To err is human
We say that as if it’s an excuse for being human. I think it’s BS, because it sets us up to think that since we are not perfect, then we haven’t gotten it right yet and we’re not as successful as we could be.
The Knowing Culture
Working in a culture where we are expected to, or think we have to know everything and not make mistakes, is a key factor to a broken burnout culture that breaks people. The stress of always thinking we are missing something, always being on guard and concerned we might be wrong, scared of being exposed for what we don’t know and end up rejected, is a core human stressor that puts us on the path to burnout.
We know that stress doesn’t work, however we also tend to think it’s the nature of work, so we accept it. Let’s put it this way; most have an ambivalent relationship with stress, we don’t like it and we also think we need it. In most work-cultures, a peak-performance mindset means we can do more, faster and longer. That resilience is to stay focused on the end result, know how to get there, go for it and achieve.
What if that’s all wrong?
What if being performance-ready is not about knowing it all, but about self-care? In a knowing culture we can end up facing burnout before we actually reach peak-performance, because it’s the same thinking as being perfect, we will never get there, because it’s always relative.
The stress illusion is that stress makes us work better. It sure does make us work harder, but probably not better even though the adrenalin and cortisol rush makes us feel more focused and productive, hence our love for coffee. It also has us miss the details, cut off our creativity and be less communicative, curious and collaborative, and of course long term it also wears us out. Most know the feeling of getting to the end of the day, only to crash from performance fatigue and the constant nagging undercurrent of fear that we are not going to get it done, that we missed something or that someone can poke holes in our performance. Can you relate?
The knowing culture is a bit like being hunted and always feeling like you have to be in control. You are constantly looking for what you don’t know so you can stay out of trouble, prove what you do know, and maybe even being constantly on your toes, taking charge of a conversation so it doesn’t come around to something you don’t know, which would make you feel vulnerable and exposed.
We do this, because we are human.
We protect our territory. It is the illusion of keeping us safe. We want to be respected and acknowledged. The problem is when that’s the tone of the culture and the mood that simmers in the workplace, which turns into a reaction and fear-driven work-style. This is a culture running on survival mode. We know it well because we have a cultural mindset that’s survival of the fittest. We think that’s how we do our best work but it’s certainly not what the future of work is going to thrive on.
Of course there’s good stress. Good stress is when we push ourselves past our comfort-zone, where we are challenged and we might even work harder and push through, but the mindset must be different.
The Learning Culture
The learning culture is where we constantly push on the edges of our comfort-zone, enter the territory of not knowing, asking questions with a mindset of curiosity.
We are not focused on the possibly of failure and instead we ask; “what do I need so that I can…” The question can focus on the immediate need or the long term strategy. The point is to ask… “what do I need, so that I can…” and our unconscious mind will become an active participant in solving the problem.
Asking this simple question is what I call a performance-ready mindset, we look for how, not if. We wonder how to solve a problem better, rather than being scared of the problem. We take on a challenge, because we know we will learn something and get better as we go along. Where resilience is about adaptability, agility, and asking more questions.
We humans are so amazing and we tend to forget that’s what makes us brilliant as well. Our ability to be discerning, to think, engage and act in a mindful way rather than just reaction-driven habits. We can pause to look, listen, notice, ask, try, learn, grow and we keep evolving.
The Two Sides of Human-Drive
As humans, the challenge is that we seek to avoid pain and find pleasure. We are driven by either fear or curiosity. We are either focused on what’s not working or what might go wrong and it is how we have stayed safe and survived for this long. Or we are focused on how to discover new solutions to problems and grow more efficient and productive. That is how we have kept evolving for this long, or we would still be hunter/gatherers. Of course there are nuances to these core drives, but in our core, most basic human-beingness, that is what runs our hormones.
In the old way of looking at work-culture, management was built on fear to drive people to work harder. It was the fear of survival perspective; if you lose your job, you cannot pay your bills, you cannot survive. Or if you were shamed in front of your peers for making a mistake, you would be rejected and abandoned, which is the old tribe version of losing your position and therefore being ousted, which again goes back to survival-fear. That’s the knowing culture for you. Abusing the side of our human drive, that makes us push ourselves into burnout to stay safe. Yes, there is a complete paradox there.
The right human relationship
The thing about being human is that we are amazing. The more we can know ourselves and what makes us unique, use the complexity of our emotions and mind to access courage and curiosity, the more we can work, perform and live as the best version of ourselves. The more we can see how simply awesome it is to have a human body, that will carry us around every day, the more we can change from being “just” human to being 100% human.
Just think about it for one moment. Your body is a self-regulating, self-healing organism that keeps working for you. But it needs you as much as you need it. This is a give and take kind of relationship, where being a team with your very own body, is essential to getting the most out of being human in this lifetime.
Did I say we are awesome?
Being 100% human is not about perfection or measuring up. It is about the unique relationships, that we can engage in, with ourselves and with others, because of our ability to communicate. To engage and relate, ask questions and be curious, have feelings and emotions that help us navigate and find the best solutions, come up with ideas that solve problems, because of our ability to have empathy, compassion and care. The kind of care, that supports teams in thriving and ourselves in growing. The kind of care that ties a brand to its customers or a friend to a new connection. Or the kind of care that helps create change and impact in a world, that would otherwise still run on survival-mode, instead of work/life quality, where we all matter, care and engage.
For more on how to create a Culture of Care® where people belong and work better, please feel free to reach out for a conversation about how I can help as a consultant, coach, facilitator and speaker.