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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hard work or working hard?

This image has less to do with construction than mountain biking -- but the concept of following your passion applies to everything we choose to do.

Today, after an intense day in Toronto and Welland, I mused on one of the biggest paradoxes of work. If you try too hard, you will fail. If you don't work hard enough, you will fail, too. You need to work hard, but for it not to be work -- in other words, you need to enjoy what you do so much that you can put your energy, time, heart and resourcefulness to the task(s) at hand.

If you are fortunate enough to be in these circumstances, you also know how your work/vocation correlates and complements your overall life. Happy at work, you are often more happy at home. And if you are not happy at home, you may well not be happy at work -- and that can set off a downward spiral.

How does this impact your approach to business, and marketing? First, if you are doing this work because it is a 'job' and not really your passion, you may wish to move on. And indeed a lot of people employed in the marketing departments at AEC firms 'move on' within a couple of years. This is borne out by the turnover in membership at the Society for Marketing Professional Services. (And it isn't too surprising, in that few young people grow up with dreams of being a proposal writer, business development officer, or 'rainmaker'.)

Moving on, by the way, doesn't necessarily mean going to your boss and saying "Take this job and shove it. I quit." It could be much more simply reviewing the parts of the work you enjoy/like doing the most, and the parts you like the least, and with your organization's support, finding a way to spend more time on what you enjoy and less on what you distaste.

If you are the boss or supervisor, your perspective should parallel this approach -- if your employees are just there for the money and really hate their work, your brand is sure to suffer. Surely, discontented employees will radiate their lack of enthusiasm to the clients -- and we know that current clients provide most of your future business, either through repeat business, or referrals.

This thinking can operate on another level, as well. I find I achieve the most 'selling' success when I seemingly don't really try to sell. In my case, the sales often result when I practice my journalistic passion. So I go out and talk to people, and interview them, and attend events, and write stories, and amazingly, it seems, business almost drops into my lap as if by accident. Of course it isn't totally accidental -- at just the right moment, in these circumstances, I know to ask for the order -- and usually get it.

But I would be really depressed if I needed to wake up each morning and "make calls" and "meet the quota". I might be able to sell, quite effectively at times, but I don't want to be a salesperson.

Now some people indeed are suited for "sales careers" and they find it natural to work with the discipline and structure -- and single minded focus -- to bring in the orders, all the time. And there are other salespeople who seem to achieve their results almost effortlessly, perhaps because they focus on the relationship process (even better than I do), and, like me, know when it is right to ask for the business.

My advice to you (with thanks to the work of Marcus Buckingham) is to encourage you to take stock of your own passions, energy, and those of your peers, and employees. Find your own spark, and respect that of the people around you, and you'll likely succeed, regardless of the external environment.

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