Pay special attention to who you with and how you’re working when you are having the most fun at work. These are important insights into what lights you up inside wrapped up in those two details. Who you are working with and how you are going about the work. I’ve spent a good amount of time in my career thinking that there was something wrong with me. In the draft of my book, I tell the story of why I went so far as to hire a job coach, so I could figure out my career goals and plan for the next five years.
Spoiler alert: I still don’t know, and I don’t know that I care. Success for me professionally is doing work I believe in with people that I enjoy. It matters whether we feel safe, held, and happy with the people we work closely with on a daily basis. For me, there is no work self and life self. Sure, there are ways that we put our best foot forward. Certain things we don’t say. Certain things we don’t wear. But in the end, all of us are just people who are doing our best to navigate the complexities of life and a big part of many of our lives is work.
If we can uncover the things that light us up on the inside and leverage that joy in our work, we are really onto something. For me, something that is really important to me is hospitality. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Simon Sinek and Will Guidara’s new book to come out, Unreasonable Hospitality. If I had the time, I could spend hours upon hours uncovering ways to thrill and delight people at work. I dream of having people show up to a meeting and feel like they were part of a dinner party for close friends. One of my colleagues, a masterful instructional coach, Angela Faulhaber, had the idea to greet teachers at the doors when they walked in for our PD day on Friday. We also played music over the intercom (a playlist with everyone’s walk-up songs) as they were getting settled for the day. Just little touches to show people how excited we are to see them and how glad we are that they came to spend time with us. This might seem like fluff but research has shown student engagement goes up by 20% when teachers simply greet students at the door. It also shows that a sense of belonging goes up and discipline goes down. All of that with one simple move. Small move. Big impact. So, we can build all intricate continuous improvement plans all we want – I’m not saying those aren’t important. But what I am saying is let’s not overcomplicate things when we could make some simple moves that will make a tremendous difference.
When your joy intersects with small moves done with big care and consistency over an extended period of time, that’s going to make a positive impact on the people you serve on a daily basis.
We have a professional learning center where teachers can gather for good conversation and learning. Last week, I noticed some teachers who were doing some new learning, and it can be a challenge to focus your mind for 20-30 minutes during a busy work day, but it was clear they were trying. We keep a Keurig in that space, and I had about 10 minutes between meetings, so I decided to take coffee orders and deliver those to their seats. Taking good care of people feels good. It feels good for the person taking care and those on the receiving end of that care too. Now, I can’t prove right now that their cup of Joe did anything to increase their learning. But it increased their sense of belonging, and when belonging goes up, learning is more likely to occur.
So, the next time you feel really happy in your work, pay attention. Pay attention to who you are with and how you’re going about the work. Somewhere in the middle of all of that is your joy. Your joy is your gift to our profession and now more than ever, we need people walking in their light and their goodness.