted people, it's about giving them space to drop down into a less energised, more centred and responsive state.
3. Make room for water cooler moments
Water cooler moments are just as important as before. Make room for a new space in the working dynamic, particularly in smaller groups, where you can chat with colleagues and take time to find out about their weekend, or any challenges they're currently experiencing outside of work. The simple question "How are you?" is more important now than ever - we should genuinely want to get a real answer, rather than simply "I'm fine, how are you?".
Rather than feeling the need to put on a work front, we should feel confident to delve into what's really going for that person and find out if they need your support.
Time to get real
So, navigating this new normal is about creating a space where we can be more honest, more real and not hide ourselves away among what used to be the work face - the make-up, the formal attire, the "I'll say just the right things to not cause conflict". Realness is having a meeting with someone who has a kid singing in the background or a quirky piece of art hanging on their wall, or finding out that your colleague didn't have the best weekend because they're feeling anxious at the moment, and working out what you can do to support them. This opportunity is an absolute gift, and it allows for authentic connection, but it's also scary. Many people aren't used to bringing themselves in their entirety to the workspace.
If you don't know how to bring yourself to the table without feeling vulnerable, or you're not sure how open to be with your colleagues, we can support you with how to navigate this new space so that you can be empowered and real. Book a free 15-minute Discovery Call or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.