Lessons in creating joy at work
I’m back home after attending our organization’s annual celebration called Jalsa. During the event, iNexters (as our associates are known) explode in creativity – dancing, singing, acting, walking ramps, designing events and so on. We invite friends, families, children, business partners and importantly iNexter alumni (people who previously worked with NextServices). Jalsa results in heart-warming smiles, cheers and laughter from a large group of people – a seemingly impossible task in contemporary work life. The occasion is a vibrant, energetic gathering and over the years has taken a life of its own, forming a core part of our organizational culture.
Here’s what I learnt over the past years in helping build our organizational culture:
Being normal and human-like.
In popular press, there’s a lot of talk about work-life balance as though we ought to be two completely different people at work and at home. We end up treating friends and family differently from co-workers, even though we spend more time with the latter. At work, we behave differently with supervisors and subordinates. We feel disciplined and liberated for the wrong reasons. We sometimes treat clients, vendors and business partners as aliens.
All we have to do is try being ourselves and allow others to be themselves – normal and human-like. It simply means being open, transparent, even friendly – just as we would want others to be with us. As entrepreneurs/ managers/ supervisors, to create an environment that allows individuals to scale up to the best of their potential. At least, not curb it. This makes a joyous work experience.
Creativity happens in our most natural state.
Not just creativity but an inclination to be of help, to be friendly, to do good, to do the right thing – everything has a basis in us being in tune with our natural, free state of mind. When our minds are not free, we are not able to live our best. We worry, we fret, we backbite, we whine and depending on our maturity, we take our frustrations out on whomever we can. It’s the organizational culture that creates the right balance of freedom and discipline that makes a place of work worthy of spending our days. It’s our responsibility to help our co-workers evolve freely, in their natural state.
I often observe that events like the Jalsa allow people to express their creativity in ways that otherwise go undiscovered. Some turn out to be poets. Some are excellent script writers. Some excel in execution skills. Some have incredible sense of humor. Today, I was pleasantly thrilled to see one of our senior executives in a Dracula avatar – complete with hood and blood! Once encouraged, the creativity of an individual expresses itself in countless other forms.
Organizational rituals are important.
We not only have daily huddles, weekly, quarterly and annual meetings, but also celebrate festivals and events. We routinely conduct workshops in remote locations. We live the same values. We promote for the same reasons. We do the same things – sometimes differently. It sets a predictable organizational rhythm that everyone is trained to expect, gauge and contribute to. It’s the sum-total of these beliefs and behaviors that spread from one group of individuals to the next, sustaining the working principles of the organization. Job roles may change, people may change, the work itself may change but the underlying work ethic constantly evolves without ever disconnecting from core principles. Rituals make the culture – defining a consistent character that makes us who we are.
It’s the same energy that manifests in different forms.
While we know that energy is transformative from high school physics, we forget that fact by the time we go to work. I notice that the energy that is generated by receiving/ giving awards, by clapping, by laughing together, by dancing, by appreciating, by expressing/ receiving thanks, by simply having fun, transforms into various other forms of energy that does the organization a whole lot of good. It keeps the mind cleaner and focused on positive intentions. People treat each other more kindly – from co-workers to clients. Internally, it generates endorphins, neurotransmitters that relieve our stress and enhance pleasure. It creates memories that continue to create joy much later into the future.
I recently purchased a medical microscope to study cells. It’s fascinating to see how cells look up-close – for example, mucor (a fungi) looks spectacular with its ink-blue nodes and long cords that seem to dangle like exotic flower buds. Cells don’t just inherit traits, they are also actively shaped by their environment. Cells know how to organize themselves, divide and perform various functions, create innumerable backups, and pass on information as they die. Collectively, they make up organs such as lungs. I’ve seen and touched a normal lung and a smoker’s lung – one looks healthy and off-white, the other looks murky green/brown. What can I say – it’s as simple as that to recognize good from bad.
Life is no different as we expand out of the microscope. Business organizations are also no different. Culture is the unseen magic environmental ingredient that makes conditions suitable for cellular growth. It’s also what makes organizations do what they are meant to do – create and make a difference.
Image: NextServices Jalsa participants cheering at the end of the show