What do you do?

I am reading More Space (which I highly recommend). I just finished Rob May’s chapter. I enjoyed his overall theme "Why Business Matters", but I was particularly drawn to one particular point he made.

I don’t care about a job, I want more than that. Any time I am between
projects or businesses, people always try to find me a job. They don’t
get it. They ask me, “What do you want to do?” But I never give an
answer they expect. I don’t want to manage. I don’t want to program. I
don’t want to design products. I want to work toward a larger goal. If
those things are steps along the way, then fine, I will do them; some of
them I will even enjoy, but I do my best if I understand the greater
goal.

This made me realize how often I answer the question, "What do you do?" , with a job description. A few posts back, I was asking for advice on creating a new opportunity at my company. Some of the feedback I got was making the same point, "Why do we describe who we are in terms of tasks instead of outcomes?" I think that is a great question. The problem is that the western european mindset, under which many of us labor, is built around task orientation and problem solving. Maybe if we spent less time dealing with mechanics and tactics, and more time thinking and behaving with regard to vision, outcomes, and long-range goals, we would be better off. If we really engaged in conversations about the big picture, I think we would be amazed how many of those "tactical problems" would disappear or be easily resolved.

Thanks Rob.

Compelling Connections

Most of my posts tend to be more philosophical than pragmatic in nature. I have been thinking a lot about more tangible ways to imbed these philosophies into an organization. One idea that may have some promise is the process of actively building compelling connections into our everyday (work) lives.

As individuals, as managers, as HR reps, as mentors, etc. begin with asking the question, “what is really important to me?” I think this is the type of question that people do not answer for themselves very often. If you could answer that question with regularity, even every day, it would be so much easier to face the deluge of decisions we each face every day.

You may ask,” isn’t that what professional development plans [or whatever it is that your organization makes you do every year] are all about?” I would say no, because those plans start from the premise of what the company wants of you, and then you need to mold what you do to fit that need.

What I am thinking about is an examination of who you are as in integrated individual that includes your work / home / spiritual / recreational self. What is your passion, what makes you tick? If you really understand this, you will make integrated decisions, and avoid the types of conflicts that arise from the competing parts of your life. If you make your decisions in silos (work, home, etc.) you will create problems and stress.

When you can see what is important to you, you can then make more compelling connections to each aspect of your life.

For me personally, I think my kids hold the key to what is most important to me, though I cannot yet articulate it. But if I go with that, it makes many of my work decisions easier. I want to be the kind of person that my boys can learn from. Many times I am faced with decisions with political implications, or decisions with an easy out versus a difficult ethical outcome. If I put it in context of wanting to set a role model for my kids, the answer is often clear.

Find your purpose, find your passion, and then make the compelling connections to all parts of your life.