Are you doing your best work and happy at work, most days?
Here’s a tool I use with some executive clients to self-assess what may be standing in the way of being at their best and happiest at work, and what to do about it.
Take a look at the graphic below and place yourself in the square that reflects the level of work you are doing, and how happy you are most days at work. Find your “number” and read the corresponding self-coaching suggestions, below.
Square One: Definitely time for a change
You know, or have known for a while that you need to make a change. What will help you do that? What kind of support do you need? What’s holding you in place where you are? From a risk perspective, it’s important to take a look at what’s at stake, were you to make a change? That’s a critical question for you now. Answer that question, then ask it again: then what? Then what? Work it through to the point you understand the risks, even as the potential benefits of making a change are evident. If you’re not sure, then engage someone you can trust either personally or professionally and open up a discussion about options and your future. It’s well worth it!
Square Two: Coaching, mentoring, or training needed
It’s likely you’d be happier and more effective if you had some additional support to see what your work would be like if you felt better about the quality of what you are doing. Perhaps it might help to engage your direct leader or boss in a conversation about what you need to do that. Seeing you recognize that you can do better SHOULD be enough to gain you some support. If it’s not—in other words, if your leader has an issue with that, then it’s time to ask yourself a more fundamental question about the organization and leader for whom you work: is it the right place?
Square Three: May be time for new professional challenges
It’s wonderful you are happy at work most days, but if your actual output is below your own standards, that happiness may be shorter lived than you might like. While coaching, mentoring, and/or training may help (as it would if you were less happy,) it’s also worth asking yourself if you’ve become complacent, or find the work less of a challenge. Seeking greater challenge, and upgrading your game accordingly can refresh your ability to be effective.
Square Four: Take a look at effort versus benefit
Assess how hard you are working, then consider the toll it’s taking on you and perhaps those around you at work, at home, or both. Is your work as satisfying as it might be? What, if any, barriers or obstacles stand in the way to being happier most days at work? Take an inventory of those obstacles, and look for common threads among them. At the very least, that exercise should begin to point you in a new or more engaging direction.
Square Five: Set higher standards
Is "well enough" good enough for you, or would setting higher standards help you to feel more engaged? It’s important to remember that those who are both very happy and very effective in their work are not the “lucky ones,” but rather those who set higher standards on both axis and don’t allow themselves to pitch their tent anywhere short of those standards. You could be fine where you are, but be cognizant there is something more in store for you, and that's definitely worth pursuing when ready.
Square Six: What’s needed to take the next step?
Certainly you are in a good spot, and should appreciate that for as long as it is satisfying to you. If you’re a bit restless, you might consider, like those in Square Five, the idea that setting higher standards can help. In addition, you may just need a bit more of a challenge, or to find something that is closer to your sweet spot in terms of role, type of work, leader, or level of authority or responsibility.
Square Seven: Find a better balance
Clearly you are working hard, and know that you are making a difference for your organization. Yet something significant is missing. That may be on the work front, or simply in the balance you are striking between work and/or life outside of work. Are your standards for work higher than those for an overall happy / satisfying existence? If so, that imbalance will inevitably catch up with you. So why not proactively evaluate what changes might begin to lead to a happier life overall?
Square Eight: On the cusp
You’ve found some level of balance between work and life, and are consistently doing your best. What’s missing? What’s keeping you on the edge of being very happy at work most days? Imagine yourself a year from now in Square Nine—what would have to be different from what you’re doing and how you’re doing it today, that would ensure your placement there this time next year? What do you need to help yourself be accountable to that change?
Square Nine: Being there
Congratulations. If this is a maintainable situation, then you have set and achieved high standards in work and life. Keep an eye out for complacency, and make sure your next step—or vision of your future—is clear. If not, you may take a closer look at your sense of professional purpose and identify some ideas for the future--avenues that would guarantee you keep moving forward.
Principal and Senior Executive Coach
Goodstone Group, LLC