I recently spoke with Marcus Buckingham about his new book Love +Work. Buckingham shared that the key to finding momentum and succeeding at work is finding what you love to do and expanding on those activities. Here’s how to do that.
Take note of which activities nourish you.
Buckingham shared that many leaders have a difficult time deciphering what they love to do at work. However, according to Buckingham, we can look for clues and determine our most-loved actions. In love + work, Buckingham advises leaders to slow down in order to do this.
“Slowing down” and looking for joy-giving activities may seem indulgent, since leaders have a long list of work that must be done. However, slowing down can show up in different ways for each individual. For example, you may keep a journal of where you find happiness in your work, or sit quietly and just think about the activities that make you happy. When you identify your joy-giving activities, seek to build more of them into your day. Buckingham believes leaders can turn their attention to the activities they find nourishing at any time. He shared the examples of Grandma Moses and Georgia O’Keefe, who both began their artistic journeys later in life. According to Buckingham, it’s never too late.
Find your “red thread.”
Buckingham defines a “red thread” as something you love to do, that puts you in “the zone”—an almost spiritual state. Many times, you may be looking for the big opportunity or the big “ah ha” to catapult your career forward; but Buckingham said “red threads” are more subtle than that. They are tiny threads in the “quilt” of your work, not the whole entity. According to Buckingham, you can weave these threads together to make something beautiful. If you are unsatisfied with the “quilt” of your work life, look for the “red threads”—the tiny elements that bring you joy—and determine how to weave more of those throughout your day. Love+Work Includes reflection questions to help you find your red threads: for example, “When was the last time you were engaged in an activity you didn’t want to end?”
Reactions versus Feedback.
One of the most important ways to find your “red thread” and the activities that make you happy is to look for reactions to your work from your team or others—not specific feedback or recommendations. For example, Buckingham shares the story of Ashley, a pianist recording his first audiobook. Buckingham has recorded many audiobooks; he shared with Ashley what has worked for him in the past. Buckingham’s advice was to look the production people in the eye and read the book.
Ashley tried this approach; however, he felt awkward and inauthentic. Eventually, Ashley thought about how he reads music as a pianist and applied this same skill to recording his audiobook: he looked four or five words ahead as he read aloud so he was prepared for what was coming. This method worked for Ashley.
It can feel disappointing when feedback you give doesn’t resonate. It’s human nature to want to be an expert and share your experiences. Buckingham also believes parents should withhold giving prescriptive feedback to their children so that they can develop their own skills and methods.
Use your “red threads” to problem-solve.
In the book, Buckingham shares that one of his “red threads” is public speaking. He discovered this firsthand as a young student. Buckingham had a stammer: however, when he was asked to speak in front of the entire student body, Buckingham’s stammer ceased. Buckingham used the information he gleaned from this experience: he imagined himself on the public stage speaking to large audiences, and eventually his stammer went away altogether. Buckingham shares leaders can leverage the power of their “red threads” to find solutions as he did.
Why leaders need team members who’ve found their “red threads.”
While it’s essential for leaders to find their “red threads,” leaders must also help their teams find theirs. Buckingham shares that team leaders can allow their team members to experiment and find the work activities they most enjoy. Taking an experimental approach creates more motivated team members and will expand your group’s creativity.
Find your red threads to help expand the work you love to do.