Posts

Bring your full self-expression to work

In one of my earlier blogs I shared about the story of a client friend who described his work as his “8 hour inconvenience.”

Almost every week as I work with teams of all levels around the globe, I encounter a similar team dynamic: people being hesitant to express themselves boldly and passionately, especially when dealing with the sensitive issues, challenges and topics that frustrate them and stifle their productivity and effectiveness.

In fact, in most teams, bold and courageous communication is often replaced by resignation, fear and a victim mentality.  It’s not that people are cowards. It’s that in organizational settings, even courageous people tend to play a more safe and politically correct game.

I understand the root cause of this dynamic. Pretty much everyone I talk to in organizations has seen others attempt to drive change only to be blocked by people in position of authority who didn’t like the ideas. In many cases, people have personally experienced this dynamic themselves.

Most people would acknowledge that there are two basic reasons that hold them back from speaking up in meetings. They are either afraid to rock the boat and/or get into trouble, or they feel resigned about their ability to change the outcome and direction.

But, if people spend such a big portion of their life at work, how can they transform this disempowering existence? Most people spend more than 8 hours a day at work. For many, 12 hours a day is the standard.

Why can’t our work be our “12 hour bliss?” or “12 hour self expression?”

I think it can and it should!

There are a few simple things you can do right away to ensure you have bliss at work:

First, make sure you have a challenge or project at work that you genuinely love. People always rise to the occasion and express themselves with passion and enthusiasm when they are working toward a future they love, or when they are a part of a team and game that they feel committed to, and passionate about. In fact, if the game you love playing requires self-expression, passion and courage, you will be hard pressed to not rise to the occasion and passionately apply yourself.

Unfortunately, Corporate America is filled with good managers and employees who have been uninspired by what they do for so long they have stopped expecting to have bliss at work. Because they are so proficient in their jobs, they can perform them sufficiently without bringing their A game to work. They can do an acceptable job on “autopilot.”

Here is a potential self-assessment checklist you could use for working on loving your job:

  1. I believe in the purpose, end goal and activities of my job or project.
  2. I have a deep, respectful and trusting relationship with my boss, all my team members, and all my customers.
  3. I feel I can bring up and address any/all important issues and topics.
  4. I see how my direct work is impacting the bigger organizational success.
  5. I feel I have a powerful platform to make a significant difference.
  6. I feel my hard work and commitment are known, valued and recognized.
  7. I feel excited to return to work on Monday after the weekend.

Rate each item from 0 (low) to 5 (high) and then find your average. If you score 0-1 it probably means “you don’t love your job”. If you score 2-3 it probably means “you own your job” and if your score 4-5 it probably means “you love your job”.

If you don’t love what you do and you can’t get there, make sure you can at least genuinely accept, own or choose it. Your work can be nurturing even if you don’t love it. But, you have to at least make the explicit mental choice to choose and own it.

If you can’t even do that, you should leave your job. It is painful to come to work every day to do a job you don’t love or own. If you don’t make a change, you are bound to eventually become apathetic, resigned or cynical.

The only reason people stay in a job they don’t love is because they don’t believe in or trust their ability to find and/or create a greater job they do love. So, by taking action to find your dream job, you are in essence taking a stand about your greatness and your ability to create a blissful life.

I have seen many people muster up courage and change jobs, companies and even careers in order to find self-expression and bliss. Many of them had fears and anxiety about making the move. But, in all cases, people found a job they loved or at least genuinely owned. And, their action also made a significant difference in their experience of themselves.

Choosing when you think you don’t have a choice…

My wife and I recently learned from a dear friend that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We were shocked and saddened at first by his revelation. But, he expressed such a positive, optimistic and confident, attitude and message about how he will ‘rise above the disease and use his new predicament to become a better person and make a difference around him’ that I was blown away and inspired by his extraordinary spirit and courage.

This got me thinking – in life we often need to choose between things – between this job and that job, between this partner and that partner, between this field or that field. And, at times, depending on the situation and what is at stake, these choices can be hard to make. But, at least we have options to choose from that seem to be in our control.

But what about choice in situations where certain circumstances are laid upon us? What about choice when your wife or husband just left you, you were just fired from your job, you are financially broke, your doctor tells you about a bad medical diagnosis… What choice do we have in these situations?

We don’t always have a choice about our circumstances. However, we ALWAYS have a choice about our attitude and mindset, how we’ll respond and what we will make of them. We choose whether to relate to a ‘bad’ situation as a ‘problem’ OR ‘opportunity’; whether to accept, embrace and own it – I call that “choosing”, OR to become a victim of the situation.  And, that choice gives us tremendous power.

There are so many heroic and inspirational stories about cancer survivors who took their illness as an opportunity to transform their life. Examples of people who turned a bad divorce into a new and much better life, and people who continued to have a positive outlook on life after going through the tragedy of losing loved ones.

I was recently working with a company that was laying off employees. So, I had multiple opportunities to meet these people, many of which worked in that company for many years and were surprised by their misfortune. For some of the people, being let go landed as a heavy blow. They took it personally and found it very hard to see the silver lining in the event. Others, who weren’t any better off financially and who loved the company and their jobs as much as their colleagues took this turn of events as an opportunity. Some were excited about starting their own business. Others were looking forward to finally getting the promotion or title they wanted, in another company. And, for others it was about finding a job closer to home in order to avoid the long commute each day, or travel less in order to be able to spend more time with their family.

The people who continued to feel victimized by the situation struggled with seeing how being fired could present them with a better path in their life. The people who accepted, embraced and owned their circumstance found multiple reasons for why being fired was a blessing in disguise.

By understanding that we always have a choice and doing our best to view all challenges as opportunities, we can get beyond what should and could have been, and focus on creating a better life for ourselves.

What challenges and predicaments have you turned into opportunities?  How did you choose to stay optimistic instead of discouraged?