What if Companies Were Character Gyms?

gymThis HBR article, “Does Your Company Make You A Better Person?,” presents a new take on work/life balance. They ask what if we fostered Deliberately Developmental Organizations—or “DDOs” for short – where employees saw their workplaces as a context to make progress on overcoming their personal blindspots, and where “companies treated employees’ continuous growth as a critical ingredient for a company’s success?”

Here is a concrete example:

Whether you are someone who avoids confrontation, hides your inadequacies to avoid being found out, often acts before thinking things through, gets overly aggressive when your ideas are criticized, or are prone to any number of other forms of counterproductive thinking and behavior, you and your colleagues can expect to be working on identifying and overcoming these patterns as part of doing your job well.

This mindset would save a lot of resources, as “every person is doing a second job no one is paying them to perform—covering their weaknesses and inadequacies, managing others’ good impression of them, and preserving a position that would feel more precarious if people didn’t always see them at their best.” Tackling the issue of character growth means getting at the root causes which “almost always are about people’s interior lives—about unwarranted and unexamined assumptions and habitual ways of behaving.”

 HOW analysis:

If business is truly becoming personal, then we should view our workplaces as an opportunity to develop our personal character. Character development affects the bottom line as well, as countless hours and lots of energy are often wasted in having to work around or despite someone’s personal weaknesses.

Social media fosters the creation of two selves, but the truth is that we do that in any performance-oriented environment where we are consciously managing impressions of ourselves by others. The question remains: How do you create a context for such collective intentionality? It seems that enabling the ‘freedom to’ develop one’s character requires values of humility, trust and transparency, as well as ‘freedom from’ politicking and out-besting one another.

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