How does a company empower its people to bring their whole selves to work?

 “Being your whole self is having the courage to take risks, speak up, ask for help, connect with others in a genuine way, and allow yourself to be truly seen”

– Mike Robbins, Bring Your Whole Self to Work

Companies that work to create a culture that empowers their people to bring their whole selves to work will produce better outcomes. Teams that feel comfortable being vulnerable and open with one another without fear of judgement will collaborate better, leading to more innovative work. Just as importantly, teammates become more empathetic in how they treat each other. And how we treat each other is the foundation of a strong culture.

At Moonshot, our culture is our essence . . . our beating heart. From wall to wall, you can see and feel that this crew cares about each other and the work that we do together. Last week, a visiting client told me that she loves running workshops here – it “feels like home.” Nailed it. And we do that on purpose!

Here’s how we do it:

1.     Make the Welcome Matter

Onboarding to a new company can be an exciting and the same time stressful experience. We purposefully start out this relationship with a lot of love to counteract any latent fear-culture vibes the new hire might feel.

Before a person’s first day, I send a questionnaire to curate each employee’s welcome week experience. The survey asks each new hire about their personal preferences such as their favorite foods and colors. The survey helps us personalize the onboarding experience. If someone’s favorite food is Italian, they’re going to be getting treated to a lot of Italian lunches that first week! If red is their favorite color, they’ll have a red notebook waiting for them on their first day.

The survey does something else equally important: it helps Moonshot become more empathetic. The more we learn about someone, the better equipped we are to encourage a new hire to bring their whole self to work.

2.     Establish Open and Honest Feedback

For employees to bring their whole self (not just the part that their role requires) a company needs to create a safe space for the team to express their true thoughts – the good, the bad, even the silly. That’s why we encourage open and honest feedback as often as we can. One way we do so is through the “Retro.” 

The Retro exercise, borrowed from agile methods, is a great tool to help people communicate openly, provide honest feedback, and hold each other accountable.

I personally conduct a Retro with our new hire and their manager to finish the welcome week. This activity introduces the importance of voicing one’s genuine opinion openly to their teammates at all levels. The exercise encourages transparency and trust that are needed for continuous iteration and improvement. For example, a new hire once told us they felt bombarded with too much information on the first week. Since then, we’ve capped the first-week experience at two information-filled meetings per day.

3.    Create a Space for Sharing

Another key to building a culture that encourages bringing one’s whole self is to create space for people to add and enhance the culture by sharing skills, experiences, and favorite things. This kind of environment encourages people to be vulnerable as they share their personal joys, concerns, and dreams with their teammates. As Mike Robbins says, “The natural response to vulnerability is empathy.” More empathy means better team collaboration.

Each employee is invited to add to our culture and contribute to our studio in a few different ways ranging from adding their favorite snack to the grocery list, contributing their favorite book to our library stacks, or being Studio DJ for the day. With each new employee, we make the space for them to contribute their personal touch to our culture.

Another way we create space for sharing is through TransmitX, is an internal program created for teammates to exchange ideas (we’re all big learners). With TransmitX, a teammate has 45 minutes to share something that they are passionate about. To make the presentation extra comfortable, we provide drinks and snacks. All new employees are strongly encouraged to share their passion through TransmitX.

4.     Make Time to Celebrate

We end each week with Celebration Friday. At 4:00 p.m., you’ll find our team standing in a large circle smack dab in the middle of our studio. Guided by tossing the football signed by the Moonshot team, Celebration Friday gives each teammate the opportunity to reflect on the past week and express their gratitude and accomplishments with their team. New hires are required to contribute to this weekly ritual straight off the bat.

We celebrate hitting milestones and winning projects, but that’s not all. Maybe your daughter got accepted into the college of her dreams . . . let’s celebrate! Maybe you just ran a triathlon. Celebrate! Perhaps you your big kitchen rehab is finished — heck yes, let’s celebrate!

Regular celebration and appreciation are essential for a culture. On the other hand, an environment of fear and browbeating can kill a culture. Through Celebration Friday, we aim to form the habit within our team to voice their appreciations and celebrate wins along the way.

Why We Do What We Do

Creating a place where people can bring their whole selves reaps many benefits for a company. For one thing, your business will be more relevant to an increasingly diverse society, where people are expressing their rich, personal identities more vocally than ever before. Investing in your culture is the long game – and the right call for companies hoping to matter. Only when people feel comfortable being themselves will they share their thoughts and ideas with their team – eventually improving the bottom line.