Prior to becoming an executive coach, I worked at a biotechnology company as a scientist, and later as a business development executive. I loved the environment, the talented and fun people I interacted with, and was motivated by the important work we did (developing a treatment for type 1 diabetes). If I were to name the personal values that were consistently satisfied they would include intellectual challenge, contribution, adventure, and fun. And while I enjoyed my work, there came a time when I realized something was missing.
In working with my coach, we identified the core values (teaching, creating new relationships, and personal growth) that were missing in my daily work activities. These interests and values were alive and well in other areas of my life, but often left outside the office front door.
We generated a list of new actions I could take that were aligned with these yet unfulfilled values. Examples included: hire an assistant, explore a new role in the company, create a new project, quit, become a teacher, or enroll in a class. I chose to create a new project and proposed, organized, and chaired a panel at our annual industry conference (BIO) that discussed the importance of interpersonal skills when forming and implementing a successful business collaboration. It was unique, well attended, created a new network amongst panel participants, and provided positive exposure for the companies represented. Personally, the experience fulfilled my previously missing/intermittent core values of teaching (the attendees), creating new relationships (with panelists and the audience), and personal growth (leadership/public speaking).
Consider your current professional role. Where could you bring more of yourself to the game? Which unique core values could you recognize more fully? Here are a few steps you can take:
- Identify your core values and interests that are not being fully expressed. A good place to start is to ask yourself “What’s missing?”
- Brainstorm with someone (colleague or supervisor) to generate a list of at least 10 actions that would be consistent with these values and exciting for you. Brainstorming is a creative process – write down ideas that may seem ridiculous. For example, if you want to contribute more at meetings, “bring a megaphone” could lead to another possible action, such as “commit to voicing an idea every other meeting.”
- Pick at least one action and commit to taking it. Ask – how will this benefit my company? How will this benefit me?
- Take charge. Don’t expect or wait for your employer to provide everything for you. Be a leader and generate an opportunity for yourself. Your initiative won’t go unnoticed.
- Meet with your supervisor and discuss the proposal. Ask for his or her feedback and suggestions.
- Create a structure and accountability. For a project, this could be a written plan with specific, measurable results and a timeline. For a practice (i.e. speaking up at meetings), this could be putting a reminder in your calendar.
So go ahead, bring your unique interests, talents, and skills to work (not just the ones that landed you the job), and watch what happens.