As I look back on my career journey, I can relate to the trend of disengagement and “quiet quitting” in the workplace. Throughout my 15 to 18 years of working in the education sector and non-profit organisations, I struggled with two significant issues – autonomy and belonging.
Autonomy was critical for me as a working parent, trying to balance my personal and professional life. I wanted to make my own decisions and do my best work without having to justify myself to someone else. On the other hand, I craved a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself. I felt frustrated when I didn’t fit in with the team or organisation.
I have learned that these two needs are important for many people, and workplaces that recognise this tend to have more engaged and fulfilled employees. The reason is quite simple: it enables us to feel empowered, enough to express our beautiful, unique quirks and bring our skills to share with others like magpies bearing gifts. It is a dualistic feeling of fulfilment, because only when we feel that our agency is intact can we have the spoons to share and belong. Everything else just feels like an obligation without choice, and it can be limiting to our sense of autonomy and inhibit us from radiating our best selves with confidence.
Starting my own business allowed me to fully embrace and understand this. I have the autonomy to make my own decisions, set my own schedule, and work in a way that fits my personality and strengths. At the same time, I have built connections and a community of like-minded individuals through networking events, online groups, and collaborating with other professionals.
I have also learned of the responsibilities of autonomy and belonging. I myself have felt the weight of always feeling like I must be in charge, and find ways for the people in my life to feel like they belong. I have also witnessed the same heaviness in the clients and families I have worked with. The trap of being in overdrive is no joke; I have learned to balance both the drive and the responsibility of these two very important needs.
Throughout this journey, I have learned that I thrive in environments that allow me to be creative, strategic, and independent while offering opportunities for collaboration and connection. This realisation has been crucial in helping me find fulfilling work that aligns with my values and personality. And beyond work, it has helped me celebrate parts of my life that have nothing to do with it, making me feel more present in the moment, and give radically without burning out.
As I continue to reflect, in my previous jobs, I never really thought about who was influencing me internally. Now embracing an intersectional identity and being the ultimate generalist, I get to choose who I work with, and how I work with them. Of course, it’s not about working with people who are exactly like me. It’s about finding people who share my values and who can help me grow in new and exciting ways from a wide range of perspectives and experiences, both personal and professional. And at the same time, I hope that I can help shape their journey as well.
It’s the secret sauce that makes my career fulfilling and sustainable for the long haul. And that is so because while autonomy and belonging are two sides of the same coin, values are the material with which the coin is minted. I have found that when my values align with those who I am working with, there is a capacity to do more, to innovate, and to celebrate each other’s strengths and build upon them knowing that we are driven by the same core values even if our mode of expression or interpretation is different.
With Transform Together, Dannielle and I have discussed the same, over and over again, from different perspectives and various angles, to better understand why we want to work with people from all walks of life, and why we want to nurture the magic in them. When we onboard an associate, we share a smorgasbord of words that represent our values, But these words aren’t set in stone; they change and adapt, just like words in a dictionary.
Like the tree at the centre of our philosophy, every time we have a positive conversation, it’s like adding something valuable to our tree, helping us branch out in new directions. This growth starts from a strong base built on many years of shared experience and is fueled by unchanging values that stay strong, even as situations change.
My goal is to have meaningful conversations with people who really value this way of working. Those who find inspiration in it can join us as part of a team effort to unlock their full potential. Through these talks, we hope to create an environment where everyone can do their best, driven by common values and a dedication to this value-centred approach.