A Healthy Addiction To Change

Discussing scope of work details over dinner is never a bad thing, particularly when the setting is Newport Beach.  In doing so last week I also enjoyed a very good lesson on leveraging change as a catalyst for career growth and brand transformation, even amid brutal economic uncertainty.

Aleya Chattopadhay is a Change Agent who also happens to be the Chief Marketing Officer for Brookfield Residential Property Services. That means brand strategy supporting over 50,000 real estate professionals who process over $80 billion of real estate annually out of more than 1,600 locations.  Big job with a brand portfolio that has grown significantly through strategic acquisition during the last few years.  Bold moves that align with her own approach to business perfectly.

During the great recession her career arc resembled “a hockey stick.”  No sitting on the sidelines playing it safe. Today, she is perfectly positioned to put her stamp on the reinvention of this new kind of Real Estate company.  How did she get there so fast (as in warp speed fast)?  Her success story includes sound advice for anyone excited about the opportunity that exists when thinking differently about a business, brand, strategy or career.

In her own words she is “addicted to change.”  We laughed about that but the lesson includes adopting a mental framework that confronts and conquers fear, consistently.  Constantly stretching, she acknowledged that being uncomfortable means growth is happening. In the last three years alone she has worked (and lived) in India, London and just recently relocated to Newport Beach.  Her career ascent continued with each stop.  She is uniquely qualified to deal with the accelerated pace of change because she embraces it as the next opportunity.  Aggressively.  That has included plenty of personal sacrifice and a bit of professional fearlessness.  That is the hard work that gets rewarded in a time where talent and global experience trumps tenure (or title).

We talked about the realities of the great recession.  She acknowledged the challenges of growth in a time of global decline.  However, she made a resolute decision not to participate in the “recession in her own mind”.  Essentially, she decided to sit this one out.  For her that meant focusing on the things she could control and the opportunity to accelerate her own growth even if the path meant going around the world and back.  That might seem easy sitting in Newport Beach now.  It wasn’t.  But it was worth it.  Not just for the next job but for the opportunity to go places, meet people, collect meaningful experiences and pass another test.

We also talked about the importance of fit.  “Fit for purpose.  Fit for people.”  Contributing to a work effort that you believe in, that makes a difference, that has significance beyond your own self interests matters.  That is when and where you’ll most likely do your best work.  It isn’t just the work but often how you are doing the work and who you are doing the work with that makes the experience meaningful.

The who part has a pretty profound impact.  The opportunity to work with (and for) people like Aleya challenge our own approach to change and transformation.  That is a gift we could all benefit from receiving.  Who is challenging your approach to transformation, change and growth in this new world of work?

Her approach may sound like common sense.  It is far from common practice.  Most people prefer to play it safe, settle in and work in the confines of the comfort zone.  That is why the Change Agent has an advantage.  Adaptation skills are highly coveted by progressive organizations looking to advance. I have every confidence that Aleya and the team are just getting started.

Should be fun to watch.

The Generations At Work: What’s The Problem?

2 Boomers, 2 Xers and 2 Millenials walked into a bar…

Elsie’s bar to be exact. What followed was a couple hours of open, interesting, unscripted, entertaining panel discussion on the real or perceived generational conflict in the workplace. We set out to address the challenges, changes, myths, misconceptions and generally speaking, have a good time.

The setting was the Site Minnesota Annual Conference and I had the good fortune of facilitating this panel following my keynote address.  We also benefited from an extraordinary presentation on brand experience from Diana Oreck, Vice President of the Global Leadership Center for Ritz Carlton.

Both Diana and I emphasized culture as a competitive advantage.  Clearly, one of the challenges that emerged around cultivating a strong culture today involves managing the very different needs, values, attitude and expectations of the different generations.  An issue we attacked head on.  What did we learn?

Generally and Generational-y speaking:

-Boomers live to work. Millenials work to live. Xers really struggle with this.
-Boomers covet stability. Xers don’t buy into stability. Millenials are super adaptable.
-All of the generations are loyal to the company.  If the company has a good track record of demonstrating loyalty first.
-This next generation (Y) does a have a sense of entitlement. This really pisses off Gen X.
-The notion of “paying your dues” is a concept that is understood, accepted and defined very differently across the generations.
-Boomers are helping Milleinials improve long range thinking and communication skills.
-Millenials are helping Boomers disrupt the death grip on the staus-quo and embrace  more progressive approaches to accomplishing our work.
-Xers know everything.  Really, we do.
-Development is a priority.  For Millenials it is a mandate.  Gen Y expects a development plan and very clear, defined path and timeline to the future. 
-Gen Y believes business works better when it’s more social.  They like teams. They are highly collaborative.
-Boomers like teams more when they are in charge.  Gen X is very good at flying solo.
-Gen Y expects to use the latest tools and technology in the office.  It’s how they live.  It’s how they work.
-Boomers and Xers are catching on but still have a healthy dose of skepticism around the Social Shift. Is that a business tool?  Waste of time at work?  Should we be friends on Facebook?
{Tip: Not according to our resident expert panel. You might want to think twice about that friend request.}
-Balance is over.  Each generation wants more flexibility in the way we organize ourselves to accomplish work.
-We all covet performance feedback.  Millenails want it everyday.  Real time.  They also enjoy the opportunity to participate in those conversations.  Think  “feedback” 360 style.  Your annual performance review is antiquated.

This was a fun conversation!  We laughed.  We learned.  I think we also realized that this is exactly the kind of open, transparent communication that breaks down barriers and builds better understanding. That is an opportunity.  We have a lot to learn from each other.  In understanding and appreciating our differences we’ll begin to work together more efficiently, effectively and effortlessly.

The enclosed video excerpt offers a story about my own experience confronting the generational divide with my intern, Laura. We heard a lot of similar stories during our panel discussion.  When the world changes we need to change with it.

 

Ryan Estis ‘Digitial Influence’ Clip ILSHRM Chicago, IL 2011 from Ryan Estis on Vimeo.

There’s No Place Like Home

Lesson #1

I am spending a few days in the hometown.  A Town was a pretty good place to grow up.

I can walk outside, shut my eyes and almost smell a summertime of running bases, kick the can and one on one basketball games in the driveway with my brother (you make it…you take it). The last time I lived here was the summer of 1991.  I had just graduated from college and the job market was pretty tough.  I moved back home for a stretch to ease the transition from campus to career.

This didn’t sit too well with Dad.  From where he stood moving home wasn’t part of the game plan.  You finished school, got a job and stood on your own two feet like a man (his words).   He would have loved this Bret Stephens open letter to the Class of 2012.

At the time I was selling baseball cards for beer money (it was actually a pretty lucrative sales gig) and had decided that after years of paper routes, washing dishes, cutting grass, waiting tables, tending bar etc. that this time around, with degree in hand, I was going to hold out and accept a job I really wanted to be doing.  A job that offered me more than just the money.

With the baseball card business up and running I held out for 9 months.  I finally accepted an entry level sales job with an Ad Agency and packed my bag for Minneapolis, MN.  Holding out was a good decision for me.  That first job was a catalyst for starting a career.  Had it not been, I am pretty sure I would have walked out.  The idea of working solely for the cash wasn’t in the cards, particularly when I knew those baseball cards could have covered my modest expenses until I landed work I really wanted.

Somewhere along the journey that changed.  I settled down and settled in. It is an occupational hazard. Blend a little talent, tenure, the corner office and the responsibility of life and it gets easy to enter the safety zone.  I actually became more than happy to trade my work effort for the cash.  Satisfaction, meaning, alignment, passion and purpose seemed like frivolous pursuits for the young and naive (keep telling yourself that and you actually might start to believe it).

Nonsense.  I was afraid.  Fear is a powerful deterrent.  After all, what if what’s next doesn’t work out?

Pushing through the fear and excuses that hold us back from doing whatever it is we want to be doing just once can put that in perspective. It’s worth it simply for the shift in attitude and action orientation that come when you are conquering something important or starting something new.

What if it doesn’t work out?  So what!  You’ll hit the reset button and go at it again another way.  We all should hit reset a few times.  After all, it’s good to pass a new test.

I can tell you it feels good to feel a little unsettled again.  I am switched on about working on what is next and passing new tests.  I have no doubt the next reset is right around the corner.

Besides, if it didn’t work out I might have just moved back home with Mom.  I still have a huge baseball card collection and that home cooking is tough to beat!

3 Years Old and 50 Lessons Learned

This week my company turned 3 years old.

A good friend asked me, “what are the most important lessons you learned?”

Good question.

In reflecting back and forward I have gained some valuable insight into business performance, leadership, culture, work, relationships, money, fear, happiness, love, life and legacy.

Here are 50 top of mind lessons learned:

1. Doing work that you believe matters is more fulfilling than working solely for money.

2.  Money still matters.

3. Good ideas are everywhere.

4. Executing on a good idea is incredibly hard work.

5. Be patient.  {I simply cannot get this one down}

6. What I do isn’t all that special.

7. How I do it is my best opportunity to differentiate, compete and win.

8. Keep going. Keep learning. You get better.

9. Focus.

10. Convincing someone else to give you $ for a good idea takes extraordinary skill.  Sales make business happen.

11. You better be good.  A little luck helps.

12. One page is enough for a business plan.

13. Everyone needs a plan.  Plans change.

14. Think different.

15. People Strategy is the driver of business performance in the People Economy.

16. Surrounding yourself with the wrong people will make you miserable.

17. Surrounding yourself with the right people is the catalyst for growth, joy and success.

18. You learn more from failure than success.

19. The key is failing small so you learn but it doesn’t put you out of the game.  Small failures are recoverable.

20. Big business needs to be less risk averse and more failure tolerant to innovate.  So do you. So do I.

21. Prepare like an artist.

22. Action mitigates fear.

23. Listening is more important than talking.

24. Care.

25. Start small.  Dream BIG.

26. Reading and Writing are success accelerators.  Watching television is not.

27. The way we connect, communicate and collaborate to accomplish meaningful work is being completely transformed.

28. Regulate the amount of time spent on social media.

29. You compete globally or you don’t compete.

30. Work your ass off is great advice.

31. Help other people is even better advice.

32. Define your values.  Share them with people you want to work with.  Work with people who share those values.

33. Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep.  Everyday.

34. Hold people accountable.  Start with yourself.

35. Stop complaining.  Stop criticizing.

36. Learn how and when to say no.

37. Invest in you.  You don’t need office space.  You need paying customers.

38. You aren’t that good.  You aren’t that bad.

39. Give ideas away.  Share.

40. Be humble.  Stay hungry.  Always hustle.

41. Success isn’t fulfilling if you can’t share it with people you love.

42. Rest. Recover. Rejuvenate.

43. Ask customers why they buy?

44. Set performance targets.  Measure.  Adjust activity.  Repeat.

45. If customers don’t buy again and recommend you, you don’t have a business.

46. Have a client advisory board.  Have a work/life advisory board.

47. Work is an emotional experience.

48. You can change the world.  At least your world.

49. We are here for a short time.  Do something that matters.

50. Thank you.

I Want To Be A Salesman

“I decided tonight I want to be a professional salesman.”

A big decision.  Particularly for a freshman in College.  He was winding down that first year.  Learning.  Growing.  Experimenting.  Tonight he shifted to a place of commitment.

His words moved me.  I truly felt inspired as we continued our conversation about his life choice and next steps.

I was meeting him for the first time last Thursday evening following my keynote to several hundred college students at Northern Illinois University. The content was focused on Accelerating the Transition from Campus to Sales Career.

This kid and so many of his classmates  are going to become BIG producers.  They have a huge head start thanks to the cutting edge professional sales curriculum offered at NIU.  They also have so much of the right stuff inside them.

In partnership with event host CDW I had the privilege of sharing a few ideas with these students to help jump start their transition into a successful sales career.  No doubt the class of 2012 is graduating into a climate of economic uncertainty and anxiety about the future. There is intense competition for every job.  There is intense competition for every sale.  These students know this and embrace it.  I actually believe it represents their most significant opportunity to compete and win.

These students/soon to be rookie sales representatives don’t have bad habits. The Sales 2.0 movement is transforming the professional selling landscape mandating a skills and competency upgrade perfectly suited to this next generation of sellers.  When the game changes enter a new generation of GameChangers. They are more prepared than you think, less entitled than rumored and ready to compete for your job and your client roster. They don’t see their limited experience as a barrier or disadvantage.  They might just be right.

Just about every student attending the event stayed around for the networking.  They had questions for me.  Wanted to connect with CDW and genuinely seemed interested in connecting with each other around a night dedicated to their future.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many veteran salespeople routinely sacrifice a Thursday night (or any night) and come out pocket for professional development and some hardcore practice to advance their own skills and competency?

I loved being back on campus because I love being around students.  I love the mindset of the student.  Curious. Inquiring. Listening. Learning. Growing. Improving.  If you want to succeed in sales today the student mindset is one you have to embrace to compete at the highest levels.  The best salespeople are students of the game.

What else are they?

Prepared:  Most new jobs, sales, wins and opportunities are secured not in the moment of truth but in the hours upon hours of preparation prior. GameChangers show up prepared.  They do the research. Prepare questions in advance.  Have a point of view, compelling position of value and compete to win every time out.

Interested: Sales isn’t about you.  Your prospects don’t care all that much about you.  Your product or service probably isn’t all that different from your competition and it likely costs abouthe same. GameChangers make the sale all about the customer. They spend a lot more time being interested than they do trying to be interesting and understand that selling is asking, not telling…selling is listening, not talking.

Consistent: Best practices.  Good habits.  Discipline. Systems.  Process. Hustle. GameChangers don’t do things right once in a while or every other week.  It is an every day, all the time commitment to excellence.

Connected: GameChangers develop meaningful relationships and a robust network of connections. They connect people to each other, ideas and earn influence by participating and providing value. They understand you cannot automate relationships but recognize the opportunity to expand, accelerate and impact relationships online though friends, followers and connections.

Committed:  GameChangers present to earn commitment.  Not to simply share information. Every meeting has an outcome objective and they work with the end in mind.  They are also committed to performance.  They deliver their number and compete to win regardless of the circumstances. No excuses. Just results.

That big decision?  Well, I couldn’t help but complement these students on their outstanding choice.  What great skills to develop.  There simply isn’t a better place to launch your career!

No idea, insight, innovation or invention will ever see the light of day without a salesperson who can bring it to the marketplace.  Master that skill, put up big numbers and you’ll have an abundance of opportunity for the rest of your professional career.  Sales makes business happen.

I saw limitless potential on display last Thursday night.  With the right organization, committed to investing to develop sales talent (CDW is a great example) this next generation of sellers has the opportunity to do big things in the world.

Will be fun to watch!

Many thanks to Team CDW for making this special night happen and including me!

 

{photo credit: Ven Sherrod}

 

College Game Day

I am trending toward 70 live events/engagements this year, focused predominantly on the drivers of business performance (Leadership/Sales/Innovation) during this incredible time of transformation and change.

Each engagement is a little different.  We go the route of customization and focus on delivering a consistent experience.  That keeps me on my toes.  Where I like to be.

Occasionally we’ll insert an engagement into the lineup that is a departure from the conference or corporate event that challenges us to think different.

Going back on to a college campus next Thursday qualifies.  In partnership with premiere technology solutions provider CDW, Delta Sigma Pi, Pi Sigma Epsilon and the American Marketing Association I will be presenting Sales Shift: Accelerating the Transition from Campus to Sales Career.

This one is personal.  I want this evening to matter.  I recognize that sacrificing a Thursday night a few months before graduation is tough call for any college senior.  That fact that a few hundred have decided to do just that and join us at NIU is inspiring. I wouldn’t have done it.  That’s the honest truth. I would have been doing the Court Street Shuffle and that makes these future sales stars a little different from me.  Good for them.

It is also precisely why in making my own transition from campus to sales career I was 7 months into the shift with a goose egg on the scoreboard.  I couldn’t close.  I couldn’t even open.

I came dangerously close to making the transition back to my parent’s basement.  Selling baseball cards for beer money wasn’t the game plan but it was exactly where I was headed.  I had a little natural talent.  I had absolutely no sales skill.  Talent alone isn’t good enough.

Jim Rohn saved me.  He delivered an epic seminar that I still count as the single most transformational moment of my career. One night. Three hours. Jim opened the door.  He gave me permission and some powerful tools to jump-start my success.

I read Think and Grow Rich and the The Greatest Salesman in the World in the next 3 days.  (my homework from the seminar…I still have the notes).

That was the beginning.  I never looked back.  It’s funny how once you become good at something that begins to fuel your passion.  That is how it was for me.  I wasn’t passionate about sales or leadership until I was good.  That is also the truth.

Today it is even more important to be good.  Scratch that.  Today any VP of Sales is searching for the extraordinary.  Every spot on the roster counts.  Today you need to be better than good.  Average is over.  I know this because I asked.  I asked 5 of the strongest sales executives in my network what they want from new hire graduates.  What they expect.  What they need.  I will shed more light on that Thursday night.

Bottom line, they are looking for an edge. They are all very impatient when it comes to results.  They all are facing enormous pressure to hit a number.  They have no choice but to demand sales excellence and high impact performance out of the gate. That is also the truth.

In looking back today I was lucky.  That night with Jim proved to be transformational.  The decision to change happens in a moment.  That was mine. In preparing to go back to campus I plan to bring some of his timeless insights with me.

My Alma Mater has an Alumni Gateway at the corner of Court and Union Streets where Ohio University and the City of Athens meet.

The Alumni Gateway greets all who enter the campus with an inscription that reads:

So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge, wisdom and love.

The inscription over the alumni gateway for those departing the campus reads:

So depart that daily thou mayest better serve they fellowmen thy country and thy God.

Beautiful words I have always remembered.  Today I am reminded of the significance in their meaning.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to connect and share next week.  I hope my words can serve to inspire.

I know these students will most certainly inspire me to continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom and love.

Fear & Career: Managing Change

You may recall my recent writing about career and life transition through the lens of perspective offered from the experience set of Twin Cities Executive/Management Consultant Teresa Hopke, whose own personal/professional transformation I chronicled in the following posts:

Resignation Day & Life Meets Work

These two posts prompted a number of inquiries related to navigating career change and managing risk, particularly amid such uncertain times.

No doubt, managing change requires courage which is defined as: The quality of mind that enables one to face danger with confidence, resolution and firm control of oneself.

Teresa is someone who is willing to explore and risk failure.  To her it’s worth it.  She wants to get Switched On in the morning.  She wants to make a dent in the universe.

I had the good fortune of catching up with her live at the recent Work/Life Expo.  We continued the conversation and I continue to believe her inspiring perspective can prove beneficial to anyone faced with similar circumstances (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t faced with navigating comparable challenge and change while expecting twins!).

The enclosed video captures part of our conversation around career transition, the impact work has on life and the courage to confront our fear and make meaningful change actually happen.

 

 

What Do I Want To Be Doing? Why?

I am in Bangor, Maine today about to keynote a leadership event for my client Maine Veteran’s Homes.  Prior to traveling to Bangor a friend of mine casually asked, “Don’t you wish you didn’t have to go there and you could still get the money?”  He offered, “you should figure out a way to give the talk virtually…then you wouldn’t have to travel.”

I didn’t hesitate in responding that I wouldn’t want to give the talk virtually.  I want to go somewhere differentMeet someone new.  I want to share, listen and learn with extraordinary leaders.   I want to understand their challenges.  I want to hear the stories. I want to connect them to my ideas.  I want to help them navigate change.  I want to have a full, rich, meaningful experience that has a lasting impact.  That is my purpose.

I want to do the work.

It is a question I am also reminded to ask myself.

What do I want to be doing?

Why? {Purpose}

The answer to those questions inform action.

Money is a reason.

Meaning is a reason.  A very good reason.

The intersection of purpose and the paycheck are a precious gift.  It is the place where people are in the best position to maximize their full potential.

It is easier to contribute and succeed when you really want to do the work.  When it matters.

What do you want to be doing? Why?

We’ll have some fun exploring those important questions today.

Life Meets Work

A few months ago I had the opportunity to coffee shop with an executive who, ironically, had decided to resign from her job the very same morning of our meeting (see my post about her decision: Resignation Day) . It was bold decision and beginning of an entirely new chapter in her professional journey. I didn’t know her then. I do now. I am proud to call Teresa my friend.

When I first wrote about Teresa I referenced a “transformational event in her personal life” serving as a catalyst to move her toward meaningful change. Teresa isn’t just a careerist. She is a whole person. Devoted wife. Mother of two. When her husband suffered a life threatening injury in a near tragic accident she shifted her perspective. Through that experience she handled more than most while managing to prepare to walk away from work that provided her with all of the comfort one might seemingly covet during such a challenging time. She describes her process as finally “finding the courage to listen to her inner voice and align with her purpose.” She wanted to feel alive at the office again. Work on work that matters. She was intent on taking her shot.

I had the opportunity to visit with her again this week to catch up on how she was progressing a few months into the new chapter. As we settled into the coffee shop conversation she indicated that she was about to experience another, unplanned and fairly significant life altering event. I pressed and she replied:

“We are expecting twins.”

Life is an unpredictable story. This is her version. Let the magnitude of that sink in for a moment.

I was prompted to inquire about her career trajectory in the midst of so much significant personal change. Did she regret leaving her big, stable corporate job? Did she go beg for it back? What was she going to do?

I don’t know that she has it all figured out. I don’t know that any of us do. I do know that she embraces change and is emotionally invested and excited for what is next and new. That includes the new chapter in her work life which I believe is appropriately called Life Meets Work.

I couldn’t quite do the story of her career choice, confidence and courage justice. So in her own words:

Life Meets Work by Teresa

“I’m the one that gave up the office with a view. That walked away from the six figure salary. That left ten years of earned respect and professional equity sitting on the table. And for what? All because I felt like I was missing my mojo?

Foolish? Maybe. Courageous? Certainly. Worth it? Absolutely!

A former colleague just reviewed some of my new work and validated what I’ve been feeling since resignation day. She said “You absolutely made the right decision. Your passion for this topic is so clear. You can tell this is work you love”. It got me thinking. How long had it been since I’ve done work I love?

Over the past couple years I started to realize I had lost the passion for my job. But instead of taking action, I settled for the comforts that came along with the role and ease of doing work where I could perform exceptionally well.   The familiarity of the same company & co-workers. The safety of not having to put myself “out there”. What I didn’t immediately see setting in was the unhappiness. The stress. The lack of enthusiasm. The loss of vitality. The impact of those feelings on my whole life.

I finally generated the courage to listen to my inner voice and and get aligned again with my purpose. It is amazing how different I feel. I feel healthier. I have more energy. I wake up each day eager to get started on the work I love. I I have more to give to the important people in my life. The effects on my life have been profound.

I am truly a happy person.

While getting to resignation day wasn’t easy and came with hard work and a ton of risk, I can say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My only regret? Not reawakening the idle passion inside of me sooner. Some say that it is irresponsible to leave stability in pursuit of passion. That is fine for them. For me? There is simply nothing better than feeling alive again. Then being happy.”

NOTE: If you would like to meet Teresa we will both be speaking at the 2011 Work/Life & Flexibility Expo on October 11 in Minneapolis. Join us!

Let’s Talk About The Passion

We did the HR Happy Hour radio show last week on Passion on Purpose . I’ve had several very interesting, engaging conversations about passion and work over the last few days with smart thinkers, writers and doers in the human capital/leadership space. We didn’t always agree but the debate and dialogue was very interesting and spirited (ok, passionate) discussion.

I really never imagined the word passion would evoke so much….well, passion.

The word certainly generates it’s fair share of criticism. It sounds lofty. Idealistic. To some even a bit frivolous and largely unattainable. Without question for many it quite simply may not be a core driver for showing up at work. I get that. The “average person” just wants to pay their bills (so I have been told). Take care of their family. Work is a means to the end and there is nothing wrong with trading a day of good work for fair pay. You don’t have to love it. You can actually feel quite indifferent about it I suppose. If it serves a larger purpose (or the things you are truly passionate about – family, security, health insurance, a vacation home or whatever that looks like for you).

Further, the notion that we should simply follow our dreams, do what we love and money will somehow show up is a bit naive and from my perspective, rather bad career advice. I have been passionately playing basketball for 30 some odd years and I can verify this surely isn’t the case. I’ve also watched The Secret.  While I believe in the incredible power of the human mind and spirit, I also think manifesting a Maserati is more about hard work than mastering hidden laws of the universe.

However, I can assure you that the organization and leader capable of elevating engagement, enthusiasm and emotional commitment (passion) from their employee and customer universe  has an enormous advantage beyond the bottom line (it will show up there).  As part our consulting work I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to interview literally hundreds of employees at a rather diverse group of employers over the last year.  We’ve talked to employees at small companies in the Midwest you wouldn’t recognize.  We’ve interviewed high potentials at category leading brands and Fortune Best Places to Work employers like Microsoft and Mayo Clinic.  We asked questions about engagement, leadership, career path, work style design, performance, money, mission and meaning.  We listened. We learned.

We learned that people consistently emphasized a meaningful experience over money. Many people we interviewed were willing to take risks, embrace change and accept new challenges to more closely align with meaningful work and a larger sense of purpose.  That didn’t always translate into changing the world.  Sometimes it did.  Sometimes it simply meant a better world at work. The word passion made it’s way into more than a few of those conversations.  Perhaps it is no surprise that high potentials make the correlation between their own performance and engagement, enthusiasm and emotional commitment.  Perhaps it is no surprise that progressive, category leading organizations continue to invest purposefully in their people strategy and help employees stretch and grow to achieve their full potential.

Steve Jobs once famously remarked, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And 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. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” {Tip:  If you haven’t seen this speech it is worth watching.  CLICK HERE}.

I suppose it begs the question, can you be successful without being passionate about your work? About work you don’t love?  I believe you can. I suppose I would have been considered such for a brief stretch in my own career.  I found it just isn’t nearly as much fun or fulfilling.  I also increasingly find that kind of fulfillment can carry over and impact the whole person.

I have been rather fortunate to spend a fair amount of time working with colleagues and clients who aspire to be anything but average.  Those organizations and individuals aspire to elevate the work experience and cultivate a “whole person career”.  I think that is work worth doing.

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