Don’t Separate your “Full Self” At Work

Posted on March 4, 2019

Model Train Image

skibbeMike Skibbe, Village of Buffalo Grove, IL – Twitter and LinkedIn

What I’m Watching: True Detective Season 3

What I’m Reading: The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

What I’m Listening To: The Dollop Episode 15: Ten Cent Beer Night

If you’ll indulge me for a minute, I’d like to talk about my full self. Not just my work self, or my free-time self, but what makes me a complete person. I’d like to build a case that we should encourage employees to bring their full self to work, and that we should look at opportunities to learn from their interests and be open to things outside traditional local government.

I have a hobby. It’s Model Trains. Don’t laugh, it’s the greatest hobby in the world!

Within model trains, there are multiple scales. Each scale is a different proportion to the real thing. Model builders pick a scale. Big models in O scale can be a foot long. Small models in N scale can be 3 inches long. The common theme is that the models imitate the same, real trains.

Model Train Image
Model and photo by author. This train is 1 inch high, or N scale.

Sometimes in this group, a modeler will share the creative process for a highly detailed model of a real boxcar. The modeler works in O scale. The N scale guys complain and say, why can’t there be more examples in N scale?

They want the information to be acutely specific to their needs. In doing so, they set aside the information presented about the real train. They ignore the research that would help them build a better model in their scale. They waive off the tips and techniques for building a miniature, just because it doesn’t fit their specific goal.

Do we set aside information that doesn’t come from our industry? Do we ignore success in other areas and say, “that can’t possibly apply to us… we’re different!”

Let me spin this another way. Libraries (Go 2018 Knope Awardees!) are full of books on leadership. Humanity has collectively been exploring the topic since before we wrote books. Why haven’t we settled on one book yet?

I’d argue that all our experiences are different. We are each our own individual person with our own individual experiences. We have our own narrative. We need books that speak to us in a way we understand. And more importantly, we can parse out the phrases that guide us individually, that are in our language.

We can intentionally be as introspective as Marcus Aurelius when he wrote himself a book, Meditations. (Originally titled: To Himself). To sharpen our key phrases. To use them to help guide us. To be stoic.

More simply, sometimes a book on leadership from a sports hero will speak to you because you like sports. You can relate. Maybe a leadership mantra from the tech sector speaks to you because you like staying up to date with high tech consumer products.

Maybe you shouldn’t repress your “free-time self” from your “work self”. What can you bring to the table from your “full self” that brings even more value to the organization.

Job satisfaction can most certainly come from being good at what you do. Satisfaction comes from pushing, striving, bending, and experiencing. Not just showing up for work, but designing your work atmosphere around you. Being competent. Being valuable. And not setting aside a portion of who you are.

If you have creativity, work on websites, make videos… well we need to market what we do for residents now more than ever. Even if we don’t have a specific position available for community outreach, we can find time for a maintenance worker to bring their “full self” to work and provide that value. We just need to provide some tools and let it rip.

An improv comedian in your free time? Thinking on your feet and learning to Say Yes are incredibly useful at work.

A drone enthusiast in your spare time?  Government needs drone video footage all the time.

Personally, my model railroading hobby has led to opportunities that come with being the host of an annual model railroad conference of 300 attendees and 40 presentations. Those event skills – planning, registration, meals, coordinating speakers, monitoring the ebb and flow of a large event – have certainly helped me develop in areas that aren’t traditional Public Works skills, but can assist the Village as a whole.

If I left that half of me at home, I’m not bringing my full self to work. I’m not authentic and I’m not whole.

What can you bring to local government from your area of interest, that helps us sharpen our collective leadership abilities or foster a spark of insight?

I’ll be listening. Because I don’t care what “scale” the information comes from.


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Book Summary, Key Lessons and Best Quotes

Today’s post is by Mike Skibbe, Deputy Director of Public Works with the Village of Buffalo Grove, IL

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