Be. Choose. Cause.

Home Blog filed under Company Culture, Leadership, Newsletter blog

Love Your Life's Work - January C-suite Corner

What’s the definition of “life’s work”? Is it actual labor in the workplace? What is my “life’s work”? How does coaching help define this for individuals? How can I love my life's work? Our individual and collective mental, emotional and physical health depends on making this critical shift.

In this blog, Sarah Graves, PCC, explores her relationship to her life's work and how she allows space in her coaching for executives that help them discover their love for their life's work.

This is no small mission, “Love Your Life’s Work” and in light of Sarah Jaffe’s book last year “Work Won’t Love You Back”, I found myself confused about the perceived paradox.

Work won't love you back
Sarah Jaffe

Here I am espousing this marvelous mission to prospective customers and in deep appreciation of the talented, dedicated and discerning team of coaches at inviteCHANGE committed to catalyzing the experience of loving their life’s work.

Add to this thought line (I was sensing a “fault line”), the Great Resignation, and now I was truly in a conundrum. How could we be in integrity partnering with enterprises by supporting them toward a trajectory that many workers from all strata of the marketplace were in complete rejection?

While you are joining my conundrum, let’s throw in 5 million women during the first year of Covid-19 leaving the workforce to reinforce old stereotypes of being the superior caretaker and certainly underscore the inequity of pay that still exists in 2022?

Okay, here’s where coach training is so helpful for dissecting and diving into the deep end of the pool to glean understanding and to weave, even elevate the mission, once clarity is discovered.

The first place that called me was a question. What’s the definition of “life’s work”? Is it actual labor in the workplace? What is my “life’s work”? I reviewed my own years of labor from waiting tables to restaurant management to wine sales into education/training and eventually into executive leadership. Was this MY life’s work? At my going away party when I left Young’s Market Company, there were many toasts about my time there. So many toasts, in fact, that an exec from Washington joked, “Hey, Graves—you don’t need a funeral now. This was the best wake I’ve ever been to!”

Was I lauded for my labor, my skill to hit goals, make money for the ownership, keep suppliers happy, etc.?

Not at all. If I look at my essence statement opening (“I practically and passionately pursue the empowerment of people….”), the toasts, appreciation, and acknowledgment were that I was leading, living, and demonstrating a world where I loved my life’s work. My life’s work just happened in that decade to be located at Young’s Market Company.

I began to sense that Sarah Jaffe’s book and her provocative title are actually in congruence with our mission. Her research shows how management post-industrial revolution has been steadily and intensely getting people to work longer, requiring a positive (if need be “fake”) attitude and culturally “forcing the bloom” to make labor their satisfaction. People are in the doing of their labor, not the being of their work.

Thus, we have year over year (Deloitte Shift Index) surveys showing that 80% of workers are unhappy and dissatisfied in their labor, their role, their work. We have 51% of employees actively seeking other jobs, while at work. And in 2021 there were over 9M workers who simply quit. Not for another job per se, but because they were seeking a reason for their labor that was not in the space. In contrast to the life/death reality of Covid 19, intergenerational
workers were saying—“This isn’t it—I’m out!”

Last week an executive client who’s been in the midst of a sweeping leadership and ownership change for the last year at a $3B enterprise finally hit her wall and asked the question, “How can I care less?” Her “over caring” bordered on obsession and as she was in her coaching session a pipe burst on her patio. This metaphor gave her pause(and a small interruption by her construction owner/husband) to observe she was on the edge of breaking by confusing her labor with her “life’s work”. As she continued in the session, she began to seek access to her essence to begin the journey to identifying her essence/pathway/mission/purpose. The leadership at the organization is both dysfunctional and in transition. Being attached to rescuing it from itself was breaking her.

It’s time. There’s a wake-up call for the post-industrial workplace. Our individual and collective mental, emotional and physical health depends on making this critical shift.

This exploration has touched me deeply, inspired lots of reading/research, and confusion spiced with consternation. inviteCHANGE is not alone in seeing the breach and the breakdown of labor and management in the 2022 workplace.

I am breathing deeply now with a renewed sense and connection to “Shaping a World Where People Love Their Life’s Work”. It’s essential that this caravan of coaches, delivery leaders, mentors, supervisors, customer care and sales teams bring and expand this new paradigm into the workplace and the world.

In 2022, inviteCHANGE will be presenting a five-part webinar series with global leaders joining Janet M. Harvey, CEO, to explore the theme, “Love Your Life’s Work”. Hope to hear from you and see you there!

Sarah Graves, PCC

Sarah passionately and practically pursues the development of leaders through intentional, organic growth. She emboldens leaders to create an environment where management is expansive, willing to move with agility beyond comfort zones, and to champion the individual and collective genius within the organization. With teams in transition she inspires connection, realignment and forward progress within the awkward movements of the changing landscape. Her belief is that coaching is as essential an element for an organization as the product or service the company produces. “An employee who grows personally, grows professionally” and coaching seeds growth.
Read more about Sarah »