Dina Sierralta – Happiness at work


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You’re tuning in with us for another Coworking Values Podcast. We are here with Dina Sierralta, an agile coach from Hamburg. This Podcast was recorded in Warsaw at the 2019 Coworking Europe event.

Dina is a long term coworking advocate, community generator and fan of human autonomy. And in this podcast, she talks about how Autonomy works and how it affects employee and employer working relationship. She also shares some insight into how conversations in the workplace also affect the happiness level of everyone.

What does Dina think about where the dissatisfaction at work comes from?

“A lot of people don’t see, they can work autonomously at work, because someone’s telling them what to do, even though they sometimes have their ideas of their own, or they don’t know how to bring them to life with other people. 

So I think this is where a lot of dissatisfaction with work comes from. I can’t choose. I think I can’t choose what I’m doing I can’t choose where I’m doing it and whom I’m doing it. 

So, this is unsatisfying, and then you take all this frustration back from the workplace where you spend like seven to eight hours at least until your other part of life and I think this is where the disability section comes from.”

Links mentioned in the show:

Dina on Linkedin

Smidig – Agile Coaching Company

Elemental Workplace | Neil Usher

Coworking Manifesto at CoworkingWiki

Using the Coworking Manifesto as a Framework For All by Aayat Ali on Allwork

Mainyard Bow Road London Jan Letocha



powered by Sounder


Bernie J Mitchel    00:03
Welcome to Coworking Values Podcast of the European coworking assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of accessibility community openness collaboration and sustainability. Thank you so much for listening to the coworking values podcast. Also thank you to Cobot which is a coworking software company.

Bernie J Mitchel    00:21
They help you build really slick gorgeous bouncy software that helps you organize everything you know space from meeting rooms to renting desks to open the door and they’ve been supporting one of these companies that have been around and grown with coworking they started out by running their own coworking space and built some software to run that coworking space and that’s how they ended up in the coworking space software industry.

Bernie J Mitchel    00:48

I was at a coworking Europe conference a few years ago and there’s a big panel discussion and someone said I don’t know how you can run a space without software. So if you’re one of those people with spreadsheets apps and bits of string or taken up your time sign up to Cobot go to @ cobot.me and you get a one month free trial Cobot integrates with lots of things you use already like included and slack and MailChimp and you can do everything in one place. So, thanks to Cobot and thanks for your time spent listening to our podcast here today.

Bernie J Mitchel    01:20
Hello ladies and gentlemen we’re here at this time where at coworking Europe and I’m with a longtime, like distance, always in my mind collaborator Dina.

Bernie J Mitchel    01:30
So Dina what are you known for and what would you like to be known for?

Dina Sierralta 01:36
Well I am known for being a fantastic host, back  in my hometown in Germany and being the coworking connector and I’d like to be known for bringing coworking to the level where we cooperate and call what really even more than we do now.

Bernie J Mitchel    01:52
What’s that mean well I know I want that to be what is that

Dina Sierralta 01:53

Well one thing that’s really dear to my heart is the coworking manifesto. So, I posted it yesterday morning when the conference app because I believe coworking is about collaboration having great conversations being together on a conference and not so much about how many square meters I got and how many square meters you got I

Bernie J Mitchel    2:17

Certainly, men ask that question.

Dina Sierralta 2:29

I’ve seen it on a lot of presentations, and I haven’t seen how many members we have. How many big communities do we have? So, it’s, I’d like to hear a different discussion.

Bernie J Mitchel    02:29

What do you think people talk about how many square meters rather than how many members because they are kind of indicators of success in inverted commas like I have this many meter?

Dina Sierralta 02:42

Yeah. And because it’s easy to measure I guess and it’s kind of yeah, I am bigger than you think. And I haven’t heard member numbers except from the small spaces they are proudly sharing how many members their community has and how many different types of people go to that space.

Dina Sierralta 03:05
And I think that is important in coworking that’s where the movement started for and not for square meters what impact.

Bernie J Mitchel    03:16

When you posted that yesterday like this is a complement and ignorance on my part is, I didn’t. I just thought you were something you wrote on the bus over here today and posted it,  so there you go I’m not surprised you wrote something like that but I didn’t realize that was the coworking manifesto. Was that manifesto manifested at the time of the coworking values or was up from. Because I have seen it flying around that I’m never, sorry listener I have never said it.

Dina Sierralta 03:45

I think I didn’t. I was there when I entered coworking, so I started to read it. I thought like yeah that’s really what we as a community as a global community should be doing work together to solve important problems and work in a different way than we currently do it’s not that people are not working in a way. So, we have all these big companies earning money providing value to people guess much or I’m not sure sometimes. So, we are working but we need a different way to work in a different way to see the world. And I think putting that creative potential to work is the most important thing we can do nowadays for having a future at all.

Bernie J Mitchel    04:32

Do you think. Because I think people are doing that but I but that’s because I’m very aware that I’m in this little you know gorgeous main yard echo chamber where everyone’s sort of you know making it happen. And I commend to you I think I was telling yesterday I went to one Neil Usher whose summer on this podcast has a book called elements a workplace. And he was doing that presentation about like how people work.

Bernie J Mitchel    04:58
And I’m like you know in the in the particularly in London in the cool old street you know mega funded you know whether it’s like an independent space or a venture thing you kind of in this like you know epic coworking Nirvana or you know star of nirvana and you know this is a bit wanky sometimes but it’s cool.

Bernie J Mitchel    05:18
And then most people go to work in a shared office in a car park outside London and you know go to the burger van outside their office and this is isn’t it isn’t there an imbalance or this isn’t the reality the reality we think is there isn’t.

Dina Sierralta 05:38
I think I’m working as an agile coach in Hamburg, so I see lots of traditional companies turning to new ways of working currently and I always puzzles me how many people are still there and within these environments that you describe and how much they fight against each other in the same company.

Dina Sierralta 05:58

So there is a lack of Knowledge how to take a decision as a team or as a group and how to not fight against each other in the same company in the same area of what you want to achieve and that still puzzles me when I go back to coworking I see a completely different attitude and that works as well and I wish we could take this attitude and this mindset to other people so that they stop competing and start collaborating because I can see so more happy individuals and coworking and I wish just more people could be that happy because I can see an impact on what they are doing then was their time how they consume how they care for other people how they care for the planet it’s different and I wish we all could participate in that way of working.

Bernie J Mitchel    06:49
So in your experience, what is this element in a coworking like a thing?

Bernie J Mitchel    06:53
When I’m taking about a coworking space, I’m talking in my mind I’ve got the pictures of the conversation in the kitchen every morning with Yan and we’re always reading the same books and you know we come downstairs and we’re and we’re kind of still working today and it’s a kind of calm mindset and Yan, he is a videographer and he’s very upbeat and positive and he acknowledges the struggles and the stress of running his own operation but also he’s like I’m not going to let it be me in a very in a very good way, so I say Yan And I’m like OK I will go talk to that guy at lunchtime so I’d better stop complaining about my nice white London male world and you know get out my little studio and do some podcast but I have got why I was going to do that.

Bernie J Mitchel    07:39
But like what is it so that, so you know all in all there’s autonomy there. That’s what I mean yeah there’s autonomy there and in like people you end up working with companies isn’t that do you think people are.

Bernie J Mitchel    07:53
This comes out right but people dissatisfied with their individual place in life and that’s why they find work or they’re dissatisfied with the work place they have or what was it was that the resistance and tension coming from this thing.

Dina Sierralta 08:08
I think you mentioned autonomy a lot of people don’t feel they can work autonomously at work because someone is telling them what to do even though they sometimes have their ideas of their own or they don’t know how to bring them to life with other people, so I think this is where a lot of dissatisfaction with work comes from. I can’t choose. I think I can’t choose what I’m doing, and I can’t choose where I’m doing it and with whom I’m doing it. So, this is unsatisfying.

 And then you take all this frustration back from the workplace where you spend like seven to eight hours at least back into your other part of life. And I think this is where the dissatisfaction comes from. And if we can bring more self-organization and autonomy back to people in the workplace, I think they will. They are more able to live more satisfying lives because they are not kind of extremely tired when they go out of that office building what they still have some energy left. And then you do different things.

Bernie J Mitchel    09:12

So, you said I’m going to try here might not be the right thing, but you said bring back autonomy is that which made me think. When did they have autonomy?

Bernie J Mitchel    09:22
Is that something that used to be maybe even back like in the eighteen hundred, we had autonomy

Dina Sierralta 09:26

I didn’t know where it where we lost it really. And sometimes it’s only an assumption that people don’t have it in many companies.  If you ask like people in the leadership position, they say nobody’s doing anything. And if you ask the teams, they say Ah I’m not allowed to do anything, so I think there’s a big misunderstanding also. How much you can create within the current workspace, but I think we I think I had an aha moment.

Dina Sierralta 10:00

I entered work in the late 90s what place. And of course, when I finished university and enter the workplace and you start your first jobs people tell you how we do it around here and you take that for granted. So, I took for granted that your work was key performance indicators for example, and I could see people trying everything to get that number right. Although it was not right for the business sometimes and that puzzled me. And it was not until I spoke to a colleague who retired said it all started in this let’s say and 90’s when these key performance indicators came in. Before I was allowed just to talk to a customer and do what I thought was right for the customer I was talking to my colleagues and we made a decision and with this indicators all of a sudden everybody was turning to the numbers and saying oh no I have I can’t talk to that customer any longer because I have talked to him for this months and I made that my planning and I’m not allowed to touch it because my key performance indicator will go bad.

Dina Sierralta 11:05

And then it hit me like Oh we tried to do something good with this number but in the end, we make people top less to customers and create less value for them.

Dina Sierralta 11:15
And I think this is where a lot of frustration comes on that’s back 20 years now, I think

Bernie J Mitchel    11:21

You know the whole Zappos story and Tony Shea discovered delivering happiness.

Dina Sierralta 11:27

I don’t think so.

Bernie J Mitchel   11:29

It’s OK. Very well. It’s very talked about. You know what I mean. Well Tony Shea did this in, basically

Bernie J Mitchel    11:35
Zappos is an online shoe company that started around the 2000 era and big thing was is the people on the phones could talk for as long as they like. And their goal was to make the shoe customer happy and its only shoes. And people could order as many players as they like and if they didn’t like them, they could send them back it was just very easy to be a customer and this level of service was like unbelievable and still is.

Bernie J Mitchel    12:06

And now Tony Shea gets invited to big corporations to talk about delivering happiness in this whole thing. Amazon bought the company and the lot people say Amazon brought Tony Shay’s company for the culture and they do this thing where you can go and get a job there and you work for months and then you are offered two thousand dollars to leave, so people can either carry on we’ll take the money and you see how that kind of works, and I’m always good faith in things like Simon Senate which is really well known. People pay for him to come and speak, and

 Bernie J Mitchel    

Brown has all these very clear ways of giving your employees autonomy and freedom. And how innovation comes from people being allowed to make suggestions and being vulnerable. So many companies seem to.

Bernie J Mitchel    12:57
What was interesting about you said is that people don’t think they have this freedom is probably there, but people never seem to put the other day at these people. But it seems very hard to put the effort in to work out where the boundaries are where the freedom is or where the initiative is required.

Bernie J Mitchel    13:14
So you end up sort of going in getting your head down doing exactly what you’re told and leaving. So, you are kind of fulfilling your job description and nothing more.

Dina Sierralta 13:26

And I think I can understand people doing that. There was a question and now I’m going to what it was but I’m not happy.

Dina Sierralta 13:33
And what I think people are looking for kind of recipes or benchmarks or practices which we’ve been doing over the past decades and it worked really well but now works changing customers changing technologies just changing it in the speed that these things don’t work any longer. And we need people who are creative and try new things with customers and what makes customers happy nowadays and you need to have a conversation with your customer to find that out

Dina Sierralta 14:05

And if I measure the time that you’re allowed to speak to a customer well maybe that’s just in the middle of a great conversation starter giving me an insight and I think still this looking for inviting people to speak about that giving an inspiration showing new benchmarks is the wrong thing. We need to inspire people to try and experiment with what is right for their business. They can’t copy paste these times are over the copy pasting gets you anywhere.

Bernie J Mitchel    14:33
Well this is it is it always is it always changing this.

Bernie J Mitchel    14:40
For the last 10 years have been people here people saying oh you know the world is changing at 100 miles an hour and stuff that I don’t know.

Bernie J Mitchel    14:48
But it seems maybe it’s just my mental state, but it just seems to have leveled out a bit at the moment or there’s very little could be careful what I say.

Bernie J Mitchel    15:02
Somebody thought about what I’m saying. But I just I just felt this more stable or because I think we’re more used to it now.

Dina Sierralta 15:09
Yeah. So, I think there’s still quite a pace out there in the business world at least for people who haven’t participated in the change for the let’s say last 10 years maybe you thought it’ll go away and it’s just a trend. And that’s. We’ll care about that later if it really comes and they are now in a big hurry and they probably are not that happy because if you enter now it feels like crazy. And we entered this whole scene of working in a different way many years back. So, I think we used to.

Bernie J Mitchel    15:53
We’re immune to that

Bernie J Mitchel    15:56
So that is one question once again before we go is what when you go to a company how people know they need you. Like to go. Well I think we should have deeper conversations about working right now.

Dina Sierralta 16:10

That’s usually not the case. They we have many people asking us our company. We need to be more agile right. We’ve heard that we’ve read that many people talking about it. We usually start by. OK. Why do you think that is? And where do you think that makes sense and then sometimes some customers are puzzled, and some know very well why they need us. 

And those are the people who say we need you because we need to show people how they can work in a different way. But there’s a whole lot of people out of their thinking like that’s the next thing you must do and that’s the copy paste I was talking about. And when they talk to us upfront, they don’t say things like people need to have deeper conversations. But when they know ask a why are they say like we can see people having these things and we can know people. We realize people behave in a different way. And that’s great. But I think a lot of people in business have unlearned to speak about these things.

Dina Sierralta 17:15

Yeah. So, we were not talking when I was back in a leadership position, we were maybe talking amongst each other about having different conversations, but nobody felt happy to talk about having conversations on teams. We were shy to put these things to work because it didn’t seem like business right.

Bernie J Mitchel    17:38
So it didn’t seem like business or is like a risk of losing your job or being ostracized or there was not never a risk of losing the job.

Dina Sierralta 17:48

It’s just like you don’t seem to be like business enough if you talked about these things that soft side of things you know it’s tough business, we are doing that. It’s no space for that in here. And I think the companies for example you mentioned Zappos where they realized if we make a space for people to be able to talk about these things it’ll create a completely different mindset. It creates a mindset of building a relationship with my customer and knowing really what they want and what they are looking for and to be able to do that. I think you need to have these conversations with people.

Bernie J Mitchel    18:27
Do you think that because technology does more and more for us nowadays that is less this space where now it’s because it seems okay to talk about I don’t know do you know Britney Brown no Rene Brown she’s a shame and vulnerability researcher from the University of Texas and she’s written she gets hired by Lowe’s.

Dina Sierralta 18:48
I have seen the TED talk. Yeah, so I know her but not personally

Bernie J Mitchel    18:56
So Ted Talk about 2011 here and I often wonder how well that Ted talk would have gone in say even 2005 right.

Bernie J Mitchel    19:05
The you know she and one of the things she says is that you know I get asked to go people go we have to bring Rene Brown to speak and she says and I would want to talk about what we want to talk about innovation and we want to talk about you know best practice. But I talk about vulnerability. None of that shit we want. Yes, but how can you and I will read this and as I said a aha moment I was. Oh yeah of course. How can you have innovation without vulnerability because you’re putting your idea there. And as I say for.

Dina Sierralta 19:39
Yeah And there’s also when we do talk within our coaching to people and we have in German this word which is a mistake culture feel awkward to it in German and it certainly feels awkward to run. So, the culture of how to deal with mistakes and people often use it and it just makes me crazy because if I do a mistake there has been a well-known standard and I’m doing something that is against that standard. That’s a mistake. Like in school they told you the rules for writing and doing math. And if you don’t follow you have a mistake.

Dina Sierralta 20:18

But the thing that people need more of is the will to experiment. And if I have ever like I’m coming from a background in science you build up a hypothesis and you’re trying to figure out if that works with your experiment and sometimes who had the right idea and sometimes and in many cases you don’t have the right idea. And that’s not a mistake that is, I don’t know whether you call it a hypothesis.

 Yeah and you test it and then you find out if it works or not. But that’s not. If it doesn’t work out it’s not a mistake. You didn’t do something wrong, you tried to figure something out and that’s completely different from me and people are so afraid of making mistakes. It stops them from experimenting because people say you should have known better, but we are in.

Dina Sierralta 21:09

Many people are in a world of uncertainty. You can’t know you can’t sit down and think harder. We have to do an experiment. And I think that is where a lot of people are afraid to try out things to be vulnerable because if I don’t know I have to admit I don’t know but many people don’t know.

Bernie J Mitchel    21:30
So there was something about me I like really struggled with this and I have kind of like somehow learn to live with the uncertainty of you know where my next client’s coming from or how I’m going to go back to the hotel and I’m used to it.

Bernie J Mitchel    21:46
I used to really stress me out and it made me but I’m a little bit more evolved a little bit but I’m thinking where I learned that like everything had to be certain. Because I don’t think my parents sat me down and said well we need to be certain about all this is that this is this is a mystical thing that everyone else is certain about what’s going to happen and if you’re not certain you did something.

Dina Sierralta 22:10
Yeah, I think that’s the illusion of control that we have. I think I became a much better person for working in a team and working as a leader back in the industry when I realized I can’t have control over other people. I can create a framework or a frame wherein people can work in a great way, but I can never control another person I can put pressure on them yes, I could scare them. I could say if you don’t do that, I’m going to fire you.

Dina Sierralta 22:41
Yes but that’s still not

Bernie J Mitchel    22:45

That’s a very that’s a very toxic to control and people that, I don’t mind people leading. Like people that tell people what to do or dominate people.

Dina Sierralta 22:54

That’s not leading.

Bernie J Mitchel    22:56

It is disgusting and toxic.

Dina Sierralta 22:58

I think that we need to change the way people interact. And it’s important and it has an impact if you do it differently in the workplace. It has an impact how people go back to their private lives. Because sometimes we take our habits from the workplace back to the private lives. And I think if you grow up with someone beating you up for making a mistake although you could not have known it better. You think like OK that person is doing that was me so, I will do it with other people. And that creates a completely different atmosphere.

Bernie J Mitchel    23:40
Now there’s that. But just to finish this I’m just as Bertie who works for Herman Miller, which is a furniture company and he researches workspace and well-being in the workspace and everything  and his main rant is about you know we spend eight hours a day in this place and then he said you know some like he’s been. So, he should be the best that we can get it at. So, when you go home, you’re not like numb from the eight hours you spent earning the living to provide for you your life. This it’s almost like people seem to feel that if they’re not tired or beaten up after work they haven’t done a good job.

Bernie J Mitchel    24:26

It’s almost like maybe because you know our generation saw our parents or grandparents, I come back from the coal mine and we think Oh right. I’m not I’m not working properly because I use a keyboard. So where and where we find your line and hunt you down and find what you are doing?

Dina Sierralta 24:46
The Smidig is the Norwegian word for Agile and it’s a small company we’re owning at Hamburg.

Dina Sierralta 24:54

Trying to help people work together better.

Bernie J Mitchel    25:00

The word like Norwegian word for anything is it’s just that disperse it instantly more.

Dina Sierralta  25:04
My colleague learned Norwegian for fun, so she found out and we like that word and in northern German dialect it’s something like flexible and so we thought like it heads because we want to do our business mainly in northern Germany for sustainable reasons. And so, we thought like that’s a great fit for our company name then.

Bernie J Mitchel    25:26
I love it, I know you are, are you are you on Twitter and Instagram?

Dina Sierralta 25:30
I am yes you can find me on dinars Yeah right.

Bernie J Mitchel    25:34

OK we’ll put that in. Yes. So, thank you. High five. I really appreciate this.

Dina Sierralta 25:39
It was great meeting you here at the conference.

Bernie J Mitchel    25:43

Club because we met for the first time in May not in 2014 here but three years ago. And I’m back there now and you’re back here with me.


Transcribed by Otter.

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