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Articles for Leadership » The Real Deal

Align What You Do With Who You Are

by Rand Golletz

Note From Rand

Welcome to Spring – longer days and warmer temperatures; rebirth and baseball. Many of you know that I spend lots of time on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My favorite months there are April, May, and September. The crowds are “manageable” (whatever that means), it’s not humid, and the restaurants open their outdoor seating. I wouldn’t call it festive; I’d call it satisfying and serene, and I love it.

This month I have two articles: both relate to getting the most out of one’s self in a work environment. I’ve worked for, with, and among a lot of people who are wealthy (or at least “well-to-do”) but unhappy and/or unfulfilled. I’ve documented some of what I’ve learned, and how I use that information. I hope you enjoy it; I KNOW you’ll find it instructive.

I’ll see you in May. Until then and as always: Get real, get tough and get going!

Align What You Do With Who You Are

Janice was the CEO and founder of a mid-sized company. Over a ten-year period, she created and built a commercial real estate leasing firm with about $50 million in annual revenue. The company had offices in a dozen states and was privately held by Janice and three partners.

Measured financially, Janice was very successful. Her net worth approached $25 million. Now 45, she chose to devote her life to building her enterprise. She engaged me to lead a strategic planning effort for her and her partners.

Although I didn’t see Janice every day, the times I did she appeared to be distant, distracted or disinterested to a degree that I found troubling. I scheduled some “off-line” time alone with her to share my concern and to gently probe for the reason for her malaise, hoping I might be able to help.

During our ensuing discussion, she began to tear up, then looked at me and confessed, “I’m not happy, and I don’t know why. I built a great company. We employ lots of hard-working people who love what they do. I have all the material things I want, but somehow, for me, the whole is less than the sum of the parts.”

Janice asked me whether I would help her figure out the source of her distress while continuing to work with her team. I agreed.

After reading the few details I’ve shared, you might be tempted to call this a temporary mid-life crisis and recommend that I urge Janice to “tough it out.” In my experience, however, when this kind of problem surfaces, a person ought to spend time with professional help, figuring out what’s going on.

After deciding together that coaching and not therapy was the right approach, we spent the next few months wading through the problem and “game-planning.” We discovered that although she excelled at what she did, Janice no longer felt a passion for her work.

Again, you might be tempted to read this and say critically or dismissively, “Poor Janice. She’s rich, has a great lifestyle and can do anything she wants. I feel really sorry for her.” If you believe Abraham Maslow, however, self-actualized people “must be what they can be.” He spoke of needs, not wants. He spoke of being, not having.

Unsatisfied needs are the single most prevalent cause of personal dissatisfaction. Needs are prerequisite conditions for personal fulfillment. Most of us don’t sufficiently build conditions of fulfillment in our lives; we fill our tanks with wants (i.e. “stuff”). There’s nothing wrong with wants, but they will only increase happiness if our needs are fulfilled first. If you remember nothing else, remember that!

Back to Janice: After some assessment work and discussion, we found that the things she loved doing were the things she did when she started the company. She was a creator, a builder and an innovator. She was not a manager or an organizer. Starting an entrepreneurial enterprise and running a mature company require distinct and vastly different skill sets. Although Janice had become adept at managing, she hated it.

Over the course of the next several months, my work with the leadership team grew tentacles. We discovered that all of the four partners were exasperated with their roles, because while their individual assignments played to many of their strengths, they didn’t align well with their passions. After re-crafting roles, these leaders became visibly reinvigorated; so did their enterprise.

My recommendation to you: Take the time to figure out what you really love doing. Most of us believe that, especially in mid-life, it’s at best a flight of fancy and at worst an irresponsible distraction. Here are a few questions to get started: If you are a business owner, what are the roles you fill and things you do that drive you bananas? Who else in your organization could do those things better and with less anxiety? How much stress do you endure because your pride requires you to be the center of your organizational universe? If you are an executive in a larger organization, do the methods employed to place people and design jobs consider the fact that passion creates energy and apathy creates lethargy?

Today’s environment of hyper-competition requires that we all leverage our people assets as never before. By aligning personal passion with personal strengths and organizational priorities, you’ll create incredible energy.

Additional Thoughts

See if the following scenario sounds familiar: Dave is a marketing specialist. He’s just been assigned to lead a product development team in your organization. Dave has never in his life led a product development team or any team, for that matter. He’s a really bright fellow and hasn’t been demure about accepting new challenges; so you figure that with a bit of training and help, he’ll do just fine.

Your training and development specialist came upon a brochure for a course offered by AMA entitled “How to Lead Teams.” A brief review of the course outline leads you to believe that this is just the ticket for Dave. You send him the brochure. After the four-day workshop, he returns to your organization full of new knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm. You have high expectations that Dave will be supremely successful in his new role.

Dave fails! What might have happened?

Let’s start by differentiating among the words knowledge, skills, performance and success.

• Knowledge is about knowing what to do. It can be acquired by reading a book or attending a workshop. New knowledge dissipates over time if it isn’t used.

• Skills are about knowing how to do something. Developing skills requires practice, repetition and feedback. Like knowledge, skills degrade over time.

• Performance is measured by the achievement of planned results. Without defining acceptable results, performance cannot be managed.

• Success is a unique concept. From an organizational point of view, I suppose one could say that performance and success are synonymous. From an individual’s point of view, however, that’s not the case because personal success requires personal fulfillment, and each person defines that differently. Many people never stop and think about it or define it. As was the case with Janice in our lead article, they float along ricocheting from one experience to another with a case of the blahs, never inquiring why.

In Dave’s case, the workshop probably imparted new knowledge, but knowledge isn’t enough. For his new knowledge to be relevant to his company, Dave needed new skills. Skills develop with practice, application and feedback. Once he returned from his workshop, Dave never got the support required to translate his new knowledge into new skills.

Organizational and individual success are inextricably linked. For organizations to achieve and to sustain success, knowledge and skill development, performance management and the priority of each person’s fulfillment must be aligned. We can help you achieve your organization’s potential with a process we call Success Alignment. Give us a call.

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