The Real Work
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
— Wendell Berry, from Standing By Words
These words from Wendell Berry have stuck with me through the entire pandemic. The spirit of this wisdom is to help us recognize the potency of being baffled. Ironically (or not), in most work cultures we’re often not permitted to admit it.
And as I reflect on my recent trip of both speaking at and attending my first in-person conference (an HR event) since the beginning of the pandemic, I recognize that we may be in the same place again: baffled.
It’s a perplexing new stage as we work together to create a new normal. The most frequently discussed questions at the event included:
- How to predictably attract and thoughtfully retain the right team?
- What to do to create as much well-being as possible, and help people feel safe, at work and at home?
- How to navigate the remote, hybrid, and in-office work while remaining productive, innovative, and engaged?
- How to nurture your brand (employee and customer) reputation amidst the chaos of constant change?
Many of the above questions are still relevant, but now we’re also exploring what’s the baby and what’s the bathwater. As the Pandemic seems to be winding down (or is entering, for now, a less emotionally heightened phase) we’re meeting another phase of “real work.”
If we’re attentive to the opportunities at hand, we will navigate how to keep the blessings or wisdom from the Pandemic. We’re exploring what to reject, rethink, embrace and even create anew, as we collectively shape the “new normal.” How we respond to the challenges and opportunities that we’re confronted with, will define this new normal.
Reflecting again on my talk about How to Create a People-First Employee Brand and the various conversations at the HR conference, the thing that strikes me is: all businesses are ultimately in the people business.
Regardless, of what you make or how you serve customers, it’s people on all sides of the work. It’s people who do the work and it is people that we’re doing the work for. This always was, and always will be.
Logotherapy is the motivational force for people to find meaning in one’s life. When work conditions don’t allow for this search for meaning, then people will seek places that nurture motivation elsewhere.
And, because of the foundational shifts from the Pandemic (and elsewhere), many people are refocusing from a work-centric life to a life-centric one. Part of this is the search for meaning. And this search for meaning is being pursued with the desire for wholeness in life and through our work. If our places of work cannot help make us whole or offer us meaning then, with options in front of them, people will search for wholeness and meaning elsewhere.
If the impeded stream is the one that sings, what is singing to you and your team now?
If the real work and the real journey are again upon us, how will we individually and collectively respond?
Finally, what is capturing your attention to serve your people — customers and employees — to help them become less baffled?
When we’re baffled, we turn to a reserve of resources we didn’t realize we had. We reembody these resources for every crisis and innovation we faced.
|P.S. My talk at HR WEST covered the 10 Things that People-First Companies Do. I’ve created a Leadership Brief on the topic, which I’m happy to share here.|
Or, if you would like to receive the whitepaper, simply drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|P.P.S. My colleague and friend Jenny Blake, who was a recent guest on my podcast, just released her new book “Free Time: Lose the Busywork, Love Your Business.” It’s written to help business leaders rethink and reclaim their work time…so you can have more life. It’s full of tool, tips and resources, you can find out more and order here.|
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