U.S. Army Major General John H. Stanford was asked about how one becomes a leader. "When anyone asks me that question, I tell them I have the secret to success in life. The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to really ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have greater desire to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn't really feel the kind of excitement that helps him to get ahead and lead others and to achieve. I don't know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is."
As I just watched my daughter, JJ, walk out the door to her part-time job, depressed that she was going to work. Most of the time, she loves the job. The company, a well-known retail chain, treats her respectfully, pays her decently, and empowers the employees to make decisions to keep customers happy. Why was she depressed? Tonight, she had to close the store with a manager who is neurotic, controlling and unhappy. "Barb" is miserable in the job and makes everyone else too. She keeps the job because of the economy, and the company keeps her because of her familial relationship with a regional manager.
"Barb" needs to choose to love the job or decide to leave. She needs to stop acting the victim, and start acting the leader. She has not owned that she is responsible for her life and she can make the most of it. It is her choice.
The big question is how you stay in love with what you do. Here are eight ways that helped me learn to love whether I was working in retail, in government, in the military, or on my own:
1. Remember every day that what you do makes the world a better place. A friend of mine works in a weight loss center. The pay is low but she loves the fact that she helps people feel good about themselves. A bus driver told me once that she loves her job because she gets children to and from school safely. A positive attitude will make the day both pleasant and productive.
2. Keep your work in the big picture. Forget the trees, look at the beautiful forest. A secretary at a science research center told me that she loves the fact that through her administrative skills scientists have an easier time inventing cool stuff.
3. You are more than your work. Regardless of the title, you are so much more. List everything you do. Don't forget what you do outside of work too. Reread it when you're not feeling the love.
4. Delegate. Let others grow. Entrusting them builds their trust in you. By delegating, you are able to pursue new and creative projects, come up with great solutions, and really walk the walk as a leader.
5. Have regular breaks. This means take vacations and coffee breaks. Refresh yourself. Learn to relax.
6. Add laughter to the work mix. A general I worked with in Bosnia showed up at the evening briefing with another officer dressed as the Blues Brothers. They did a great routine. It was so therapeutic to just laugh. Have fun days around holiday themes. "Halloween is coming!" Sponsor a chili or cheesecake bake-off. Work hard and laugh hard will rejuvenate everyone.
7. Review your day before you leave for home. Look at what worked well. Also, review what can be done tomorrow to improve. Remind yourself you have the right stuff to make this world better.
8. Leave work at work. You already work a third of your time, mentally say good-bye to your job the moment you leave for home. Refocus on your family, friends, pets, hobbies and sports.
Hate what you do and others will hate working with you. Love what you do and people will flock to you.
About the Author: Retired Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, author of The Courage To Take Command: Leadership Lessons From a Military Trailblazer, and an international speaker, is a woman of many firsts. She was one of the first women to train as an equal with men in college ROTC. She was the first woman battalion commander in the 88th Regional Support Command; she was the first woman brigade commander in the 84th Division; and she was the first woman Homeland Security Advisor for Illinois. Colonel Morgenthaler will be co-leading the CISO Leadership Summit at InfoSec World 2016.