When people are joyous in their work…they are more alert, they’re more curious, they can learn. They’re not scared of data and information. They’re not scared to ask a question, not scared to ask how am I doing? or how could I help you more? I think joy and generosity they come together. Focusing on the vitality and the meaning for the workforce is the most efficient way to get people focused on quality. Don Berwick, President IHI.
It’s spring time here in Cambridge MA. and everywhere I look the Dogwood trees are showering their peculiar bracts. It is unusual for me to be spending so much time walking and watching and setting my engine in time with the earth. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more alert, more curious and more grateful. I’m becoming less a stranger to myself.
A number of wonderful things have happened for me this past week. As I reflect on them I see how connected they all are. And the ribbon that runs through them is joy. The joy of work. The joy of being alive. The joy of coming back to ourselves. The joy of connection. I want to touch on two of those wonderful things.
Wonderful Thing #1
The premier season of Eve Ensler’s play In the Body of the World is on just a few blocks from where I’m staying. I bought a ticket on the first day I arrived. The play is raw, visceral, honest, funny, sad and powerful. It is the very personal journey of Ms Ensler’s diagnosis and treatment for advanced uterine cancer. I recommend that every single person who works in healthcare go out and buy the book ( or if you’re lucky enough to be in Cambridge see the play). This is a journey through the healthcare system: the chemo; the radiation; the examinations; the hair loss; infections; transfusions; scans; stomas; and catheters. Throughout all of this Eve Ensler is building the City of Joy; a hospital, school and a community in the Congo for women and girls.
The city of Joy is a transformational leadership community for women survivors of violence, located in Bukava, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
This extraordinary community of women coming together to heal from the brutality of war can teach us so much about ‘joy at work’.
The 10 Guiding Principles:
1. Tell the truth;
2. Stop wanting to be rescued; Take initiative;
3. Know your rights
4. Raise your voice;
5. Share what you’ve learned;
6. Give what you want the most;
7. Feel and tell the truth about what you’ve been through;
8. Use it to fuel a revolution;
9. Practice kindness;
10. Treat your sisters’ life as if it were your own.
Wonderful Thing #2
I’ve always wanted to visit the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Today I ventured past Harvard Square and visited the IHI 100 Million Lives Team. I was welcomed like an old friend returning from a long journey. The moment you enter the building you see it, the sign we’ve all heard about.
We will improve the lives of patients, the health of communities and the joy of the healthcare workforce.
Joy seemed to be something that this team knew a lot about, they were bubbling over with it. It was infectious.
It had me thinking about how joy comes about. Do we pursue joy? Do we make work more fun? I don’t think it’s either of those things at all. I’ve worked in places where people seemed to be having a lot of fun at work but it was a distraction. It was entertainment. It was draining. I think we reach for this place of joy when we connect with our deepest values and find they are aligned in our work. When we are allowed to make a difference at work, to be creative and to share our whole selves without fear of retribution we find a wellspring of joy.
Joyful places are inhabited with people who ask beautiful questions, bold spacious questions. Joyful places are able to hold ambiguity and accept failure. Joyful places allow us to rest when we need to and learn from the tough times.
In so many ways we need to create our own version of a city of joy. We need guiding principles that call us to honesty and transparency and love.
p.s as I was sharing lunch with the beautiful women from the 100 Million Lives Team I looked up and there was Eve Ensler at a table near us – it was as if the two wonderful things had come together. I’m so pleased I got a chance to walk over to her table and let her know how grateful I am that she is telling her story.