Resolving to Work Better

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” –Ray Kroc
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” –Ray Kroc

Those of us that work a full time job of 40 or more hours a week, spend almost a third of lives at work. That’s over 1840 hours per year after you account for vacation time. For years now, I’ve been driven by passion and purpose. Yet, despite enjoying my work and being proud of the positive change it makes in the world, I find myself weary of the status quo.

Business has a bottom line – some models of that are harder than others. Frankly, I don’t understand why it has to be so hard. Perhaps we make it hard on others because at one time, someone else has made it hard on us. Thus, the cycle perpetuates and it gets harder for everyone until finally, something cracks and we are forced to hit the reset button.

Even in the happiest of work environments, there are days when running a business feels like being on the hamster wheel. For profit, nonprofit, it really doesn’t matter what type of business you’re running, it seems to be the same despite the varying challenges. We’re all in the throes of survival.

I am in need of another reset and what better time than with the Chinese New Year on January 28, 2017?

Last year, I was mindful that my commitment to living better must also include working better. Work does, after all, engross nearly a third of my year! How can I live better without including a change of work habits into the equation?

Therefore, I have several carryovers from previous successful resolutions. I continue to aim for my true north and focus on passion and purpose: Strive to make a difference; that’s been a given for over half a decade now since I made the move to the social enterprise sector. What else would I want to add to this year’s list that could change how I work? Looking back at 2016, I found moments of happiness and inspiration that helped me craft my new list.

Schedule “walking” meetings.

This was my best resolution in 2016. I live next to a park and so why not? Why should we be expected to sit behind a desk when our conversations are that of world changing programs and advocating for better, brighter futures? I hope that you will join me on these walks and that it inspires you to think differently about meetings.

Have conversations over tea.

I don’t expect everyone to love tea as much as I do, but there is something vulnerable, raw and cathartic for me during tea time. It’s different from going out for a beer with colleagues. Instead, the peacefulness of these interactions help me hear the sentiments that are not spoken. Sometimes, the quiet roars louder than any lion.

Handwrite letters.

I enjoy the rapid delivery and connection of email, texting and instant messaging. However, I derive such joy from receiving handwritten notes. I resolve to bring this joy to others occasionally, but first, I must update my address book because I only have emails for the majority of my contacts.

Embrace differences. 

I’ve always tried to do this and so this serves simply as a reminder. Certainly, I can respect that disagreement does not equate to the inability to work together. In fact, it might forge stronger partnerships as we strive to uncover different aspects of the same problem. It is my hope that by embracing differences, our collaboration will be more effective towards creating the change we want to see in the world.

Disrupt the norm.

I can appreciate the way things work and the understanding of “this is how it’s done,” but the world is changing and if we stagnate we will never evolve or improve. It’s not that I don’t care “how it’s done.” I want to explore new ways of doing things and I want the freedom to make those mistakes as I learn what does and doesn’t work. I want to work with people who are disrupting the norm towards achieving something better.

Ask for their stories. 

Everyone has a story that drives them towards their purpose. Too often, I am learning what people do and not who they are or the story of their experiences. I want to listen for and understand your stories. It’s a thread of the tapestry that binds us all together.

If I start with these resolutions and I do it right, I should get the mental resets that I need throughout the year to help overcome challenges that will surely come. I hope it also helps those around me embrace a different way of working and that we’re not making it so hard on each other.

Let’s embrace change. Let’s ring in a new year. The year of the Fire Rooster!

Sheryle Gillihan, CEO at CauseLabs (, is an advocate and advisor for great causes and for leveraging technology to drive impact. Follow her on Twitter @sgillihan

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