31 / 10 / 2014 12.01am
By Paul Taylor
#Blogtober Day: Friday 31 October
Back in 1982 we got our first video recorder. It was a big deal. One of our neighbours got a copy of E.T. and the whole cul-de-sac crammed into our living room to watch it. My favourite part was where they take E.T. out during the Halloween parade dressed as Yoda. An alien dressed as an alien, hiding in plain sight. I didn’t realise at the time how much that idea would shape the next few decades of my life.
Fast forward to my 40th birthday. I was feeling reflective and had a light bulb moment when I realised there were a couple of personal values that had become really important to me. Two things I was no longer prepared to compromise on:
- never apologise for who you are
- never pretend to be someone you’re not.
It took a while for me to really live those values. At times I had worn different masks to please different people, sometimes at the expense of myself. And it wasn’t just outside of work I was apologising and pretending. Telling people you work in Organisational Development usually results in one of two responses. There’s the puzzled-not-sure-I-really-understand-please-tell-me-more face, which is great because it opens up dialogue. The other response is what I call OD’s Kryptonite and it usually goes along the lines of: “Oh, you’re the pink and fluffy one then”. I used to really react badly to that one.
The pink and fluffy bomb used to send me spiralling into an apologise-pretend response. Who wants to be seen as pink and fluffy? No way! That’s not us! We’re hard edged business people who can demonstrate results and return on investment and measures and stuff. (Which is also true by the way). But what’s wrong with pink and fluffy? I believe that the practice of OD should amplify the humanity in organisations. OD should help everyone to feel good about their work; to have meaning and purpose. If that makes me pink and fluffy, bring it on. It seems there’s an absence of pink and fluffy in some of our organisations at the moment.
There’s a mantra that I often hear: happy staff equals happy patients. Nobody disagrees with it. Yet it’s the most pink and fluffy phrase of all, and I love it. It should always be our goal. And yes, alongside happy sits safe and productive and competent and all those other things but let’s embrace the call to action where happiness is a goal. We can argue about how we measure that in the pub later. Let’s just agree that pink and fluffy isn’t such a bad thing, stop apologising for it and stop pretending it’s not part of what we do.
As it’s Halloween, think about the masks you wear. Reflect on the disguises you adopt when you want to slope away and hide in plain sight. Consider how liberating it feels to leave the fancy dress at home and be the wonderful, brilliant OD practitioner that you are. Never apologise and never pretend. In some respects, life in 1982 seemed so much easier, with a community of people sitting around a living room watching a movie together. But things are also so much better today, for so many people, and our job as OD practitioners is to make things even better, for everyone. Whenever that feels tough, remember there’s a community of people waiting to help. That’s the purpose of Do OD - to help you connect, share, learn and grow. To paraphrase ET: “...we’ll be right here”.
Paul Taylor created and leads Do OD. He spends his time working with the most amazing people across the NHS and is constantly grateful for their generosity and brilliance. You can follow Paul via Twitter (where he shares too much) @NHSE_PaulT. He responds to tweets much faster than email these days. His ideal Halloween costume would be Animal from the Muppets.