GoldfishA highly energetic president at a telecommunications company – let’s call him Jack – works hard with problems on a daily basis. The work becomes overwhelming as the weeks and months go by with no one to lean on, especially with the more challenging breakdowns in morale as a difficult economy forces increased layoffs. He feels overburdened and completely unappreciated. His board chair invites him to lunch and informs him how much he is appreciated by the rest of the board. Jack is encouraged, but he needs more.

What else can he do to use his ability to connect to create a more meaningful and productive work environment?

Here are some ideas:

  • Become a more active resource for the VPs under him. There’s something about being of service to others – colleagues, not customers, in this case – that makes a job much more meaningful. There’s nothing like becoming a resource to others to do away with the sense of isolation that can come from working alone.
  • Finding a mentor can add loads of meaning to any job. A trusted mentor has likely been there before, wherever “there” is. Jack can be on the lookout for a more experienced, senior executive while attending conferences or other business meetings.
  • If a mentor is hard to find, find a small group of peers to create a private support group. Meeting monthly or weekly with this master group allows Jack to air out what seem like irrational grievances, in other words, to vent. There’s nothing like letting the air out of your accumulated frustrations to feel refreshed and more prepared to take on the next day’s trials.
  • Hire a coach. Finding a formal coach in whom Jack can put his trust and with whom he could share his self-doubts can be daunting, given the fish-bowl nature of high-level executives. More informal coaching can be trading off with another peer. The essence of coaching is the process of accountability. Using his friendly charm, Jack scouts out a leader from another organization who thinks like him and would also benefit from this best-friend working relationship – another win-win resolution. He and a partner can commit to overcoming a particular challenge and hold one another accountable. The sense of professional growth at his own initiative can add substantial meaning to his job as well as to his “accounting” partner.

All these choices give Jack a greater sense of control over his career, and a sense of control is what adds meaning to his work. Over the years, psychologists have found that optimists have a greater sense of control over there lives than pessimists. Since the sense of control may be exaggerated, it’s sometimes referred to as the “illusion of control.” But illusion or not, it’s what makes us feel better and our jobs more meaningful; whether we actually have all the control we feel is a moot point. In actuality, the more control we feel, the more control we exercise, even though there may be a factor of “luck” involved as well.

Since friendship and social support are so important to meaning at the job, it should not be surprising that emotional intelligence with its emphasis on interpersonal openness has become so popular in many circles. Above all, emotional intelligence competencies have to do with emotional authenticity and empathy. This offers a broad brush to paint all relationships with a friendly coat. Authenticity in leadership has become in vogue because of this as well, since the leader of any organization sets the tone.

How do you build, nurture, and capitalize on your relationships? Take our Free Relationship Signature Index assessment which will identify you in one of four quadrants with a high level profile and a set of recommendations.

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