I noticed a quote the other day that resonated for me. It's the image above this article. It struck me how much I love what I do for a living. It also brought to mind Simon Sinek's TED talk from 2009 about beginning with WHY. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend doing so. In my experience, the why of work is really about passion or "Why are you here?"
As the CTO for 3D Results, I have a lot to juggle (cats, developers, chainsaws, engineers) along with projects and various teams who have different goals that coalesce into a larger narrative that supports our business strategy and that of our customers.
My personal why is that I want the work I do in technology to leave a lasting positive impact on the world and humanity. It may seem like a big "Why" but there it is.
I know from experience it IS possible. One example that comes to mind is effectively reducing the frequency and severity of accidents, including reducing the number of deaths in a large national industrial organization through a high impact education program. This was because of an effective use of multiple technologies combined with an extremely focused training and communication plan engaging a massive workforce. There's a paycheck of the heart involved that you can't put a price on. That's a powerful "Why" to get you out of bed in the morning.
To kick off 2017 I spent time with each of my teams talking about our "Why".
Why, do we do the work, we do and how it matters to them, the team, the company and our customers. The start of the first session went something like this:
Why did you show up today?
After the "Oh boy what's coming next!?!" looks had passed, I went around the room and asked my development team to share with each other why they showed up. What made them say "yeah lets go do this today!"
You've probably heard of Tuckman's model for group development about forming, storming, norming & performing. However, even when a team are performing well sometimes you just need to check in because people's lives, and motivations change.
I ask this question in interviews too, what are you passionate about? Asking a candidate what they are passionate about gives insight into what will get them engaged, and asking your team the same question as they partner and debate gives insights into their passion and drive.
Heck, our UX director is an argumentative pain in the keister (all the time) and for that matter so is our UI lead but they're passionate about great user experience design meeting great code and they live for the debate and when you have a common goal like that, debate is FUN! The common thread for our development team is that they love to build cool stuff using cutting edge technology that solves a quantifiable problem. A collegial culture in a development team is hard to build but they’re doing it and they own it.
Our tech services team handles all the integration “stuff” and are different from my development team who are all in one location, this team is virtual. Spread out all over the world from Dallas to St Louis, New Jersey, Taiwan and Argentina. The work involves building complex integrations on platforms such as Dell Boomi and HANA Cloud Integration between various systems. All of their work is centered around connecting the SAP SuccessFactors Suite and just about every other HR application on the planet. As we did the same exercise, what do you think they had in common as their WHY? They love to solve problems for customers with ingenuity and technology. Interestingly, every week is a new problem to solve with some new vendor being integrated with different requirements and tight timelines.
Think agile development on steroids!
This team of engineers sees a well built integration as a thing of beauty. An elegantly designed integration is art in its own way. The challenge is to effectively make a HRIS (human resource information system) talk to a background check application or a pre hire assessment or a payroll application or back to the SAP SF Suite. This is a nuanced engineering challenge every time and you can't afford holes in it with a customer that has 300,000 employees and a 40% turnover. You need a seamless connection.
David Bowie, Van Gogh or Banksy don’t have a lock on art. Art is in the eye of the beholder or the artist.
The only way to do great work, is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.
And speaking of rock stars like David Bowie or Steve Jobs, our data science team are already well known and respected in the HR/HCM industry and working with Fortune 10 /100 /500 clients every day. They’re passionate about telling stories with data and even more so when the data starts predicting outcomes. Quick sidebar- Did you know the biggest predictor of turnover in HR data are employee engagement scores?! And yet companies perform engagement surveys only annually or bi-annually because they are stuck in old paradigms and have no clue why they can’t keep top talent.
But I digress, my point is about passion. This data science team are creating multivariate statistical analyses to find predictors using multiple sources of data such as cost center time to fill on jobs in recruiting with cost center GPS location then correlated with unemployment rate, population density and proximity to mass transit by the square mile. Cool stuff! When we talked about their goals and their WHY for 2017, this team is focused on using data to tell the relevant stories for their customers that make a difference in the business and it's just a BAM! kind of moment. They’re passionate about this stuff. Its infectious. I'm passionate about it too, and I was told there'd be no math.
What is it about passion that makes work not work anymore? Science tells us that dopamine is released in the brain when you have fun. Like when you're playing a game which is why so many learning and development groups are using gaming to teach people more effectively. It drives cognitive retention. I would argue it’s the same with work because when you love what you do, it’s not work anymore, its fun.
If you find a job you love, you'll never work again.
-Sir Winston Churchill
Are you passionate about the work you do? Good, I want to work with you someday.
Have you made some mistakes along the way? Good, that means you were actually trying.
People who don’t make mistakes don't do anything anyway and are usually given a title like "Vice President of Looking Out The Window". We all know one of those!
If its what you love, then you’re in it for the right reasons. If you don’t enjoy it then you should be looking for a new job. Find a new career doing what you love and start a new life, because you only get one life folks and this is it. I hope you make the most of it.