Tag Archives: #work reimagined

Get Real! Purpose + Calling + Balance

The New York Human Resources People and Strategy Group recently hosted an insightful presentation featuring social entrepreneur Aaron Hurst.

In this interactive and provocative session, Aaron presented his concept of a “Purpose Economy”, in which purpose will replace information as the dominant economic driver. Embedded in this new definition of purpose are the concepts of:
• Choice
• Calling
• Self-awareness

The desire for purpose, calling or self-fulfillment is not new. However in today’s society which allows 24/7 connectivity, availability and choice…… the boundaries between our work and personal lives is often non-existent. The concept of work: life balance has become a concept of work: life integration. The premise of seeing one’s act of labor as fulfilling and satisfying —regardless of the role one plays in the world of work—- provides the consistency that allows us to thrive in everything that we do.

Research has shown significant levels of employee disengagement and frustration. Further studies surmise that the disengaged workforce is less productive, less dependable, and less loyal to the work-team. Infusing the purpose approach into every aspect of our lives becomes critical. The concept starts with an attitude. Individually, we create purpose by choosing how to approach a job vs. only looking at the actual content of the job that we are doing.

Some industry articles attribute this shift in philosophy to the millennial; I think the fundamentals of the purpose concept have been percolating for a very long time. Our aging society, sandwich generations and millennial attitudes have allowed these frustrations to be channeled in a positive direction. As a member of the Boomer generation, I grappled with work: life balance as I entered my parenting years and was an active participant in remote work schedules, freelance contracts and career off-ramps. The Purpose Economy addresses the personal interests and demands of individuals by “allowing us to publicly balance our multiple obligations”.
balancing act photo
How can we combine passion and expertise consistency in our lives –vs. – looking to our volunteer work and hobbies to fill in these gaps? Does each of us have the ability to work with purpose and to live with purpose? Is this a learned activity? Will this increased awareness obligate everyone (the employers, the employees, the clients and the providers) to realize that work: life integration is reasonable and attainable? The answer is a definite YES!

Aaron shared four recommendations with the audience that can be viewed as opportunities for both the individual as well as the collective employer/work environment to support purpose-oriented activities. They are:

1. Develop individual self-awareness. As an employer, strive to assist your employees in building their self-awareness.
• Those who demonstrate calling in their daily lives see their actions as being bigger than them. They are motivated by the ability to impact others in positive ways. They are confident in their actions being consistent with their driving emotions.

2. Tailor your work to reflect the purpose(s) that motivate you. As an employer, allow the employee to tailor their work to boost their own sense of purpose.
• Doing this involves the deepening of relationships, defining opportunities for growth and maximizing the impact that someone can make in a situation.

3. Connect your personal purpose with your organizational purpose. As an employer, allow your employees to understand the impact of their labor on the bigger picture.
• People who behave from a position of purpose or calling see their efforts as providing positive growth. The power of continuous learning is important to all of us.

4. Celebrate and connect with others who share your approach to life. As an employer, create opportunities where individuals who share a common perspective can learn and grow together (This does not mean that they work together, Rather that they serve as motivators for each other.)
• I note that this example was given within the context of bringing people together who tested with similar purpose profiles. People with different functionalities and backgrounds were able to gain a new perspective on subjects that they had no understanding— when the sharing was made with someone else who shared a similar purpose-perspective. As a marketer, this reiterates the importance of the emotional connections that we create within all aspects of our lives.

May the spirit of purpose guide us successfully into a fulfilling 2015!great miinds quote

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Is there a formula to asking Brilliant Questions?

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Not surprisingly, Einstein makes a good point. And, so I set out to ask others what they think of that observation. In turn, practicing the philosophy first hand. The dialogue was great. The conversations produced a list of seven common themes. And so, with a number of qualitative research projects on my plate, I set out to be uber-deliberate in using these themes in the formulation of the questions that I would be taking into the field. Correlating the brilliant question criteria to my own facilitation guides did indeed have a positive impact!  Here are the seven themes:

What qualities make a question brilliant?

1. Inspiration to see things in a new light

For example: Five plus five equals ten; what other numbers can be used to get me to ten?

  1. Generates thoughtful willingness to challenge the norm

Referencing Storm Sandy remains a tangible reference point. What would happen if a critical piece of this process were no longer available?

  1. Creates ownership of the solution

Tell me: What do you suggest we do here?

  1. Provides clarity of purpose

In explaining what someone does, they are forced to account for how the dots connect.

  1. Encourages new solutions

Probe: What are the frustrations in doing it this way? Can that be done in any other way?”

  1. Asks for an evaluation of limited resources

If you had the power to change it, what are the consequences of choosing A over B?

  1. Open ended enough to solicit the “how, why and what do you think about this” yet tight enough to provide direction to the thought process

Imagine yourself painting a picture. Now imagine yourself painting a picture of the golf course where you played last week-:)

Image

Look Elsewhere for Answers

In addition to the quest for consistently developing brilliant questions to ask, it always astonishes me when the “ah-ha moments come from where you least expect.

I was recently contracted to interview people that could help us learn more about employee overtime as a source of income in today’s economic environment. While speaking to individuals across industries, it was time to dig deeper within a particular function within a particular industry. Employees, HR executives, department managers all provided lots of interesting insights. It was the conversation with a professional in a completely unrelated industry to the one that I was researching….that the “ah-ha” moment came into place. My facilitation guide took on a new twist and each time I presented the “ah-ha” question to my interviewees…they lit up in the same way that I did with the implications presented. This was empowering. And, it was fun for all involved.

When in doubt, provide praise

In the exploration phase of a project looking to uncover breakdowns between functional departments, I was presented with an opinion that I did not quite know what to do with. “Great point. No-one else has mentioned that”, I said.  “Tell me more.” And the flood-gates opened!

Do you find yourself asking questions that lead you to great answers?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” (said the same man).

Reflections on a Mayoral Forum

Reflections on a NYC Mayoral Forum:

AARP NYC launched a new Go Local campaign on August 6 which included a mayoral forum targeting the city’s 50-plus voter community. The room was abuzz with 1,000 attendees, 50 media outlets and 10 of the 11 NYC mayoral candidates. What a happening for AARPNY!

These events often take on a life of their own and when one mayoral candidate called another candidate “Grandpa”, the press officially had another twist on the story to report. And they did!

  • The Grandpa comment was described as “being made in a room filled with senior citizens”.
  • And, AARP was further defined as the organization behind “this senior citizen event”.
  • The candidates represented referenced their views on “helping those senior citizens in the room”.

What is a senior citizen, I ask? Age or attitude?

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, quoted in an NTAR Leadership Center Study,  suggest that, by 2016, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 or older, and will increase to 115 million by 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)

Supporting every possible product or service line, the advertisers are working hard to make “70 the new 50” and likewise convince us all…that the best is yet to come. The reality is that the words “senior citizen” still has a negative connotation in our society: retiree, old-timer, fuddy-duddy and such. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a senior citizen as a thought leader or an innovator?

So as someone on the very edge of the baby boomer tail, I found myself bewildered as the candidates called the AARP membership of 50 – plus year olds senior citizens. And, I found myself laughing at the hypocrisy of the whole situation. When you looked around the room in real-time, it did not appear that anyone in the room had taken a day off from the social adult day-care programs.

With 7 of the 11 candidates aged 50 plus, do these candidates consider themselves senior citizens? They kept referring to the AARP members as senior citizens. Does NYC want to elect a senior citizen to run their city?

A 2012 Harvard Business Review Blog called: How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce does a nice job summarizing the situation:

  • First, attitudes need to change; Businesses and people alike need to practice what they claim to support.
  • Older workers are often seen as a burden, with younger candidates preferred in recruitment decisions. In economies where knowledge rules, the experience of older workers grows in value.
  • Older people are seen as fragile. Yes, many are. Others are not. At some point, the 80:20 rule kicks in and with the population life expectancies ever increasing, the age where the disproportionate expenses truly kick into place is increasing as well.

So everybody, please, stop calling those who are aged 50-plus senior citizens. And for the Mayoral Candidates: Recognize the new reality and explain how you will address the situations of those:

  • Who are 50-plus and experiencing age discrimination in the workplace
  • Who are dependent on social services and unable to earn an income any longer
  • Who are unable to retire as planned because the costs of living are rising
  • Who are uncertain how they will afford to age gracefully in place, in NYC, because of ever-increasing costs for housing and utility bills, issues of crime and safety and more!

Let’s get focused and back on track. NYC is one of the greatest cities on this earth. What makes the candidates qualified to sit at the head of the table running a $70 Billion budget?

BTW: For a detailed review of the issues NYC 50-plus voters are talking about around their kitchen table, check out:  http://www.aarp.org/NYC50plus

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine