There is a very fine line between being comfortable at work (secure in your expertise, wielding it with precision) and being uninspired by the sameness of it all.
Boredom happens in every job (even when you're busy), it’s a product of predictability and repetitiveness, which also happen to be two key things that can make work less stressful – it’s a balancing act.
Boredom happens for many important reasons – it’s a sign that can help your career, but only if you listen to what it has to tell you. Human’s get bored when:
AND we’re all adulting, so you know you need to get on with getting things done.
Listen to what boredom has to tell you, and consider what you may need to do to work with it:
So, while you are waiting for that next challenging assignment to come through, or to help you through a slog of mundane work, here are three ways to beat the boredom blues, making your work stand out in all the right ways:
While there will always be an aspect of every role that is boring (80/20 rule), make sure to keep an open mind and open dialog with your manger so they know what types of work interest and challenge you.
When your boss knows what types of problems you like to solve, you’ll find more of that work gets on your desk, making you relevant and enriching your career.
When you keep yourself engaged, you show-up at work in positive and noticeable ways, empowering others to trust your work.
Here's something I’m pondering. Better communication skills. It keeps coming up as a topic for my clients and network connections. I’ve been a human resource professional for 20 years, a coach and workshop facilitator for the last 10; in all that time the topic of communication has always been HOT. That’s 30 years of this being an area of concern for professionals. And it’s not like it hasn’t been worked on; everyone I’ve had the privilege to work with has received training on how to communicate, from being a better listener to getting clear with their message.
So, why does better communication continue to remain at the top of everyone’s professional development list?
There’s something fundamental missing in the majority of the resources out there. A void. A blind spot. Maybe it’s this; communication is principally about being clear and easy to understand within the context of a relationship - but in order to truly be an effective and adaptive communicator you need to work with the emotional undercurrent beneath all those words.
And that is not something I’m seeing expressly taught in the majority of communication training.
Words are great, love ‘em! But they can also be a shield, or they get in the way of what needs to be communicated. You can reach understanding, and still not get the outcome you need with communication, and that happens when feelings are not taken into account.
Yes, we’re communicating more carefully and inclusively, and that is a very good thing. But those aren’t the feelings I mean. Let me give you an example. I had a client who was a very skilled communicator, but she knew she wasn’t being effective. She would provide clear direction to her staff and still not get the outcomes she needed. When we broke it down, her staff were trying to do what she asked, but they weren’t feeling confident about being able to do it, nor were they comfortable asking for her support to help them do it well. They were afraid to look bad in her eyes, and proceeded to “fake it until they made it”. Which wasn’t working.
So, what was going on? She was a very approachable person, a supportive leader, and yet when she was communicating, it didn’t extend to reflect or capture the way her staff felt about the work they were being asked to do. My client was making assumptions about the way her staff felt about what they were doing (and that they would come to her if they needed support).
Working through this in coaching, my client and I came up with an effective strategy for her to use with her team. In addition to giving clear direction, she would then ask them (on a scale of 1-5) how comfortable they felt doing this work? My client recognized that leaving it at that might lead to a continuation of the “fake it til’ you make it” strategy her staff were used to using, so we added to it: “On a scale of 1-5 how comfortable are you doing this work, and why did you choose that number and not one higher?” (5 being “totally comfortable doing this work”).
This was a simple way to open up much needed dialogue qualifying how her staff felt about what they were being asked to do. In using this one simple strategy it created the necessary conditions for her staff to discuss their concerns, and give voice to the support they needed to get the desired outcomes. It was an absolute game changer for her and her team, without being “touchy-feely”.
Emotions are often the last thing we think about when crafting a message or communicating. Yet, if you don’t communicate with emotions in mind, you miss the point of communicating entirely. Emotions are the human GPS system; nothing happens unless a person’s emotions can get behind your request or message. That doesn’t mean people won’t try, but compliance is not the same as commitment (as my client discovered).
Communicating with emotion in mind requires emotional intelligence, which is also not something that is expressly taught in schools and organizations today. But coaching develops it. We all have emotional intelligence, and coaching helps you to harness yours so you can communicate effectively no matter what work throws at you.
I have the opportunity to do something audacious and scary in my career right now. It’s something I’d thought about doing in the past, but stopped short because of all the reasons: I don’t have time. Now’s not the right time. What if I fail? What if I suck (and I don’t know it)? What if I succeed?
How does the saying go… many people don’t open the door to opportunity because it comes dressed as hard work? I know neither you or I turn away from hard work. Nope. There is no mistaking what’s keeping me from opening this particular door. It’s fear.
Fear throws up all the rational excuses for not doing something. And there’s the problem! Looking at an opportunity like I have to commit to the whole thing in its entirety when that’s not what’s being asked of me. It can be hard to decipher the difference between what’s being offered to me, and what’s being asked of me. And here’s why: whatever the opportunity is, it will unfold in a series of steps that allow me to decide, at each step, if it’s something that aligns with my values and career aspirations. Along that path I may have unique opportunities to shape the final outcome so it better aligns with my needs, and the needs of others.
Opportunity should always be something empowering; and not just for my bank account but for my soul. I may not be exclusively in control of everything all the time, but I am empowered to help make decisions; including the all-important decision to say “no” to something that doesn’t work for me because it crosses important boundaries in my life (ethical, commitment balance, interest, etc.).
One of my clients also faced an opportunity dilemma. She was asked to take on a promotion to a managerial position that was well beyond her comfort zone. It was brought to her as a very “black and white” opportunity; take it, or don’t. That didn’t feel empowering. So, she and I took a coaching session and brainstormed all her questions, and fears. In looking at it, she determined she didn’t have enough information to say “yes” and went back with her questions. In essence she was qualifying the opportunity, checking to see what was there to empower her.
We also devised a counter-offer where she would try the new role for 3 months to ensure it could work for her, her new team and her organization. If it turned out it wasn’t working (or it wasn’t what she thought or wanted), she’d return to her former position once a new manager was hired. No harm no foul. It worked brilliantly and she was able to turn a black and white opportunity into an empowering one that worked better for her (and she is still a happy and successful manager today).
In my case, I have the opportunity to write a book. It’s always something I’ve flirted with doing, tried and walked away from many times. There’s a big fear of failure here – if I’m writing a book it’s going to be worth the reader’s time. And it’s going to alleviate suffering in people’s working lives. These are my success criteria. I know that’s a tall order for a book, but so many of my favourite books have done this for me, it’s possible (whether I can do this or not is still untested). The opportunity here for me is to be of greater service to a community I care for deeply, and that’s empowering. Along the way I’ll learn something about creating useful content, gain a deeper understanding of the people I want to help, and discover more about myself.
It’s worth the risk, taking it one simple step at a time. That’s how opportunity empowers.
Questioning Unclaimed Joy at Work
Ever read a phrase that stopped you cold? I’ve learned that when a phrase strikes me, there is a reason, especially as (like you) I read thousands of words a day (e-mails, articles, work reports, presentation slides… thousands). So, if within those thousands of words, a simple phrase makes me pause there’s something that’s begging to be explored.
It’s inconvenient (to say the least). I don’t have time to stop and ponder random phrases when I’m in the middle of doing all the things. And yet, when I press on with my day, I always regret it later because I can’t remember what the phrase was or why it made me stop, but it stays with me, like the ghost of something important I’ve forgotten to do. I really hate that nagging feeling, like I’m dropping the ball on attending to something important… to me. Ouch. Time to practice what I preach and bump what I want and need up the list. So, the next time a phrase caught my attention, I went with it. It was a VERY good choice, so good, I’m sharing it.
It was the phrase “unclaimed joy”. I can’t even remember what it was in reference to, but hours later it still held fascination for me. Was there unclaimed joy in my life? In the past there definitely was, but it’s something that only showed up in the rear-view mirror. And that was the fascination… what if I could spot unclaimed joy in the here and now, and not after it was far too late to enjoy it?
And what the heck is “unclaimed joy” anyway? I have no idea how it was defined in the initial context where I came across it, but for me it is the act of turning away from the good things because I overly-focus on the other stuff. Like my “to-do” list. Mistakes I thought I’d made (or actually made). Relationships I wanted (or needed) different things from (other than what I was experiencing), etc.
The phrase “unclaimed joy” paints a picture of joy just sitting there waiting to be picked up, like unclaimed baggage at an airport, and me walking past it to pick up a heavy briefcase full of hard work instead (and I know I’ve done that before, metaphorically speaking!). How can you not claim something that brings you joy? It’s a real thing that deserves exploration.
So, here’s what I’ve come up with to explore and claim more of the joy that’s in my day, without turning this into a toxically positive exercise where I “have to” something (telling myself “I have to” do something, takes this to a whole level of un-joyfulness and my inner three year old takes over with a “NO!”). Instead, each morning I’m looking forward into my day and asking myself what, if anything, sparks joy for me.
I’m intrigued by this simple exercise and what it has to teach me as I continue to navigate letting go of hyper-focus and defining myself (my work) only by what gets accomplished on my long “to do” list. I guess this is really about impact, and how things, like joy, affect me (when I let it) and how my joy can then ripple out towards others (because claimed joy cannot be contained, and it’s a little bit contagious).
I have a sneaking suspicion that if I can’t find joy for myself it’s not because it doesn’t exist, but because I’m not letting it in. So, what happens when I’m more consistent about letting it in?
I’m going to find out.
Working with Carleen I've learned to support my needs first. I was preparing myself to accept the consequences of this at work. Turns out, there were none as both my work and home life have now shown me that when I meet my needs, everything else just falls into place.
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