Wednesday, March 04, 2009


A very long time ago, I became the boss. Just as I started in my new role, I had a conversation with another boss that I've never forgotten. "I love my job," he said, "because I get to spend all day helping people do what they want to do." Wow, I remember thinking, what a great way to think about this position, and that's how I thought of it, the whole time I did it. (You can probably tell, from this anecdote, that I do not work in realms where the job of the boss is to make as much money as possible, but I'm guessing that you already knew that.)

So I did that job for a while, and it was my favorite job ever, and I was very sad when I had to leave it for inescapable reasons. But that concept has always stuck with me. In fact, I think that one of the things I am truly best at is helping other people do what they want to do. I do some other things well too, but that's one of my strongest skills. It's what I've spent a lot of my career doing--or at least how I've conceptualized a lot of what I've done throughout my career--and it's quite central to a lot of different pieces of my work right now (not just the obvious piece, for those of you who know what I do).

Basically, as a consultant, that's what I do: help people do things better. And here's the thing: it is fabulous work. When I show up, people are ecstatic. They know that I am going to solve their problems, or help them work more effectively, or get them what they need to do their work, or, often, just listen to them, and make them feel better about their work (which, in turn, helps them do their work better). It's amazing, really, how much people love being helped. You'd think they might be defensive, or anxious, or fearful of the consequences, but that has not been my experience at all.

I think that, as adults, we rarely have people pay full attention to us. I mean, there's therapy, and some people pay for life coaches, but at work, you're often on your own (or badly supervised--don't get me started on bad supervision), and to have support from someone else who is not going to judge you--positively or negatively--but is just going to help you...well, that's an incredible luxury, even a gift, and people love it.

And I get the incredible pleasure of seeing people smile every time I walk in the room; of having people say "I never saw it like that," or "Wow, you've helped me so much," or "Now I feel like I can do it." I get to make people feel better, and do better.

These days the big picture of my work is pretty stressful. I think most people are stressed about work these days--just about everyone I know has too much or not enough. I have too much right now, but I'm terrified of ending up with none. I have had a string of killer deadlines, and I'm starting to think that string may be endless. I'm also dealing with some difficult people--not many, just three, and there are a lot of wonderful people in my work world, really, quite a lot, but those three are pretty central and can be pretty difficult. So it's important for me to remember that I'm doing something I'm really good at, that's really worth doing, and that makes other people really happy. And makes them smile!

(How's that for a positive post?! Did I karmically cancel out all those whiny Facebook status updates?)

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Makes me wonder what kind of consulting you do. Around here, the reaction to consultants is usually: "oh great, here comes a bunch of meetings that will a) tell us what we already knew or b) won't change anything."