A new collaborative book by members of the “Great Work Cultures” (GWC) movement aims to transform organizations and create more humanistic environments for employees to work in. Joan Blades, a prominent activist for positive change who launched the movement, praises the contributors to the book as “brilliant innovators and leaders who know how to structure workplaces that sing”.
Statistics show that the average worker is disengaged and that most workplace productivity is a fraction of what it could be. Members of the GWC movement believe, however, that workplace environments which are deeply respectful of all workers will be productive and experience very low turnover. This book is an outcome of their intention to accelerate positive change at work.
In this interview, book contributor, Anna McGrath, discusses her chapter, “Beyond Emotional Intelligence to Whole Body Wisdom”. Since 2003, Anna McGrath has supported organizations globally to build response-agility into their cultures and transition into self-organizing structures. She has worked with the full continuum of organizations, from traditional hierarchies to bleeding-edge start-ups, and is a popular speaker on Holacracy™, transformation, and whole-body wisdom practices. After 14 years of incubation and experimentation, her company, WonderWorks Consulting, was acquired by Godfrey Dadich Partners, where Anna is currently Partner, Culture and Transformation.
Anna McGrath, what is your company and what is your title?
Anna McGrath: The company is Godfrey Dadich Partners and my title is Partner, Culture and Transformation.
What would you say your area of expertise is?
Anna McGrath: I have expertise in working with organizations around culture, leadership, and structure that are looking to embody their purpose more clearly and more strategically. I also work with organizations that are in conflict and facing challenges in their culture, leadership, and structure and I help get them out of those challenges.
What do you hope to achieve with the collaborative effort that you’re a part of?
Anna McGrath: When I think about the collaborative effort, I think that it takes all different voices, frameworks, modalities, and what I like to call “genius skills”. I think every single individual has a genius – an ability that is their unique offering to the world. All different geniuses must come to the table to create wide scale transformation. When I think about the collaboration with my fellow writers, it’s about bringing a diverse group of voices and ways of engaging with organizations together so that people can find what they really need to take them on the next step of the journey. It’s about finding resonance and creating an impact within the organization and then experimenting, getting new results, and iterating as we go forward. By having that diverse group of people, we can connect in the marketplace and see what we all want to see – healthy organizations and thriving people.
There are many statistics about how disengaged the average worker is. Can you describe why you think the average worker is disengaged?
Anna McGrath: When it comes to the average worker, I think most have some level of addiction – drug, alcohol, smoking, or sugar addiction, and all those people are showing up in the workplace. Why are workers addicted? Why do workers feel the need to check out in some way, shape, or form? To me, it comes down to a very simple fact which is humans tend to struggle with feeling what they’re feeling. They tend to get scared or angry and want to run away from reality. They feel overwhelmed by their emotions and are unable to deal with them. When we go to school, we’re not taught how to allow our feelings to flow. We’re not taught what I call whole body intelligence, meaning your head, your heart, your gut. We’re not taught how to be present with any kind of challenge; so, people try and run away from what they’re experiencing. That disengagement in the workplace is a symptom of people disengaging from themselves. When you disengage from yourself, when you disconnect in some way and avoid realty, that’s going to show up in every aspect of your life including work.
It’s said that workplace productivity is a fraction of what it could be. What do you believe will increase workplace productivity?
Anna McGrath: I had a conversation with someone recently and they brought to my attention that a lot of people who work are in meetings almost every day. There are times when something is said in those meetings and all the oxygen seems to get sucked out of the room and those who are attending experience tension. In that moment, if you’re in a highly productive environment, that issue would be dealt with right then and there. There would be some honest statements to each other. We would move through it, get back to work and be doing amazing work which would increase productivity. But what happens most times is that people get scared. They go, “Oh, if I say something right now I might lose my job.” Or, “If I speak up in front of this client, we might lose the gig.” They have all kinds of thoughts going on inside their heads and they don’t take action. When this happens, productivity goes down because they’re avoiding what I call the “ten second communication”. That’s the simple act of calling out the elephant in the room. You can’t be productive if you’re not willing to be honest about your fellow co-worker, meaning the elephant that is sitting in the middle of the room. They might be invisible, but they are there. So, to me, productivity will go up exponentially when we can connect to ourselves, deal with our fears and other emotions, speak up authentically in the moment, and actually create simple solutions – not easy, but simple solutions by using ancient wisdom, as well as cutting edge practices.