Helping You Reach New Heights
“Heights by great men reached and kept were not obtained by sudden flight but, while their companions slept, they were toiling upward in the night.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We all have ideas about the kinds of “heights” we would like to achieve in our careers and in our personal lives.
We often think that reaching heights is about the next promotion or climbing a social ladder, but Longfellow is reminding us that it is about achieving our dreams.
Martin Seligman in his new book Flourish says, “Human beings, ineluctably, want meaning and purpose in life.” The Meaningful Life, according to Seligman, involves “belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.”
In my coaching practice I promise to “help you to reach new heights.” By this I mean, new heights in your career and your personal life. It is my belief that reaching new heights involves achieving what Seligman describes as a “Meaningful Life.” When people understand their purpose in life, they are able to align their values with their efforts at work and at home, which allows them to make contributions that are important, or as Seligman says, to things that are “bigger than yourself.”
The Great Place to Work Institute has been researching the elements that create organizational cultures that support employees who feel that their organizations are “great places to work.” (The Great Place to Work Institute, by the way, develops the well known Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List.) One of the most important elements that they have found to make a difference in how people feel about their jobs is their ability to make a contribution. When people feel that they are able to make a contribution, they love their jobs. This, it turns out, is not related to position or role. You can be the janitor, but if you feel that what you are doing as a janitor is contributing to something that you believe in and is important to you, then you feel that you are making a contribution and you have meaning at work.
At an organization that I had the opportunity to support by coaching the executive leaders, the employees throughout the organization understood how they made a contribution. When the janitor was asked what he did there, he said with a big smile, “I save lives!”
Having everyone understand how they contribute to the mission of the organization is a dream come true for a leader. But it doesn’t happen by accident, it happens when leaders are able to articulate how each employee’s work is integral to achieving the mission and by making sure that each employee feels that their work makes a contribution to the mission.
If you would like to train your team on creating an organizational culture where people feel that they are making this kind of contribution, call me. I can assess the culture of your organization and I can train your team on the elements inherent in creating a great place to work.
p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values.
Speaking at the Grinnell commencement last week, the writer Anna Quindlen opened by acknowledging that these graduates may represent the first American generation not to “do better” than their parents. Then she said:
“But I suggest that this is a moment to consider what ‘doing better’ really means. If you are part of the first generation of Americans who genuinely see race and ethnicity as attributes, not stereotypes, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans with a clear understanding that gay men and lesbians are entitled to be full citizens of this country with all its rights, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans who assume women merit full equality instead of grudging acceptance, will you not have done better than we did?”
Quindlen makes a profound observation for young people. Research shows that what makes people happy is not the “doing better” level of earning power. If people have their basic needs met, for the most part, all that extra disposable income adds nothing to their well being.
No one likes to go to work when they feel like their work is pointless. It’s amazing how big the difference in moral is when you compare a company that empowers their employees to one that not only makes their employees feel dispensable, but also that their work doesn’t really matter.
We, as humans, seek more than what’s in front of us. We desire a purpose, a reason, to what we do. When we don’t have a purpose, when we don’t feel like we’re accomplishing anything, we don’t usually do too well. In business, a happy workforce usually equates to a successful business, and a big part of happiness is feeling like we matter.
You are so right, Calla. Feeling like we matter is at the heart of all endeavor. Who can be successful when they don’t feel like they have their mojo? It seems so obvious, it is amazing how often it is neglected!
As I read this posting I was reflecting on my own life and experience.
Do I have in mind what height I want to reach? If not, how do I find out?
Today I was at a toastmasters meeting, they had a very interesting theme. The theme was: backwards. So the agenda went backwards, instead of beginning as usual they began with the end and move up to the beginning. It was fun! Stephen Covey says to begin with the end in mind. So I am working on that finding out what heights I want to reach by starting from the end.
My other reflections were:
I haven’t seeing the way my employer helps me see what my contribution is to the company, so I need to find out for myself.
As a supervisor I also need to work on helping the people I supervise see their contribution.
Alejandra O, Starting at the end of the agenda does sound like fun! It is interesting how difficult it is even to contemplate that, which I think is an indication of how difficult it is to engage in Covey’s good advice of “beginning with the end of mind.” I applaud you for working on that for yourself. Regarding understanding how you contribute to your organization, you might want to solicit some feedback. Often times our employers are busy and they forget to make clear how everyone’s contributions are connected to larger goals. You might consider asking a question like, “Can you help me to understand how this work is connected to…the larger project, the goal of the department, etc.” Thanks for your thoughtful response to my blog.