The problem with work is that so often it really, really feeeeels like work.

September 18, 2008
The Spark by Ryan at

The Spark by Ryan at

Work, if we’re doing it right, is actually supposed to feel like success. Isn’t that the point, really? I mean, of course we all have to work just to pay the bills. But have you ever done work that made you feel good? Work that made you feel proud? Work that made you feel successful? Whether it was your flair at folding fleece or your ability to calculate interest rates in your head, there was something that gave you a little spark of your personal power, wasn’t there?

Those sparks are what we should be looking for in ourselves, our co-workers and our teams. Where do people shine? What are they good at? What makes them smile? What makes them feel like they did something worthwhile when they get to the end of their day? Of course none of this is new; Marcus Buckingham has been talking about strengths for years. All I’m saying is… let’s actually DO it. Let’s manage our careers and our teams this way.

I am not suggesting we shove the “boring” stuff aside. Maybe in the business world there are certain mundane but necessary tasks we’ll never escape. But couldn’t we figure out a way everyone could benefit from the work people do best, more often?

First, think about you: You know how on an airplane they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else? Concept applies here. Recognize where you get your sparks in your workday. Some hints: Is there a timeslot on your calendar you fiercely protect? Why? What work makes you feel energized? Now, how can you approach your work, and your calendar, with more purpose? How can you get more of that into your day? What can you shift, how can you steer your career in that direction?

Next, watch your co-workers: You spend most of your day with them and you get to know them pretty well. So when one of your co-workers is excited about something, you’ll see that spark. Ask about it. What would happen if he just got to talk for a few minutes about the thing that makes him feel energized?

Finally, ignite your team: If you’re a manager, think about the implications of your entire team working together as a unit because they are each spending more time on what they are individually good at, and what makes them feel energized. Happy employees. Targets met. All because you paid attention to where there were sparks.

When work really feeeeels like work, there are no sparks — it’s just drudgery, pure and simple. But the work that comes out of the sparks is the good stuff. That’s where I want to be.

Where is your career sparking up?