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[#WorkTrends] Designing Work to Meet Personal and Professional Goals

We’re all doing more with less. And yet, we continue to work toward the achievement of our personal and professional goals. So how do we find the right balance… or shall I say the right “blend”? 

Even as we learn best how to work from — well, wherever — for most of us, our overarching goal remains integrating a productive, engaging professional life with a satisfying, fulfilling personal life. In fact, as I talk to members of the TalentCulture community over the past few months, one thing has become clear: The blending of personal and professional goals into a comfortable mix is finally gaining momentum. 

That makes sense; after all, attempting to create strict boundaries between one’s personal life and work often meets with disappointment. Especially now, when distancing oneself from personal life while at work — and removing work from our active thoughts while on downtime — is becoming increasingly difficult. 

However, with some concerted effort, we can balance satisfying personal and professional goals. 

Our Guest: Author and Productivity Expert, Carson Tate

Joining me on the #WorkTrends podcast this week is Carson Tate, the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc. — a consulting firm that enhances workplace productivity, fosters higher employee engagement levels, and helps build personal and professional legacies. Carson’s newest book, where she talks about making any job your dream job, is Own It. Love It. Make It Work. Of course, I had to ask Carson if someone, especially now, can really design their work in a way that makes them happy in their professional and personal life. Her answer was both encouraging and inspiring:

“That is the big question, and it often comes with an eye roll or a sigh. Yes, because any job can be a place for fulfillment and engagement for you. Because who defines what fulfillment and engagement look like? You do! So you must own the opportunity to shape and craft your work in a way that works for you. You actually own your piece of the action. So you must identify what you need to be happier, more fulfilled, more engaged, and more excited about going to work.”

I followed up by asking how that is possible given many of us can no longer separate who we are at work and who we are at home. Carson replied, “When our commute is two minutes to the kitchen table, our concept of work is very different. Folks are working more hours. There’s more burnout because of the connectivity. And there’s anxiety around making sure I stay visible; that my boss knows what I’m doing and that I’m adding value.”

“So it’s even more important to be thoughtful about what it is you need, the conditions under which you work best, and also your own levels of engagement and fulfillment.”

Professional Goals: How to Make “This” Job Your “Dream Job”

Carson shared with us many tips on how to stay connected and visible while working remotely. Her tips are sure to help all of us balance our desire to live a fulfilling personal life while being fully engaged at work. My favorite moment came when I asked her about the three most important steps when making our current job our dream job. “Own it… love it… make it work,” Carson said. She added: “When we own our work, we align our strengths to the work; we then do better work. When we love our work, we have a clear idea of where we want to go and the skills we must develop to get there. And when we make it work, we’re designing the work for more meaning; we find purpose in what we do each and every day.”

Solid advice we can all use. But we weren’t done yet. I also talked with Carson about avoiding the roadblocks that interrupt our career journeys (especially in these challenging times), how to ensure we’re getting the recognition and appreciation we all need while working from home, and much more. Be sure to listen to the entire episode!

My thanks to Carson Tate for joining me on #WorkTrends. A thought-provoking conversation, indeed!


Find Carson on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!


Photo: Disruptivo

One Employee’s Journey Toward Personal and Professional Fulfillment

I love my job.

Sure, I get paid to write blog posts that positively show our company culture and product. But I mean it, I genuinely love working at my company. I am surrounded by people who work with dedication and joy, and I am given just enough challenge to grow personally and professionally.

You may be saying to yourself, “Employee retention is a challenge,” and recruiting and hiring is expensive and time-consuming. How can I create an environment where my employees love the company and their work?”

The answer is simple (and also our company mission): week after week, company leaders create the space for me to become my greatest self.

They do that by regularly asking a handful of questions about my goals and my ideas. They check-in with how I am feeling. They gather information and respond with supportive feedback instead of just making assumptions and perpetuating disconnection.

Replicating that environment in your workplace is easier than you think.

And Justice For No One

I wasn’t always this excited about the company I worked for. Like you, I have had my share of lousy jobs.

While I am currently a content manager, I am also technically a lawyer.

At one time grand visions of a legal career floated in my head. I saw myself in a three-piece suit pacing before the jury. In my reverie, I pause to wipe my brow and then hurl question after question at a witness in my Southern accent (I do not have a Southern accent, but in this dream I am channeling Atticus Finch — so sue me). Light whispers fill the courtroom as I return to my seat and proclaim, “No further questions, your honor.”

In reality I was just performing research for a tyrannical lawyer who was impatient, rude and downright mean. The thought of going to work made me sick to my stomach.

Dream Job Turned Nightmare

I would slip quietly through the front door every morning and tiptoe to my office, praying that my boss was on a call or in court so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him.

I was a hard-worker — offering litigation support for two different law firms and moonlighting as a waiter while finishing my law degree. But In every meeting my boss was holding back rage for even the smallest flaw in performance, perhaps waiting to unleash once I agreed to come on full time.

Have you heard the saying, “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses?” Well, eventually the stress got to me and I quit.

During my exit interview, I was finally asked about my experience. I said that family law was too emotionally involved for me. My boss didn’t believe me and he kept prodding me for more information. I imagined that countless others had similarly left his employ, too afraid or embarrassed to confront him about how he treated people.

The experience soured my desire to become Atticus Finch. I grabbed my briefcase and my six-figure education debt and walked on.

Communication Breakdown

The meandering river of fate landed me on the shores of the online dating industry. I was trained in direct-response marketing, and felt more supported in my work. But I wasn’t being encouraged to become my best self or align with my zone of genius as a writer.

I wrote email copy that waxed romantic about first kisses, long walks on the beach, and couples rolling around on a blanket in the throes of passion. I wanted our would-be customers to feel hopeful about making connections. I proudly forwarded my work to my marketing director.

“No,” she responded.

“No, what? It’s too long? Not romantic enough?”

“David, you have to make people feel lonely, sad, bad about themselves. From a place of desperation they will sign up for our product.”

That type of communication was such a departure from who I am as a person. I didn’t want to manipulate people so I moved on again.

So long dating site, hello freelance copywriting!

Employee Support = Employee Retention

How exhilarating and scary to hang out a shingle! I trusted my writing skills and knew that clients would emerge from within my network. Pretty soon I had more work than I could handle.

My biggest client was a company that developed team communication and employee feedback software. I had experienced work environments where communication breakdowns caused employee attrition, poor morale, and lack of engagement and productivity. Now I was part of a movement to end all that through an agile software application.

After working as a contractor for only two months, I joined the team for a week-long retreat in Sedona. We all shared vulnerable information about ourselves including our personal goals. I shared how grateful I was to be honing my skills as a writer at my company, 15Five, skills that were feeding into my personal goal of publishing a novel.

Three weeks later, out of the blue, I received this email from our CEO:

David Hassell 15Five Email Support Employees

That was it for me. I knew that my search for a fulfilling job had ended. A month later I was a full-time employee.

I continue to be supported as I write my novel. The company has paid for creative writing classes, and they check-in on my progress often. I have a strong desire to continue working here for as long as I can give my greatest gifts and contribute to the realization of the company mission.

And all it took was one little question.

David Mizne is Content Manager at 15Five, the leading web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. David interviews some of the most brilliant minds in business and reports on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to employee engagement. Follow David on Twitter @davidmizne.

Looking Back, to Look Ahead

I’m a big believer in looking back as an important step in dramatically improving the future. While one traditional time to take a big look back is the transition from one year to the next, why wait?

With two months left in 2010 (and holiday vacation days potentially ahead of you when you could be moving ahead on future plans), how about taking time right now to review the year so far? This will allow you to better prepare yourself strategically for 2011, making sure you’re orienting yourself for new, innovative successes when you get a running start on making them happen.

How to do your quick recap?

Go back through your calendar from 2010 to see how you invested your time, effort, and other resources. While you’re at it, take a quick look through emails, online files, or any other sources which trigger 2010 recollections. As you do this, look for events, ideas, projects, interactions, meetings, articles, lessons learned, and anything else that stands out for good or bad from the first part of the year. Ideally, you’ll have a lengthy list of items which made 2010 noteworthy.

After generating your year-in-review list, revisit the items and categorize them items using the eleven groupings below. These categories will help you think strategically about the ideas, events, projects, and lessons learned you have experienced so far this year and what they might mean in 2011:

  • All About You – Are certain ideas, causes, issues, or practices tremendously important to you and the impact you’re trying to make in the world? Find room for these before you plan anything else.
  • Life Changers – Are there BIG thoughts and ideas which could make a HUGE difference in your life five or ten years from now if you got more accomplished on them NOW? What will you do to push ahead on them right away? (And puhleeez, no excuses about why you can’t do more with them!)
  • Distinctive to You – What were the things you did or learned which set you apart? How much benefit did they create for others and for you? Will they still keep you distinctive in 2011 or could they stand some freshening up to continue to be effective?
  • Energizers – What things excited and sustained you through challenging times this year? Trust me; you’ll want some more of those things in 2011 so plan now for where they fit in your calendar.
  • Second Life – We’re not talking the online environment here. How can you take things that worked in one setting and move them into other parts of your life to also have an impact? Additionally are there things which didn’t pan out because they received only your half-hearted effort? Consider giving these another shot as well with the focus and intensity to get them really right this time.
  • Unexercised Ideas – What potential possibilities have been kicking around too long without coming to fruition? Pick one or two and give them both some attention and a 2011 deadline.
  • Teachers – Where did you learn new things this year – either formally (training, conferences) or informally (from successes, failures, etc.)? What can you line up in advance for next year to make sure you’re continuing to develop personally and professionally?
  • Life Savers – Were there ideas or people which kept you from near-term ruin (or at least from suffering a few bumps and bruises)? Think they might do it again in the future? Make sure you don’t lose track of them then.
  • Guilty Pleasures – Admit it. There had to be a few fun things this year you’re not proud to admit you enjoyed. Figure out where they’re going to fit in your future schedule because they’ll be as important to your mental well-being in 2011 as in 2010.
  • Tired Ideas – Are there strengths or techniques you keep returning to time after time that are starting to even bore you? Jettison these and replace them with something new from now on.
  • Pride and Joy – Of everything you’ve been through in 2010, what were the most significant sources of comfort, satisfaction, and smiles? Which of these things (or other new efforts) are likely to do the same for you in 2011?

If you use this approach now, you’ll have done more personal planning than most people do, plus you’ll be two months ahead of everyone waiting for the end of the year to think about the next. Give it a try, even very informally, and improve your success in 2011.