It’s a Family Affair...

Three Sure-Fire Ways To Promote An Authentic Workplace Culture

In a recent Forbes article it states “A study at Texas A&M further reveals that family-owned businesses beat other firms in revenue and employment growth and have a longer-term view of investment; they’re more stable, and inspire more trust and commitment in their employees.”

So how do we as non-family owned businesses create that feeling of belonging? Well, I have been in a family since I was born! I’ve also been in a work family since I was 14 and been in various clans in; clubs, plays & sports teams throughout my life. Having occupied all of these spaces at one time or another, I have come to realise a few things. Whether it be blood line, a profession or by sheer desire and choice, all have a similar framework of motivation and common roles we fall into. Gaining this understanding helped me to navigate these spaces a little more fluidly and with a greater insight into people’s needs and behaviours. Well, here are 3 of the key ideas and areas to consider when looking at crafting a “family feel” workplace culture.

1.) “We are family, I’ve got all my colleagues with me”

We all know that when we are engaged and feel valued as “a part of something” that we will go that extra mile to make it succeed. Even the most misanthropic amongst us want to belong to something.

When individuals feel valued as people and co-contributors and not just as cogs in a machine, then they are more enthused and inclined to work with passion and have invested emotionally. That is why it is imperative to create a ‘work family’ and to have that be a two way dialogue. One in which people feel that they have ownership of their own destiny & that they and their journey are valued. In the same way that as part of a healthy familial unit you are able to give constructive feedback without fear and make it a better fit for all, so should you be able to as part of a healthy team. Leading by fear is a very limiting practice & doesn’t encourage innovations. As a manager, you need to find ways to create and sustain this type of culture for the benefit of the team and the individual.

When I first started comedy improvisation, I was so excited by the opportunity to just be involved, that sometimes I allowed myself to stay in teams that were not very healthy for me. I would have a gut feeling that I could be spending my time better elsewhere, but I denied that feeling as I just wanted to be part of team that took to the stage and made people laugh. However, as I continued to grow as a person, so did my perspectives on why I may feel passionate about being onboard one project, but not with another. I soon realised, that I wouldn’t mind working above and beyond at anything or indeed anywhere as long as I felt that we had a shared goal, mutual respect and that my efforts and my talents were seen and appreciated. When we all pulled our weight equally and became a truly collaborative team and we knew that we were able to be direct with each other whilst not being deemed disrespectful, that is when the groups grew and became proper teams who had each others backs. That was when I felt free to truly invest my time, passion and energy and the overall group retention improved.

2.) “This is my dance space, This is your dance space”

Just because you have a close personal relationship with one of your employees at work or a person in your wider life, doesn’t mean you have to lay yourself bare and accept anything and everything. Any and all individuals are the co-creators of their relationships and must co-define those boundaries

Creating a more authentic and personal team doesn’t mean work relationships have to become “unprofessional”. They also don’t require that you as a manager be put in positions that make you feel uncomfortable and/or are beyond what could be fairly expected in a healthy emphatic work environ. So it is imperative, that whilst growing and nurturing a closer, kinder and more holistic environment, you aware of the need to set healthy and clear boundaries. This too is essential in your relationships outside of work to ensure people know where they stand and that you aren’t pushed into spaces that don’t feel ok. Brenè Brown’s conversation with Oprah on this, is a great foray into the territory of boundary setting for self care and the care of others, which is an essential part of improving our own and employees resilience.

As a member and manager of various comedy improv teams, there have been occasions when I wasn’t clear enough with what I was willing to accept and how much I could legitimately handle. This meant that on many occasions I was left feeling bitter, disenfranchised & undervalued. However, upon retrospect how could I have felt any kind of a way, when I hadn’t outlaid or enforced what was acceptable or doable for me. I soon came to realise that every human being has different standards and perspectives and if you feel you are at odds with others or your are in danger of being taken advantage of, then it is time to set those ground rules. It is best to start in a space of clarity and it is never too late to have these conversations. Many of us, have a negative association with boundaries, some of us may feel like we are being withholding or selfish and the other party like they being rejected, but after looking at it from a new perspective I found that it was in fact the most loving/professional thing I could do in my life. In experiencing these moments. I was able to become more resilient as I was builing up those mus

3.) Congratulations on your New Failure . . .

We have all worked in places where we were too scared to take a risk incase we lost our job or the respect of our peers. We were also acutely aware that in those spaces we didn’t create our most innovative or exciting work, because we had to perform perfectly to survive. Now imagine the opposite, where making mistakes is encouraged…

If failure and refinement are such positive ways of innovating and succeeding, then why do people still seem to be resistant to taking the necessary risks at work? This can often be attributed to the culture that a team has in place. Whenever we join a new organisation or club, we are soon brought up to speed with the ethos of that group. So, if we want to encourage people to go further we have to make sure they feel free enough to do so and create greater team psychological safety.

Many of the most successful cutting edge tech companies in silicon valley encourage this in their organisations. Astro Teller who is the captain of The Moonshot Factory X, refers to himself as a ‘culture engineer’. In his company, people are asked to try and find all the ways that a project might not work. It is through this repeated failure that they are rewarded and here they often find those standout projects that are water tight. Astro says, “People will do profoundly amazing things if you set the social norms correctly. It’s those social norms and actually reinforcing them so that they’re the paths of least resistance. That’s what unlocks innovation.”

When I first started out as a comedy Improvisor and not occupying the same space as an actor, if I made a mistake I would apologise profusely and feel terribly embarrassed. I was used to trying to be perfect and there being an exact and finite answer. However I soon realised that the culture of the art form and in particular the class I was in, not only allowed but encouraged failure. I learnt that the only bad choice I could make, was to make no choice and remain frozen or wooly. I was asked to fail loud and proud and learn from every move and figure out how I could better serve what we were creating, through trying out a myriad of different things. After I began to internalise this and it became habitual, I began to have the most fun and started to do things I never imagined possible. When I took that bravery into all aspects of my life, that’s when I was able to succeed in ways I had never anticipated.

Francesca Reid is an Applied Theatre and Improvisation Practitioner & Performer based in London. Francesca’s company The Offer Bank will help your team become more confident, creative and collaborative here. Click here for her performance related website.