Friday, October 29, 2010

First Who, Then What!

I recently received an email from an old friend saying "Vinay, help. No matter what I do, I seem to constantly feel dissatisfied in my work. What's wrong with me? What do I do?".

To be completely honest, this question hit me right between eyes for it so resonated with me since I have been in a similar state myself for the last 2-1/2 years. No matter what I do, something doesn't feel right. I keep thinking if I did something else, I would be happy but that never seems to happen.

When I reflect back, my most successful, happiest work days were when I was in business. I used to work 50-60 hours weeks, doing variety of things, and used to love every minute of it. In fact, each and every day, I could hardly wait to get out of bed and get to work. Even when I would be on vacation, I would be thinking of work and when I would return, I would run straight to office.

So I been asking myself, what's changed? I am still the same person, same brain, same heart, and so on. Well, I found the answer on my trek to Everest Base Camp, that I want to share it with you in case it's helpful to you or to someone you know.

You see, very simplistically speaking, there are 3 types of people. Those who are primarily task oriented, those who are mainly people oriented, and those who are somewhere in between.

For the primarily task oriented, it tends to be much more about what they are doing, tasks they are performing. For example, I know of a place where nearly every day people come to office, go straight to their desks, work all day-with very little people interaction-and then go home at end of the day. They are nicest people I know but they are still hardly interact among themselves during work days. They are clearly very task oriented.

Then there are those who are people oriented. They have to be around people. As flowers need sunlight, they need people for without, they wither.

Then there are those who are in the middle, both task and people oriented. I am one of these types. When I have some structure, have a sense of what needs to be achieved, have the creative freedom to achieve it, and am around and working with and helping people, I am extremely engaged and happy. In many cases, it doesn't even truly matter what I am doing. It's more that I am creating, within a structure, and am around and helping/working with people. In fact, nothing makes me come more alive then when I hear the words "Vinay, I need your help with something".

So for example, on the Everest Trek, there were 11 of us. We had somewhat of a daily structure for we had to make certain amount of daily progress to reach our destination on schedule. There were days we would hike up grueling steep paths for 6-8 hours daily. Yet what I remember is that along the way, had lot of great conversations, enjoyed each others company, and just loved being together. Though trekking was hard, it didn't feel like it, cause we were a great team. There were times we pushed each other, when we just sat around quietly reading, or sharing meals, and so on. Frankly, for me, I was around people, I was part of a team that knew what had to be done and we were doing it together. Come to think of it, we could have been cleaning bathrooms for all that matter, and I would have been OK.

Therefore, when people are unhappy in work, their first tendency is to want to do something else. If my experience holds true, dissatisfaction often has less to do with what one does and more to do with workplace relationships (with colleagues, boss, and so on), lack of clarity on expectations, etc.

So next time you experience dissatisfaction, or know someone who is, dig deeper. Ask probing questions and then guide them accordingly. Before changing the "what", find out the real cause and address that first.