It’s a great thing to see people are becoming more and more focused on sustainability for our planet. Having worked at bp Launchpad, a business steeped in energy transformation, I am also hyper aware of the investment flooding into this area. I don’t just mean money, I mean humans too.
It really is an area of work that folks are compelled to get involved in because they want to be a part of making the world a better place. At times like these, we can all understand that drive.
Today I want to talk about a different kind of sustainability however; sustainability for humans.
What exactly do I mean by that?
I mean, supporting humans to find the means to regenerate, to find new paths and to keep changing, evolving and growing.
The pace of change in the world is huge and we need to be able to grow to rise to meet those changes and create a world where we can all thrive. Right now, we live in a working world that still has an incredibly fixed mindset when it comes to humans, and as humans we often have a fixed mindset for ourselves.
What would we all truly be and do if we were not afraid? What would we all truly be and do if we weren’t slightly institutionalised and thinking that we don’t have choices?
We all have the power to grow
My personal planet hasn’t always been sustainable, in fact, it very much almost reached extinction. I had a very fixed mindset over the life I had built and it didn’t even occur to me to change it, getting myself truly stuck in both jobs and relationships.
The universe had other plans and gave me a few bumps that knocked me onto the path for sustainability. I was able to create an environment for myself where I truly thrive, an environment where I am always changing, evolving and pivoting.
Why does this stuff matter for employers?
The world is changing. Gone are the days that we take a job and stay in it forever. Sadly, a lot of us don’t automatically have the mental flexibility to change, we have to develop it like yogis.
The same goes for a lot of organisations too. We have vast numbers of incredible humans right now stuck in the wrong role (that’s probably making them miserable and feel like a failure) because at a societal level, we still have a fixed mindset over a human being’s ability to adapt and change. If you are a lawyer, you can only ever be a lawyer. That’s just one of the many ways that we are getting this all wrong.
Human beings thrive when we are just at the edge of our comfort zone, when we are learning and growing and feeling like anything is possible. When we thrive, that’s when businesses thrive. Sounds simple enough right?
How can we develop sustainability for our humans as organisations?
By creating opportunities for human beings to connect to themselves and who they really are. Supporting people to discover what their values are and start to tap into their purpose. Once we know who we are, it becomes much easier to align ourselves to the values system of an organisation.
When we know and have confidence in ourselves, we feel safe to create and try new things. When we are connected to ourselves, we also build better relationships with others, which unlocks the power of collaboration in ways we don’t get to see otherwise.
This has a few meanings. Firstly in terms of supporting folks to be empowered to structure their lives and work in a way where they truly thrive, and being experimental about it. When we feel supported by our life, we are more resilient and have more space to think. Secondly, in the way that you build your processes around people, being thoughtful about how you will give folks the exposure and opportunity to reconfigure themselves into different roles.
For a company that might mean having a genuine flexibility around different working styles, and letting people find a style that suits them best. That also might mean enforcing meeting-free times of day, at Launchpad that was the only way we could guarantee that people wouldn’t get invited into things at the last minute that they didn’t feel they could say no to. Letting people take charge of their time is also a great step towards true empowerment.
This is about the energy that you create internally, your culture if you will, namely the unspoken ways of communicating and operating that make up how you exist together. It doesn’t matter who you say you are culturally, it matters who you are culturally, what you reward and what you don’t.
A culture where people can be authentic about when they need support and when they are worried. A culture that encourages people to spend time together and be collaborative. A culture where you are intentional about making sure that every human’s voice is heard and valued. When we feel safe, supported and trusted, we grow in confidence. If you want to create sustainable humans in your business, you need to deliberately design for a culture that supports that.
Creating the space for sustainable, thriving humans will mean becoming brilliantly consistent in living your organisational values. That doesn’t mean you can’t seek to improve them and evolve, but if you can create a feeling of energetic consistency for people, you create a greater sense of safety. When we feel safe, that is when we feel more courageous.
Say who you are going to be as an organisation and be that. Choose to wilfully engage with your culture at all times and be intentional about what you do and don’t tolerate and what you do and don’t celebrate.
Side note: your energy as a leader is also something that it is important to develop consistency with. The more we know ourselves as leaders and show up as consistently as we can, the greater the foundation we build for the people around us.
So companies, if you are measuring your environmental impact right now, perhaps it’s time to add human sustainability to that assessment. Be bold and intentional in who you want to be as a company and hold yourselves accountable to that.
Ps. My guess is that once we are able to create the most cosmic conditions for ourselves and the humans around us, we support people to step out of survival mode and will manage to help our planet to breathe again at the same time.