On the publication of his new book, My Job Isn’t Working!, careers coach Michael Brown shares his top tips on how to achieve job satisfaction.
Over the last 20 years I have met thousands of people on leadership and associated training workshops. They tell me stuff that they might not share with others in their organisation and with this information, I have been able to build a picture of what inhibits people from achieving their full potential and having a happy and fulfilled experience whilst at work. Far too many people are drifting along, feeling slightly long-faced about their job, hoping it will improve.
They have lost what I call their 'career mojo’.
Chances are things are not going to automatically improve (in fact I’d predict the opposite), so we need to be proactive and do something to change things. Sometimes a surprisingly small shift in approach can yield significant and sustained benefits. Here are my top 10 tips, based on what people tell me makes the most difference.
Reset your compass. Too many people are drifting along at work, unclear about where they fit in, not sure where they are heading personally, unsure of what’s important and slightly questioning what the point of it all is. Working on these questions with your boss and with your team can give you renewed energy and a sense of purpose. It also helps you to clarify your next steps, which will get you moving again and not having your career trickle like sand through your fingers.
Build more trust. Trust is at an all-time low and chances are you don’t trust some of the key players on your stakeholder map. Without trust you can’t collaborate and people retreat into silos and put energy into protecting themselves. This takes time and is exhausting. Plan where you need to build more trust and start by spending more face-to-face time with them, informally if possible.
Get out of the playground. Some people turn you into a child. You become another person’s ‘mother'. You don’t even realise it half the time. Children have to wait to be told what to do, have given up thinking and may feel powerless. They often don’t say what they really think and this leads to conflict and ongoing problems. The solution is to adapt an adult mindset and often the parent or child you used to deal with will respond as another adult. You have to make the first move though.
Invest in relationships. Our biggest enemy at work is lack of time. You have too much to do and not enough time to do it. One of the first things to suffer is human relationships. This can cause misery and it sucks the fun and joy out of the workplace. It also means you don’t know who you’re working with and you can’t play to their strengths. Plan more time with people and allow space to connect with them; In meetings, giving more feedback, coaching them and being coached yourself. You will probably learn about some new resources you did not know you had available to work with.
Negotiate for yourself. Too many people don’t know how to negotiate and they resist standing up for themselves. Learn to test the other person when they ask you for things. Good questions include “Why are you asking?”, “How important is it?” and “How much flexibility do you have?" Also plan your important negotiations; be clear about what you want, how low/high you are prepared to go and give yourself a Plan B so you can walk away if you have to. This gives you the mental power you didn’t have before.
Avoid avoidance. Conflict avoidance is prevalent at work; the way to get on is to shut up and not challenge things, supposedly. This can lead to dysfunction in various guises. Try asserting yourself more - say what you think more often! Challenge more, by asking more questions. Give someone that feedback they need in order to improve. Plan that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding for months and get on with it. Conflict often gets worse the longer you leave it, so don’t delay resolving it any further.
Think! Because we are always short of time we tend to rush into projects too quickly, without thinking through what we’re supposed to do or how to do it. The result is often a botch and we go about it inefficiently. Try slowing down the beginning of projects and getting clarity on what you're doing, what’s important, why you're doing it and how you're going to do it, before you start doing it. Others will resist this initially, but will thank you later.
Listen more, transmit less. Extroverts talk too much and close out the introverts who make up 50% of the workforce. We would all benefit if we made more space for the introverts, because they are highly creative and can see things the extroverts can’t (because it’s hard to think and talk at the same time). Give everyone at the table a chance to say a few words when you start the discussion. Pay attention to the quiet one and draw them in.
Meet intelligently. Meetings are the biggest time waster at work. The most frequent gaffes are having a meeting in the first place, meeting with no agendas or minutes/action notes and meeting with no objectives. When invited to a meeting, ask for the agenda. If there isn’t one, ask for it and if they say there won’t be one you can say you can’t therefore evaluate whether it’s a good use of your time, so you won’t be attending. This can save you valuable hours - even days - per week. Finish every meeting with a meeting review, so you can ask what went well and how to improve it next time. Start each meeting with a review of previous agreed actions (so that people know they’ll be held accountable).
Know yourself. Get yourself profiled (I recommend Myers Briggs), so you know your preferences and can play more intelligently to them. If you’re doing a job which is not a good fit for your preferences, do something about it. Rescope your job, or switch it.
Michael Brown is a leadership and business skills trainer and coach who has worked with global clients for the last two decades. He is author of the book My Job Isn’t Working! 10 proven ways to boost your career mojo, published by Practical Inspiration Publishing, RRP. £14.99. For more information visit: www.myjobisntworking.com