At one point in my former life as a manager at a large company I found myself surrounded by staff who for the most part had ambitions to be and do just about anything other than what they were being and doing. Sure there were those few folks who were just as happy as could be to have a job to go to every day and a paycheck to take home at the end of the week, but they were a rarity. For the most part the employees under my direction where just there until they could do what they REALLY wanted to.
Once such employee was my assistant, whose true ambitions were to be a singer, perform for a living and get a record deal. She was an incredibly talented musician and frankly, a mediocre manager. She was frequently late, made lots of mistakes and was pretty unreliable in general. She had been employed by the company for a number of years and because of her mediocre performance had been treated poorly by some of my not so enlightened predecessors. As a result she was hyper-sensitive and would be reduced to tears under any criticism.
I decided to take a different approach.
I sat down with her one day and asked her to tell me all about her ambitions. What she loved about singing, what she wanted her life to be like, what she thought she had to do to get there. She lit up while she told me about an opportunity she had to go to California and record in a studio for 3 weeks, but her mood quickly changed as she told me she knew she could never go because she couldn’t take 3 weeks off from work. “Why not?” I asked. She looked at me dumbfounded, “You need me here. Who’s going to work for me?” “I’ll work it out,” I told her. But if I was going to do that for her, she’d have to do something for me in return.
She needed to Get. Happy. Now.
I talked to her about looking at her job as a tool to get her where she wanted to be. What was she learning that she could apply to her life down the road? How could she use me and this job to help propel her into her dream career?
She needed to stop being angry about where she wasn’t and start appreciating where she was.
She was managing and motivating a team, she was learning how to run a business, she was constantly in contact with large numbers of people (who knows who she could meet?). She was making a good salary with minimal responsibility so she could focus her time and money on her true passions.
As for her performance, it turns out that over the years no one had ever taken the time to teach her how to do some pretty substantial parts of her job. They’d just dumped things on her and when she messed up they got mad and took her responsibilities away. So I committed to teach her what she needed to know if she would commit to taking the time to learn.
And the lateness issue? Turns out she was playing shows and practicing late in the evening and I, not realizing that, was scheduling her to come to work at 7am. That was never going to work. (The funny thing was, I really wanted her to work later in the day, but I thought she would prefer not to work evenings. You know what they say about assumptions?) So I made adjustments and, like magic, she was never late again.
Over the following months her performance improved dramatically and she quickly became my right hand gal.
So what’s the point of this story?
There are 2 really ~
1) A whole hellofalotta problems can be taken care of with kind, considerate communication.
2) If you get happy where you are, no matter where that is, you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to learn and grow that will help you get where you want to be.
You see, I didn’t really want to be doing what I was doing either. For me the job was just a rest stop on the road to my true passions too. I could have been as annoyed as her at having to manage a bunch of unmotivated folks every day and spend my days making someone else a boat load of money off of my sweat. Instead I saw it as an opportunity to learn and contribute what I could to the development of my staff. I could practice my leadership and coaching skills on them. They would benefit and so would I.
As a result I was promoted from Assistant Manager to General Manager to District Manager in a matter of 6 months and within a couple of years I was running 7 restaurants each doing around $2 million in sales annually. What I learned in that job was invaluable. How to lead, how to build a team, how to manage the finances of a $14 million business. I also learned what I did and did not what my life to be like (70 hour work weeks under some other person’s demanding schedule? No thanks!)
So maybe you’re not in your dream office yet. Maybe you’re working in a practice that’s not your own. Maybe you’re not yet attracting your ideal clients. Maybe you’re working a part time (or full time!) job on the side to make ends meet. The fact is you can either accept where you are, get happy about it (take advantage of it!), and learn what you can to help you down the road. Or you can mope and wine and half-ass what you’re doing. (In case you think the second option sound like fun, remember how you do one thing is how you do everything and the people who see you moping around now will most likely not take the chance of becoming your client down the road.)
The fact is the happier you are the faster your dreams and ambitions will come to fruition.
So tell me, what do you love about you current situation???