Today, work transcends our professional and personal lives. Many of us take work calls on vacation, send emails in transit between the office and home (oftentimes dangerous and not recommended), or – most simply, some days we work from home. It can’t get much more integrated than that, blending your personal space with your work space.
Oftentimes, we forget it is human beings that are running our businesses. First and foremost, before we are employees, before we are business owners, we are human beings. We all have physical needs, mental needs, emotional needs, etc. that don’t disappear once work begins.
As humans navigating this landscape, it’s critical we recognize fundamentally what makes us human, what are the unique characteristics that define the human condition, and what those implications are for us at work, and quite frankly, at home as well.
Today I’m sharing three sources, literary edition, that get at this idea and explain how simply being aware of our “human-ness” can help us be happier and more effective at work, and by extension, life in general.
Point No. 1: Human nature is not one-size-fits-all.
The power of human nature is that, unlike any other forces of nature, it is not uniform. Instead, its power lies in its idiosyncrasy – in the fact that each human’s nature is different. If companies want to use this power, they must find a mechanism to unleash each human’s nature, not contain it. – First, Break All The Rules
Everyone has a different nature, different strengths, different things that make us great. Nike rolled out a campaign in 2012 called “Find Your Greatness.” It highlights exactly this concept – that everyone is different, and everyone can be great. It’s about identifying what that greatness is and creating your value around it. If people are in roles that bring out their best selves, productivity becomes a given and not an obstacle. That means treating fair but not the same, as one size does not fit all.
Point No. 2: Our potential and capacity to learn is not static, but dynamic.
…Potential is not fixed. We believe in human beings’ ability to grow; society cannot achieve economic as well as cultural progress without it….They can and do reinvent themselves – The Leadership Pipeline
While each of our natural behaviors are ingrained and our brains primed at an early age, we as humans are capable of acquiring knowledge and developing skills. Both knowledge and skills contribute to the advancement and growth of ourselves, and as each individual experiences this progress, we all grow and develop as a civilization and culture. We become better marketers, better accountants, better leaders, better parents, better friends. Life is a learning opportunity and in understanding this, we should design inherently in our companies and positions ways to expand on what we know and apply what we learn. This could take the form of focus groups, innovation tournaments, and the like. The key is to keep these opportunities consistent to show it’s a recognized human need that is important to address.
Point No. 3: Self-examination is uniquely human.
We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life… – Man’s Search For Meaning
Sometimes we get in our own heads and rethink everything. Surprise – this is a uniquely human trait unshared by any other mammal or living species (that we’re aware of). While this feature allows us to examine our options and make decisions based on those options, it can sometimes paralyze our progress when we “think too much.” Recalling an earlier post on indecision, we need to be mindful of our actions (or lack thereof), own our choices, and be accountable for our purpose. When we define our purpose in relation to our jobs, we satisfy our human desire for meaning, for fulfillment, for being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Tying these three points together, whether or home or in the office, humans need opportunities to figure out who they are and what they need to be successful without risk of recourse or punishment. Sometimes our society’s expectations and standards for behavior run counter to exactly this idea. And we need to make conscious choices to either align ourselves with these, or run the opposite way in pursuit of something different, something more human.
So, everyone, I challenge you to explore more about yourself and what makes you great, and how that value translates both personally for you and your self-awareness as a human being, and professionally as you maximize your performance in the workplace. And employers, I challenge you to show your people you understand what their human needs are, and create ways for them to discover how they can best be an asset to you in ways that also make them happy and fulfilled.
Because all human beings should feel safe and empowered in pursuit of their dreams.