The Performance Balcony and Informality

Last week I spent some time sitting outside on a balcony chatting with Matt Partovi. Matt is the founder of Culturevist, a community of people so passionate about culture that they’d leave their jobs rather than see theirs compromised. Check them out their events here.

Ostensibly it was a business meeting (because we talked about maybe working together), but it didn’t feel like one because mainly we talked about shared purpose. Matt wants every person to have access to a great culture at work. I’m all about championing better work and working lives (luckily as is my employer). It was time well spent.

In the evening there was a gathering of CIPD employees in our OpenSpace area, an area where members can drop in and work. I was still working when people started having fun and someone asked if I was missing out because I’d spent so long chatting to the guy on the balcony. I guess I was. I guess it looked like I’d interrupted my working day to go and grab some sun with Matt.

I like to think that the time we spend developing trust, relationships, shared things to laugh at and an understanding of what the other person cares about is work. It’s probably more of the foundation of work than most other things. It isn’t a diversion, it is the quickest route to performance. I know you, I trust you, we can work together to do great things.

Everyone benefits. I’ve spent my first weeks in my new role trying to meet as many people as I can. It’s been tiring and manic and confusing, but it has never been anything other than worth it. It has never crossed my mind after meeting someone that I would have liked to have known less about them.

Work happens in the cracks, it happens in the places where you develop trust. It happens in pubs and it happens when you queue for lunch and it happens when someone makes a joke. It happens when you grab five minutes for a coffee and it turns into 60 minutes that you don’t really have – but that the other person needs. All of this counts because relationships count.

And that is why an hour on a balcony with Matt was time well spent.

2 thoughts on “The Performance Balcony and Informality

  1. Something along that line that adds to what you share…

    – – –

    A Professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

    So the Professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The Professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

    The Professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the grains of sand.

    “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

    The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else -the small stuff.

    “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18.

    There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. “Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

    One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The Professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”


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