Do You Love What You Do or Are You Living in New-Age Professional Hell? by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

Do you love what you do or are you living in new-age professional hell? This may be the seminal question of our age.

In yesterday’s world, people worked 40 hours a week and took four weeks of vacation. This question was practically moot. If you didn’t like your job it was practically part-time anyway, the benefits were glorious, and it just wasn’t that bad.

I remember visiting the corporate headquarters of one of the world’s most successful companies at 5 p.m. sometime in the early 80s. There was almost no one there! You could fire a cannonball down the hall and not hit anyone. Those days are gone. It was much easier to find meaning and satisfaction in activities outside of work when we were under a lot less pressure and worked far fewer hours. Not only did people have more time, they weren’t as tired.

Today’s professional has much different experience. Almost all of the professionals I work with are busier today than they ever have been in their lives, working 60 to 80 hours a week. They feel under more pressure than ever. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops tether us to our work wherever we are whether we like it or not. Put it all together and you quickly realize – if you don’t love what you do, you are in the new-age of professional hell where you spend your days waiting for a pause in the steady flow of work so that you can take a break. Let me tell you, that day never comes!


Making the Move to Loving What You Do

Life is too short. It’s not worth it. In the new world, we don’t have to love everything that we do, but we need to find happiness and meaning in most of our professional work. One of my coaching clients, Vicky, has a mind that races at about 1,000 miles an hour. She’s extremely creative and entrepreneurial. Vicky was working as a division president in a large, somewhat conservative company. The people who hired her believed that they wanted someone who would “rock the boat” and “make waves.” Once they began to experience “waves” and “boat rocking,” though, they decided that this might not be such a great idea after all!

Although I was hired to help her fit in with the existing culture, it was just a bad match. She was becoming frustrated with her life and was frustrating many of the executives who were running the firm. Summing it up in one sentence, she groaned, “I feel like a racy Ferrari that’s being asked to act like a Ford pickup!”

As her coach, my advice was simple: “Leave.” She had beaten me to the punch, replying, “I just did!”

There was nothing wrong with Vicky. There was nothing wrong with her company. She just didn’t belong there. When she asked herself, “Do I love what I do?” her answer was a clear, “No, I am living in new-age professional hell!”

Vicky’s time off for reflection after leaving her job didn’t last long. She’s playing a key role in an entrepreneurial startup, she’s on two boards of nonprofits doing a lot of good things for her community, and most important, she’s having a lot of fun. She has successfully made the move from new-age professional hell to loving what she does. And, you can too!

Watch the video here:

Do You Love What You Do?

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Executive Coaching for Your Checked Out “A-Team.” By Scott Robinson

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by Scott Robinson

Imagine a diver climbing the steps onto a high dive.  The diver, your executive leader, is ready to springboard off of the platform to make a seemingly effortless trajectory and splashless entry.   Instead, as the diver leaves the platform, what follows is a belly flop.  Why?  Your A-team executive suffers from burn-out and exhaustion or has moved onto the next opportunity, leaving a talent breach.

Statistics indicate that more than 70% of employees and senior leaders will change jobs in the next 24 months. In his article in the Los Angeles Times, Richard Lopez reported that a recent Gallup Poll shows "7 out of 10 workers have checked out" and “are actively disengaged." Gallup also estimates this disengagement costs the United States as much as $550 billion in economic activity annually.

The choice is simple:  lost time, lost opportunity, lost clients, loss of consistency or positive development to stave off such losses.  Your real leaders—the “A” players on your team—want to grow and advance in their careers.  Executive coaching will bring both a short-term and a long-term return in your organization. Investing in your leaders’ development and performance offers value both to the individual and to the organization.

Executive coaching as a retention strategy for senior executives, their direct reports, and employees with high potential in the organization has shown a 700% ROI.  Studies designed to pinpoint measurable results delivered from executive management services are met with a certain amount of skepticism. However, despite the subjective variables in any survey, one undeniable component in every study offers unwavering consistency—the bottom-line results. Studies by trusted publications such as Fortune Magazine, Chemistry Business Magazine, as well as companies such as Linkage and International Coach Federation all have concluded that executive coaching delivers a return on investment between 500% and 600%. Some show an ROI as high as 700% for certain positions within an organization.

The tremendous ROI and retention rate attributed to executive coaching is hard to deny when you consider the following factors:

  • Enhanced customer service
  • Increased talent development within the organization
  • Improved workplace performance in both individuals and teams
  • Upswing in revenue-generating activities
  • Work-life balance and attitude factor

Moreover, coaching creates an environmental halo effect.   Coaching as a retention strategy is felt in the culture.  Often management sees an increase in employee engagement, trust, and effectiveness across the entire organization. Sound leadership with engaged employees fosters a culture that attracts the best people for future leadership.

Gallup published statistics showing that an employee who is fully engaged in his/her work is 29% more productive. Gallup and other research companies repeatedly have documented that employees do not leave an organization; instead they leave their supervisor or manager.

Moving executives from “B” level performers to “A” level leaders provides talent increases by the development of the bench players you already have. The assumption is that executives have appropriate technical competency. However, technical competencies alone rarely are adequate for leadership success and longevity.  Too often executives erringly seek to improve by increasing their velocity by working longer, harder, and faster.  An executive coach shows the executive to add something new and different to their tool kit rather than just “swing harder” with the tools they have.

Executive coaching helps identify leadership behaviors that are outside the norm of even “A” performers. With a clear idea of gaps and derailers, the coach and the executive begin to craft the plan for development.  And with executive coaching, success and the culture of success grows.

  Scott Robinson, Managing Partner, Robinson Resource Group

UntitledWith over 35 years’ experience in the human capital industry, Scott is a trusted adviser to executives in the C-Suite.  After Scott founded, grew, and lead the largest full service human resources firm in the Midwest, Scott chose a transition of his own, and in 2011 he returned to his entrepreneurial roots to launch Robinson Resource Group, a premier boutique Executive Coaching and Search firm. To learn more about Robinson Resource Group, click here.

Along with being a member of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) and receiving their Registered Corporate Coach™ designation, Scott is a member of the Institute of Coaching Professional Association at McLean Hospital—a Harvard Medical School affiliate, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), The Executives’ Club of Chicago (ECC), Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is the current Education Chairman of World President’s Organization (WPO).

Scott holds a Bachelor degree in Psychology from Illinois State University and a Master of Science degree in Psychology as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from George Williams College.

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Coaching for Engagement and Retention

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By Beverly Crowell and Beverly Kaye

In today's tough economic times it seems pretty crazy to be talking about employee engagement and retention. If so, then crazy is what all smart managers need to be a little of right now. Today, more than ever, employees are stressed out, wigged out, and even a little freaked out by what's happening in the economy. News reports detail who is losing what, where, and when. Distracting? You bet! Intimidating to those with good jobs? Most definitely!

All employees, even the best and brightest, can't help but be affected by the economic downturn— wondering what's next, who's next, and if it will be them. In fact, the stress is thought to be greater and last longer for those who survive cutbacks. Those who are not at risk of losing their jobs have to pick up the slack created by a leaner workforce and increasing responsibilities, as well as take part in restructuring and realignment.

Organisations are spending big money in annual employee satisfaction surveys and action plans to sustain a workforce that is engaged and productive. These action plans generally create new programs, resources, changes in policy, and some measurable, short-term victories. An organization we've been in touch with recently found that lack of career development opportunities was cited by employees as a key source of dissatisfaction. A team was assembled to address the problem and as a result, a state-of-the-art career resource center was created. Great news, except for the employee who asked his boss if he could go to the center one day and heard, "You don't have time for that right now. I need you to get the work done at your desk."

For this manager and many like him, engagement and retention consists of the annual employee satisfaction survey and the "tedious" action plan that has to be created as a result. What he fails to realize is that all the best plans can and will fall short if they aren't supported. That's where coaching for engagement and retention can create a sustained and measurable difference.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, disengaged workers cost the U.S. economy more than $300 billion annually. The task of re-engaging those who "quit and stay" falls on the shoulders of the leadership and management team. While many managers know the importance of engaging this talent, the "how" is often left up to chance.

Coaching for engagement and retention reduces the risk and empowers leaders in any organization to tap into their employees' discretionary effort and bring that energy into the workplace. When the coaching relationship is directed at these issues, it helps managers find simple, yet meaningful, ways to engage this talent beyond everyday distractions.

A skilled engagement coach must begin by understanding the unique employee engagement and retention challenges of each manager. This work is done through the manager, not directly with individual employees. If employee engagement, satisfaction, or culture surveys are readily available, the coach can work directly with the manager to study the results and identify key issues and opportunities. The good news about these surveys is that they provide a great place to begin analysis because individual managers can learn about the engagement needs of their team. They are only a start, however. The true value comes from frequent conversations. Surveys set the tone, but it's the conversations that set the direction.

Managers have a huge impact in retaining and engaging people. Employees want this relationship. They feel engaged by their work and cared for by their organisations when they are able to have open, honest, two-way conversations about their ideas, careers, motivations, and challenges. They need managers who listen to their perspectives, offer their own points of view, and provide encouragement, guidance, and opportunities. If individuals feel heard, understood, and valued by their manager, they commit more of their energy and enthusiasm.

One of the difficulties that a coach will most likely encounter is that although managers have the best of intentions, they feel that time is their enemy. Coaches must work with managers to help them realize that time isn't the enemy, but their perceptions are. The reality is that engagement builds or diminishes in every interaction between a manager and an employee. So it's often not just about doing more, but "doing with purpose." Purposeful engagement, simply put, is the ability to focus on employee talent in every interaction. It's the realization that, as a manager, you don't necessarily have to do more to engage your employees, but you need to commit to specific actions that meet the engagement needs of each employee. The ongoing challenge, however, is that what employees want or need is as different as each person, so no "one-size-fits-all" approach will work.

Once a manager accepts this responsibility, the coach can serve as a resource to generate ideas based on what managers are learning in their conversations and interactions with employees. The coach works with the manager to demonstrate the difference between engagement and performance. Managers and employees alike are accustomed to talking about performance-what engages us is a different story. Good engagement conversations can feel like you're "peeling an onion" with the objective of getting to the true motivations of each employee.

An employee wants more opportunities to learn and grow? The manager might consider the following:

  • Conduct a career conversation to learn more about their unique skills, interests, and values. Offer your perspective, discuss trends and options, and co-design a career action plan.
  • Link employees to others inside or outside the organisation who can help them achieve their professional goals.
  • Take time to mentor your employees. Share your success stories and failures. Teach organisational realities and let your employees mentor you too.

Another employee doesn't feel valued by you or the organisation? Build loyalty by trying the following:

  • Recognize employees for a job well done. Offer praise that is specific, purposeful, and tailored to each employee.
  • Notice your employees. Pay attention as you walk down the halls and say hello to them by name.
  • Get honest feedback and a clear picture of how you look to others. Do you have any high-risk behaviors that may be getting in the way of your efforts?

All your employees want to work in an environment that they love. Try implementing some of the following:

  • Have fun at work. Do something new or different, or create an environment where it's okay to laugh and smile.
  • Show enthusiasm for what you do; it will encourage others to do the same. Disengaged managers will have a tough time engaging their employees.
  • Values define what we consider to be important. The more employee values align with their work, the more they will find it meaningful, purposeful, and important. Ask your employees, "What makes for a really great day?" or "What do you need most from your work?"

So much of coaching for engagement revolves around commonsense approaches to good leadership. Alas, common sense is often uncommonly practiced. The coaching partnership can do more than provide insight to managers; it can also be the motivation managers need to do what they know should be done. Managers with engagement coaches often remark that it's the coaching that reminds them to put these commonsense strategies into practice.  Here are some examples of the actions managers in one organization implemented:

  • Helped a "disengaged" direct report open up about real concerns, which led to productive career discussions about future options and receptivity to performance improvement ideas in the sort run.
  • Conducted a series of relationship-building phone conversations with remote employees, combined with intentional in-person get-acquainted meetings when onsite to build trust and rapport with new direct report staff.
  • Conducted monthly debriefings after each closing period to identify what went well and what could be improved the next month.
  • Created motivational Monday morning e-messages to the group as a way to get the week started positively. The manager received many compliments from the team for doing this.

The true mark of success happens when managers assume the role of engagement coaches in their organizations. While managers can be the catalyst for good engagement and retention, it's the employee who must step up to identify what actions they can take to find more satisfaction in the workplace. Managers with a good handle on engagement can empower employees to take control of their own workplace satisfaction.

Engagement and retention are critical in today's workplace. If the coaching relationship goes well, it will extend beyond the individual manager and his/her team. It will impact others in the organization. Coaching for engagement and retention can create managers who think of their talent first and employees who truly commit to bringing the best of their capabilities to the organisation.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Beverly Kaye, Founder and CEO of Career Systems International, is an internationally recognised authority on career issues, focusing on retention and engagement in the workplace. She is the author of Up Is Not the Only Way: A Guide to Developing Workforce Talent (Davies-Black, 2002[1997]) and the co-author of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay (Berrett-Koehler, 2001 [1999]) and Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want Out of Work (Berrett-Koehler, 2003).

Beverly Crowell, Senior Consultant for Career Systems International, specialises in the fields of employee engagement and retention, career development, and coaching. She currently provides employee engagement and retention coaching to senior leaders in the healthcare and food service industries.

Contact the authors.

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