Do you remember playing jobs as a kid? With my cousins and neighbors, I used to create whole towns with legos, Barbies, books, and whatever office supplies we could nick from the kitchen or mom’s bill pile. I, of course, created theme songs for each job as we worked together in “the town.”
From choir and theatre to swim team and professional clubs, the magic of a group working together always captivated me. We all had our unique pieces to bring, creating something far greater than the sum of its parts.
When I began my professional life in education, we created the same greatness and joy by seeing our special contributions, collaborating to cultivate an impact right now and in the future. From leading large volunteer teams, all the way through to my dream job as a school leader, I found this to be true.
Until my dream job changed to a toxic place.
Sacrifice after sacrifice was required. I was squeezed to do more and more, while also being asked to conform to a rigid standard. I found myself pressured to operate outside my skill sets and even my values. Conflict, gossip, and shame reigned. Collaboration evaporated, and silos enclosed us. My family got the dregs of my energy, and I didn’t even know myself anymore.
One day, my youngest asked me to play kitchen. And sitting on the floor, pretending to cook a plastic tomato, I thought, “Where did the joy of playing jobs go? When did all of this become soul-crushing and completely unsustainable?”
There must be a way back to the joy of work.
My curiosity led to deep study of how self-awareness and personality impact how teams communicate, have conflict, and create together. I added to my graduate certificates in education, theology, and leadership an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Webster University. I studied peacemaking and conflict resolution. I also dove deep into the Enneagram personality framework and became a certified Enneagram coach.
At first, this was just for me, because I believe you can only lead as far as you’ve healed. But then, I could see how this was the path toward more than just joy for me. This is the way brave leaders create flourishing workplace cultures.