WRITTEN BY ALICIA KOCH, FOUNDER OF THE LEGAL BELLETRIST
It’s all seemingly very “kumbaya”, at least, that’s what the Cambridge dictionary intimates.
For me though, harmony can often be found in diversity and balance. In recognising – within the diversity – how everything (and everyone) can fit together. Like a beautiful dance between partners. Not everyone is the same, but when moving together in unison a beautiful sway emerges.
Perhaps it’s the words of French mathematician, Henri Poincaré that is more accurate (I’m married to a man who believes maths is the answer to every question – actuaries, what ya gonna do?) –
“It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.”
And it’s these words that ignite a thought.
Perhaps harmony in its real, basic form, is far more straight forward. Perhaps harmony is all about embracing what is different or diverse amongst us and learning to appreciate those differences anyway – learning the different moves, so you can fox-trot your way to a peaceful, happy place.
After all, in real life, we are all different. We all want and look for different things in life. We all have differing ambitions and therefore will seek different stimuli to achieve a different result.
Different. Diverse. Distinct.
And that’s not just in life. It’s at work too. We may have a “work persona” but we are still who we are. Deep down. And our differing needs will obviously bubble to the surface.
So, it’s within this framework that I wonder – how does one create a harmonious work environment? Because let’s be frank about one thing. We spend (according to Andrew Naber, an alumni of Gettysburg College) one third of our lives at work. That is, on average, 90 000 hours of work over a lifetime!
Shouldn’t we be looking at how to make our work lives better? More harmonious? Happier?
I would say so – yes!
Creating a harmonious working environment
It should come as no surprise that to have a harmonious working environment and to work within a cohesive team, takes work. It doesn’t just happen.
Again, let me repeat – we are all different. And our differences will – on occasion – cause tension. Causing our “harmonious working environment” to be out of whack.
And while I would love to say that you can all just snap back into position and continue happily as if nothing happened, that’s not always the case. It’s just not always that easy.
But you can work on it. It takes a good action plan (as formal as that sounds) to ensure that everyone works together in a way that promotes a happy work-life.
It can be done!
The question therefore – inevitably – is: what are the strategies that you can implement to encourage a harmonious work environment?
After looking at several sources, most notably Interaction Training, the UN HR Portal and Simplilearn, the following points can and should be practiced in order to encourage harmony both within teams, at work and (consequently) within your own life as well:
Have mutual respect – practice awareness of each person within your team’s unique attributes, what they bring to the table, how they are different, what they are experts at. Recognise the part each person has to play. By doing so, a strong bond will naturally be created – because when someone feels recognised, when they feel appreciated and when they are respected, the opportunities to create, to brainstorm, to encourage, to support will naturally flow freely. This is important in order to be productive and to overcome challenges as one single organism, building shared values and a sense of integrity as you go.
Practice inclusivity – in fact, make it your rule. This is where the differences in each of us shine through. Remember, it’s the value of our individual uniqueness that helps open a team up to new ways of doing things. And that’s important. You should also keep in mind that when encouraging new ways of doing things, how you act, your behavior and your beliefs will affect how you treat team members. Therefore, practice patience, kindness, open-mindedness, especially when someone’s beliefs are different to your own. Be proactive in asking for feedback to understand another person’s viewpoint.
Embrace diversity – “diversity” as a concept, often makes one think of cross-cultural differences first i.e. the differences in each of us because of our distinct cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Sure, these are important, but paying attention to diversity also means considering the differing perspectives that come from different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations and mental/physical difficulties and characteristics. You can embrace the diversity found within your team by using respectful language when referring to various groups and displaying supportive signs or posters in your office. Be prepared and willing to learn about your own personality type (most notably by incorporating the Enneagram – discussed below – which can become invaluable when embracing diversity), because this can help you become more self-aware, engaging more easily with team members. Be open to explore your own personal biases too as this is a critical step when learning about the root of possible prejudices. And it can teach you both how to fix that bias and how avoid it in the future.
Remember that your words and actions are important – choose your words carefully. Don’t speak without thinking how what you say will affect someone else. It also helps to stay mindful of what your body language demonstrates to others (remember the article on Effective Workplace Communication – body language is key). Ask people about what they think and would do in each situation. Truly listen to your team members.
Manage the Self – when one talks about the “self” we often refer to our emotional intelligence—how well we can relate to others, even when the going gets tough. Especially when a work environment is not as harmonious as we would like it to be. This can take work on oneself too – for instance, try and empathize with and understand the perspectives of others, remain open to working on (and overcoming) your own mistakes or failures, be consistent with your interactions with others. Stop and take notice when you are not. Do what you say you will do – be true to your word. Hold yourself accountable. Ask your team members if you haven’t “walked the talk”. And then, do better! Managing the Self is an ongoing thing – you will always be working on you.
Encourage open communication – not speaking up is quite common in teams. You wouldn’t be alone if you were afraid to speak up, especially during meetings. Perhaps it’s the vulnerability that keeps us all quiet. A lot of us feel this way. So, encourage other team members to speak up, to voice their opinion and support them when they do! Listen to them and then applaud them for doing so. If you cheer someone else on, when it’s your turn, they will do the same for you. Encourage an environment of open communication. And creating this sort of team culture will motivate and encourage one another, helping creative innovative ideas thrive. That’s harmonious indeed.
You may be thinking – wow that’s just as bad as “kumbaya”. I hear you. They are just pointers. You can take them – or leave them – the choice is yours. But the fact of the matter is, practicing the above pointers in your day-to-day life encourages harmony within a team. And within you.
And it’s not just the external factors to take into consideration. It’s also about knowing yourself.
Know thyself, first!
Before you can really incorporate any of the above points into your life (and into your working environment), it’s crucial to gain a better understanding of who you are – deep down – first.
“Know yourself” is the sum of all philosophical commandments, Socrates once observed. Aristotle in all his wisdom, echoed that sentiment by saying “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” How right they were!
Because to encourage diversity and actively embrace new ways of doing things – creating a harmonious working environment – requires the embrace of different personality types, while at the same time, knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, who you are – as a member of that team. What is your personality type? How do you fit into a team? How can you work better within a team?
All pertinent questions in this journey to create harmony in your work (and personal) life.
And this is where the Enneagram can become invaluable to a diverse team all having diverse needs.
As you may recall in the article – Investing in You – The World of the Enneagram – I set out just how beneficial taking the Enneagram was in better understanding myself and the reasons why I do the things that I do. It has highlighted my core motivations and the impact they have on my personality, how I think, how I feel and how I act.
The Enneagram has been invaluable in my own journey of self-discovery, self-development, relationship building, how I can better resolve conflict according to my own personality type and how I can work better in a team.
And I think for anyone looking to better understand team dynamics and looking to create a harmonious working environment, the following found on the Braving Boundaries website is highly enlightening –
“The power of the Enneagram lies in its subtle complexity, in its flexibility, and in its open-endedness, allowing it to take into account the myriad characteristics of human personality, how these traits blend in each person, and how they change depending on circumstances. The Enneagram is all about the WHY. It delves into our motivations and explains why we do the things we do. It offers profound insights into what makes us tick, such as the unconscious fears buried deep in our psyches that affect our everyday decisions.”
The feedback session – as I said previously – was where I was able to gain a real understanding of my personality or archetype style. It’s how I got better acquainted with myself. It’s how I have been able to implement the changes suggested to me in the report.
And for any team in any business, this would be worth its weight in gold. The perfect way to ensure a harmonious working environment, as well as effective, positive communication.
To find out more about the Enneagram Team Session and how you can both better understand team members within your oganisation whilst also discovering ways you can improve on your own communication skills, take a look at the Braving Boundaries website and get in touch with Frieda Levycky today. There are fantastic programmes for both individuals and teams.
Truly invest in yourself and your team. Ensure you create a positive, harmonious working environment!
Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism.
Click here to visit The Legal Belletrist website.