How to Bring Meaning to Your Work

I’d like to share two quick stories.

Years ago I was training the Palm Beach County Clerks Office executive team. The new Clerk, Sharon Bock, was intent on creating a world-class organization. One of my more interesting assignments from her was to attend a Six Sigma day as an observer. The 300 person management and leadership team would be facilitated by Six Sigma trainers to further define their vision, mission, values, and goals. Afterward, Sharon asked me what I observed. I told her the attendees were having their own little happy party talking about the difference they would make out there…without including a single customer of the County Clerk involved in the conversation.

I explained it’s hard to be purposeful or self-actualized where you don’t invite your customer, client or user into the conversation. How else can you truly understand their experience?

I had another client in my Florida days that was a formal wear manufacturer. Their retail spaces were amazing. Beautiful models wore the clothes in 12-foot posters all around the showrooms. However, when you got to the manufacturing floor, those pictures were gone. The purpose of those seamstresses was to sew that tuxedo or wedding dress. That was it. No real “meaning” in the work other than that.

I convinced the owner his employees should be treated no differently than their customers and that the same pictures should also be hung throughout the manufacturing floor. Even better, I suggested they provide a discount to some couples if they came by the manufacturing floor and showed the workers how special the garments they sewed made them feel.

Now, do you think those seamstresses would be more engaged and more purposeful after a direct experience with the customer like that? Produce greater “discretionary effort”? Of course, they would!

Eventually, they also added real photos and testimonials from client weddings on the manufacturing walls too.

Finding meaning in your work is about serving. More precisely, it is about the service experience between an employee and their customer. Make sure your employees get to directly interact with the people they serve and then let them discover how their work makes a difference in their customers lives.

If Your Boss Was a Cooked Egg…

While at my sister’s house last week,  I found myself watching Family Feud. The question that was asked is: “If your boss was a cooked egg, how would you describe him or her.”

Here are the responses. Who wants to guess at what the last answer was?

Strategies for Developing a Career Path that Works

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

“The things to do are the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to be doing.” – Buckminster Fuller

Maybe your job is not what you thought it would be, or you want to ratchet up, or you are burnt out, or something else seems more interesting…or you just got fired.

Consider these strategies to find a job you can love, even if it’s the one you are in:

  1. Nothing is wrong with you if you have not yet discovered your “passion” or “mission.” It can be as simple as “helping myself while I help others.” You can do that in any job.
  2. Nothing is wrong with changing jobs if:
    • There is no opportunity for creativity or growth.
    • You can’t earn more where you are at.
    • You want to work closer to home.
    • You dislike your co-workers, boss, or customers.
    • There is illegal or unethical activity going on.
    • This isn’t the third time you quit in the last two years.  If that’s the case, maybe you are the problem.
  3. Nothing is wrong with changing careers if:
    • The “story” of your career does not match up with the “reality” of your career.
    • You have grown far in that career and look to learn something new.
    • There is the possibility of working in a career that allows you to earn more or work in alignment with your passion, mission, etc.
    • You are financially set and want to do non-profit type work.
  4. Get out of the “grey zone” of uncertainty. Give yourself space and time to define your ideal career situation. Think both vertically and horizontally. For example, I’d like to be a lawyer for an environmental non-profit or I’d to be a games programmer at Electronic Arts.
  5. Interview people with your ideal career. Invite them to a coffee or lunch, or even offer to pay for their time.  Ask what they want and don’t like about their job.  Discover their story of how they came to be in this position.  Ask what they think the future holds for their career.  Last, ask what advice they would have for you.  I wish I had been smart enough to do this when I was younger.  Keep asking until somebody says yes.  It is worth the effort.
  6. Meet with a recruiter. Again, offer to pay for their time.  Ask for an evaluation of your resume, and what they believe your opportunities are and possible compensation levels.  Steps 4, 5, and 6 are all about gaining clarity.  Get facts before you make a career decision.
    • P.S.  See if they can run your resume through a resume screener to make sure you are using the right buzzwords. An example you can use yourself is https://www.jobscan.co/
  7. Don’t fear seeking part-time, temp or consulting work. Get your foot in the door and show them how amazing you are.  Do that, and they will want you as an employee.
  8. Don’t quit your day job until you have agreed to a new job. Then leave your company gracefully.  Provide them with two week’s notice.  Don’t bomb them on Glassdoor.  Don’t do a YouTube dance video. There is no good reason to create enemies.  Just move on.
  9. Get creative! Showing your resume online is not enough anymore.
    • Use your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.
    • Use your alumni and school contacts.
    • Show up at industry association meetings.
    • See if your industry association has a hiring page, many do.
    • Knock on their door. This approach works best with smaller companies as you might get to meet the owner or president.
    • Network, but when you do, spend your time learning about them. See how you can help them.  That’s what gets people’s attention, not being needy.  Besides, needy is creepy.
    • Don’t forget the Yellow Pages.
  10. Know the companies that fit your career path. Many cities have a business publication that identifies the companies in your area. Then systematically figure out how you will approach them. Make your job! Send the owner an article you wrote or a blog post.  Mail it to them.  Offer to have a meeting to see how you can help them.  I have often got work by doing this.  “I’d like to meet with you for an hour to check your head and share what I know about ____.”
  11. Know yourself. Look for a career that fits you. Know your skills and motivators.  Take a few career assessments.  Take a few skill tests (see shl.com).  The better you know you, the more focus and confidence you will have.  One simple way to focus is to identify the five things you do best and circle the two things you enjoy doing best.  Find a job or career that focuses on those two things and you will find work nirvana.
  12. If you are out of a job, then make finding a job your whole priority. Make it a 5-day week, 40 hour-week job. Be relentless. Go all in!
  13. Keep learning. Lynda.com is a great resource for learning and free if you have LinkedIn premium (which you want if you are job hunting). Research companies, trends, challenges, etc.
  14. Create a week in the life for yourself. Three years from now, when you are doing work you love. What does a work week look like?  Spend a few hours noting this future with clarity and then bring that future into the present.  I have learned that you get what you ask for – just not when or how you would expect to get it.
  15. Be prepared. As the saying goes, success results from preparation meeting opportunity. Being prepared for an interview means researching the company website, news articles, LinkedIn profiles, Glassdoor reviews and more. Practice your interviewing skills with friends.  Interviewing is a sales job so know the questions you can be asked and how you would answer them.  Short and sweet answers are best. Also, be prepared with questions you may want to ask. Don’t ask questions you can find by researching Manta, Hoovers…or the company website. Consider questions such as:
    • Why is the position open? Did someone quit or get fired? Is it a new position?
    • How would you describe the company’s culture?
    • Where do you get your greatest satisfaction in working here?
    • What frustrates you working here?
    • What are the common attributes of your top performers?
    • What drives results for the company?
    • How does your performance appraisal system work?
    • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
    • In one year from today, how would you know if my hire was a success?
    • What training programs do you offer employees?
    • Do you publish career ladders for the position?
    • What percentage of managers are promoted versus recruited?
    • What is the most exciting thing happening at the company?
    • How often does the CEO meet with the management team?
    • What type of company social events do you have?
  16. Follow up, even if they don’t. Send a written thank you note and ask for the job.
  17. Last, don’t stress about the future even if you are in a financial squeeze. Cut expenses to the bone and focus on taking action in the present, the only real power you have.

Download the Career Strategies PDF

Resources:

https://www.livecareer.com/ -resume builder, job search, more.

http://jobboardreviews.com job board directory

http://www.jobhuntersbible.com  from Dick Bolles, author of What Color is My Parachute

https://www.shl.com/en/  a great place to test your skills

https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/- great advice on job hunting

https://www.careercloud.com– job hunting advice

https://www.job-hunt.org/– job hunting advice

https://www.forbes.com/video/4573540723001 video from Forbes on avoiding the resume black hole.

https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/06/now-you-can-privately-signal-to-recruiters-youre-open-to-new-job– as the URL suggests, how to use LinkedIn

https://www.donphin.com/tools/– last but not least, some tools I’ve created that can help

 

Investigation and Lie Detection

“The liar was the hottest to defend his veracity, the coward his courage, the ill-bred his gentlemanliness, and the cad his honor.” 
― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

There is a great deal of literature available to help determine whether someone you are speaking with, perhaps during an investigation, or during a game of poker, is lying to you. What follows are some of the “tells” the trained eye will look for:

  • Eye contact avoidance.
  • Liars use less hands and arms. Often on their lap, folded, closed body posture.
  • Palms down on the table or clenched.
  • Arms and legs crossed.
  • Touching face, playing with hair.
  • Partial shrug.
  • Inconsistent words, gestures, and emotions.
  • What was the initial reaction?
  • Timing of gestures.
  • The surprise wears off quickly.
  • The tight smile; the small smile.
  • Head moves mechanically.
  • The guilty usually go on the defensive; the honest on the offensive.
  • The head shifts.
  • Slumped posture.
  • Liars generally won’t touch you or point fingers.
  • Liars feel the need to give a lot of details.
  • Liars often repeat the question to gain time.
  • Liars use your words.
  • The Freudian slip.
  • Discomfort with silence.
  • The guilty usually engage in body “awayness.” They will put up barriers.
  • Guilty people try too hard to convince. “I would never…”, “I wouldn’t lie,” “To tell you the truth…”
  • “I need time to think.”
  • They look to be relieved that the questioning is over.
  • Look for the out of left field response
  • They make an effort to change the subject.
  • The guilty will engage in moral superiority.
  • They will answer the question with a statement first.

When you are hot on the liar’s trail, you can say things like:

  • Let them know the advantages of coming clean.
  • On a scale of 1-10 where might you fit in …
  • What else could you have done?
  • Talk about it as if it is already an established fact.
  • Stare at them and be silent. Give them a reason to tell the truth.
  • Ask them if “this is the whole story?”
  • I know this happened… what I want to know is what your intentions were?
  • Was this an innocent mistake or a calculated effort?
  • Expand their statement.
  • I know there are two sides to every story…

Liars feast off of amateurs, which is one reason I don’t play poker, and a good reason for you to hire a pro when dealing with workplace investigations!

 

Behavioral Interviewing

The goal of a behavioral interview is very simple: to see how somebody might behave under varying circumstances. The following is a partial list of circumstances that can show up. Add questions unique to your environment too. You can discuss the who, what, where, why and how of behaviors around:

  1. Not being clear about job tasks.
  2. Having difficulty with a co-worker.
  3. Having difficulty with a boss.
  4. Feeling your talents aren’t being properly utilized.
  5. Managing a challenging project either due to lack of resources, time or other pressures.
  6. Having made an error or dealing with somebody you manage who’s made an error.
  7. Setting goals and making sure you execute on them.
  8. Making an unpopular decision.
  9. Examples of how you motivate or engage people you manage or co-workers.
  10. What are some innovative or creative solutions that you’ve helped to generate to solve a problem?

And the catch-all question, “We’ve done a fair amount of behavioral interviewing, today and I’ve learned a lot you as a result. What other behaviors, both positive and negative, have we yet to discuss?

My Three Favorite Behavioral Questions

I consider all the above to be a dance around the middle. There aren’t enough interviewers who ask questions at the extreme. Such as:

  1. Tell me something that felt unfair to you in your last job? This is my favorite interview question of all, to understand somebody’s behaviors. Our personal culture is largely defined by how we deal with what feels unfair to us. So dig into it. If they tell you nothing felt unfair about their last job, then guess what… they are lying… and I won’t hire a liar. However, when they do tell you something felt unfair, now you get to ask additional questions. For example, why did it feel unfair? What did you do about it? I would go through their entire resume and ask that question about all their recent jobs.
  2. Now we go to the other extreme. What are you most excited about (in your previous job and other jobs)? Once again, why, why, why? Ask yourself if there’s a position at your company where the applicant can do the work they are most excited about. That’s where they tend to be most productive.
  3. The third question I like to ask relates to how well they know themselves. The question is this: “What are three things you think the people you have worked with would like to see you change about yourself?” If they say nothing, then they have the fantasy they are perfect, and I’m not hiring them. Most people would know the answer to that question, including you. When they eventually tell me what those three things are, I’ll find out from them what effort they’ve made to address those concerns.

You can understand how powerful these questions are by applying them to yourself. What feels unfair to you? What are you most excited about? What would people like to see you change about yourself? They are a great source of inquiry and awareness.

What are your favorite behavioral interviewing questions?