We spend a lot of time at work. Apart from providing our ‘livelihood’, i.e. the means by which we pay the bills and are able to buy what we need, our career is also our major self-expression. Or it should be. One of the chief sources of unhappiness amongst my clients is when they feel they are not doing meaningful work, or rather work that is meaningful to them. Often we get caught in a scarcity mentality and are grateful to take any sort of job to make ends meet. This can be OK in the short-term, but longer-term working at something you don’t enjoy, and that doesn’t reflect who you are, causes all sorts of issues and problems down the track.
There is also what I call ‘perpetual complaint syndrome’ which comes about when we are unhappy at work because we have been sucked into office politics. Office politics thrive on people judging, criticising and blaming each other because they want something they are not getting. This can be as simple as wanting praise and recognition to wanting the top job. The working environment tends to bring out the worst in people, particularly when they feel they are competing with each other for status and recognition and the pay packet that goes with it.
I work with clients to establish what they want from their career. For some it’s as simple as money and security. For others it’s the need to be recognised and rewarded for their abilities. For yet others it’s wanting to use what they do for a living to make a difference in the world. All of these are valid aims. Getting clarity about what work means to you and setting achievable goals is the first step in finding peace and freedom at work.
Inevitably, if you work in a corporate or organisational environment you will be in a team. Being an effective team player is the skill most valued by managers and organisations. It’s the skill that they are most looking for when they conduct interviews and they are willing to overlook lack of technical skills and experience if they feel that someone is a ‘good team player’. A manager of a big international company once told me that “We can train for most other skills, but when it comes to attitude and team playing, hands-down that’s the most important thing.”
Most of my clients think they are already good team players, yet they often suffer from ‘perpetual complaint syndrome’ and indulge in office politics and gossip. It will come as no surprise to discover that these things destroy good team work because a strong team is made up of individuals who have each other’s backs. If you know that it’s quite normal for all your team mates to gossip about the bosses, about the people in other teams or in the canteen or wherever, you know in your heart-of-hearts they are probably gossiping about you too. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but it’s hard to fully trust someone you know bad mouths someone else.
When I discuss this with my clients, some of them protest that they ‘have’ to go along with gossiping and bitching because ‘it’s expected of them’, they think it’s a necessary way of bonding with others. That may well be the culture they operate in, but I tell them it’s a matter of integrity. Interestingly clients report that when they give up gossiping they become more popular rather than less. “People seem to respect me now,” one client said.
I work with clients to discover how they can become the best team-player in their organisation and often marvel at the difference it makes to their wellbeing, as well as their promotion prospects!
Good leaders are worth their weight in gold. Leadership is a huge topic and there have been millions of books written on it over the years. One distinction I discuss with my clients is the difference between leadership and management. You can be a ‘good’ manager and get the job done without necessarily being a leader. Management is really about getting the required results from the available resources and many managers are prepared to do what it takes without any real regard for their people. It’s little wonder that these kinds of manager often score badly on 360 degree feedback and find it hard to inspire people to go above and beyond.
Leadership on the other hand, is about creating futures for other people to live into. A good leader inspires their people to want to be the best they can be, even if this means that they will eventually leave the company. A good leader is more interested in how people are being true to themselves, than being good little cogs in the corporate machine. They are able to inspire and direct exceptional performance in others and people will often say they’d follow them to the ends of the earth.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that leadership is about themselves and their own qualities. Of course you have to have leadership skills, but great leadership is where you are able to inspire, motivate and make others feel really good about themselves – even when they fail. A leader is able to see what contribution everyone can make and works hard to bring that out, even if it means they have to step back because someone else is better at something than they are.
Becoming a great leader is a life-long endeavour. For those of my clients who are interested in making a mark on the world and inspiring others, I offer a programme that supports them in developing their leadership to a level where they can really make a difference in their own lives and in the world.
I also have a programme that supports budding entrepreneurs as well as those already running their own businesses.
Those of us who have run businesses are very familiar with the peculiar challenges that it brings. Drawing on all the tools and techniques I offer including goal setting, stress management, relationships, and breakthrough generation, the programme empowers you to be successful without sacrificing your life.