The Purpose And Passion Of Work

CALLINGSDave Isay, founder of Story Corps has a new book out titled: Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. The book tells stories of people who love their work and the paths they took to find it. I watched an interview with Dave Isay and saw some of the animations of individual stories and found all of it so confirming – that you can be happy in your work and that finding work you love transforms you in very positive ways.

Does your work have purpose and passion? Do you believe it is possible? What do you have to lose in taking a journey to find passion and purpose in your work? If you have found passion and purpose, tell your story to Story Corps!

My Manager Journey From Needing Approval To Fairness

At one point in my career, I received a promotion to a new position that was a big leap and wonderful opportunity for me. I would be managing 45 people in a division that brought three previously separate offices together as one. It was a high profile division, where my decisions would be scrutinized and my actions as a manager would have wider, and more public, impact than in any position I held before.

In my previous managerial positions, one thing that was a bit of an Achilles heel for me was that I brought a need for the approval of others into my work. The roots of this need went back to my childhood, but had no place in my work. This manifested in my not always providing the leadership those who worked for me deserved and in my avoiding conflict, sometimes to the detriment of getting things done.

As I accepted this new position, I knew my need for approval had to go. I was on a bigger stage, would be making difficult decisions and had to perform. What would replace my need for approval? I did not want to be what we now call a bully boss. I wanted to treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve. I settled on fairness – I would be very clear in my expectations, would explain decisions that affected the team, would handle controversy or unpopular decisions with as much fairness as possible and would do my very best to respect everyone who worked with me.

It worked. My need for others’ approval was replaced with a focus on leadership, collaboration and managing with fairness. The biggest difference for me was that my neediness was gone. It was very freeing. I accepted my role as a manager as a positive one and thrived.


photo:  Stuart Miles,

Communication Breakdown

As a manager, communicating is a mainstay of your work. Frequently, communications can go awry. But what do you do when communications totally break down?

I was coaching a client who worked in a political campaign. Pressure was high and internal competition was fierce. The campaign environment did not have space for discord or drama. He was working with another person, his peer, who insisted on berating him and criticizing what he did in e mails and copying them widely to other members of the campaign. It was a game and very irritating. At one point, he thought these communications could do him significant harm.

It was time to deal with it. First, he set some boundaries, calling the person on their inaccuracies and tactics. It didn’t work. So, he went to his manager and instead of complaining, he calmly told his manager that he was not going to work this way and set his boundaries. His manager responded, told the other person to lay off on the e mails and it was done. Sometimes things can be worked out and sometimes they can’t. In this case, the action taken by the manager allowed my client to get back to work and get the job done.



Balancing Mind and Emotions When You Are Firing Someone

The first time I was in the position of firing an employee, I let my emotions take over. The task was so unpleasant for me. Although the firing was justified, I knew it would be very hard for the employee. My boss warned me to be considered and careful. However, I did not heed his advice. In the end, I paid for it. I gave the employee two weeks notice (allowing her to stay at work). All went well. Until the day after she left, we discovered that she had wiped out very important drives on our computers in retaliation. Lesson learned – I didn’t let my emotions reign the next time.

For many managers, firing someone, is not a welcome task. One way to prepare for it is to balance your mind and emotions as you proceed. The balance lies first, in your mind – in acknowledging that firing is often a tough and unpleasant task with very negative impacts for the employee – and in taking responsibility for your decision. Then secondly, in your emotions – in being as compassionate as possible in delivering the news. Firing is tough, no getting around it. Balancing your mind and emotions helps you conduct yourself in a clear, forthright manner with integrity.



A Communication Strategy: Start Over

Recently, a client described a business relationship that had a troubled history at his organization. He had inherited both the relationship, and its past, in his new position. After a particularly difficult interaction, he reevaluated his strategy for the relationship. What he came up with was brilliant. In the midst of an exchange, he said to the person, “Can we start over?” Simple, direct and effective. Turned out, that the other person was relieved and more than willing to give it a try. No drama, no games, no complexity;  just the expression of a desire to end one energy and create a more productive one.