What’s your ambition?

Do you have an ambition? I’m not talking personally – whether you want to walk on the moon, play the violin, or live by the sea is really a matter only for yourself and your loved ones. I’m also not talking about your career trajectory. I’m talking about the work that you do and the impact that you have.

It strikes me that we often make a big leap between personal ambition and organisational vision, but miss some of the most important elements in between. Most of us work every day, we attend a place of work and we do a lot of tasks – but for the sake of what?

As good corporate citizens we all adhere to the broader corporate visions and of course, we understand the role that we contribute towards them. But is there something else that falls in between? Something that operates on more of an emotional level?

For me that’s ambition.

When I work, I know what I want to deliver and I know what I want to achieve. I know what I need to do and I know the difference I want to make. It won’t necessarily happen immediately, often it takes significant time and effort. But it connects the work that I do to an overall purpose – it’s what is important to me.

I wonder what the power of team ambition would and could be, how it could help shape and form the work that we do into something that means and matters more. Not just about vision – that can feel too far away and ethereal – but something more concrete and emotionally engaging.

By its nature, ambition is big, bold and beautiful. It forces the mind to think beyond the immediately achievable, but to something that generates both sense of positivity and reward. It is worth the struggle, because it means something and it matters.

What’s your ambition? And how would achieving it make you feel?

Ten ways to make a better day

Is it me, or is there a general sense of menace and disgruntlement in society? Sometimes it feels like an all-pervasive nastiness is in the air – like atoms bouncing off one another, we go around getting increasingly grumpy with the world.

And of course whilst we can’t all sort the BIG issues of the day, we can do somethings, sometimes to make life a little bit better for someone else.

  1. Make a coffee for a colleague without asking. Just take them a drink along and say “I made this for you”.
  2. Have a conversation with a shop assistant. Not about your shopping, just make eye contact, smile and be nice. Treat them like a person.
  3. Open a door for a stranger. Not metaphorically, but literally. Engage your inner English Gentleman and hold the door.
  4. Let someone out at a junction. On that drive home, when you’re desperate to get back into your sanctuary, make a little bit of time to help someone else do the same.
  5. Ask someone who looks lost whether they need directions. Sure, this depends on where you are, but if you get the chance, give it a go.
  6. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. OK, so there’s a caveat to this – make sure it’s situationally appropriate. But take the chance to say hello.
  7. Send someone a thank you. Take a moment out of your busy life to write a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be for anything big or clever, just real.
  8. Give your seat up with a smile. If you commute to work on a train, a bus a tram or a tube give your seat up for someone else. It won’t hurt you to stand for one trip.
  9.  Buy someone a treat. It could be your receptionist or security guard. The person at the crossing by school. It could be a chocolate bar, biscuit or snack – just because.
  10. Take time to listen. I mean really listen Give up half an hour of your day to look the person in the eye, put your phone down and not think about anything else.

We can’t change the big stuff, but if we all change the small stuff, the world can be a slightly nicer place.

Should you only work once?

How many jobs should one person have? I don’t mean in the entirety of their life, but at any one time. My default belief, probably like many of you, is one. I mean if you can’t get paid enough from one job, then there’s probably something wrong with it. Isn’t there?

As contracts change and employment practices vary to meet with the needs of consumer demands, as different expectations become the norm I wonder whether we are placing a value judgment on the singularity of employment that needs not be the case. Of course, where there is a requirement to work two or more long, unpleasant jobs to make ends meet, then this is never going to be ideal. Where contracts are exploitative or overly balanced in favour of the employer, we should seek to question and challenge.

But could good work be possible across multiple employers? It feels ironic in some ways that at the upper end of the employment hierarchy we see people aim for a “portfolio career”, where they can engage and work for a range of different employers. Yet when we see this occur in more manual roles we assume the arrangement to be exploitative. And maybe that’s because it has been, but does it need to be?

I wonder whether the debate that we need to have is not about the quantum of hours per se, not about the structure of contracts but instead about the working relationship. About the balance of power and the clarity and equity of requirements from both parties on one another. You don’t have to look far back into the history of the world to see a time where people would have one or more occupations or means of putting bread on the table. The idea of a single employer is relatively recent.

And of course, if we do see ourselves (as I believe is inevitable) go down this route, the challenges to employers, to HR functions and leaders will become increasingly complex. Where a relationship exists with more than one company, the relationship does becomes entirely different – but not necessarily bad.