Every so often I check the statistics here to discover what search engine queries bring people to All Things Workplace. I figured that the keywords were going to be mostly "leadership" or "management".
"Job Satisfaction"..."Happiness at Work"..."Where Can I Find the Best Job?"..."Strengths and Weaknesses"..."How Can I Find A Job Where the Boss Listens to Me?"...those are the themes. Career issues--sometimes disguised as communications--turned up on a second page of searches.
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Make no mistake. People are searching for how to feel good at work. We want to do well...and we want to feel good in the process.
But these are leadership and management issues. What people are saying is: "We want to be in a place where the "orchestration of work" allows us to contribute our talent. There are times when we need direction and times when we need to improvise our own riffs."
Think about two variables
There's a relationship between how much people enjoy their jobs and how well they perform. That's not a mystery. But there is a dynamic you need to know about in order to manage yourself and others:
1. Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.
2. Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.
It's a "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" phenomenon. I picked up on this during a stretch where I was diagnosing "performance issues" for a client.
My conclusion: Managers hadn't caught onto the validity of the two approaches to performance. Naturally, the "feel good first" people were perceived as weenie-like non-performers. However, they actually had a huge commitment to doing well. They just needed something else to help them be able to get there.
What was it? They wanted the managers to understand who they were and what made them tick. That went along way to having the "right feeling" about the job.
The second category of people wanted a scorecard. They weren't about to "feel" good until they checked off their tasks and accomplishments.
Target yourself and your people
1. Which approach most naturally fits you? Figure out what that means to the way you work and the way your work is managed. Then talk with your manager about your desire to excel and how you might use this natural preference to make that happen.
2. Managers: The next time you're in a meeting (or one-on-one), have an informal conversation about the two approaches. Let people talk about what comes first for them. You'll learn a lot about how to manage each person; and they'll get more of what they need in order to hit the top of the job satisfaction/high performance curve.
Punchline: First, know yourself and your own preference. Only then will you have a solid point of reference for understanding the distinctions of the people around you.