Why Workplace Intimacy Is Like Doing The Wave: Kris Boesch at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Hello TEDxMilesHigh! All right, I need your help. We’re going to do an experiment. We’re going to create the most awesome wave this Opera House has ever seen. We’re going to start here, can you guys handle that? What? All right, we’re going to start here, bring it down, and then we come back. And just for clarity’s sake none of this like, “Woohoo” We’re like, “Woooo-hoooo!” Because this is TEDxMileHigh. Right, are you ready? All right, ready? Set your stuff down. I know you guys have 20 things you’re holding on to. Set your stuff down, your cellphone, you know.

Alright Ready? Woooo-hoooo! Nice. This time we’re feeling it even more. Woohoo! You guys did the shizzle. So if you wonder– what does emotional intimacy in the workplace feel like, it feels like this, this beautiful connected, related energy.

Because we know what emotional intimacy is between friends, family, lovers. You know, whether you’re around the campfire or kitchen table, or perhaps just holding hands. And we also know the difference between making love and having sex. So what about in the work place? What’s the contrast between making a difference through your work and having a job? For years we have been told: separate your personal from your professional lives. Keep your emotions out of the work.

And we have tried. And we have created tremendous dysfunction. We’ve got passive aggressive power struggles, and kind of some lack of interest in work as a whole. And yet luckily, some organizations are really starting to get it. But careful, just because you have a tornado slide and gourmet snacks at the crossfit gym, that’s all just lipstick on a pig without emotional intimacy.

Because emotional intimacy is the secret sauce for having an extraordinary workplace culture. And there is a huge financial as well as an emotional return on investment. On the financial side, disengaged workers cost our economy 390 billion dollars a year. And on the emotional side; when people feel good about coming to work, they show up as better parents, better spouses, and better citizens. There is a huge ripple effect in our communities.

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I mean, just think about the last time you had a brutal day at work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t show up at home as my best self. Even my daughter was like, “Yeah, thanks mom, I’ll walk myself.” And you know, if it’s one day, no big deal. But day in and day out, that’s another situation altogether.

I once had a woman, she told me, she said, “There is days, I’d rather get in an accident, than arrive to work.” Every day we have an opportunity to create emotional intimacy in our workplace. But first, we got to throw down a few falsehoods, the first of which is the separation between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ In the workplace, we have all sorts of delineations: we’ve got titles, we’ve got departments, old school, new school and this crazy focus on individual performance. Which really is kind of naughty if you think about it because really successful organizations get that they’re a conscious community, that has been brought together to fulfill on a shared purpose.

Think about the Rube Goldberg Machine or the mouse trap game that we played when we were kids, where the silver ball goes down the tube, puts over the bucket, and spins the wheel. All those pieces are integral and interdependent. The silver ball by itself is completely inconsequential. Like the wave we just did– a third of you, a substantial portion of you were like, “Ahh, playing.” It would have been really lame.

The thing is that we have this thing where we focus on our separateness. We have that tendency to focus on what’s different about each other. Yet we have so much in common. We all have the basic human desire to be known, to matter, and to be included. So don’t stereotype, don’t accept any of it, including ageism.

Millennials are not entitled. Boomers are not stodgy, and this includes bosses. One of the biggest separations I see in organizations is between leadership and staff. And leadership — they are just people too. I mean, think about it, you have Mr. Burns on the Simpsons porny haired guy in [Dill-burg] – Got to love him, right? – and Steve Carell on The Office. We are taught, we are taught that bosses are mean. They’re greedy, and they’re clueless. I had a client His entire staff hated him. Actually build camaraderie around him, language if you will, called him Voldemort. He was horrified, and he went to his team He said, “I’m so sorry, I had no idea that this was your experience of me.” And in that moment, they saw his humanity. So much so that they gave him a standing ovation.

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Another falsehood that I want to speak to you today is the separation between work and life, as if they are two things to balance. Two separate things, really think about that. Because we spend an average of 2,000 hours a year working. That’s our lives, that’s our blood, sweat, and tears. Work is a part of our lives. So don’t waste it. Don’t think of work as something that you’re just get through, or whether you just have to suck it up.

Look, instead really get that all of your experiences, all of your circumstances, all of your choices, have brought you to this place, to this time, to work with this team. This is your life and your 2,000 hours so what are you going to do about it? The last falsehood that I want to just throw down, is the separation between kind and candid. A friend of mine, she was an 80s working girl, she had on her control top pantyhose, sense undies commando style if you will.

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