A sustained effort to truly know one’s self, resulting in an ever-sharpening profile against which options can be weighed, is essential to making “correct” decisions and, as a result, attaining happiness.
Here are some questions whose answers will result in such a profile:
- What am I good at?
- Under what type of conditions do I thrive?
- When and how do I work best?
- What is important to me outside of work and what work/life schedule must I have so ample time will be left for those things?
- What type of work do I dislike?
- What type of manager would I hate working for?
- What is my stress tolerance level?
As you know, I speak to lots of CIOs. Last week, I spoke to one who is under as much pressure, and shouldering as much of a workload, as any. Interestingly, Laishy Williams-Carlson, CIO at Bon Secours — an 18 hospital health system in the midst of a massive Epic implementation — seemed to be thriving in a role that would sink many. In fact, it seemed Williams-Carlson somehow converted her challenges into fuel that, in turn, gave her the energy to tackle them. To her, it appears, all but the most difficult and unpleasant moments constitute so much fun and enjoyment. The interview was a pleasure.
Williams-Carlson, I would venture to say, is someone who both knows herself and has, thus, attained a position that suits her profile. As CIO of Bon Secours, she fits, and only when one fits can one thrive.
One the more disconcerting side, I have seen, spoken with, and know well CIOs who are wilting in an environment calling for a pace of change that many say is unsustainable to the point of being irresponsible. Mind you, these are good, solid, smart CIOs who seem to be almost physically shrinking each time I see them at a conference or other event — their stoop a little more pronounced, their smile a little slower to form, their step a little slower.
Starting with the premise that both the thrivers and wilters are “good,” what’s going on here?
I think it’s a few things. First off is the question of resources. The thrivers, I guarantee you, have been given ample financial, human, and emotional support (think encouragement from their management and C-suite peers) to get the job done. The wilters, on the other hand, are likely swimming against the current with one fin tied behind their backs. They have little chance of success, know it and yet must continue to roll their rocks.
Secondly, home for the thrivers is, at best, a source of inspiration and rejuvenation, at worst, a neutral environment. Williams-Carlson noted that though she had six (yes, six) kids, they were all out of the house at this point.
“I could not do this job if my children were young,” she said.
How many of the wilters, I wonder, have very young children, sick parents, troubled marriages or some other personal-life factor that drains half their energy throughout the day?
Lastly, and most importantly, is the aforementioned concept of fit. For the thrivers, a pressure-packed environment replete with deadlines, conflict and stress is necessary. Without it, they will become bored. For the wilters, a position that once fit, now, with the increased load, has drifted far from their comfort zones. Of course, expanding one’s comfort zone is good, but not when it’s move to another planet.
To be happy, we must first strive to know our profile, then realize that it communicates fundamental truths about ourselves which cannot be changed. Then we must create or find personal and professional environments that fit. Only when the profile and environment are in sync can we thrive. Want to hear what syncing sounds like — just take a listen to Laishy.