Feb 1st marked my one year anniversary at my current company. I've been here several times throughout my professional life, but never before did I feel like sharing some insights about it. During my almost 10 years in business, I've been working for both big and small companies, local and multinational, with corporate and entrepreneurial cultures, in managerial and operational positions, yet this time something is different.
Thinking about this from an inquisitive analyst perspective, it seems that at some point along the way I've learned some lessons, discovered new passions and confirmed some hunches about the world around me, just enough to keep the journey ahead interesting and just enough to think sharing them would bring value.
Maybe the most suitable lesson for this occasion is linked to discovering why your organization and your team make the difference. This may seem common sense, but it's quite interesting how the daily tasks, concerns and urgent matters let this slip out of a lot of people's minds, until they get into denial or "it's not great, but it pays the bills" mode. So, here are some of the reasons your organization and your team make the difference between good and great:
People make it or break it.
Challenges are important.
(Over)Achieving and seeing your progress really helps.
Recognition is key.
The environment you spend 8+ hours a day matters. A lot.
The company is made out of people, the stated values and projected image outside the organization get on second place once you start working with your colleagues. Being around people you can resonate with and people that make you improve yourself is a great way of keeping you motivated. Letting aside the corporate strategy of "transforming" the members of the organization into a family, your colleagues (be it your immediate team or people you meet by the water cooler) play a big role in how happy you are with your work/ life. On a rather realistic note, finding the right people and maintaining the sense of belonging to the right group is not the most straightforward thing in business.
Yes, people are motivated by different things and while one thing is irrelevant for someone, it might be a deal-breaker for someone else. However, feeling challenged and being able to do something new/ interesting/ engaging/ meaningful/ enjoyable/ important/ substantial/ not-boring/ or whatever works for you is the fuel that keeps you coming back to the office, every day, without hesitation and without obsessively calculating the opportunity cost of your action. Realizing the challenge is gone is the first (conscious) step towards an unwanted path, but the sad thing is that you've probably been there for a while before realizing the road is not taking you in the right direction.
I've never met anyone who consciously wants to underperform and makes it their life goal (I know I still have time for this, but we'd probably not get along anyway, so I'm not exactly looking forward to it). There are people who want to achieve what's expected of them and there are overachievers. Seeing their progress really helps both of them. This implies that the goals and expectations are cleverly set within the organization - no-one can expect a junior to do the work of a senior and still be happy when he's not hitting his target. Disclosing all rules and not changing them during the game also helps. Moreover, clearly communicating the expectations and the progress is highly important, and generally an open attitude within the organization and the team does the trick.
Again, I haven't seen anybody happy to be overlooked after performing or over performing. In a truly dualistic way, people might find it desirable to be overlooked when they've done something wrong and they're keeping a low profile, but that's not the point and doing this impedes their improvement chances anyway. So, feeling that your efforts and results are recognized (informally and formally) is one of the most important things that keep you happy and motivated. It's the answer for "what's in it for me?". This doesn't mean you are egocentric, it means you are human and you are honest to yourself. This is why sharing the organization's true values is very important, so that you use common criteria when evaluating the "recognizable" issues.
Sure, what you are able to accomplish, how creative and interesting your work is, how good you feel about yourself each day, have a great impact on your overall happiness and performance, but the look and feel of the place you're spending most of your day has a great impact on your mindset too. If it's not enjoyable, sooner or later it's going to start bugging you, which means you are already on the wrong path and there's only downhill from there.
BONUS: The "little things" we're used to take for granted (but which are actually not): being able to do things right and to do the right things, fairness, kept promises and other key elements like this.
On a positive final note, finding an organization and team that truly makes the difference for you is quite a quest. When I first embarked on this journey I was under the soon-to-discover-false impression that it was going to happen for me anyway without a special need to really build around the given attributes that made things good in order to make them great. But with experience comes wisdom (or at least starts to emerge - I'm far away from calling myself wise) and I now know that entering an organization or team gives you access merely to the tip of the iceberg, and the true power and substance lie deep beneath the water.
So, in conclusion, once you find the organization/team that's right for you, do your best to preserve the feeling and never stop enjoying the journey!
by Lőrinc Pap
by Ovidiu Mățan
by Bálint Ákos