As a certified employee performance coach, I frequently talk with employees about the struggles they face in their roles. One of the most common scenarios is people in leadership roles who are failing to meet the individual goals of their role as well as failing to mentor their teams to higher levels of productivity while simultaneously developing motivating relationships with individual team members.
Another common situation is front line employees who find themselves in jobs they don’t like or aren’t good at.
My starting place in these discussions is to be in discovery about the activities my clients enjoy – what are the things they love to do so much, they’d do them even if they weren’t being paid? What activities provide the greatest meaning and satisfaction in their lives?
In a recent consultation, the person could not answer these questions and he recognized this was central to the career struggles he had faced his entire life. Further, the aspects he said he enjoyed about filling a supervisor role were exactly the areas in which he lacked the skill or capacity to succeed. Over the course of the next eight weeks we developed a transition plan so he could pursue a job for which he was a good fit.
What follows in this article is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my book, “LIVE IT! Mastering Positive Attitude Habits, 15 Practical Tips for Managing Your Mindset,” available on Amazon:
The book is a comprehensive collection of my coaching techniques when I’m hired to assist employees with an “attitude shift”. I’m also hired to facilitate “attitude interventions” for entire work teams and this book is provided as part of that training.
You can hear me discuss this chapter in my Relatable Leader podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher.
A lack of self-awareness or the impact of one’s behaviors is often central to the internal and external conflicts employees experience.
For example, a person who likes to talk isn’t necessarily suited to sales or teaching. They must have the capacity to engage people appropriately.
A person who likes to tell people what to do doesn’t necessarily make an effective supervisor. Quality supervisors lead people to their own understanding and right choices, while simultaneously leading action plans based on organization priorities and work loads.
Being a “good fit” for a job means the job is suited to your natural talents. When people find work that taps into their natural talents, they enjoy most of their tasks.
Instead of starting with, “Is this person good at this job?” I start with, “Is this person a good fit for this job?”
If the answer is “Yes”, based on a review of natural talents, then I explore whether or not the employee received adequate training for doing THIS JOB at THIS COMPANY.
After those questions have been answered, I can start to work with the person to discover together if the person likes the job and if the person is capable of doing the job.
If it turns out the person IS NOT a good fit for the job, I assist with transition plans to support the person finding a job that is a good match. I want people to be happy in their work and feel like they are good at what they do.
It can be especially challenging when a person is clearly not a good fit for the job, but he/she thinks it’s a good match. Indicators I look for include 1) are you happy in this job? 2) Are you meeting the basic requirements of this role? 3) Are you capable of following the assigned processes? 4) Do you have the skill set to grow with the department?
Let’s back up and assist you in considering the fit for your current job.
We return once again to your childhood. When you were left alone to do whatever you wanted to do, what types of activities did you enjoy?
In the Office Assistant Program, I asked college students what natural talents they possessed that made them a good fit for office assistant careers. People aren’t always used to thinking about their natural talents, so I’d frame the question by asking them to tell me what they’d ask for at Christmas when they were 8-11 years old. Many times students told me they asked for:
- A desk
- A telephone
- Office Supplies
Terrific! If a person has been “playing office” his/her whole life, then it seems like getting a job as an office assistant is a good fit.
Another example comes from when I taught unemployment classes for job readiness. If a person told me he/she enjoyed being out in the garage for hours taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together again – and they could do this without ruining whatever it was they were taking apart – then, yes, it seems like auto repair or computer repair/support might be a good fit. I recall one person was so drawn to this type of activity his marriage was in jeopardy because he constantly had greasy projects all over the living room…now that’s a man who HAS TO find a job that fits his natural talents!
As a personal example, I loved to write and draw. I wrote long, illustrated letters to friends and cousins. When I was in sixth grade, I told my teacher I was a writer. She encouraged me to write a story and she typed it for me and sent it to a scholastic publisher. In 7th grade my parents gave me a typewriter for Christmas and that sealed my self-image as a writer. In high school classmates left quarters in my locker for the newsletter I put together; by that time I’d also sparked an interest in photography, so I wrote little gossip articles about high school happenings and took photographs to go with my stories.
Fast forward in life and my books and artwork have been published. I used to sell my photography at shows and now I edit them into videos. I get paid to write training manuals for companies. I love the work because I’m engaged in my natural talents.
Making time to actively engage in your natural talents, paid or not, is one of the ways to establish positive attitude habits. If you do what you like to do, you will naturally be a happier person.
Another example: a few of my elementary school teachers asked me to help other students. In first grade I was asked to share a desk with someone who didn’t fit it. In third grade I was showing other students how to draw a holiday mural for the hallway outside our classroom. In fourth grade I remember being out in the hallway making up songs to help students remember how to spell “VACATION,” and “MISSISSIPPI”.
Fast forward and I’m teaching college classes and training employees. I’m earning a living with my natural talents.
LIVE IT! is knowing you are doing the work you were born to do.
What are your natural talents? Do you get to use your natural talents in your job? Is more than 70% of your work day spent doing tasks you enjoy? 80%? 90%?
The problem I see with many employees who demonstrate negative attitudes is they stay in jobs that don’t fit their natural talents. They don’t enjoy their work. They choose to stay stuck in jobs that don’t make them happy.
Customer service jobs make a fine example. Why do people who don’t enjoy serving others go after jobs in customer service? They won’t be happy and therefore won’t be good at their jobs.
Then there are people who DO like serving others. But what if serving others in a particular job includes data entry and the person hates data entry? Then that job is not a good fit because it’s likely they will hate what they are required to do at least 30% of the time. They will be happier if they find jobs focused on relationship building and providing services, without the accountability of daily paper work.
Should the person who thrives on hands-on activities and being outdoors seek employment inside an office sitting in front of a computer all day? I don’t know, but it seems like the person might go “stir crazy” following rules within a limited movement construct.
Your natural talents lead you to discover what you were “born to do”. I’ve been hired to coach many employees who took on jobs that ended up making them miserable.
Sometimes this happens accidentally. Sometimes people pursue jobs they think they will enjoy, and it isn’t until they are in the jobs that they realize how the experience will feel. Once people are in a job, it seems like it takes tremendous internal conflict and emotional pain before they will make a change or be forced to make a change. When you take a job, it doesn’t have to be forever. If you enjoy the job, great! If once you are in it you realize you are in a situation that’s not a good fit, take action to transition.
Another scenario includes the impact of constant change. Sometimes people take a job and love it. And then, over time, as the needs of the organization change, some people wake up one day and have jobs that have changed so much, the current job doesn’t resemble the initial job anymore. They might wonder, “How did this happen? How did I get here? What should I do now that I’m in a job I don’t like anymore?”
The answer is to explore your options. Update your resume. Expand your skill set. Pursue interviews so you get practice going through current interview processes. Develop a mind set to reinforce the fact you have options – you aren’t trapped.
People who feel trapped are often mostly trapped by their perspectives, not the actual situation they are in. They become resentful of their employers when, in fact, they are choosing to stay in situations that make them unhappy instead of taking responsibility to initiate change. These are the people dragging their teams down with their negativity.
Not fitting into a particular job doesn’t mean you are a bad person, or less capable than someone else. It simply means the job isn’t a good fit for you. The world is a big place, filled with opportunity. If you want to establish positive attitude habits, you will risk taking action to pursue satisfying work instead of blaming others for your unhappiness in a job.
Finding work that makes you happy requires:
- Self-awareness to know your natural talents
- A flexible mind set
- Courage to initiate change
- The ability to communicate what you want and why you want it
- The drive to pursue work that fits your natural talents
- The desire to add skills to your natural talents so you become increasingly capable over time
I’ve encountered people who have been so put down throughout their lives, they don’t know if they have any natural talents. I believe we all have natural talents and we need to 1) discover them and 2) stay in touch with them. I realize I am incredibly fortunate to have been raised in such a way as to have hours upon hours enjoying my natural talents. I wasn’t allowed to spend much time watching TV or expecting my parents to entertain me. My brother and I were expected to go outside and DO SOMETHING.
I grew up during a time and in a place where it was normal for children to go off by themselves for hours at a time. I was fortunate to live near a large wooded area, and I loved it there. While some people grow up and struggle with the idea of having to “find themselves”, I feel fortunate to have had the type of upbringing that gave me a clear idea of who I am. As I grew up, I manifested an expanded version of who I’ve always been.
I built a fort from fallen small trees, stacking the little logs this way, then that way. I rode my bike to my fort, dogs tagging along. I had a transistor radio and a bunch of Agatha Christie mystery novels my grandmother had given me and I was set until dinner time. Back on my bike, heading home, dogs running along beside me, I was very happy.
I’ve recreated those moments in my adult life. As I write this, I am in a log cabin in the woods, my dogs napping beside me. The transistor radio has morphed into an XM radio, but all the components of those happy times are here, including a mountain bike and lots of books. By carrying those childhood experiences and patterns into my adult life, I’m able to trigger a desired state-of-being every day.
I believe it’s important to bring your natural talents and interests into your adult life as a way to manage your mindset. You have the lead role in the movie of your life, and no one is going to come along and create a fabulous life for you. That’s your responsibility.
If you agree to take a job, do it to the best of your ability as long as you fill the role. If you choose to stay in the job, you give up the right to blame other people or the company for your decision to stay there. If you aren’t happy, look for another job that utilizes more of your natural talents and hopefully – get another job before you quite the job you are in.
When you find work that’s a good fit for you, it’s easy to answer THE BIG WHY QUESTION: WHY AM I DOING THIS? WHAT MEANING DOES THIS WORK BRING TO MY LIFE AND OTHERS?
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