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Who Are You Working For?

What are you working on right now? Can you explain exactly why you’re working on it?

Do you know why you’re spending time writing that blog post? Sitting in that meeting? Answering that email? Preparing that presentation? Do you have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a strategy for what you’re working on?

Who are you working for right now? Your boss? Your company? Your family? Yourself? Do you even know?

Over the last six months or so, I’ve found myself asking this question of myself more and more. Four years ago when I first started our Digital Strategy and Social Media practice here, I had a seemingly unlimited amount of time – I had no problem with putting in a 9-5 day followed by a 5-9 night. I could do everything my boss asked of me as well as everything that I wanted to do. I could start this blog even though my boss at the time didn’t see the value in it. I could go out and spend my evenings attending Gov 2.0 and social media events even though no one was telling me to. I could work on a proposal throughout the weekend. I could create presentations and accept speaking gigs because I felt it was important to do.

But things change. Since then, I’ve had my first daughter (Hi Annabelle!), social media has become more and more integrated into our business, and some of my most talented team members have been promoted into positions with more responsibilities. We now have experts at using social media behind the firewall, social media and health, social media and design, social media and privacy, social media and the DoD, social media and emergency communications, and so on and so on. Each of these individuals has become the “go-to” person for questions and needs in each of their respective areas. While that’s great for them and for the organization as a whole, it has also limited the amount of time they can dedicate to the things that I want us to accomplish as a group. They have to respond to their project managers, to their husbands and wives, to their teams and to me. There just isn’t as much time to go around to do all of the things that we want to do.

As these changes have taken place, I’ve found myself doing less of the work that I’ve wanted to do:

  • Blogging
  • Tweeting
  • Attending Gov 2.0 happy hours
  • Speaking at external events

And doing more of the things that my managers and my company want me to do:

  • Meeting with senior leaders throughout the firm to discuss strategy
  • Reviewing our various project team’s social media efforts and ensuring quality control
  • Participating in client meetings
  • Writing performance assessments

And of course, doing more of the things that my family wants me to do:

  • Turning off my computer until the kidlet goes to bed
  • Spending more time on the weekends with my wife and daughter
  • Making more trips to visit family and friends

As your career and your life evolve, your priorities and work have to change with it. It took me a while to really understand and accept this – I just can’t do everything that my boss, my family, and I want to do anymore. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all. That’s why before I sit through that fourth conference call of the day or drive downtown for that event, I’ll ask myself, “who I am working for right now?”

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Profile Photo Jeff Ribeira

Great post! All great questions to ask yourself when attempting any project or activity (personal or organizational). It’s all about establishing (and sticking to) priorities and personal values, and doing so early. It makes life so much easier and more enjoyable. This seemingly simple task then provides the context to everything you do thereafter, and not only answers the question of “who am I doing this for?” but “why?”

This post also reminded me of one of the more emotionally-charged, early episodes of the Simpsons entitled “And Maggie Makes Three.” In the episode, Homer’s boss (Mr. Burns) gives him a demoralizing plaque that reads “Don’t Forget: You’re Here Forever!” To which Homer modifies in a surprisingly insightful and touching way using pictures of his new youngest daughter (Maggie) to read “Do It For Her.”

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Profile Photo Shirley Richmond Goode

Very good insight, I agree with you.

I have bought a number of copies of the book “Juggling Elephants” (very short easy read) and given them to stressed out friends and co-workers. It is a parable about juggling the different parts of your life, but actually being present and enjoying the “circus ring” you are in.

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