I had a very interesting conversation about work with a friend of mine this week. He received some feedback at work saying that he was very intense and could at times slip into being very transactional with people, especially when he is under a lot of pressure. There are times when people saw him as controlling to the point that he would step in and do others work for them just so workflow processes were not interrupted. The folks in his department said that, while a great guy socially, he was not fun to work with.
To his credit, he completely owned his behavior. He was not proud of it and held himself completely accountable for it.
As I began to ask him questions about his role and the organization he is a part of I started to notice something in his language that I found really interesting. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “So tell me about your area of responsibility."
Him: “Well, we basically make sure that there are enough supplies coming in so that when a need arises the work is not interrupted, and ultimately customer needs are met.”
Me: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility. Do you enjoy being in the middle of all the action?”
Him: “The work takes a lot of focus and there are a lot of people who depend on us to get it right.”
Me:”I get that it is important, but do you enjoy it?”
He took a long pause before answering.
Him:”Well it is work. By definition, it is not supposed to be fun”.
Another long pause.
Me: "So what you are saying is that you spend 60-65% of your life, most of your waking hours, doing something that is not giving you meaning and satisfaction?”
Him: “Well, I have goals, and the work I do helps me to fulfill those goals.”
Me: “I get it that you have goals and the work you do is important. Why can’t your work be fun?”
He paused again.
Him: "Because it is work...Scott, do you have fun doing what you do?”
There it was. Plain as the vanilla yogurt my wife puts on her cereal in the morning.
Do I have FUN doing what I am doing?
I told him that without a doubt, I do. I really feel like I am answering a calling for my life. For over 20 years I worked in organizations. I had the chance to work with some really top-notch leaders and some leaders who, well let's just say, were not so top notch.
When I started doing EQ training and executive coaching almost 15 years ago I really felt called to help leaders seek opportunities to find meaning and purpose in their chosen vocation and lend them the support to make any change they deemed necessary. I think when you find what it is that you were created to do, then the rest just takes care of itself.
I told my friend that I truly believe that the organization is totally reflective of the soul of the leader. That the issue he was having in his organization had nothing to do with his skills or abilities. I really didn’t even think it was the tension and pressure of the role he was in.
The issue is that he is treating his role like his job and not his calling.
3 Reasons I Love What I Do
- I interact with really cool people. Since I am a solo practitioner I have to limit the number of clients I can take on at any one time. So my main criteria for whom I work with is: are they cool? Do they have interesting organizational issues? Do they have really hard challenges that I can help them think through? Do their values line up with mine? I have to tell you, this is so important to me. I want to interact with folks who see me as a partner and not a vendor.
- I am passionate about my topic. The leadership model I use most often is emotional intelligence. I see so much application for this work from improving sales technique and making good hiring decisions to improving interpersonal relationships and lowering stress. Emotional intelligence is about helping leaders find a sense of well-being and pursuing meaning in life.
- There is always a challenge. People-work is interesting work. I work with very high functioning, high performing, and successful individuals and teams. The work is never easy and never boring. There is always a new challenge waiting just around the corner.
- BONUS: I have a really great team. Shout out to Brandi, Angela, Gretchen, and Michelle. I could not do what I do without you guys.
How about YOU? Why do you love what you do? What gives you a sense of calling and purpose in the work you do?