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Dental Hygiene, Coffee Stains, and Satisfying Work

May 24, 2006

A Good Workout
“I like a good workout,” said my dental hygienist, noting the coffee stains on the inside of my teeth. I thought that was pretty funny. (She spent almost an hour working on my teeth with a variety of electronic tools, manual contraptions, polishers, and then varying grades of dental floss.)

It made me think about my work. Do I like a good work out?

Absolutely.

When there is a real business challenge that needs to be solved and the client trusts my team to deliver results. That’s when work is fun. Real fun.

Would You Like Fries With That?
Unfortunately, we all experience those moments where our intellectual muscles or creativity are left in storage. You know the projects. They’re the projects where you were the order taker. They said, “do this, don’t do anything else, don’t suggest anything else, just do what we tell you.”

You do it – in agency life, it might be to bill some hours, or maybe to get a high profile client on your roster. But there’s no satisfaction. There’s no joy.

(I’m reminded of one of my old colleagues, a Flemish software developer who used to tell me, “there’s a reason they call it “work.”)

A Little Like My Dog
I’m a little like my dog, Bailey. She is an active dog. She wants to run. She doesn’t want to sit around. It drives her a little crazy not to pull, tug, run, chase, etc. – basically all the things a sled dog was born for (I don’t know if she’s a sled dog, but she looks a lot like some that my friends got through a rescue program).

More “Workouts” = Success
I know there will always be some unpleasant parts of work, but the more my team and I can align with projects that “are a good workout,” the more successful I feel we’ll be. When we’re energized, passionate, and fully engaged we’ll do better work and deliver better results for both the client and our agency.

Smart business leaders know that already. Luckily, my boss is among those.

It’s hard to get right. But those that do figure it out tend to rise to the top.

What can you do to make your work more in line with how you’re wired?

PS One of my old managing directors, Lawler Kang, just wrote a book about this called Passion at Work. I haven’t yet read the book, but Lawler is a great guy and was a wonderful business leader to me. Give him a visit at www.lawlerkang.com. If you talk to him, tell him I sent you!

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