Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You Be the Final Arbiter of the Value of Your Work

We're all subject to a greater or lesser degree to the affirmation of others as to our value. Be honest with yourself as to how strong your need is the next time you consider a job change. The nature of the product or service and its quality, ought to be the first prism through which the opportunity is evaluated. That's because your perception of the meaningfulness of the offering you will be bringing to people will heavily weigh into how you feel about yourself and the way you will be spending your time. The environment (culture) of the company you join is the next critical factor because you will either find it neutral, supportive or debilitating, at least to the degree you are other-rewarded. Finally, who will you be working for and what is their management style? Ask! If the answer is, "I am strictly a numbers guy. Bring in the orders everyday and you are my man. Don't, and I will barely be able to look at you," you may want to think about how much you will enjoy and find meaning in the work on a bad day.

And why all this emphasis on the importance of your take on a job's "meaningfulness?" Dan Ariely (Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University) in his book The Upside of Irrationality, makes a great case that the need to find meaning in our work is so powerful, that we often manufacture with the aid of irrational thinking signs of meaning or value to what we do. The tougher the company culture or the boss make that effort, the less happy and productive we tend to be.

Recently, after a few decades I caught up with an ex-colleague for whom I had great respect and affection. In bringing me up to speed about his experiences since we worked together, he told me of the time he got a broker's license and went to work for one of the major financial houses. In a sales meeting, shortly after he joined, a senior sales executive took the floor to give his view on their industry. "Look. I'm in this to get rich. And if I get rich, the company does well. If my clients get rich that's a plus, but if they don't, and I do, that's o.k. too." My friend looked over to the smiling-in-approval sales manager, and resigned right after the meeting. That wasn't a description of an industry or firm that would harness the meaning he needed from his work.

If you find a field you love and a product or service that you believe truly makes life better for those to whom you introduce it, and your mom or dad had unqualified love for you in the first year of your life, at least, you probably can thrive and find meaning in that work even if the company culture and/or manager you represent, is imperfect, because you are the final arbiter of your value.

Great Selling!

Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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