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Childlike at Work and Why it's Important

Photo: Briley Mathia

Yesterday I received a video from a colleague. It was hilarious and yet struck me profoundly. It reminded me of some words I read in the Bible the other day. Something about having faith like a child. I wondered if I still could think like a child at work. You see, I was very good at being a kid.

Before I go too far into things let me remind you that being childlike and childish are words with very different meanings. Childish means immature, obnoxiousness, selfish and such. It’s not smart to bring those characteristics to the workplace.

Childlike is different it describes the wonderful things about children. Things like curiosity, wonder, joy, creativity, trust, and playfulness. I think the word childlike is what the Bible was getting at. When we can embrace being childlike at work it will help us rock our work so that loving life comes easy.

Here are three characteristics of being childlike at work that can make your career productive, enjoyable, and filled with achievement.

  1. Childlike work is being curios. Curiosity is the fuel that solves all of life’s biggest problems. When we are in a childlike state at work, we ask the second question. Have you ever been exposed to a kid in the “why?” phase of life? It might drive you crazy but, if you play along it is a perfect method for a root cause analysis. Curiosity is also disarming. Rather than getting mad at a bad situation get curious as it leads to better understanding and dialog.

  2. Childlike work is being fully engaged. I remember the sandbox. I used to spend hours in the sandbox with friends and a set of little green U.S. Army men advancing on the enemy. We’d construct difficult terrain to maneuver our green tanks with plastic wheels around. While my tactics might have been less than General George S. Patton, they were none the less fully energized by an engaged mind at play. While less than 30% of adults report being fully engaged at work perhaps it’s time to remind each other to be more childlike at work?

  3. Childlike work is trusting with a high level of vulnerability. This is important. Trust is a big deal. When in a normal family environment children tend to trust. That level of trust allows them to be open and appropriately vulnerable. It’s how parents quickly diagnose illness and help mend hurt feelings from the beginning. If we don’t trust motives or people, we will never be able to rock our work. Trust is an exhilarator of performance and when partnerships are high in trust, they become unstoppable at work.

Sometimes I like to play jokes on my colleagues at work. I’m not sure anyone enjoys them. However, there is something about having a little fun at work that reminds me when I look in the mirror amidst all my “serious” obligations I can still have some fun, be childlike, and rock the face of my work. I hope you can as well.

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