What animal are you?

By Cécile,
on 30 June 2016

How is it that people can have personal ambitions, values and beliefs but leave them at the door as soon as they walk into their business? Why do we think it is acceptable for a corporation to have different norms and values than a ‘real’ person? There is an argument for bringing back the human touch…

It happens regularly: at a meeting there’s no need to do an icebreaker round because ‘everyone knows each other already’. After some questioning it often turns out that this personal knowledge does not extend beyond the person’s name and the organization at which they work. Once you know which business the person represents, their interests, ambitions and motivation often seem immediately clear. After all, they’re the same as those of the company. Right?

I don’t think so. And, to my surprise, this misconception has taken root in our business. For people to really get acquainted, I ask groups during workshops what animal they would like to be and why. Believe me, you immediately capture their essence. Am I a winner, a leader, a lion or a tiger? Am I curious and often in the background, am I then a mouse? Am I creative and free, a bird perhaps? Nobody thinks that that he or she is a monkey though, or a dog. That’s also interesting.

Someone who works at Shell can find sustainability completely fantastic, at the same time doing everything they can to get people at the company on board with it. Someone who works at APG doesn’t necessarily commit fraud, and, believe me, there are even genuine consultants who don’t only want to earn money at the expense of the customer. 😉 Maybe you’ll find out that you and your biggest competitor both are huge fans of hypoallergenic dogs; you never know what beauty can come out of it. A person lurks in all of us, and if there is connection between people, then very cool things can develop.

It’s generally the same in projects: personal connection leads to decisive successes. This is because when you’re working to profound sustainability goals, you need to work differently. The alternative… is SCARY. By definition that means there will be friction somewhere. It is exciting; this is why people must dare to collaborate between their authentic selves. Focus on this connection on a personal level! Because the topics you work on are new, as are the challenges, collaboration is the best way to deal with this risk: you don’t want to hold onto technical certainties, because they don’t exist, but rather to the connection with the people with whom you can go on this voyage of discovery.

You can only think about system change when you first dare to understand your relationship with ‘the other’. Because that’s where the system starts, with yourself and the relationship you enter into with your loved ones.

If we want these sincere personal beliefs, abilities and ambitions to have a place in our business, we must begin to be constantly aware of their existence. Open a meeting with an ice breaker in which you forbid people to say for which company they work, or let them think about what animal they would be if they could choose. And are you CEO? Then stop people leaving their personalities at the door and empower them.

So… what animal are you? And your neighbor?

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