Final Thoughts: The Real Work

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"I don't think we are all being honest."

There is silence around the room as everyone turns their gaze to the speaker. Margaret has been sitting in the meeting room for the last 45 minutes. Not that you would know. She has said nothing. Until now.

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"I think some of us are saying what we are expected to say and not what we really feel. I have held back from speaking because I was worried about upsetting you all. But I can't be quiet any more. We've got to say what we really think. I'll start."

That was the turning point of the meeting. And it was also a turning point for Margaret. Seen previously as a sweet woman who always remembered who took sugar in their tea and what the names of your children were, she emerged that day as something of a star. Her ability to whip off the mask that so many of us wear in the workplace and challenge us to speak straight changed the way we operated as a team. It gave us permission to do the same – to call one another on behaviours which were counter to getting results.

Together we have been exploring what makes work feel like such hard work – how organizations seem to be structured to waste our time, how days are filled with meaningless form-filling, how little thought is put into what is really important for the good of the business, the customer and the employee, and how many obstacles there are to talking about these frustrations let alone changing them.

At the same time, we've also seen how a few leader-managers ...

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