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.

Can I Make A Difference?

I usually get 60 minutes.

This morning I had 75.

A short time to inspire action.  Initiate change.  Make a moment memorable enough to make a difference.

I am a keynote speaker.  That is my job.  I aspire to make a difference. That is my purpose.

There is resistance.  There always is.  Not everyone is going to like what I have to say.  Not everyone believes you can create enough momentum for meaningful change in 60 minutes.

I am good with that.  You should be also.  I don’t need to appeal to everyone.  I never will.  Neither will you.  We just need to make a difference with those that matter the most.

For me, that means a successful morning can look just like this:

One person inspired.  One purpose solidified.

That is often how change happens.  One conversation.  One connection.  One meaningful moment that inspires action.

We all have the power to make a difference.  Especially among the people that matter the most to us.

Each moment matters. Every conversation counts.

Thank you Minnesota SHRM for having me keynote this morning (you can follow the event at #MNSHRM).

Today was important to me.  This is my hometown.  This is my community.

Did I make a difference?

I suppose that isn’t for me or any of us to decide for that matter.  What is seemingly important is that we try.

That seems like work worth doing.

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.

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.

Join Us Tonight For Happy Hour!

Who doesn’t love a good happy hour conversation?  That is the plan for tonight as employee engagement and leadership expert Don MacPherson and I join host Steve Boese on his weekly radio show, HR Happy Hour.  The show covers topics in Human Resources, Talent Management, Leadership, HR Technology, HR Conferences and Events, Social Media in the Workplace, Recruiting – essentially anything and everything having to do with people in the workforce. Finding them, hiring them, managing them, leading them, giving them the right tools and technologies to succeed and everything in between.  Don an I are excited for the conversation this evening!

Join us tonight and follow the fun on the Twitter backchannel, the hashtag is #HRHappyHour.

You may recall Don and I are colleagues and collaborators sharing a like minded perspective on leadership, engagement, culture, career and the future of work.  Enclosed is our Engage. Inspire. Empower. leadership webinar delivered earlier this year.  We look forward to continuing the conversation tonight related to passion, purpose and the leadership agenda necessary to navigate these uncertain times.

Should be fun!

The Athlete, Entrepreneur & Artist

I was fortunate to spend a few days at the beach last week as a guest of an old friend, serial entrepreneur and generous host.  Other guests included a professional athlete turned business pro and a professional artist.  The climate for interesting conversation was palpable.

What I recognized after a couple days of deep dive dialogue is that despite the diversity in what everyone was doing, the similarities in attitude and approach were evident.  What they shared in common was finding a way to make a living doing work they love.

I spent a good part of those couple days asking questions, listening and learning. During our conversations 3 themes about work emerged:

Reinvention:  The world is changing.  Fast. You have to change with it.  It is important to have a plan.  Recognize that your plan will change.  What you are working on and how you are working will likely be completely different in a few years.  When that isn’t the case we stop growing, learning, evolving and getting better.  Stuck is no way to spend any significant amount of time. The athlete is now an entrepreneur.  The artist was many things (Magician, Writer, Wall Street Trader) before he was ever an artist.  The entrepreneur has changed his business model 20 times.  They are each activists.  How is your transition game?

Passion:  The idea of dreaming big and doing work worth doing was a shared understanding.  In fact, it was almost a forgone conclusion. It is hard to be great at something you don’t love.  Sure, the critic will tell you to stop dreaming.  You aren’t good enough.  Your pursuits are frivolous. The work of the critic and heckler is easy, lazy work. The work of the doer takes a healthy dose of passion.  The good news is passion doesn’t have limits.  It extends.  It carries over.  It is contagious.  This group embraced an attitude of abundance that included helping others.  Giving. Sharing.  Making a difference.  Sure, they each found a way to turn their passion into a paycheck.  But it certainly didn’t stop there.  They all found a way to turn their passion into a larger purpose.  Whether conscious or not, it is how they live life.

Resolve: You have to make art.  Daily.  It often comes down to a simple willingness to Do The Work (a great read for the passion players). Passion doesn’t imply perfection. It takes hard effort.  Big sacrifice.  You have to step up to the opportunities.  Compete.  I considered how much better this blog would be, how much better a writer I could be, if I had the discipline to write everyday?  The answer is much, much better.   It also takes a healthy amount of resolve to move through the inevitable adversity, setbacks, challenges and change that will be part of the journey.  They had resolve in spades.  They leaned into challenges. The hard parts seemingly offered no deterrent.  They all resigned to the fact that a worthwhile accomplishment doesn’t come easy.  They wake up ready to pass the next test and exude the confidence and inner strength to keep making forward progress.  I thought they made it look easy.  That is just the end result.  Nothing about getting there is easy at all.

The athlete still plays for the love of the game (I couldn’t get a shot off).  The artist still knows a good card trick (how did he do that?!).  The entrepreneur is a master of relationships and putting people together to make meaningful connections simply because it is fun to do. (I am grateful).  The lesson?

Follow your passion.  Make your art.  It is never too late.  Turn it into a paycheck.  Don’t.  It doesn’t matter.  If it is work worth doing…Just Do It.

Don’t Chase The Paper, Chase The Dream

Attending a conference this week full of powerful speakers created some memorable moments. What always seems to stand out are what I call the ‘power statements’. The quote you could recite without notes.  The bold statement that makes you stop dead in your tracks and think about your work, life, relationships, what is missing, most important and worth your time, energy and investment.  Returning from SHRM 2011 Las Vegas there was one that resonated for me in a big way:

“Don’t Chase the Paper, Chase The Dream”

This quote was introduced during the Tony Hsieh keynote on Delivering Happiness.  It is a powerful quote borrowed from Diddy while delivering advice to now deceased rapper Notorious BIG and related to pursuing passion over profit – another power statement delivered by Zappos CEO Tony and later supported with the Simon Bailey suggestion to “Pursue Purpose over Profit”.  This whole idea of meaning over money was also reinforced during the Arianna Huffington keynote, “pursue doing good by feeling good…find the meaning….the purpose.”

Sir Richard Branson even put his own spin on following your instincts boldly with his “screw it, let’s do it” approach to business.

There were certainly plenty of actionable ideas behind the inspiration but it does beg the question.  Does the passion play and meaning movement advice from these entrepreneurial giants translate to the everyday practice of Human Resources and the future of work?

It better start.

65% of employees are classified as under-engaged.

84% of employees intend to look for a new job in 2011.

When work becomes a life necessity (drudgery?) over something we look forward to doing, it is a problem.

Work is an emotional experience.  People are hungry for more meaning.  Money matters.  But it is so much more satisfying when you find (and help others find) the intersection of passion and the paycheck.

In fact, that really is what Delivering Happiness is all about.  Cultivate a culture of passion and purpose and watch the profit follow.  It is hard work.  It takes planning, strategy, values, vision, development, alignment, authentic leadership and focus. On things that may seemingly feel like they are intangible.  Relationships.  Communication.  Trust.

Passion doesn’t manifest on auto pilot.  It happens on purpose.

As leaders and managers we’d all do better by being in the business of dream chasing with those in our employ.  We all show up at the office with our own individual needs, hopes, dreams and desires.  They are all different.   As leaders if we can understand those unique needs, focus on the whole person (work and life require balance and flexibility), cultivate meaningful relationships, create clear expectations, design a better experience and align toward a common purpose we will be taking giant steps in the right direction. That is where people are free to flourish.

We all deserve the freedom and independence to chase our dreams. At work. In life.

Happy July 4th!

Are You Fundamentally Sound?

I am in flight to Miami this morning for a dinner keynote with area business leaders and the outstanding membership of GMSHRM.  During our Passion on Purpose program, we will be talking about trends in leadership, culture, engagement, performance and the future of work.

As part of my job I will attend 40+ conference and corporate events this calendar year.  In working with a variety of clients, meeting planners and bureau partners I have developed some insight into what makes a successful event.

Today people want an experience that is interactive. They expect the content to be actionable. Inspiration is ideal, but if it doesn’t include ideas that can be leveraged for impact it simply isn’t enough. Further, the content needs to be cutting edge and often customized to a specific set of business challenges.  Real time, relevant, now, new or next generation thinking is preferred. With the pace of change accelerating it is only natural for people to desire or demand some perspective on what lies ahead.

Makes sense.  I think intellectual curiosity is a tremendous advantage in this time of transition. However, the constant quest for what is cutting edge can also balance with reinforcement of the fundamentals. The things we know that work.  Things that seem like common sense.

Often it isn’t new information we need.  But rather adjustments in our approach, process and personal discipline that will produce the desired outcome.  Sometimes it simply comes down to effort and execution around the fundamentals. It pays to be strong at the core.

The fitness industry is a perfect example.  Burn off more calories than you take in. Exercise.  Eat right.  Drink water.  Get enough rest.  There it is.  Simple.  Common sense.  Information we already have.  It works.

Where I fall short with my fitness regimen (like many people I suppose) is my ability to execute on what I already know. It isn’t so much about the information, but rather a function of inadequate process and personal discipline.  I am traveling today with pretty significant back spasms as a result of throwing my back out over the weekend.  I know why it happened.  I wasn’t focused on the fundamentals.  My process was loose.  I wasn’t paying attention to my core strength.  Today, I am paying the price.

We all have to be ready to innovate and embrace change.  This is an incredible time of reinvention and recognition that tomorrow is going to look fundamentally different than today.  As we shift it is important to move forward with sound fundamentals in place.

You can evolve much more effectively when you are strong at the core.

Norman, Oklahoma

This was my first trip to Norman, Oklahoma.  We pulled into downtown on that bus.  Five of us parking outside and heading into O’Connell’s Irish Pub.  You could feel the energy.  The anticipation.  The excitement.

U2 was preparing to take the stage in a few hours.  We were preparing to take in the whole experience properly.

We made our way over to Memorial Stadium for what we expected would be several hours of the greatest show on earth (ok…I am a fan). They delivered the experience to a sold out stadium.  As is customary there was a message around the music.  One part of that message really resonated.

Bono paused to make mention that 26 years prior, to the very day, the band first set foot in Norman, Oklahoma.  He thanked the audience for the “upgrade to the big venue, a few blocks down the street.”  A casual reference to the journey of becoming remarkable.  The transition from bar band to one that is an easy stadium sell out.  A journey that started small.  Like they all do.  Just a dream.

As we made our way back to O’Connell’s after the show I couldn’t help but comment on that comment.  It prompted a brief discussion.  What if the band listened to the resistance?  Caved to the concern of parents who perhaps didn’t support children chasing some outlandish dream of being in a band?  What if they were afraid to try?  Didn’t take the risk?  Didn’t stay the course?  Passed on the long, hard effort?  Stopped making art?

Our conversation closed with, “dude, would Coldplay even exist?”  That was enough.

It was also enough to make me realize that even an outcome that seems destined starts somewhere.  The sacrifice, commitment, challenge, choices and chance you have to be willing to endure is simply the price of admission to achieving Rock Star status in whatever it is you really want to do.

I have wonderful memories from that trip to Norman and look forward to returning this week for what is shaping up to be an all star event with great content and progressive, social contributions that will further elevate the experience.   I look forward to seeing friends like Bryan and Jessica, making new, meaningful connections and contributing my closing keynote to the conference.  Follow us at #OKHR.

I’ll also be stopping by O’Connell’s Irish Pub for a Guinness.

If you get a chance this summer that experience is worth the price of admission.

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