In my work I come across four types of clients: The first type is in the job for just their paycheck; the second, to do their job well; the third, they see it as a meaningful career and who want to grow in it; and finally, the rarest of them all, is the one in their job because they love what they do and those who find deep, purposeful existenceit gives them that purpose to do soulful work.
For this final type their focus is not so much on how much money they make or what title they hold in their job, but rather, how much fun they have in their job and how they impact others through their work. Inevitably, too, they are rewarded with a compensation that often is covetable! What I find among this last client class, too, is that they do not struggle with their work-life balance, work politics, or with the thought of getting laid-off or being jobless! In short, they lead a carefree, effortless, and blissful work life! Yet, in the process they give it all they got.
A good part of my own role as a career and life coach is to move my clients from the first type in the direction of making their jobs soulful by showing them how they can achieve that state of career nirvana. These four categories of work engagement are not quantized with rigid walls separating themthey form a continuum. Although I do not always succeed, but once my clients get on the track of pursuing this virtuous path they feel empowered to challenge themselves to move in the direction to lead a blissful life.
The Gallop organization has been doing annual employee surveys across the globe and publishing their results of employee engagement. Over the years, as this research has been conducted, the distribution of employees among different categories of job engagement has not changed much. In its 2017 research Gallop captured data from 195,600 US employees with more than 31 million from its global client database. From the 100 million US workers in their jobs full-time (nearly 150 million are in the US workforce) Gallop has identified about a third of those as engaged in their work.
These are the employees that build something as they do their work and make a difference in all our lives. At the other end 16% of the employees are actively disengagedwalking zombieswho are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build or create; they actually burden their other colleagues with their sloppy, incomplete, incompetent, or undone work. The remaining 51% are not engagedthey just show up to work and take orders (often without fully delivering what is required!). How do they get away without completing their work? They find bosses that are just like them who tolerate mediocrity!
Shifting from Paycheck to Purpose:
Although changing ones mindset from paycheck to purpose is very much in their own hands, how their company creates a culture that makes it easier for its employees to do this also matters. In this blog I am not going to focus on what a company must do to help enable this mindsetit can do a lot; rather I am going to focus on what YOU can do to move in the direction of purpose to help you engage yourself in more soulful work.
Here are the steps that I recommend on what you can do to bring purpose to your own work despite how the work is treating you:
- Audit your work: After you get in the groove of your job it is normal to get inured to it and just keep doing what has worked and going with the flow. When you reach this state of auto piloting your work, the work become soulless and gradually you start disengaging. So, to prevent from reaching this state in your everyday work it is best to do a periodic audit of what you do every day over a period of a month or longer to see what patterns you see in your schedule.
The best way to this is to keep a daily planner that is broken down to 30 minutes (even 15) and enter your daily activities either before you do them or at the end of the day (somewhat like your own timecard). Then go through these entries and highlight them Red, Yellow, and Green. All Red entries are time wasters and you must excise them from your routine and free up your time to do more Yellow and Green tasks. Typically they entail meetings, managing irrelevant emails, responding to busy emails, interruptions, and other non-value added work. If you make a list of these tasks and get them off your plate you can do much more productive work. Watch the embedded HBR video to see how this is done.
- Identify joyful work: In almost every job there are components of your job that bring out the best in you. You actually enjoy doing those parts and you deliver your best value-add in such tasks. Find out what they are and make a list of those as a part of the Green entries in your Planner. Often, employees are not able to do the Green tasks because they are too busy doing the Red and the Yellow tasks. So, once you reshuffle these priorities youd be doing more of what you enjoy doing.
- Structure your work: Once you divide your workload into the Red, Yellow, and Green areas see how you can structure your work so that you save your Green work to last. Doing the dreaded tasks first and saving the joyful parts for later motivates you to complete the stultifying parts with some motivation. The Green work is your dessert.
- Audit your environment: Much of how things get done in a work group is driven by the environment that surrounds that work group. If the environment is noisy, highly interrupt-prone, and distracting, productivity takes a nosedive. So, evaluate how you can do what needs to get done so that you are able to focus on your task with minimal influence of these outside forces.
This is where what a company can do to improve productivity counts, but in this blog my focus is what you can do to improve your own contributions of purpose. If the work unit is noisy or crowded with traffic that distracts from what you do, ask your boss if you can work remotely or can telecommute on days when value-added work is required. Make an argument not so much to benefit you, but to benefit the boss and the company.
- Make nice with the boss: In my coaching practice the biggest single factor for which prospects approach me is their dealings with the immediate boss, and sometimes their higher ups. Most common reason for unhappiness in a job is a persons relationships with all those who work with them: the central among them is the boss, then their peers, followed by others in their working ecosystem. The reason a strong working relationship with your immediate boss is important is because it can make the biggest difference in how you are treated in your workgroup. As a part of #4, above, auditing the environment is important, but without making your boss a centerpiece of that audit can lead to constant struggles with your everyday existence and joy you derive from your work.
So, if you have differences of views with your boss make a serious and concerted effort to reconcile that difference without compromising your values. In most cases my advice to clients who come to me with a boss problem is often the same: get a meeting to discuss your differences and make that discussion outside of your scheduled transactional meetings that happen every week or month. Write down your talking points, take with you facts to support your view and see how far you can bring your boss closer to your point of view. In my practice I find that nearly 70-80% of these relationships improve and some even repair completely when my client is able to have these Crucial Conversations (read the book by this title before you take this on). A mended relationship with your boss can make a big difference in how you view your job and how much joy you derive from it.
Remember, one meeting to reconcile your differences is just a start. You need to learn to make this a constant effort to ratchet-up your relationship with your boss once you make it to that turning point. If you are not able to mend your relationship with your boss it is best to consider finding yourself another.
Also, some are tempted to complain to their HR representative about their boss. This is not a good idea. A word of caution: the HR rep may sincerely come across and convince you as if they have your interest at heart; dont fall for this pretense. This is why direct meeting with your boss is much more effective. Besides, youll learn how to have these crucial conversations in the future. Remember, when the Gallop survey indicates that 67% of employees are disengaged it also includes your boss and their higher-ups in that employee pool. In my own view, the manager class belongs in the 80th percentile of disengagement. What this means is that it is much harder to run away from bad managers.
- Review your rsum: Most do not look at their rsum to serve them as a roadmap of how they want it to look in the future; they work on their rsum retrospectively when looking for a job or when they want to get out from their current tyranny. If you audit your rsum entries and see what is missing on it for you to move up in your next job youd have a chance to plan what is required to make your rsum deliver a message that already showcases your leadership at the next level. So, plan and carefully chart what next assignments your need to put a shine on your rsum before you take on that task that comes your way willy-nilly.
- Take on a new initiative: No matter where you work there is always something that can be done within your group (or even working with adjacent groups) to make things better for you team, your customer, or someone who is the beneficiary of what your work group does. So, if you see something that excites you to take on frame it with the proper context to make your boss look good and to contribute something positively to how your group delivers its mission. Get your boss to support you and show that you can deliver on it in addition to your regular assignments. Nothing will boost your standing more than an initiative your propose and then delivering that on target. This is something you can add to your rsum with great impact.
- Make a change: Nothing changes unless you change something. Change is hard for most people but a quote that makes change a more palatable prescription is the one by Tom Peters: If you think change is hard, try becoming irrelevant! So, after going through the list of above recommendations see what things need changing and start making a change plan to drive yourself towards your purpose.
- Journal your gratitude: We are all grateful for something that is making our life worth living. Every day we encounter something for which we are grateful. Journaling these thoughts makes it easy to see the positive that is in your life and helps you get on a virtuous cycle. If something good happens on a day write it down and be grateful for that happenstance. On a down day it may energize you to read your past entries and see how good things happen for you.
- Ignite your passion: Everyone needs some outlet outside of our everyday work. Find something that stirs you passions and embrace it for no other reason than to merely provide you an avenue of joy. It could be a hobby, listening to music you like, reading a good book, or building something just to prove to yourself that you can do it. Just as in # 3, where you save the joyful tasks in your job for later go back to your hobby or passion at the end of the day or week to recharge your batteries.
- Mentoring: Finding someone to mentor to help them grow is one of the easiest ways to not only influence someone deserving in a positive way, it also energizes you because you learn something in return from this process. Most mentors admit to getting more out of mentoring relationship than they end up giving in it.
The reverse of this for you is to find yourself a mentor. This is yet another way for you to grow in your profession. Although finding a good mentor is sometimes a challenge, finding several mentors and leveraging their wisdom can be a great way to sustain your professional growth and to get access to resources that are otherwise difficult to get.
Transforming your everyday, humdrum work existence into a purpose-driven life is not as out of reach as it may sound. If you follow these suggestions it would be much easier to start on that journey and to start moving to the area where your work is no longer something that you dread, but something that you jump out of bed to go do!
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.
After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.
During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.
Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.
Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.
Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.
Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.
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