“If you are looking for something more”

SomethingMoreThis month we’ve been tackling the journey of finding the perfect work soul mate – that job that fits us like a glove, inspires us, and meets our needs along the way. In my last post, I offered my own personal journey on how I found my perfect job. In this final post, I want to offer you a resource to help you along your own personal journey. Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, is the starting place for anyone searching for the path to perfect. Perhaps the most compelling reason to pack this book on your journey is that it reminds us that there is no such thing as one singular path to perfect. Written by Randy Hain, managing partner of Bell Oaks Executive Search, the book captures and tells the stories of a wide variety of professionals  as they search for their perfect job and life. The stories are as unique as the author, Randy Hain.

My Friend Randy

I met Randy several years ago over coffee and immediately knew there was something different about him. It took me years to put into words what I was sensing. Then it hit me. Randy is on a mission to live and help others live a fully integrated and authentic life. What do I mean by integrated life? In a nutshell, Randy is trying to bring every part of himself to everything he does. Easy you say? Hardly. Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronics used the analogy of a house to describe the challenge of living an authentic integrated life. In Bill’s analogy, each of us has a room for family, a room for work, a room for faith, etc… Living an authentic integrated life is equivalent to breaking down all the walls inside your house leaving only a wide open space – a rare and difficult thing to fully realize. Conversations with Randy have this “wall-lessness” feel to them. He seamlessly moves from business to discussing the challenges of being the parent of a son with autism to his deep Catholic faith. He does it all in a matter-of-fact, here I am kind of way. No sales pitch. No judgment. Just a raw authenticity. As a result, there is a gravitational pull to Randy. People are attracted to his realness, directness, honesty and candor. The culmination of years of these kinds of “wall-less” conversations with professionals seeking more is the foundation of Something More. And while the book is a wonderful collection of unique stories of individuals searching for more, there are three powerful themes that are woven throughout the book that can serve each of us.

Work, Family, Faith and the Importance of Seasons

Regardless of the story, each professional in Something More wrestled with integrating work, family and their faith into their lives. What stands out across their unique journeys is the importance of seasons and timing when trying to mix that perfect elixir. It is a reminder to each of us that “perfect” means different things at different times. For some, “perfect” early in their careers was the turbo-charged, rocket-fueled 100 hour work week that came complete with trophies, titles and money until one day it wasn’t enough. The season changed and family became the focus. For others it was climbing the corporate ladder in a suit that just didn’t fit quite right. While the climb appeared successful to any outsider, there was something missing on the inside of the corporate climber. Their moral and ethical compass seemed at odds with their rapid ascent. The season changed and the protagonist strove to integrate work and faith in a more harmonious way. Regardless of the unique story, the reminder for each of us is that perfect can change with the seasons. When the time comes, the burden is on us to realize that the definition of perfect may have changed, accept it and, most importantly, make the shift.

Overcoming Fear

Facing our deepest and darkest fears and overcoming those fears is the second powerful theme. The case is made with story after story that one cannot have the perfect job and life without overcoming one’s fear. What struck me the most while reading Something More was that regardless of the story, deep down every individual knew what was missing in his or her life. They knew what they wanted and, surprisingly, knew how to get there. The real issue was not discovering perfect but overcoming the fears that held them back from realizing what they wanted. From not meeting other’s expectations to not being “enough,” the stories are about facing one’s fears head-on. We are challenged to look in the mirror and face our deepest darkest fears. It is through that darkness that soul mates can be found. I’ve written before that the best antidote to overcoming fear is purpose, courage and faith. The stories in Something More take those principles to a whole new level.

Hope and Inspiration

The overall tenor and tone of Something More is one of hope and inspiration. Success after success, countless stories are told of people realizing their dreams. The seeds of self belief are subtlety planted. By the end of the book, there is a distinct voice in the back of one’s head saying, “I can have that too. It’s possible.” Hope and optimism. We need those in spades if we are going to make some of the bold moves that deep down we know we need to make.

Rx3So there you have it. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Something More, I highly recommend it (here’s the link.  Get your credit card handy).  Consider it the ideal prescription for moving from lost to finding the meaningful job and life that each of us desires.

P.S. I believe in this book so completely, I bought a whole case and gave them out to one of my MBA classes a few weeks ago.  Just sayin’… 

 

NEXT UP:

April’s Dysfuntion of the Month: “Senior Management is Dysfunctional.”  Sure to be juicy and likely will land me in trouble.  Oh well…  Someone’s gotta say it.

 

How I found my work soul mate

I want to tell you the story of one person’s struggle to find his work soul mate and the journey that took him there. This is my story on how I fell in love with my job.

The story begins in the halls of George Walton High School. Picture a gangly teenage boy who was growing up much faster than he was growing out. His skinny figure is awkwardly crammed behind a public school desk in chemistry class. The teacher in the front of the classroom is lecturing on the payattentionatomic weight of such and such. The boy’s arms are crossed across the desk and his head is securely planted in the middle. He is fast asleep. This was high school for me – one long dream. I slept on the bus, slept in class, slept during lunch, returned home and slept some more. On more than one occasion, I was hauled off to the doctor’s office to determine what medical condition I had clearly contracted. After a battery of tests, the results were always the same – inconclusive. Despite my propensity for sleep and an overall lack of motivation, I managed to graduate and attended Vanderbilt University the following Fall (chalk it up to either good test-taking or a sympathetic admissions officer). While the environment changed the story did not. I was, without a doubt, the walking definition of an “un.” I was unmotivated, unengaged, uninspired, undisciplined, and unfocused. After waiting to the last possible moment to declare my major, I settled on “communications.” After four years, I continued my journey of “un” into the world of work and life.

My First Job – Figuring Out Who I Was

coffenotesLike any good communications major, I was unemployed at graduation. I eventually took a job as an assistant manager for a small chain of family owned retail stores. On my first day of work, my boss, the son-in-law of the founder of the business, told me to go in the back room and fire the incumbent assistant manager. If I was successful in my firing, I could have his job. I woke up. Having a world-class horrible boss can do that. I quickly became a store manager and rotated from store to store. Regardless of the location, I worked diligently to run my stores in stark contrast to how my boss managed. The results showed. Something I was doing as a naïve and raw 23 year old was working.  At the same time, after being forced to fire more than my fair share of undeserving employees, I realized the world needed better bosses and leaders. Inspired, I drafted a 10 year plan designed to eventually set myself up to becoming an executive coach (I think I just liked the sound of “executive coach”) and builder of future managers / leaders. It was time to break up. I delivered the news: “It’s not you, it’s me.” I packed my bags and headed out the door.

My Second Job – Trying Something Different

I enrolled in a graduate program in clinical counseling and soon after began working in an inpatient facility helping individuals to overcome some of life’s biggest curveballs.  From addiction to squarepeg256mental illnesses, from behavioral disorders to dementia, I counseled individuals in an effort to help them overcome the obstacles that prevented them from having the lives they wanted. It was a cool job that paid in peanuts. And while the work was meaningful and it leveraged my natural strengths, I realized that if I couldn’t also impact the systems that people were in (work, family, etc…), I could only do so much. They would be back in no time. I left to explore the system that we spend most of our waking days – work. This break-up went pretty smoothly (“Let’s stay friends”). I don’t think this was the first time they had been dumped.

My Third Job – The Feeling Wasn’t Mutual

quitI transitioned into the corporate world and got a job as a corporate trainer for a global multi-billion dollar insurance and financial services corporation. My job was simple – work with our North American clients, banks and credit institutions, and help them to improve their internal performance and sell more of our product. I travelled around the country conducting training classes on topics ranging from selling to coaching direct reports. One day, my boss let me know that she had just been fired as had everyone around me. I became the department, yet my title didn’t change. A promotion later, I realized I was never going to be able to accomplish what I wanted to in that organization. Upon offering up my resignation, they countered by offer me more money to stay (“If you stay I’ll change”). I declined. They were pissed. I left to pursue my MBA and continue down the path of finding the “one.”

My Last Job – The ONE

While completing my MBA, I quickly targeted “human capital consulting” as the ideal next step for me in my journey to improve workplace health. After overcoming being one of the world’s worst interviewers (I lost track after 10 failed interview attempts during my first and second years), I was fortunate enough to get an offer from a large global consulting firm to join their Human Capital practice. When my phone rang with the news, I was standing outside of a hospital room just a few hours after my wife had given birth to our second child. After soul-searching, I changed course, turned down the offer (“I think it’s best we don’t get serious if we never plan to be together long-term. We both know this won’t go anywhere”), stopped interviewing and decided to pursue my dream after graduation. Two kids, one supportive spouse and no job.

The first four years were particularly challenging. I tried on all different kinds of clients from small family owned businesses to large non-profits. I coached individuals and I consulted entire organizations. My income steadily grew as did my family (today we have three beautiful kids). Then the economy turned and my income dropped 40% in 2009, but none of that mattered, I had found my dream job. My work soul mate. I knew I could make it work.

Commitment – The Workplace Therapist

TWT_logo-socialOne summer day in 2009 I was asked to sit in as a guest expert on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s radio show @Work. They asked me to come back the next week and I never left. While I was on the show, I had the surreal experience of sharing the microphone with someone who was my mirror opposite in every way, yet this called himself an executive coach just like me.  One day in an attempt to explain the difference between him and I (I like to refer to him as “Bizarro Brandon”) I blurted out, “I’m like the workplace therapist.” The person’s eyes lit up and the brand stuck. Today, as The Workplace Therapist, I get the opportunity to fight workplace dysfunction each and every day. For better or for worse, no two days are alike as I juggle between coaching leaders, consulting organizations, teaching classes, speaking at conferences, writing blog posts and combatting dysfunction weekly on the radio. My job fits like a glove in a way only a friend can, fires me up with passion like any ideal soul mate, and honors and meets my needs like a true partner by challenging me with new opportunities daily and providing me enough to support my family. I would want nothing less for you and your life.

But this post was really never about me.

I was never the point.

You are the point.

What’s your story?

 

 

Finding your work soul mate

seeing_loveIs your job your perfect work “soul mate?” Does it feed you in ways that go beyond money? This post is about finding your work soul mate – that job that seems to be made and meant for you. Let me be clear. Falling in love with your job is not a bedtime fairytale. It is quite real. However, unlike most bedtime fairytales, your soul mate job won’t show up at your door atop a white steed or decked out in flowing ball gown complete with glass slippers. No. You will likely have to climb that tower wall, defeat the evil queen or slay the fire breathing dragon to get that perfect soul mate job. In other words, you’re gonna have to work for it (no pun intended… o.k. maybe a little).

In the previous post, I set the stage for finding one’s romantic soul mate. Building on the same three components of a romantic soul mate (friends, passion and partners), consider what job scratches that itch for you.

Work Soul Mate Criteria

FRIENDSA job that fulfills this category should have the natural fit and comfort of a close friend. Consider the following questions as you examine your job: Is everyday easy and fun? Can you spend days and weeks on end going into work and feeling comfortable? Does the environment feel “easy”? Do you feel known? Is the workplace culture your version of “home?” If you answered yes to most, if not all, of the above, you can check off the “friend” box.

PASSION – The perfect soul mate job is no different than a romantic soul mate in this way. There should be a natural attraction to the perfect soul mate job. Do you feel drawn to the job? Do your eyes light up when you talk about it? Do you think about the job on the weekend – not because you have to but because you want to? When I’m coaching clients searching for something more and they start talking about their ideal “soul mate” job, the energy in the room changes. They smile, they actually begin to talk louder and there is a distinct twinkle in their eye. There is something magnetic about the soul mate job. It often connects to a mission or purpose that you feel drawn to. You want to be part of it… close to it. What mission or purpose do you find yourself constantly drawn to and talking about?

PARTNERS – The perfect job isn’t all that different from finding a solid romantic partner. Just like the ideal romantic partner, the perfect job recognizes and honors your strengths and needs. In other words, it leverages what you are uniquely good at every day AND it gives you plenty of run way to grow and build something. Oh, and don’t forget, it pays you enough to meet your needs outside of work. You can pay your bills. Are you using your strengths every day, have opportunities in front of you and make “enough?” If so, you found a partner in your job… a rare thing.

The challenge in finding a “soul mate” job is that it must meet all three criteria. It has to have the comfort and fit of a “friend,” the excitement and attraction of “passion,” and the mutually beneficial traits of a “partner.” No easy task.

The Angry Trainer from the Gym

WARNING: Like the angry trainer at the gym, the following is not “nice.” You may be offended, angry or resistant. And like the trainer at the gym, I care about where I want to see you go, not about how unhappy you are with me along the way. You’ve been warned.

Look at your job right now in a completely naked and honest way. I don’t want to hear any excuses or explanations. Simply state the truth – raw, real and gut-level honest truth about your job. Answer the following:

  • Is your job a good friend? Is there a comfort and fit that just feels natural?
  • Do you have passion for your job? Do you find yourself excited to talk about what you do? Are you on a mission?
  • Are your needs getting met at work? Are you using your strengths, do you have plenty of room to grow and are you fairly compensated for your efforts?

What questions did you say “no” to? What’s missing? Before you start making excuses for why it’s o.k. that your job is missing X or Y, let me stop you. Just like people, jobs rarely change. They are what they are in all of their imperfections. Hear this: you have permission to want more. You deserve and can get more. You have to believe that for any change to happen. If you don’t fundamentally believe, consider how your life is likely to play out.

YOUR FATE IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE

worrying_womanDeep down, you don’t believe you deserve more. Fear, uncertainty and a lack of confidence swirl around in your head.  As a result, you choose to stay in your current job convincing yourself that “it really isn’t too bad.” Years pass. Opportunities pass. One day, you are called into your boss’ office. Your job has decided that you are no longer good enough and you are let go. Now, years later, you are left to search for your perfect job on someone else’s timeline, not yours. You become scared. You tell yourself that you can’t get your perfect job while you are unemployed and you must play it safe. After all, you need a job, any job. You search for and find an identical job to your previous one. Safe, unfulfilling and soul-numbing. You resign yourself to the reality that this is and will be your life.

One night during dinner, your nearly grown children bring up the topic of careers. Your guidance to your children is that work is not supposed to be fulfilling. Life is all about doing things you don’t like. You convince your kids to not go for their work soul mate because the probability of failure is simply too high. Workplace “happiness,” you continue, is a fairytale for the naïve. Safe is good. As a result, you succeed in sufficiently suffocating your children’s aspirations and ambitions before their careers begin. Denying themselves of who they are and are meant to become, they march down the same safe path you did. They live the same painful life you enjoyed. Well done.

If you don’t believe, that will be your fate. The time is coming to make change, but it starts with your beliefs about what you deserve and what you are fundamentally capable of. I invite you to believe. To that end, I want to be crystal clear. The road ahead is rocky, rough and full of fear and uncertainty. Your perfect job is waiting but you can’t get it without paying a price. Are you ready?

No excuses… Now hop off that treadmill.

 

Finding your romantic soul mate

no_loveI had every intention of kicking off this series with a post on the “signs that you don’t love your job.” When I announced this plan, perched at my kitchen table a few nights ago, I looked over at my wife and she was eerily quiet (if you know my wife, you’d know how “eerie” that actually was). I could tell by looking at the reaction on her face that either my plan was significantly off the mark or she had just discovered three-month-old meatloaf in the refrigerator. After a bit of my probing, she came clean and said, “I think people already know they don’t love their jobs. You don’t need to tell them. What they want to hear is how to find the right one.” A wise woman, my wife.

So, per my wife’s guidance, we aren’t going to spend any time reminding you why your job is like that unfulfilling dysfunctional relationship you had back in high school or college. Instead, I’m going to jump straight to helping you fill out your Match.com profile for the perfect job. To do this right, I’m going to take off my workplace hat for a moment and spend some time talking about the ideal criteria for one’s romantic soul mate. Trust me. It will all make sense (at least that’s the plan).

Romantic Soul Mate Criteria

When I evaluate couples on both degree of “healthiness” as well as the overall likelihood of long-term success, I look at three fundamental criteria. Here they are:

FRIENDS – Is everyday easy and fun? Is there a certain level of comfort just being yourself around the other person? Are your values matched up? These are critical components in the “friend” category. What does this actually look like in a romantic relationship? I’ll often ask the following questions:

  • Can you spend days and weeks on end with the other person without getting annoyed with him or her?
  • Are you o.k. letting them see you in your pajamas… or worse, when you first wake up? (I know my bed-head has got to be frightening)
  • Is it just easy and comfortable in a way you can’t explain?

 

PASSION – Is there a natural attraction? Do you simply feel “drawn” to each other? Do you think about the other person night and day? All are critical components in the “passion” category. When I evaluate if the “spark” is there with a couple, I look for a handful of things:

  • When they talk about or look at their significant other, do they smile? Do their eyes light up? If they frown (or spit), it is probably not a good sign.
  • When they are in a social setting as a couple and are mingling, are they periodically “drawn” back together?
  • Do they touch each other? I’ve seen couples who claim to be madly in love and yet can go an entire night never needing or wanting to touch the other person (or be touched). Worse, when their significant other does lightly touch them, there is a noticeable cringe. Passion fail.

 

PARTNERS – This is where the rubber hits the road. No soul mate can work long term if there isn’t a partnership component. Partners mutually meet each others’ needs. They work together to build something. This is an essential component and, unfortunately, largely overlooked. Almost all romantic relationships start off strong in the “friend” and “passion” categories, but if the relationship doesn’t share any traits of a partnership, divorce is inevitable. Soul mates partner. When I assess couples on this criteria, I look for the following:

  • Do they voluntarily take on roles and responsibilities in order to make the relationship work? From getting a job to taking out the trash, stuff gets done in partnerships.
  • Do they honor each other’s strengths and weaknesses? Do they encourage the other to use his / her strengths and do they help to compensate and mitigate their weaknesses? Major partner fail if one person is constantly reminding the other why he or she is so terrible at something.
  • Do they meet each other’s needs?
  • Does stuff get done? Consider this our “operational excellence” category for a couple. A blown-up living room, credit score of 550 and a mysterious odor permeating the house are all signs of partner fail.

 

There you have it: the criteria for finding that soul mate that will bring you a healthy and long-lasting relationship. I know you are begging to ask… Yes, I am available to speak at weddings. My toasts are pretty rock star legendary. No, I am not going to sit down with your partner and score him / her on the above criteria and subsequently provide them an “action plan” to shape up. That’s your job. Yes, I will tell your significant other to do a better job of listening, put down the remote, stash the credit card, etc… just provide me their name, contact information and my talking points and I’ll do the rest.

Up Next: Work Soul Mate Criteria

So, other than a bit of entertainment, why did I take you on this random detour? Simple. Look back at the criteria above for the perfect romantic soul mate. Now insert your perfect job in the place of your significant other. Do you see the connection? In many ways, it’s the same criteria. The perfect soul mate job has to have the comfort and fit of a “friend,” the excitement and attraction present with “passion,” and the mutually beneficial traits of a “partner.”

Next up we are going to tackle how to identify that perfect “work soul mate” for you.  Stay tuned.  Eyes will be opened.  “Ah ha’s” will be had.  Angry gym trainers will arrive on the scene.  A guaranteed party for sure.

“I don’t love my job”

nolove_graphicAre you in love with your job? Perhaps you are simply in “like” with your job. Then again, you might just be hanging around until something better comes along secretly hating every soul-killing moment your at the office.  This month we are tackling the topic of finding the right job that you can “fall in love with” and stay with for years to come. I know what you are thinking. This sounds overly romantic for something as staid as work. Not to mention, this idea stands in stark contrast to the cultural trends of “no loyalty” and “job-hopping” we’ve seen increase over the last several decades. I hear you, but my question to you is simple: “why not?” Why not fall in love with your job?

Your Work Soul Mate

You can “poo poo” me all you want, but deep down I know the truth: you really want a job that feels like your soul mate. And just like romantic love, wouldn’t you love to be able to say your job had all of the following characteristics:

  • Appreciates your uniqueness – your talents and skills
  • Feels “easy”
  • Challenges you to be better
  • Feels like you are headed somewhere each and every day – on a mission
  • Feels productive
  • Meets your needs
  • A perfect reflection of who you are and what you stand for

You’re sold aren’t you? I do teach persuasion and influence classes after all.

Your Excuses

Assuming my masterful persuasion skillz (with a “z”) have gotten you to see the light, the next big question standing in the way is clear:  What’s holding you back from finding the ONE (the right job)? It turns out that we use all of the same excuses whether we are looking for the perfect job or the perfect partner:

  • I don’t know what the ONE looks like
  • I have a history / pattern of unhealthy jobs (I’m attracted to dysfunction. Sorry.)
  • I can change this one to be the ONE
  • I’ve come to the realization that the ONE is just not out there
  • I missed my chance
  • I need to settle (after all, real “love” is overrated, an immature concept, etc…)
  • I’m meant to be “single”
  • I’m not smart enough, qualified enough, (insert your version of) enough, etc…
  • I’m too old
  • I prefer to live with lots and lots of cats (cats can be pretty time consuming)

Consider this month as a funky combination of relationship therapy, career builder, match.com and the angry trainer at the gym. I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out but who can resist that mix? Even train wrecks have a certain appeal. And who knows, I might just throw in a dozen cats for good measure.

Speaking of cats, here is someone who really, really loves cats.  While I would not recommend this approach to either dating or interviewing, I’m going to let you be the judge…