Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is your work a work of art?

Just the other day while painting, I realized that all work can be a work of art.

Not just the art-kind of work, but YOUR work as a marketer, as an engineer, or a lawyer or an entrepreneur...the kind of work that you do to pay the bills, buy a house and raise the kids. You know the work that you often refer to as the-four-letter-word kind of work that is hopefully, yet painfully getting you to that paradise island in the sun you call retirement.

Yep, that's the work I am referring to and I believe your work can become a work of art.

But, there is a hitch. You have to put your heart into it.

You see, too often we think of work and art as two separate ends of a spectrum. One is the practical work the other not-so-much. We also think of artists as those who can draw, paint, choreograph, sculpt or create beautiful works of art. In his new book, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable Seth Godin helps redefine it for us: "Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another. Art is about intent and communication, not substances." He goes on to say "And I think it's art when a great customer service person uses a conversation to convert an angry person into a raving fan. And it's art when Craig Newmark invents a new business model that uses the Internet to revolutionize the classifieds."

This kind of work, like art, takes heart. Seth Godin refers to this new type of work as "emotional labor." He states that emotional labor is needed in order for you to be an artist in your work and to create works of art that can create change.

Is your work a work of art?

If your heart is in it, most likely it is. But if you are like most people, you don't bring your heart to work.

I don't know at what point in time most of us started to separate work and life, as if life ever existed without work. Yet we separate it so much so that our hearts stay comfortably at home while some part of us charge off to work. And when things like "layoffs" and "downsizing "and "involuntary dismissals" start occurring, your skin grows even thicker as do the walls around your heart.

I often hear people say "I am a different person at work than I am at home." The reason you are different at work vs. home is because your heart usually doesn't make it in the business door.

That's right; you leave your heart at home and don't dare bring it to the office.

Bringing your heart to work and exerting "emotional labor" enables you to connect with others, whether it is your customer, your coworker, or your boss. When you have connections with others it allows you to influence and guide them to achieve your goals

When you leave your heart at home, you go to work to fulfill the role of being some replaceable cog in someone else's system. You become a scripted robot following someone else's playbook for success. You become a victim of circumstances and become the next layoff on the list. You relinquish your ability to be a leader. Not only will this limit your ability to achieve your goals, it is a sure-fire way to drain your energy and your passion.

I believe that some of what is going on in the job market is a wake-up call for a new way of working. Our current economic situation is requiring a different kind of work, the kind of work that is filled with courage, humility and vulnerability. Bringing your heart to work is the only way to separate you from the masses; to make you indispensable and to brand yourself as a leader. After all, isn't this you have been wanting for so long; the opportunity to bring your authenticity and unique voice forward?

It's there for the taking. But, it won't be handed to you. You have to courageously step into it, heart-forward.

When I left Corporate America four years ago to start my own business, I had the passion to change the way people looked at work, especially leadership. I also had a personal goal of better integrating my art and my heart into my work. You see, in corporate life I often checked my heart at the door and kept my two lives separate. I kept my head down more than I should have and I tried to stay safe. But my goal as an entrepreneur required change and I needed to be the first to make it.

One of the first things I did in my business was I wrote a book. In my book I share many personal stories that are filled with transparency and vulnerability. I typed many sections of that book with tears streaming down my eyes. You could say that I put my heart into it and with it I risked everything..

When it was done, I had to do one of the scariest things in my life; I mailed it to my former boss and mentor, Don Knauss, now the CEO and Chairman of the Board at Clorox. I felt so exposed and scared because there I was on the page with no protection of any kind. In retrospect, this was one of my first acts of courage in my entire career. And yet, my most brilliant. Sharing my unedited, heart-felt words started me down the path of reinventing myself in a new business and a whole new way of life and in doing so it enabled my work to change others.

Fortunately, Don came back with a glowing endorsement and encouraging words for me to pursue my passion. I was relieved and ecstatic. It gave me the needed confidence to continue to face more and more fears that I inevitably encountered when speaking out about my lessons with transparency and vulnerability.

When you bring your heart to work and your work becomes your work of art, you put yourself out there over and over again. It is never with your head down or in a safe place.

So what about you? How can you be courageous to transform your work into a work of art? Where can your emotional labor create change in someone else?

Transform your work into a work of art by bringing your heart to work and see the impact it has around you, but also within you!

No comments: