We are entering a new era of business. One that demands we question long held assumptions around the nature of work. Against a backdrop of an eroding faith in capitalism, pervasive technology, big data and our insatiable desire to measure, automate and scale every inch of our experience, something meaningful yet unquantifiable has been lost.
Despite the accelerating uncertainty, there are tremendous opportunities emerging for the savvy, courageous few. It’s all about the feels. Like it or not, believe it or not, the new era of business is as much about feeling as it is about thinking. As much about trusting as it is about testing. As much about emotion, intuition and instinct as it is about listening, learning & leveraging.
Maya Angelou famously said, ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’, and never has this been more relevant in the world of work. How your employees feel about themselves, about each other, about the work they do and the organisation as a whole, greatly impacts the quality, quantity and consistency of their output.
The way your vendors, customers and competitors feel about your company continues to define the value, length and profitability of those relationships. The way the employer market feels about your workplace will influence the calibre of talent waiting and wanting to work for you. Heck, the way you feel about this article will determine whether you choose to gain any value from it.
Make no mistake, the way your business feels is now just as important as what it does. From engagement to talent acquisition, innovation to customer experience, high performance to employer branding, it’s all about the feels. And the organisations brave enough to explore this with enthusiasm and vigour will be leaders in tomorrow’s economic climate.
A dangerous conversation
But let’s be honest, to speak earnestly about feeling in most company boardrooms would leave us open to ridicule and regret. Despite our intentions for a more human-centric workplace, one that allows, encourages and champions the entire spectrum of the human experience, we’re not there yet.
One reason we dismiss a conversation about ‘feeling’ is we are yet to find a language that sufficiently contains it. We can so easily sound fluffy and esoteric, light-weight and inconsequential, when discussing the ‘vibe’ of our offering or the ‘feel’ of the leadership offsite.
Inevitably we are asked for proof, required to find data, told that we need to see a clear ROI if the company is to direct funds into anything of this nature. And those concerns are legitimate because feeling is unpredictable. It’s flakey, inconsistent and idiosyncratic. It won’t fit within a formula, rarely submits to a system and is heavily influenced by factors outside our control.
It sounds just like a….human. Feeling is hard to work with, but work with it we must. Because despite the perks, the pay packet or the positive rhetoric, our people stay, work harder & smarter when they feel good and when it feels good. Our customers stay, engage deeper and share louder when they feel good and it feels good together.
Where do we begin?
But what does the feel of an organisation even mean? Where do we start if we want to accentuate it? And how on earth do we begin a conversation about the feel of our business without alarming or alienating our colleagues or clients?
Given the nature of this conversation it feels cheap, ironic and hypocritical to distill the dynamic realm of emotion into a formulaic template for success. But I will say this…
1. Begin with how you feel.
Allow yourself to lean in to your experience. Listen with your body and try to trust your gut. No one else has to know. It’s between you and yourself. But give yourself permission to go there. To play with it in your heart and mind. To fully experience what is emerging within you, or the conversation or the atmosphere around it. To be effective in the future of work, must rebuild the dialogue between our thoughts and our feelings. Imagine the possibilities for business if we could draw on all facets of the human experience. Dropping in and out of thinking and feeling when it serves.
2. Capture how your feel.
Take notes in a private moleskin. Draw pictures in the margin. Scribble on draft copies and leave hidden comments on word docs. Getting it out of your body makes it real. Playing with language and colour and shapes will help you form more concrete reasons as to why you or it feels a certain way. This in turn will enable you to better articulate it for others. Widening the palette of language you can use to illuminate specific issues you might have with something, gives you a far batter chance of having it be understood by your colleagues or clients.
3. Find out how others feel
Listen to the language of those around you. Look for what articles your colleagues are liking on LinkedIn. Read between the lines of customer reviews. What are they not saying, what are they hinting at, what are they hoping you’ll feel too but struggling to find the frame for it. Then ask them how they feel about it.
Speaking up, acknowledging and celebrating how others feel, legitimises their experience. It gives them permission to trust their instinct, to follow their own flavour. It invites participation in the whole spectrum of our experience and cultivates a broader, more inclusive and diverse conversation. The world was flat once. People always laugh at those who dance with the unknown.
We might not have an acceptable, manageable or effective way to measure, articulate or scale the ‘feel’ of an organisation just yet. But it doesn’t mean it’s not already impacting your company, your colleagues, your clients. Now more than ever is the time to risk what they might think on how it feels. So how do you feel about that?
Mykel Dixon is Australia’s foremost expert on Artisan Thinking, Cultural Architecture & Atmospheric Design. As a musician by trade, gypsy by nature, accidental author, fierce nonconformist and reliably unconventional, Mykel embodies the new wave of entrepreneurial experts showing forward-thinking companies how to build for the future of work. See Mykel LIVEat The Business Romantic Events, happening in Sydney 27th March & Melbourne 31st March. Exploring the radical humanisation of the workplace, alongside Tim Leberecht (international bestselling author & 3 x TED speaker), Dr Catriona Wallace (CEO & Founder of trailblazing finch company Flamingo) & Jo Burston (CEO & Founder of Inspiring Rare Birds, empowering 1 million female entrepreneurs by 2020).