Something rather wonderful struck me as I looked across our kitchen at Shazam towers in London the other day. Shazam really is a family: hotchpotch and brilliantly bizarre in places, but a family (or Shazamily) nonetheless.
We have three large banqueting tables in one of our kitchens here. They each seat ten comfortably. On this day though – even though two of the tables were completely empty – I counted 14 people, all crammed around one.
That’s 14 people who feel so connected with one another that they’ve decided to make lunch a shared experience. That’s 14 people that were so at ease in one another’s presence, that they didn’t even notice their proximity to one another.
They chattered, laughed, bantered, shared and ate up a giant slice of happiness, alongside whatever else they were consuming. It was a beautiful thing.
It got me to thinking about just how important the presence of family-like relationships can really be in the workplace. That’s not to say we cross lines and behave inappropriately; but the way we regard each other can have a huge impact on the way we view our work life.
What we share when we truly dine ‘family style’ is way more than food. We share an openness, a willingness to connect. That connection can then become the thing that makes us go the extra mile, strive a little harder for our fellow human, or colleague in this case.
I see evidence of the ‘Shazamily’ in motion on a daily basis, but none more so than when we created and launched our mac app. We give our engineers hack time – namely time to flex their grey matter and just create stuff. No idea is deemed too silly: if you think it could work, we want to hear about it. We know that our best ideas come from our teams, so we always make sure we give them enough space to have them in the first place.
One of our team spent his hack time over a period of months developing a mac app for Shazam. It just wasn’t something we had focused on at that stage. He then presented the idea to the team and we immediately jumped on it – it was a total no brainer. We mobilised the troops and, within four weeks, the first iteration of the mac app that you see today was launched and live. Watching the teams all pull together and work around the clock to make it all happen was truly inspirational to witness. If we weren’t such a tight family, would the result have been the same?
Family is just as important outside of the workplace. I have constructed heaps of little pockets of ‘family’ all over the world, whether professional or personal contacts. That family lifts me up. We celebrate each others successes, and even if we only view them via the internet, the love is the same. We are also there to support one another when we need it and as humans, that is so important.
I had a wonderful experience with part of that extended family in San Francisco recently when I was dining with two friends. Another party arrived and two new people were seated at the end of our table. A common human response would be to be defensive about their proximity to our food, our conversation and our lives. Instead, we looked at them, looked at each other and then all realised in unison that we had eaten more than enough already – almost without speaking amongst ourselves, we simply offered them some of our food.
They delightedly accepted. Conversation erupted. And what resulted was a beautiful evening; a meeting of minds from people all over the globe. We talked and laughed and had a truly wonderful time, dining in authentic family style.
The thing that is even more wonderful about families is that whether or not we are blessed enough to be born with a wonderful one, we all have the power to create magical families wherever we go, carved out of the weird and wonderful humans we meet along the way. I am lucky enough to blessed with both kinds. My family by birth and I dine together whenever we are able, and did throughout my childhood, but my extended family and I do the same.
I also add to the latter group as often as I am able and create tons of informal opportunities for discussion and interaction, anything that allows for the sharing of ideas in an informal manner. We are able to offer more to each other in terms of support and inspiration than any of us will truly know, and this kind of gathering allows for exactly that.
The closer we get to feeling comfortable enough to be the truest version of ourselves, whatever the scenario, the better it is for all of us.