I learned querencia – a Spanish word – in 2011 from Isabel Lopez. From this came a mantra – my mantra –
In QUERENCIA, be the CATALYST who SERVES.
When Isabel and I most recently reconnected, albeit briefly, in 2013 at the Greenleaf Center’s annual conference, I fondly recollected Isabel’s teachings, particularly as they may and can relate to engaging in the workspace. During five months in 2011 with others in Isabel’s course, she shared her wisdom of servant leadership. She mentioned querencia in the context of Georgia Heard’s Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way. Heard writes –
In Spanish, querencia describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. It comes from the verb querer, which means to desire, to want.
– Georgia Heard
During our course, I reminisced about events that occurred during and choices I made for my professional development. Throughout my professional development, I have regularly explored what makes the workspace a setting where one can feel at home – not only for the time spent in the physical work setting but also with regards to the people and places for which I interact – indirectly or directly – as a result of my workspace engagement.
My “fit”, re-imagined, happened in the early 1990s – nearly 20 years ago.
(SIDE NOTE: I am not suggesting that querencia is directly tied to one’s profession. Rather, querencia may emerge as part of one’s self-awareness (which happens to a characteristic of the servant leader philosophy). Whatever one’s philosophical approach (or approaches) to life, my perspective is there is querencia in a variety of places – workspace, home, family, country, etc.)
For a variety of reasons, I created my own workspace – I quit a position for the sake of spending time to figure out where I was going to do what I saw as a future of which I wanted to be part. Yes, I neither had a new position lined-up nor a business idea in the works. I was inspired in early 1994 (before I quit my position) by an epiphany of sorts, a vision statement that emerged one morning –
There are BRIDGES yet to be constructed by those who live and
breathe in their ENVIRONMENT— AIR, LAND, and WATER. Egos stand firm
on the ground that they were born and choose not to acknowledge that
to get one step closer they must go one step FURTHER.
MY VISION IS TO CREATE THOSE BRIDGES.
– and from this came a series of focused efforts to reframe and reposition the dialogues and interactions among those affecting and affected by the environment. Albeit a seemingly conventional consulting practice emerged from my efforts, I served those – clients, communities, agencies, peers – with more than just a mission to punch a calculator, serve as a mouthpiece, or accrue billable hours. I believe I took the opportunity to create space for a different way to approach conversations and dialogue in the workspace.
Fast forward to 2011, as part of my final paper for Isabel’s course, The Foundations of Servant Leadership, I shared –
“I am going to serve – the desire to serve those who want a better environment and to so do through improving the relationships, communications, respect, and trust – that is what is important for me. The place and setting will evolve.”
Frankly, isn’t that what often leads to transitions from workspace to workspace – That feeling that there may not be a “fit” for whatever reasons? That realization that there is something or someone else to serve? Or maybe it is as simple as a feeling of “what’s next?” or “what else?” I believe there is nothing wrong with being one’s authentic self in the workspace. And meanwhile, I wonder what responsibility or accountability, if any, the workspace has to support each individual.
Your Story and Experience
With this in mind, I welcome others’ stories about any of the following –
- TRANSITIONS … What motivated you to transition(s) from one workspace to another?
- FIT … How important – or unimportant – to you is “fit” in a workspace with respect to values, objectives, interests, workstyles, etc.? If “fit” is important to you, what are those shared characteristics that you consider important? If “fit” is not important, please do share why not.
- PLACE & PEERS … Given the variety of workspace settings – e.g., collaborative workspaces, remote/mobile workers, offshore interactions, compressed schedules, telecommuting, hoteling desk assignments – how do you establish relationships with your peers/co-workers?
- AUTHENTIC SELF … Is it reasonable to expect that the workspace should be a place for one’s authentic self? If so, why? If not, why not?