Mirror, Mirror…On Being the Kind of Person Others Want to Work With

The other day, I imagined propping up a magic mirror á la Snow White and asking if people - my clients, friends, family, alas the world - if we all will one day be happier on the job?

I imagined granting a “fairy tale” style wish that would squash cortisol levels in working communities, minimize stress, and uplift our workforce to focus on purpose and joy.

I imagined dreaming up a potion that per a recent article on causecast.com, would ensure leaders began measuring emotional currency in companies in combination with all other forms of coinage.

I imagined happiness, purpose, joy - a whole person return on investment for being a global citizen.

For several months now I have been imagining these scenarios – and as a byproduct - I have found myself repeating the same thing to my clients:

 “Businesses are like mirrors; they reflect the people working inside them.”

In my 12 + years in academia and philanthropy, two sectors transfixed on mission and vision discourse, I found little attention paid to this idea of mirroring.  Perhaps because it’s a concept I have coined – or perhaps because we often choose to look AT the mirror instead of IN the mirror.

For years now, I have walked through the corridors of companies with missions integrated into the building design, mantras on the wall, vision statements enveloping the space in construction planning sites even. And I often thought – wow, this is cool – but so what? How do the employees really feel? Do they buy in? Do they believe? How do you know? And more importantly, why does it matter?

When I read lists like The Best Places to Work  – I often ask myself the above questions. And I push myself to think there is more to this than cool work amenities like food trucks and nap rooms. I think about 21st Century job satisfaction and these ideas of leadership, career growth, compensation and alas – work/life balance – all of which are vital concepts. But then I get back to the basics – and I think about people.

I think about how attitudes are infectious. How joy is an aspirational value. How meaning is a uniquely human pursuit.

When someone says to me: “I loooooove what I do.” I often spiral into thoughts like: I want that job. Maybe I should pursue that path? Or, how do I get that feeling?

Alternatively, when someone says to me, “I will never work for that company.” I often come to realize it’s NOT because of the product or mission. It’s often the leadership. Or a reputation of “dysfunction” – a rumor-mill of shared employee experiences.

So when marinating the other day, I started to think the Forbes - style list really should be titled – The Best People to Work With.

I started to think that the big question is not, how to build or improve company culture?

Ratherhow can you be the kind of person other people want to work with?

It trickles down from there.

I tell my clients, that in order to talk about and subsequently enact positive culture change you have to start with the person(s)in the mirror.

I mean, even Michael Jackson knew that.