One of the words that has been fueling EVT lately is “wholeness” and its application to self. We believe to be healthy we need to be whole. To be whole, we need to embrace all the unique pieces of ourselves and share it with the world. We know this idea isn’t easy as we all have parts we’d like to hide or roles we feel we need to play. So, keep an eye out as we dig into this more in the coming months through blogs and trainings. As we prepare to explore this within ourselves, I want to talk about how this radiates outwards. It affects our workplace, our teams and our families by impacting every interaction we have. When we feel whole and feel seen we bring so much more to every encounter and every task.
Let’s start with a definition of wholeness. On the website Lexico the first definition is “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole; unity.” I love that the definition starts with the “state of forming.” This implies this work is ongoing, everchanging, and something you have the ability to form or create. The second piece of this definition “complete and harmonious whole”
Our teams, like ourselves, are made up of people whose unique likes and experiences make them whole. Everyone on our team is made up of many “ANDs” and when we ignore each of these pieces, we ignore part of their whole. We need to embrace each person’s wholeness to create a whole team.
We are all “ANDs”
When someone asks you to describe yourself do you say I am a woman and leave it at that? No, we describe ourselves as all our parts. In my case I am woman and a wife and a daughter and a mother and an athlete and an engineer and a program manager and a learner and a spreadsheet junkie. I cannot be one of these and forget about the others they are a small list of what makes me whole.
However, in workplaces across the country we ask people to leave bits of themselves at the door. We ask them to come as a skill not as a person. We expect them to be a list of “ORs” where they can express one and not the other at any given time. This is most notable in relationship to the personal side of an employee and especially in minority or oppressed groups.
As a white hetero cis-woman I have the privilege of being able to bring my weekend and family stories to work with little fear of shame, judgement or repercussions. I am aware that not everyone has this luxury and may feel the need to leave one’s gender, sex, sexuality and/or culture at the door every day. They may feel they need to play a role or keep quiet on a huge piece of who they are.
The impact of an “AND” team
While research has not been conducted on wholeness there is a large body of research on the impact of diversity in the workplace. Diversity at its core means that you are filling your teams with ANDs. For example, you may be adding a woman who is also a person of color. Since these two are inextricable you are creating the basis for a team of ANDs. This quickly branches out to adding a “man and homosexual,” “woman and Muslim,” “man and father,” and the list grows and grows.
So, what does the data show us on diversity? Studies have found that diverse organizations have higher employee retention.1 When your team feels represented and seen across the practice but especially in leadership positions, they are apt to stay and contribute. Diversity can also help to avoid group think and make your team smarter.2 Studies have found diverse teams do a better job with factual analysis, fact checking and fact interpretation.2 This can be especially important when you are making life or death decisions. Leveraging the insight, experience, and unique view of your whole team will help to avoid deadly mistakes.
As a leader or practice owner there are two other key improvements of diverse teams that will help to sustain your practice. Diverse teams have been shown to be more innovative. These teams will develop new products, improve your processes and bring in more patents than homogenous teams.3 Much of the research on the impact of diversity on teams has been conducted in corporations and shows positive impacts on financials. The likelihood of financial outperformance was shown to be over 30% over three fiscal years with ns reaching as high as 589 in some analyses.4
The data shows that embracing your Whole Team improves retention, business performance and culture. If we want to change our culture, we need to make a grassroots change to create lasting culture change. If we rely solely on our leaders to make the change it’s not as likely to stick. Start with you, start today and start small. Ask your team how they’re doing, how they’re time off was. Then really listen to them, see them and ask questions. Get a better picture of them as a whole person but be genuine in your curiosity. One teammate at a time we can bring wholeness to practices everywhere.
- Cara C. Maurer and Israr Qureshi, “Not Just Good for Her: A Temporal Analysis of the Dynamic Relationship Between Representation of Women and Collective Employee Turnover,” Organization Studies (2019)
- Grant DRand H, Grant H. Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter. Published March 19, 2019. Accessed October 9, 2020.
- High-skilled immigration increases innovation. High-skilled immigration increases innovation. | The Hamilton Project. https://www.hamiltonproject.org/charts/high_skilled_immigration_increases_innovation. Published October 8, 2020. Accessed October 9, 2020.
- McKinsey & Company. 2020. Diversity Wins. How Inclusion Matters. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/diversity%20and%20inclusion/diversity%20wins%20how%20inclusion%20matters/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters-vf.pdf