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The Elements of Being Organizationally Human


tom miller 6-2013[New post from Tom Miller – President and founder of Symbolist. You can read more about him and where he’ll be this year on our Leadership page.]

human in search of meaning

“Humanize” is becoming a popular term to use these days when talking about corporate cultures.  I think it will be sticky.  It’s like the term “employee engagement” – who wouldn’t want more engaged employees, right?

More human?  Sure – I’ll take all I can get.

So how do you get a more “human” organization?

First of all we have to define what that means.

More Than What We See

At first blush we may think that being “human” is about the physical – the DNA.  You’re human and I’m human because we share the same number of chromosomes and we look relatively the same.  But we know that being “human” isn’t just physical.  There have been plenty of “humans” who have walked this earth that were less than human – that were monsters.  They weren’t human because although they looked and seemed human – they lacked the things you can’t see that make us truly human.

And I believe those things can be present in an organization as well.

When I look at my own company and our client’s organizations I’m looking for three things that make an organization human.

3 Elements of Organizational Humanity


A company is human when it loves…

love(Don’t get creeped out – hang on – I promise we’ll get through this.)

We all like to think of the emotional part of love and the warm feeling we get when we think about another person or thing we love.  We recognize the emotion of love based on a basket full of experiences accumulated over a period of time.

When I consider my basket I find it contains the outcomes from consistent actions that demonstrate care and concern.  I find reciprocal relationships where each person wants the best for the other.  I find experiences that major in laughter and minor in sadness.  I find it contains things that have changed me.

If you think of love in that context is it a stretch for a company to offer an environment where care and concern are foremost?  Can a company create a basket of experiences that mirror the personal one?  Can a company want the best for the people that work there?  Can an organization be a place where laughter and learning happen at the same time?  I think the answer to all these questions is a loud, “YES!”

A company is human when it trusts…

trust1Trust works a lot like love – it’s shaped and developed over time by a consistent set of experiences.  It is also proactive.  I think this is where many businesses get in their own way.  They want employees to trust them – but aren’t necessarily ready to trust the employee.  I think trust hast to start with the company first.  Companies need to look to change things that show trust… like making vacation policies simple – take vacation when you need it.  Expense reporting would be simple – spend company money like it is yours.  When a job description allows – people would set their own hours.  When skills and/or interests begin to diverge – there’s a discussion and support offered about how to find a better career fit (even if it is at a different company).

OK – you’re thinking, “But won’t people take advantage of me/the company if I trust like this?”

Yes.  The same people that are already taking advantage of you will probably continue for a bit – maybe until they are revealed and removed (love sometimes means removing someone for the good of the team and trust is a two-way street.).

My belief is that people will respond to greater trust from the company with greater trust in the company. (click here to tweet that.)

A company is human when it hopes…

hopeWhen love and trust exist, people have the capacity to hope.  And we need more hope these days. (click here to tweet that.)

When people hope, great things can happen.  Hope is optimistic and expectant and leads to new thinking and new experiences.  Hopeful people laugh and are pleasant to spend time with.  Hopeful people enjoy the present and think about the future.  The cool thing about hope is that you don’t have to really do anything – it just shows up whenever love and trust are offered.

Companies that Love the people working there…

Trust them to do great things…

And together build capacity to Hope…

…Will be the companies that are truly “human.”


2 responses to “The Elements of Being Organizationally Human”

  1. Symbolist says:

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