Why people’s context matters

Rupert Cornford says when it comes to people, context is key to understanding

Context is one of my favourite words. Our ability to do business and develop relationships all depends on understanding each other, and our context - our background, values, and identity. We are all different.

We have moved from a world excited by IQ, to one dominated by EQ and CQ... Our emotional and contextual intelligence are now the differentiators in modern day business, according to one plc CEO I know, and he runs a global £500m market cap operation.

I know many other people who would agree.

Our intellectual capability is drilled from a young age, with school benchmarking achievement on tests and 'doing stuff'. We celebrate technical achievement and performance and we mark ourselves up or down right through childhood and beyond.

Then we enter the working world, with all its complexity, ambiguity and volatility; a world where our ability to relate to others comes to the fore, in order to understand the subtle differences between us, what we prefer and how we perform.

This year's HR Retreat, held by Berg and Four Recruitment, took on this issue, looking at wellbeing in the workplace. And the panel did a good job of dealing with it as an issue that runs right from the top, through the organisation, with a business case to answer. There was lots of nodding in the audience.

Good leaders understand the context of their people, individually, and what makes them tick (and freak out). We now live in a working world interested in individual motivation and performance, and recruiting for this over 'skills'. In the face of a productivity challenge for UK plc, businesses know this only too well.

They are linking the three elements of the physical, social and mental - to create environments in the office and in the mind that promote wellbeing and performance, and trust, which ultimately gives direct return to the bottom line. And they do it in a way where people feel valued and supported as human beings first.

The media spotlight has brought this issue right to the fore. The desire to promote good mental health is moving into all aspects of organisational culture, from conscious leadership, coaching cultures and safe spaces to talk, to workspaces, flexibility and self-managing teams. We are turning work into somewhere to thrive, rather than just survive.

This might sound like utopia, but in the knowledge economy where our ability to think smart, be creative and innovate is necessary to our survival, getting to grips with our inner world and that of the people around us is fundamental to taking the next steps. Our ability to unblock our fears, share concerns and take time to reflect - will help us understand each other - and move forward.

Our context feeds into our teams, our companies, through the leadership and the sector we are in. This all sits in the context of the big picture of society and the economy in which we operate.

Context goes a long way.

Context is important for all of us to understand.