The Atlas

Finding your own mission inside your company

It's been a fantastic, exciting couple of weeks here for me in Miami. One of the most wonderful things about coming to a new city is also one of the hardest: meeting new people. Finding the right places to connect with the right people can be tough in a new location. And thanks to some help from a few fantastic women I've met here, I'm starting to feel like I'm finding my sea legs.

And that actually leads me to this week's topic, #8 on Gallup's Elements of Employee Engagement:

The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

A huge part of what I've been loving about the people I've been meeting in Miami recently is that many of them are tackling missions they passionate about -- WIN Lab Accelerator, Women's Fund, and Thynk Global, just for starters. And,naturally, any time you can get a dose of that, it offers the chance for a bit of a contact high.

However, I do also often find this one gets a bit overblown. And outlined in this manner, it's also a little too passive for my taste. In their book Nine Lies About Work, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall clearly outline that your immediate team will often trump the broader mission of the organization.

But what I would argue is that, at the very least, the mission of your organization cannot offend your sense of values, and still elicit any real degree of engagement. No matter how much you love your team, a devout environmental advocate can't reasonably expect to sleep well at night working for a fracking company. Most of us crave an organization that is doing something we find truly meaningful; but finding that can be a needle in a haystack. And, as a rule, I find that outsourcing meaning in your life to someone else is a dangerous degree of power to abdicate.

One of the hardest things I deal with in my work, though, is that what we find meaningful can change over time. As I've watched more and more of my peers lose their enthusiasm about tech careers they can't afford to leave, the key has been finding ways to reframe what they are getting paid to do at work in a way that actually makes the job feel important enough for them to be invested in.

As I watched a career I loved morph into something I did not recognize, I naturally gravitated towards the things I could still hold onto as important to me. It sometimes meant deliberately ignoring bigger picture things that I did not like, but there were still things that I could focus on, even if they were secondary aspects of my official role. The 28-year-old version of me would have never believed that I'd come to dread the career I loved so much; but the 43-year-oldversion of me that walked out of the latest tech company has a very different view of what is important.

Your company's mission matters, of course it does -- but the real question is whether or not it leaves room for you to focus on what actually matters most to you. The real (and often difficult) question in that, is do you know what is most important to you in a job?

This week is Valentine's Day, which (poetically) is the 20th Anniversary of my Career. My first real career position (a project manager in an ecommerce startup) started on Valentine's Day 2000. There is a symbolism in that which is both hilarious and disturbing, but it's also launching me on a new project: I am looking for Meaningful Manager stories. Either valuable lessons -- good or bad -- that you got from a manager you had, or things you've learned as a manager of others. Email me if you've got some to discuss; I'm on a quest to do some interviews for my new endeavor.

In the meantime, I wish you a delightful week of doing work that fuels you more than it depletes you.

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