I read an article recently in the Harvard Business Review, entitled “How Senior Executives Stay Passionate About Their Work.” In the article, author John Morgan discussed three factors that he discovered from interviewing hundreds of senior leaders that answered questions such as, What aspects of your job are most important? What do you find rewarding? How do you stay passionate while avoiding burnout? I want to discuss those common themes and add a fourth, which I find critical in helping me maintain a spark of passion to stay attracted to my work.
The first factor Morgan mentioned was the importance of senior leaders to be able to realize their “impact on society.” He noticed that senior leaders enjoyed being able to help employees in their organizations find a way to connect their work and its effect on not only the communities in which they live and work but also globally and on society as a whole. This can sometimes be a challenge for leaders in helping others to see the impact of their work, especially if there is not a natural or an obvious connection. At Ohio University, I have found this factor to be easy to spot and mutually satisfying for me and for members of my team. Most of the UCM staff members (me included) made a deliberate decision to work in higher education for the specific reason to have an impact on the future generations who will shape society in the future. The fact that our Scott Quad offices are on the first floor of a residence hall also helps us remember why we’re here.
Another factor mentioned in the article outlined ways in which some company executives try to alleviate burnout. Because today’s technology has an “always on” quality, some leaders have made a distinction between being connected without being available continuously. I was intrigued by the example of a team that used “dumb phones” during the work day that do not have apps or email capabilities. In the article, Morgan likened the devices to the “Batphone” because only a few people had the number and are only used during emergencies. They actually sound like really smart phones to me!
Morgan’s third factor centered around a concept he called peripheral vision. When busy, it is easy to get into a heads down mode and only focus on what is usually the screen in front of us. When leaders tap into peripheral vision, they are able to sense things that go beyond the expected. I equate that to something I try to do on a constant basis. Though it is important to pay attention to the trends that are facing higher education, I also look at what’s happening outside of my industry. I do this not only because of habit on account of my corporate background but also because often I am able to discover opportunities to make adaptations for my role that may not be immediately apparent or even being discussed in the higher education arena.
Though I agree that the aforementioned factors are essential for senior leaders to stay passionate about their work, there is an additional one that has become crucial for me to continue to thrive in my work everyday, which is to embrace self-care.
As a woman and an executive, I wear many hats at work–counselor, strategist, manager, leader and outside of work–wife, mother, grandmother, friend. The intersectionality of these roles can make it easy to lose yourself while getting caught up in serving others. I have developed some habits and found a few apps that serve as ways to keep me grounded so I can stay revved up. Below are a few of the self-care routines that help me win at work:
- Walking–I walk my dogs every morning and myself throughout the day while at work and end with a long walk (60 minutes or more) at the end of the day.
- Word of the Day–Words (not numbers as I’ve mentioned before) feed my soul. Focusing on a new word every day is a way for me to expand my vocabulary and my mind. Sometimes the word is so esoteric, it just makes me chuckle, when I realize that I’m probably one of only a few people that will ever attempt to use it. Laughter is another thing that feels like medicine to almost anything that ails me.
- Daily Quote–In addition to a word of the day, I also find a quote and share it with my daughter every day. There are a few sites I enjoy reading when I am searching for a quote, including the “100 Days of Happiness App,” “HelloGiggles,” and Instagram.
Finding your passion helps you become productive. It’s important to find ways to maintain and protect your passion to ensure you stay productive and pleasant.