I am passionate about work—not work as drudgery or mindless toil, but as the highest expression of who we are. As that special purpose for which we were born. As the opportunity to do and be our best. To share the noblest part of ourselves—the part that is true and caring; honest, trustworthy, and responsible.
It is how and why we work that fascinates me. Work is where we make or break ourselves—where we prove what we are made of. Where we strive to make something of our labor that has deep and lasting meaning. And, ideally, where we leave the world a little better than we found it.
We may of necessity start with a paycheck, but money alone does not constitute a good job. I believe we want from work what we want from life: respect, dignity, fairness, opportunity—and more.
- We want to be accountable for outcomes that stretch us, while using our unique talents and creativity to accomplish them.
- We want to be mentored by people with experience greater than our own in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dynamic interaction.
- We want to be fairly compensated for our efforts, rewarded for extraordinary contributions, and valued for who we are—not just for what we do.
- We are drawn to work that matches our talents; and we want to talk about it, share it, and improve it within a community of equally motivated individuals.
- We want the freedom to do our best and to extend that freedom to others; we view anything less as tyranny.
- We expect everyone to carry his or her weight and to abide by an unwritten contract that says we will be treated generously by those we report to, even as we do the same for those whom we supervise.
This is a lot to expect, and we often are disappointed. But we keep striving and sometimes we actually find our dream job. In that case, the challenge becomes: how do we keep it fresh, dynamic, interesting, and creative? Or suppose we have a good position that—while not our ultimate goal—is the best opportunity at present? How do we make the most of it?
For years I kept a poster on my office wall that proclaimed: “Bloom where you’re planted!” How do we do that?
If we understood how work “works,” if we had a guide into the deeper purposes of work—not just into new and improved skills—I am convinced we would achieve better on-the-job results with more personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
If we understood that competencies are only part of the story of effective work, I believe we would dig beneath the surface of job descriptions and titles to the essence of what makes work great and—more to the point—what can make anyone great at work.
That’s what this series of reflections on doing great work is all about.
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