Friday, January 25, 2013

The three greatest joys of my work life ...

I'm going to step away from the technical aspects of the blog and share a few personal insights about the work world, specifically those things that have given me the greatest joy in the day-to-day grind throughout the past few decades.

  1. Major achievements - doing those things others said couldn't be done.
  2. Connecting the Dots.
  3. Seeing others succeed.
The Joy of Major Achievements

I have often wished I were a carpenter, first of all because I admire their craft (I have a friend who builds beautiful homes and works wood with amazing skill).  There is another element of their work that I have always envied: they get to see progress every day.  They can stand back and see achievement.  Not so in the white collar world of endless meetings, conference calls, and IMs.  It often takes months, even years to see a tangible outcome. 

But...! 

Some of the greatest moments in my work life have come with a sense of exhausted pride when a team came together to achieve unimaginable outcomes.  When I have worked on a project for months and I see the parts coming together toward something much bigger, that's joy!  I once heard a grumble on a team about how hard we were working.  I asked "when will you ever do something this big again in the course of your lifetime?"  I look back on major team achievements with a sense of satisfaction.  [On a personal note, I have loved being "The Designated Hitter" called upon to solve the intractable situation.]

The Joy of Connecting the Dots

I mentioned organizational silos in a recent post on analyzing organizational culture.  They are a bane in most organizations, but a reality, and electronic communications have all but eliminated the need for face-to-face connections.  I was at a customer site one time and I invited two men to make a decision on a product.   The conversation went like this:

"Oh, that's who you are."
"Yes, I've been in this department for 13 years."

Two men, two floors apart, had never met each other face to face! 

Connecting the Dots for me is bringing people together around a common need.  Very often, people find the comfort of their cubicle very hard to leave, and face-to-face conversations are far more unpredictable than say, an email interaction.  People will, however, respond to good leadership that brings them together to solve problems.  Sometimes it takes a bit of 'schmoozing' ... but it's a joy.
Even more important is helping others see the connections!  In our departmentalized world, people don't often see how the parts fit together, but that moment when I have seen others express an "Aha!" or "Eureka" moment - that's fun!  

Seeing Others Succeed

Above all these other working pleasures, nothing is more satisfying than seeing others succeed.  Oh, I'll admit it took a while for me to get there ... in my 30's it was all about me as a manager.  But along the way, I have found a great measure of satisfaction helping others accomplish their goals, especially those who needed help to get to the next step. 

In my work life I have often seen unsung heroes who have been relegated to the 'back waters' of the organization.  Over time, however, when I have discovered their gifts, intellectual abilities and talents, it has been a pleasure to brag about them and give them the spotlight they deserve.  Watching them accomplish more over time has been, by far, the greatest satisfaction I have known in my work life. 

~ Jim Bohn

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