As described in an earlier blog post, we visited Frederic Laloux earlier this year in Brussels. This meeting was nothing like you would expect a meeting to be like. The first sign that it was going to be different was the fact that we were invited to share a dinner with him and his wife at their home. So, we headed towards Brussels with our stomachs empty and our heads filled with expectations. Once we arrived in Brussels at his doorstep, Frederic enthusiastically opened the door and welcomed us in. We entered the house and met Helene, his wife, in the living room. According to Dutch habit, we went out to greet her with a formal handshake. Clearly, this was not accepted by Helene. She urged us to properly greet each other: with a warm and welcoming hug. This welcoming gesture set the tone for the rest of the evening. A personal and authentic encounter was about to start.
Dinner table stories
Soon after our arrival Frederic opens a bottle of wine and starts cooking. While cooking he fires away lots of questions about us and our project. This starts with showing sincere interest in our personal stories. He is curious why and how we ended up making the decision to quit our jobs and start focusing on the world of employee happiness. He finds it especially interesting that we are interested in this subject in this stage of our lives. While we share our stories, we come across plenty of similarities between his own research period for the book and our current search. We all sense that there’s a specific type of organizations that is radically changing the way we think about work.
His research period resulted in the trending book Reinventing Organizations; a must-read for all people interested in what the future of work might look like. His book describes various stages of organizational evolution and the characteristics that distinguish each of them. Frederic refers to the most ‘evolved’ type of organizations as ‘Teal’ organizations. Teal organizations differ from other organizations due to the following three breakthroughs: self management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. You can read about it in more detail in a summary of his book. For now, we’ll focus on the characteristic that resonated the most in our meeting with Frederic: wholeness.
Wholeness refers to “practices that invite us to reclaim our inner wholeness and bring all of who we are to work, instead of with a narrow ‘professional’ self”. This means that you should be able to be the same person at work as you are at home or with your friends. In many organizations this is not the case, as it is expected that you behave according certain standards and norms. Moreover, it’s not appreciated to bring your full personality to work. For that reason, many of us ‘carry a professional mask’ once we cross the company’s doorstep. It can be noticed in even the smallest of details.
Pim: I got familiar with this phenomenon when I first started working a few years ago. Apparently, it was ‘not done’ to discuss stuff that was considered ‘too personal’ for work. Whether it was telling crazy weekend stories, showing personal feelings, or expressing doubts in meetings, such things were often considered unprofessional. I could never get used to this. The more people started telling me that this behavior could be conceived as unprofessional, the more I started to see it as a compliment. After all, it made the relationships with my colleagues a lot more personal and deep than what I was seeing around me.
When organizations embrace wholeness, it opens up a wide variety of possibilities. People and organizations that dare to show their personal side with all emotions, doubts, challenges, and feelings involved, are generally better able to solve problems, address conflicts, and reduce the influence of big egos. We’ll show you the compelling evidence in a later blog post. The organizations that embrace wholeness have various practices in place to continuously make sure that people are able to be their full selves at work. Below is an overview of some of these wholeness practices.
Back to the dinner table…
In many ways, we feel that for Frederic and Helene wholeness is an important aspect of their lives. They start with inviting us, as complete strangers, to their home. They show sincere interest in our personal motivations for our project and try to understand the deeper feelings involved. Before we start dinner, we share a moment of gratitude all together. And after an evening full of dinner table discussions, we finalize our special encounter with another friendly hug before we head back home.
Every theory reflects its creator
Once we’re in the car, we realize that the book Reinventing Organizations, and especially the part about wholeness, is in a way a reflection of the beliefs of Frederic. It’s quite similar to what Frederic describes himself in his book when it comes to organizations: the values of an organization are often a reflection of the personality of the founder or CEO. And if this holds for Frederic and the organizations, it might also be applicable to other theories and approaches we observe and describe. It also makes us think about ourselves, as we realize that everything we write and do ourselves as Corporate Rebels, is also a reflection of our own personal beliefs and convictions.
We dwell on and continue while driving into the night. Plenty of food for thought…