The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Change It Up

Feeling Like Part Of
"The Machine" At Work?
Here's How To Change It Up.

It's easy to feel like you're part of a machine at work,
just another drone in the process of delivering mediocrity.
Thankfully, you don't have to feel that way.

I remember one day being asked by a client, "WHY can't you guys just get it right?" He was exasperated, and not without reason. So many times I'd responded as expected. In my best "calm the customer" voice, I'd explain (again) what we were doing to improve our solutions and our service.

This particular time, I just sat quietly for a moment. I didn't want to tow the company line. I didn't actually believe what I had been asked to say. I didn't want to mislead the customer, or set expectations I knew the company wouldn't meet - despite its best intentions. I just didn't feel right doing it. I felt like just another drone in the process of delivering mediocrity to my client. I was part of "the machine" and it was defeating.

Too often, companies go about the business of running the business - without focusing on and delivering value. Much of what even great companies deliver is mediocre. With all that action, why doesn't value follow? Lots of people are doing lots of things. There are meetings, decisions, budgets, and plans. There are reorganizations, changes to business models, and reassignments of staff. There's a lot of talking, posturing, promising, and committing. Unfortunately, much of it doesn't materialize into anything of value for the company's shareholders, customers, or employees. Sometimes it doesn't even contribute value to the company's financial performance.

It's easy to feel like you're part of a machine. It may seem like what you do, and how you do it, doesn't really matter in the larger scheme of things. We've all felt this at times. It's simply not true. Organizations deliver value one person at a time. You may just be surprised how your actions can start a quiet groundswell of change around you. In the meantime, a change in perspective may allow you to be much more satisfied and successful in your work. Three small changes can make a really BIG difference for you, and others.
How do I contribute value, rather than feed the "machine" of mediocrity? 

How To Change It Up

Almost every company goes through good and less-good times. As employees, we're often along for the ride. Sometimes we feel inspired by company leadership. We're committed to doing good work and proud of our results. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we may feel bitter disappointment and frustration on all fronts. It's not uncommon to feel victimized and held hostage by "the company," as though we're trapped and unable to work in the way we'd prefer.

Here's the light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't a train. You don't have to feel like part of the machine, even when the dynamics of mediocrity are all around you. Companies are made up of people, who individually contribute to the broader sense of culture, performance, and overall value. You may not be in a position to change the company as a whole, but you can change your own perspective and start to see a ripple affect to those around you. 

I've seen entire companies have their destiny changed by the actions of a small few. Why not be one of the few to inspire change on your team, in your department, or even company-wide?  Without a doubt, you'll also be more satisfied if you find a way to deliver value in your work. Here's how to start.
1. Care About What You Do.
I know it sounds like motherhood and apple pie to say that you should care about what you do, but stop and think for a moment about this. Do you really care about the actions you take, or the results you deliver every day at work? What if the product you were making, or the service you were providing, was for your best friend or a family member? What if your name was emblazoned on the bottom of the widget your company creates, and you would be forever connected to it for all the world to see? Would you do anything differently? Would you care just a little more?
Action:  Challenge yourself as if you're delivering value to someone you know personally in everything you do at work. How does that change your perspective, your process, or the quality of your result?
2. Keep A Balanced Perspective.
Organizations can sometimes create silos of people who focus on just "their" part of the organization's ability to deliver. Each team has it's own goals and priorities. Individual silos focus on self-interests and can, at times, lose sight of the broader deliverable or customer experience. You can either dismiss it as dysfunctional, or try to maintain a more balanced perspective at an individual level. 
What do you think shareholders who invested in the company would want to see happen? How would a customer expect you to work and collaborate to provide value? What would make a customer want to continue to do business with you? What do your fellow teammates deserve and expect from you, as a contributor to their team? If someone you respected and admired was watching your choices, day-in and day-out at work, would you be proud of the choices you made under his or her watchful eye?
Action: When you're faced with a choice or decision to do "just-enough" to deliver mediocre results, or take a moment to find a better way, think about what's best for the company, the shareholders, the customer, and the employees (including yourself)... and try to provide broad and balanced value.
3.  Do The "Rightest" Thing You Can.
Have you ever had someone tell you to "do the right thing" at work? Sometimes what they're really saying is, "Do the right thing, in so much as it is exactly what I'd do." In other words, you're being asked to tow the company line and do what your boss would do. I have a little different perspective on this one. 
Sometimes what your boss would do isn't right for you, based on your perspective, your position, or your values. But you can't exactly look back to that concept of motherhood and apple pie here either. You may think in a purist sense that the best thing to do is to tell a customer that they shouldn't buy your product, or to tell an engineer to go back to square one and rebuild a poorly constructed product. Unfortunately, the world of business is a bit more complex with varying perspectives on "right." So what can you do?
You can do the "rightest" thing. Within the constraints that exist in complicated eco-systems of business and shareholders and customers and employees and competitors... choose the best option available to you. If you care about your work, and you balance your perspective as outlined above, you are MUCH more likely to make the "rightest" choice among the possibilities. The trick is to be thoughtful about your choices and then choose wisely.
Action:  Always consider your options. Be thoughtful about what matters most. In the context of an imperfect world, just do the "rightest" thing you can. 

Bottom Line

In the heat of day-to-day business, we tend to think of our company as a large entity. It can take on a life of its own. We often feel like we're just one small part of a bigger machine. We doubt that our actions can significantly change the course of things. In reality, companies are made up of individuals. While all kinds of influences shape and form the company's culture, performance and value, at the heart of it? It's individual choices.

When you feel like you're part of a machine, the tendency is to care less, think less, and do what you're told. While it may be easier, it isn't very gratifying. It's not the best thing for the company, and it certainly isn't the best thing for you as an individual. To find success and satisfaction in the workplace, you have to be engaged. To be engaged, you have to care.

It's surprising how small changes in perspective can deliver big changes in results, for you as an individual and for your company. Care about the work you do, things both big and small. Be willing to put your name on your work, and be proud to do it. Try to keep a balanced perspective and make choices that serve the broadest good, while keeping your own needs in the mix. And finally, allow yourself to do the "rightest" thing you can. Feel good that you've done the best you can, given a complex world of choices.

If you're ever sitting across from a disappointed client, and you're tempted to just say whatever you have to say to make them go away, stop and take a breath. Care. Find perspective. Do the rightest thing you can. It's amazing how creative and powerful you become with that combination at your back.

Bottom line:  Shatter the myth. There is no "machine." Companies get better, and do better, one employee at a time. Why not let it start with you? Who knows how many others will watch, learn, and change their own game as a result?

More soon,