My latest post on Harvard Business Review entitled Claim Your Freedom at Work went live this morning. Check out that article to discover some ways to find more pleasure and be more effective on the job.
When I suggest that we all have more freedom to create our own experience on the job, I'm often greeted with a chorus of "yeah, buts". People are often skeptical that they have any power at all to change things. The biggest "buts" often come from those who are most unhappy on the job. In all the years I've coached professionals, I have not met anyone who couldn't do something to improve their situation at work when they really tried. Even if all they were able to change was their attitude.
Be the Driver on Your Own Bus
Are you one of those skeptics who thinks your job is so narrowly defined that there's nothing you can do to enjoy it more? Perhaps no profession follows a more well-worn route than that of a bus driver and yet, I met the most extraordinary man who embodies this very notion. I only wish I had asked his name.
A few years ago, I was in Spain when my sister gave birth to her first child well ahead of her due date. Upon returning, I couldn't get to the hospital fast enough to meet my new nephew. I left my husband to go through customs and jumped on the first bus that came around to rush to the train station. I had been so busy fiddling with my cell phone that I didn't notice I'd gotten on the wrong bus. At the next stop, I hopped off and started running toward the next bus coming. The bus driver motioned me to slow down and that he'd wait for me. When I got to the door, I could see that his bus didn't go to the train station either, so I waved him off.
Rather than close the door, he leaned over and asked where I was headed. Then he told me to hop on and he'd take me there. This behavior is so unusual for big city bus drivers that I actually looked around to make sure everything looked ok. There were several other passengers on the bus and I was in a hurry, so I climbed aboard. At the very next stop, the driver signaled me to come over to talk to him. He told me that the bus scheduled to go to the train station was directly behind him. He had positioned his bus so that the other one could not leave until he moved. Putting his hand on my shoulder, he said that I should go get on the second bus because I wouldn't have to cross the street and it would be safer. This wonderful man told me he'd stay put until I was safely seated on that other bus. Off I went feeling that this man had taken extraordinary care of me. My only regret was that I couldn't report his act of kindness to his supervisor.
How Will You Drive Your Bus?
How do you think this man viewed his work? He clearly saw it as more than driving around in circles at the airport all day. He saw it as his mission to deliver people safely to their destination. His sense of mission turned what many might consider a mundane job into a purposeful calling.
We do have more power to create our own experience at work, but before we can claim that freedom, we need to notice that we have it. Next time you are at work, give some thought to what opportunities exist for you to find more pleasure in your work or to make a greater contribution. Often, the possibilities have been there all along.
My wonderful nephew, Eli, will turn six in May. I will never forget the special bus driver who helped me meet him all those years ago and taught me such a valuable lesson.
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