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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do That Thing You Do!

For a change of pace, today’s focus is more organizational development in nature, than my usual no-nonsense customer service wisdom. 
Recently, I read a friend’s blog on why he is a writer.  In the twenty years (yikes!) I have known Bart he has been a writer.  Granted, we were front office employees at the time, but his true aspiration was always clear.  The blog is a moving piece on why he pursues the vocation of writing, with hit or miss results professionally and financially.  

“Stacey, why do you do what you do?” 

Consultant businesses are not the Shangri-Las of the professional world.  In many ways, I work harder now than I did in the corporate environment, because so much of it is new to me from the administration side of a business. And of course there are certainly many more unknowns about my financial future.

But why do I do what I do? I always knew I wanted to teach.  In high school, my scope was limited to the traditional K-12 experience and I loved history, so it seemed a high school history teacher would be my future.  When I started working, I naturally leaned towards individual training roles.  I was always creating PowerPoints and scripts to teach someone something, even if they didn’t want to know!

After a lay-off I returned to USF as a nontraditional sophomore at 29,  and finally took my first K-12 education class, which quickly zapped the high school history teacher dream.  Simply, it wasn’t my bag.   But a few years later, I took my first Adult Education course in grad school, which focused on adults and workplace education. I instantly felt the fit.  I found my tribe, my calling, whatever word you want to use. 

The second piece why I do what I do is I have a natural service attitude.  I want to help people, in big and small ways, to make their lives better.  Professionally, this meant as a teenager completing fast food transactions accurately, as a young adult quickly checking in guest at Disney so they could start enjoying vacation.   It translates in my personal life volunteering with the Adult Literacy League, or just taking care of a friend’s pets while on vacation.  (Side note:  I will never tire of Chick-fil-a, and the almost year I worked there I ate it practically everyday.  Those darn waffle fries!). 

When I reached the point in my career that teaching adults coupled with my service aptitude, I instinctually knew I was in the right spot.  Yes, I work to sustain my life financially, but what I do, I do because it’s who I am.  It is a vocation, not a job, and I feel lucky to realize that.

Because I have a talent for educating others and a service mindset, my goal for my business is to help as many organizations as possible teach their employees how to be better service stewards of the world.  In my definition of employees I include executives, management, front line employees, pretty much everyone in the company.  Being better service stewards of your work community and customers directly relates to your organization's health.  It’s not about saying “Please” or the customer’s name three times in a conversation, it is about serving the individual to the best of your ability because it is the right and humanitarian thing to do.   That translates to a healthy sustainable financial bottom line.

But This is Not About Me

I pushed the question further in my mind why does everyone do specifically what they do?  There are a gazillion jobs available. You have the power to change careers, do anything that you wish.  If you do not feel you have this power, then that is a blog for another day. 

But continuing today’s theme, are you doing what you saw yourself doing as young professional?  Even if you are not, do you have a sense of why what you do is important to someone else?  Is there some link to your inner self that connects to your current position?

In other words, are you serving others as the best version of yourself, or simply taking up space?  Does that answer make you feel like there is a solid reason for you to be occupying your place at the table?   Could you articulate this to your direct manager or leader?   I think this is a much more effective conversation than the 2 minute elevator speech. 

So, “Why do you do what you do?”  

It would be important to answer the question philosophically, and not blow it off.  Why? Because, it affects your everyday behavior.  My theory is someone who works for financial reasons only, is probably not connected to their space and time in their current organization.  They are making short-term decisions, based mostly on ego, and not a sense of their greater purpose or the reprecussions of their decisions.  Even if you are not working your dream job, is what you are doing on most days reinforcing why you are the best person for that job at this time?  

As with organizations, when an individual articulates and act on this, they are the ones who reach career Nirvana (Nice tie in to The Customer Service Gurus, yes? :)) because they are sure of why they are there, and what they consciously do makes a difference.

I am not sure if my blog has any greater ideas to offer today, oh except this.  Definitely ask candidates during the interview process, “Why do you want this particular job?”   As with you, candidates have many choices of careers, companies, so why you, why now?   That answer alone could save you a costly bad hire.

I encourage you to read Bart's blog.   He is eloquent, insightful, and just an all around interesting read.  Click here for his blog. Good stuff!

Live Long, and May Your Work Prosper!

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