Is There Beauty in Your Career?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantLately I've been wondering how our worklives would change if we measured success by how much beauty we create in the world. What if, instead of trying to improve employee productivity, you just sought to create a process that was elegant, simple, and easy to use?

What if, instead of seeing yourself as an office manager, you took on the role of "office beautifier"?

What if, instead of managing people, you focused almost solely on nurturing your team so much that their own beauty shone bright?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThe natural world around us is full of beauty - full of colors, scents, shapes, and sounds that call out to our senses and make us feel at home again.

In nature, beauty is often (but not always) a reflection of health, strength, and good design. A beautiful flower has only bloomed because it has accessed the nutrients that it needs in order to grow strong. Creating beauty in the world blesses us, and it blesses others.

When was the last time you did something work-related that was just for the sake of creating or experiencing beauty? Beauty, whatever that means to you, softens us - it helps us stay present, feel comforted, and gives us the space to do our best work.

Whether or not there is beauty in your career (and that can look like innovation, eloquence, joy - whatever delights your senses) can be a good indication of how close you are to walking your right path. The Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

The only way to measure a lover

is by the grandeur of the beloved.

Judge a moth by the beauty of its candle.

What kind of candle are you drawn to and consumed by in your career? Is it one full of beauty and vibrancy? Is it a candle blighted by worry, negative thinking, or fear?

How would your worklife change if you sought to create one beautiful thing, conversation, process, or experience each day?

Lovingly Assertive Boundary-Setting

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMy post earlier this week, How to Gracefully Choose Between Work and Life, touched on this issue of setting good boundaries at work. This is one of the toughest issues that comes up for people in the workplace, and unfortunately, most of our organizations are pretty anti-boundary. We don't really like it when someone declines a meeting, or says they need to work from home instead today, or doesn't get back to us within .25 milliseconds.

But if we're going to stay sane in today's world of work, we have to learn how to set - and enforce - good boundaries in a way that's both loving and assertive.

In an effort to help us all do that, I've created a SlideShare presentation called Lovingly Assertive Boundary-Setting. I hope you enjoy this visual presentation!

Working Like Today is All we Have

photo-1432821596592-e2c18b78144f Oftentimes we talk about our careers as destinations - places we're trying to get to. We assume that when we get that job, that promotion, or make that much money, that then our lives will start. Then we'll finally be able to be the people we're truly meant to be.

As seductive as this outlook is, it's one that will only keep you trapped and unhappy, even if you're in a job you thought you always wanted. If you're in this mindset, then what you're doing today will never be good enough, because it's not where you think you're supposed to be by now. You'll live your life in the future, constantly seeking what's "out there" for you while you miss every present moment - moments that used to be in the future.

We all know that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Your life, my life, all of our lives could end before you even finish reading this sentence. I don't say that to scare anyone or to make you feel depressed, I say it only to highlight the need for living your best life right now, not half-assing today because you think it's just a means of getting to tomorrow.

Now, living like the world is ending isn't sustainable, either. A healthy balance requires savoring each present moment like it could be your last but also trusting that you have to continue walking your path, which requires some planning and won't always be glamorous.

If I knew that my life was ending soon (which, when you think about it, it is) and I had one more workday left, that day would include the five key elements below:

Making the day sacred. I open my workdays with a meditation and grounding exercise, which sets the kind of sacred tone that I want to infuse my life with. I light a candle before I write these posts and ask that these words bless the lives of those reading them in some small way. We miss out on so many opportunities for growth and peace when we show up to our desks frazzled from our morning commute or totally depleted from a lack of sleep the night before. We go through the grind, watch the clock, and leave the office without any reflection on what happened that day. Instead of going through each day as though it's just this thing that you have to get through, try to make it sacred somehow. You could make it sacred by expressing gratitude on your morning commute, breathing deeply before you start working on a project, or holding quick opening and closing ceremonies to start and end your days. Your work - no matter what it is - can simply be sacred because a) you say it is, and b) because you treat it as such. 

Slowing down. There is so much urgency in our worklives. We think we need information, products, or services immediately, when really, there aren't many things in life that are actually urgent. On my last workday ever, I want to slow down. I want to stop feeling rushed by demands that can wait. I want to slow down so that I can have more of element #3...

Staying present. If today was my last workday, I would be more present. I would savor each moment, each email, each call or meeting. I would really look at everything instead of just trying to get through things as quickly as possible. I would be absolutely present with each of my clients and give them the loving, total attention that they deserve. If you've ever been truly present in your work, then you know how amazing it feels - it's like time stops, and you can see things as they actually are.

Creating beauty. Surrounding myself with beauty during my workday is really important to me and is something I've mentioned in other posts before. If today was all I had left, I would add some extra color to that Excel spreadsheet, or use my pink gel pen instead of that tired old black one. I'd try to bring a little more vibrance and beauty to my day, just because I love to be around it.

I would protect the work that's most important to me. There are constantly opportunities to set aside the work that really matters to us. Just the other day, I had blocked out some quiet time to prepare for a training I was giving and received an urgent request from a client right before I was about to start. Old me probably would have sacrificed my quiet prep time to attend to this issue, even though it wasn't actually urgent, but present-day me has been through this before. I decided that I wasn't willing to compromise the quiet time I needed to prepare for a training that was really important to me. I let the client know that our call would have to wait, and it turned out to be totally fine - I was well-prepared for my training, and my client got my full, undivided attention a day later. We have to learn to protect the work that matters to us, because no one else will do it for us.

How does it make you feel to consider the fact that this could be your last workday ever? How would your work change if today is all you have? Your answers to these questions depend largely on whether or not your work feels aligned with who you are or like a misuse of your gifts.

Even if you love your work, how would it change if you were present moment by moment instead of just "going through the motions"?

My guess is that it would become work that is sacred. It would be sacred simply because you were really and truly present while doing it.

Know someone who's just "mailing it in"? Consider sending this to them!

P.s.: I have a little surprise coming to readers on January 19th...stay tuned!

We Don't Need Managers, We Need Mentors

businessman-598033_1280 What would happen if you didn't have someone at work who kept track of your hours, delegated tasks, and constantly evaluated your performance? Would you ever go into work on time? Would you be on Pinterest all day? Would you abuse your newfound freedom?

Just to make sure we're all on the same page, here are some excerpts from Merriam-Webster's definition of Manage: "to make and keep handle or direct with a degree of exercise supervisory direction of."

We've had managers in our workplaces for so long that most of us assume they're necessary. There are a lot of great managers out there - people who do their best to support people despite being constricted by outdated policies and procedures. Unfortunately, managers who lack career development or communication skills are glorified babysitters, there to approve your hours and assure those at the top that you're staying on task. At their worst, managers are power-hungry narcissists who abuse their power and make your life miserable.

Do we really need managers anymore? Do you need a manager? Doesn't the need for "management" imply that people are so disinterested in their work that they'll stop doing it as soon as they get the chance? Isn't that the problem, and is forcing them to do it through surveillance, punishments, or silly rewards really the cure?

(Important to note: If you're convinced that employees are inherently untrustworthy or aren't capable of meeting expectations without coercion, I think you need to take a sabbatical. If you believe that you aren't capable of managing your own time, energy, and resources, I would encourage you to find a job that pushes you to step into yourself).

We're transitioning into a new era of work. Smart companies know the power that's unleashed when they stop trying to control the people who work for them. They loosen up, operate from a place of trust instead of fear, and reap the rewards of an autonomous, engaged workplace. Do they lose a bunch of people who can't imagine working without direct supervision? Totally. But if I had people working for me, I'd prefer to keep only the folks who could manage themselves, anyway.

We don't need managers anymore, we need mentors. By mentors, I mean experienced guides to support, counsel, and advise others. I mean people who assume that you'll do your work in the way that maximizes your gifts. I mean people who are trained to give you powerful, motivating feedback. I mean people who give you the support you need and then get the hell out of your way.

I can think of lots of benefits for an organization that uses a mentorship orientation instead of a management one, and I know which option would work best for me. Which kind of organization would you prefer to work for? How would your work change if you were mentored instead of managed?

Know someone who's tired of being managed or sick of managing others? Consider passing this on to them!