What is the nature of the corporate culture at your workplace? What word would you use to describe it? Would you say that it is fun, caring, or safe — or would you describe it as silo’d, fearful or driven? If you enjoy your workplace and find it a balanced atmosphere of productive, yet sensitively aware to the impacts on ALL to achieve that productivity, would you be bold enough to call it home?

I am in the middle of a 2-week holiday as I write this post. Holidays are a blend of break and reflection for me, and during this one I have been processing at the intersection of location, events, and thought, with a thorough texturing of past trauma to spice it up.

The location is Victoria, BC – where trauma impacted my family in a significant way some 40 and 45 years ago. The current events are a combination of graduate school convocation and ensuing peer discussions about “what’s next?” — with a remarkably deep and probing distance marketing workshop experience that has been pressing me to answer the question of “what transformation (I) lead my clients through.

One of the most interesting conversations during this trip was with a waitress that was born on a sailboat close to my one time home of Sooke, BC. This connected us instantly (as she spent time literally across the bay from where I had lived), and I was keenly interested to follow her life story, and how she had spent time in various parts of the world, arriving back in Sooke and finding peace in her spirit as she had finally resolved to call it “home”.

Ironically, I had posted to Facebook during my BC Ferries journey from Tsawwassen to Sidney, “So long Saskie, David E is going home”. But was I really?  What is home?

Smithsonian.com describes it beautifully as follows:

“Be it ever so humble, it’s more than just a place. It’s also an idea—one where the heart is”, further suggesting that “home is home and everything else is not-home” — and perhaps even more potently relevant to the subject of resilience at work, “…a place we can never see with a stranger’s eyes for more than a moment.” The author, Verlyn Klynkenborg, notes the difference between “feeling at home” and “being home”.

A friend of mine (a supervisor at her workplace) recently told me that an employee had been thanking her for leading the culture at her workplace. He went on to describe it as feeling like “home” – even calling her “mom”. My friend works hard to be productive at work, so this is not evidence of a laze fare workplace atmosphere, but rather a heart-felt description of a safe place for people to discover purpose and meaning through growth in the delivery of service to others.

If this seems like too much to believe, believe it, for it has happened…and continues to happen in workplaces where leadership responds to the call of the mission within the mission; a servant leadership of building interdependent, resilient workplace community.

I believe that there are a one key to employees feeling at home in the workplace: relational connection. When my mom died, I returned to the house that we lived in, but noted that it did not feel like home. She was gone, and she was a critical part of “home”. So it goes in the workplace. Without sincere, authentically connected, and intimate (appropriately so) relationships, it cannot be home.

Here are a few ways to achieve this:

  1. Remove the elitist and hierarchical barriers as a leader. This is achieved when employees feel like they work with you instead of for you. They know that you are approachable and walk among them as a leader among peers.
  2. Get to know people for more than cogs in the wheel of your productive engine. If they are going through a difficulty (and all do at some point or another), be compassionately aware and supportive.
  3. Serve them. Understand the challenges that they face in trying to accomplish their work and do what you can to better equip them, and/or remove unnecessary barriers to progress.

All of this starts with awareness. Awareness of where you stand in relation to those you lead, and the reality of what they face day to day.

Not everyone grew up in a habitat that felt like home. Trauma will do that to you.  I find myself thinking more fondly of our habitat (near Saskatoon) as being home for me. I also have a compelling vision of opportunity before me, where I can help encourage and equip others to discover home as well.

Its a beautiful thing to be away on vacation for a while – even better to know the feeling of home when you return.