When I was 13 years old, I had no idea what my career path might look like. Some days I’m still not sure! How about you?
I recently accepted an invitation to talk about my career with some groups of Year 8 students at a local school. Bearing in mind my own lack of career clarity, as I was planning what to say I thought I’d try something a little different. Instead of trying to describe my meandering career path in detail, I decided to invite some discussion among the groups, starting with a conversation about what good work looks and feels like.
Before visiting the school, I posed the question about what good work looks like (which quickly morphed into what good work feels like) on a few social networks. People were very generous with their responses, and I’ve compiled them all into a ‘What Does Good Work Look and Feel Like to You‘ file for you to read and enjoy. At the risk of compressing an excellent series of exchanges too tightly, here are one or two comments which stand out for me.
Good work means I know my effort makes a difference, where I know I am valued, as I am listened to, treated fairly, and where the quality of my work speaks for itself and I and others can see results.
Hey Doug, sorry I’m late to the discussion, and I think I’m more drawn to the question of what does good work FEEL like… I’m reminded of ‘all that glitters is not gold’. So what does good feel like? When I’m involved in something that reflects my values. Also, good doesn’t need to have an outcome… What do you and others think? (‘good’ question! :-))
Leaving formerly unhappy people feeling content and at ease. Doing something that makes people smile like their faces might split. Doing something brave that helps others break new ground. Work that fills your heart as well as your mind.
A sense of needing satisfaction, of the tension between competence and challenge, and making a difference all feature in the replies. I recommend taking the time to have a read through – it’s well worth it.
Back to School
It’s tempting to think that because I’ve been invited in to speak, I must therefore have some wisdom to impart. I’m usually more interested in what others have to say, and when I asked the students the question about what good work feels like – they were responsive, succinct, and imaginative. It’s interesting to note that in one of the replies above is the comment ‘When I’m involved in something that reflects my values.’ Being involved, doing things with others, not to others – that matters to me, and judging by how the kids chose to respond, I’m confident it matters to them too. Here are just a few of their excellent suggestions about what good work feels like.
- You put effort into it
- It’s satisfying
- You’ve done your best
- It has a deeper meaning
- It’s what you want it to look like
- Makes you think
- You put your heart into it
- You put time into it
- You chose it
Organisational Development and Art
We talked a little about organisational development, and after seeking advice from my 15 year old daughter beforehand, I used the metaphor of a bicycle to describe some of my work. This way we had a common point of reference which made it easier for us to talk about the importance of exploring and improving performance. ‘At first glance – fixing this old bike which has flat tyres might look easy. How might you fix the problem, and what might you do if the bike still doesn’t ride well after the repair?’ We quickly began to appreciate the importance of the whole system: bike, rider, environment etc. Huge thanks to Keira for the inspiration.
We talked a little about art and how it is subjective. I offered up a painting which we discussed and described, quickly realising that although we’re all looking at the same thing, we all see it differently. I suggested that when exploring organisational performance, there are nearly always multiple paths to explore – be open to the possibilities and don’t get too hung up on the need for certainty. We finished with a quick look at the free art project, which I offered up as a way of developing a sense of connection with community.
Thanks to the school kids and everyone who responded to the initial question, you all helped to make an inclusive, interesting exchange. After I left the school, I shared the responses from the classroom with a friend. She replied:
GOOD WORK indeed! I LOVE that. [This exchange] will give them agency all their working life; they will remember. Fantastic energy from the words.
What does good work feel like to you?