15Five Interview with Shawn Murphy

Shifting Into The Human Side Of Business: An Interview With Shawn Murphy

By David Hassell, CEO of 15Five

Shawn Murphy is the CEO and co-founder of Switch & Shift, an organization dedicated to showing leaders how to advance organizational practices to be more human-centered. Shawn can often be found in the classroom teaching, speaking to audiences, or interviewing top thought leaders on his Work That Matters podcast. In 2014, Inc. Magazine listed Shawn among its top 100 leadership speakers.

How do businesses succeed? According to Shawn, success depends on the professional, social, and spiritual fulfillment of every employee. But early-on he learned that not everybody is open to that message.

While working at a Fortune 100 company, Shawn was given a project to encourage employees to use the company’s tuition reimbursement program for further professional training. He drafted a proposal to allow employees to receive training in any field, even classical guitar lessons. When he presented his idea to leadership he was told,“we are not here to help people self-actualize!”

Shawn left that organization because leadership could not celebrate employees as whole human beings. In this interview he shares his mission to help people do their best work and his advice for leaders to support employees in reaching their full potential.
Middle managers can have collaborative conversations with employees and create pockets of excellence within the organization. As this spreads to various teams the entire workplace radically shifts.

Shift the Climate, Shift the Culture

We have all heard of company culture, which is created by the traditions, symbols and stories in the workplace. Culture according to Shawn is how things get done. But he also introduces us to the concept of workplace climate, how people feel about the company they work for. Leaders create a warm climate by inspiring people and creating strong relationships with employees.

Workers as Whole People

Shawn believes that workplace optimism is the key to unlocking the humanized workplace, which is why he is now completing a book entitled, The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone. While a lack of optimism results in routine office interactions and fractured relationships, optimism shifts leaders into a place where they seek to understand employees as whole people.

Optimism isn’t necessarily about how we view things, it relies on what is being done to shift the workplace environment and mood. Leaders have the responsibility to get to know their employees as whole people and support them both professionally and personally.

Steering a big ship is difficult so shifts often have to come from the middle instead of the top. Middle managers can have collaborative conversations with employees and create pockets of excellence within the organization. As this spreads to various teams the entire workplace radically shifts.

The Universal Elements of the Human Side of Business

Creating a more humanized workplace begins with influencing these 5 aspects of each employee’s life:

1) Family Life

The workplace highly influences family and other personal relationships, and those relationships also influence our work. We don’t check our personal issues at the door when we arrive at work each day, or leave our work issues behind when we return home each night.

2) Identity

Businesses need to help employees deepen awareness of their identities by creating a space where people can show up authentically every day.

3) Sense of Purpose

Organizational and team purpose are important, but people need to uncover a deeper layer by asking the question, “what am I here for?” Businesses benefit from people who have found their purpose, rather than just going through the motions. Those people are turned on by work and are ultimately more engaged.

4) Health

Health is not just about nutrition and exercise, it includes psychological, physical, and social wellness. Healthy employees live better lives and contribute more to the companies they work for. Employees must be conscious of overwork and must create space to develop rich personal relationships and healthy minds and bodies.

5) Work

And of course who can forget work? This is a huge part of people’s lives, and employees want to know that their work has meaning at a company that contributes value to the world.

Questions That Inspire

Questions are an amazingly simple technology used to focus attention, open people’s minds, and initiate great conversations. Shawn asks his employees these three questions to inspire greatness, stay connected, and open people up to new possibilities:

1) How can I better support you?

During weekly one-on-ones, Shawn asks his team how he can better support them. He asks people to bring obstacles to light, even those created by Shawn himself.

2) How is your family?

Shawn asks this question because he deeply cares about his people and the most important aspects of their lives.

3) How can we make your resume look better?

Even employees who love their jobs move on for a variety of reasons. Shawn wants to nurture his employees’ continued success at Switch and Shift or elsewhere. He even works with some employees to improve their resumes, by highlighting their triumphs and accomplishments.

Funny how when we support people in their personal and professional goals (even those outside the company), they tend to be more focused and driven at work. And even when we help with their resumes, they find it difficult to leave employers who see them as whole human beings.

How do you focus on the human side of business? Leave a comment below…

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