I like the idea of having a “secret mission.” I have gone so far as to develop one for myself. I bring this mission with me to work every day. Perhaps by sharing what I do, you might be encouraged to create your version, as I found I like having one. Plus, I think it makes me happier at work when I succeed with it.
As a kid, I found the word “secret” special. The idea of a secret identity, being a secret agent, and McDonald’s secret sauce all sounded more astonishing than they were. The main thing I learned was that secrets could be fantastic.
As a young adult, I became aware of “random acts of kindness” and “doing good without being found out.” Nice ideas. Positive. Also, secretive. I like that. Secrets can be good.
So then, what about Superman and Batman? The coolest superheroes ever both had secret identities. This whole “secret” business seemed hard-wired, maybe even archetypal.
So maybe, the proper secret mission could be fresh, pleasant, and archetypal. Perhaps I’m on to something in having a personal mission.
Some Modern Context
Simon Sinek talks about how leaders need to tap into their personal “whys” if they genuinely want to energize their teams. Leaders should know their most profound personal mission and bring that knowledge into work daily. Solid advice.
Having a precise “why” is where many typically dull actions, tasks, and other work-related duties can take on new importance. Moreover, a “why” that connects with a more profound personal mission can push you through when the going gets tough, inspiring others on the journey.
My Secret Mission
I try, every day, with all my interactions (work and otherwise), to focus on three very personally motivated behaviors.
- Pay extra attention. Try to notice things others don’t.
- Be encouraging. Let people know they are valued, appreciated, and capable of more than they realize.
- Be natural and occasionally fun to be around.
Actions like these are not company mandates. Some businesses might consider them a tad unproductive. Too bad. I mandate them because I want to. I have seen them make a difference. Remember, this is my secret mission.
We all remember, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” However, isn’t it the small stuff that matters most to people? With my secret mission, I try to sweat little details and notice them.
It’s great knowing someone has pets, but knowing the names of those pets? That makes you a Ninja. The same goes for work. People appreciate it when you see what they do and (to Sinek’s point) why they do it.
A keen eye, excellent listening skills, and an occasional question seasoned with a dash of Sherlock Holmes will get you to notice all sorts of details that matter to people. You need to start and work at it.
Who can’t use a little (or a lot) encouragement? Moreover, who can’t do more than they think? Answer: nearly all of us.
We’ve all heard the story of someone who felt discouraged and gave up regretting this decision later in life. It’s my secret mission to try to ensure that doesn’t happen. Plus, if I have my doubts, who am I to tell someone they can’t? Instead, I insist they can!
Some workplaces are not encouraging. Also, regrettably, some jobs suck. No Jedi mind trick will change it. That’s where a little appreciation goes a long way. So I make it my secret mission to give a little when possible.
“Thank you for coming to work today!” or, “It makes me happy to see you today!” or, “Wow, you’re talented!” take minimal effort to say but can make someone’s day. So, if it is that easy, why not tell them? I do. Trust me; you’ll be surprised by the reactions!
Some workplaces and people have no room for fun. I get it. The wiring of people and organizations is often unique. One brand of fun doesn’t work for everyone. However, is that a good enough reason not to have any?
No, it isn’t.
So, I make it my secret mission to find and create fun where I can, but in small doses. I agree that joy can be overdone.
Be Easy and Natural
Finally, this came late to me; being “easy to work with” is much better than being “hard to work with.” Duh, right?
However, being comfortable and at ease with yourself and others isn’t easy. It requires some skill at reading people, knowing yourself, maturity and patience when communicating and reacting, and perhaps most challenging, some humility.
So, if you’re trying to be the next Steve Jobs, running around with high expectations, severe judgment, and continually changing opinions, best be sure you are Steve Jobs. Otherwise, you’ll come across as an ass no one wants to work with who thinks they are a genius when they are not.
It makes me wonder; maybe Steve could’ve gotten even more done if his style had been more relaxed.
Doing excellent work is always job one. Any “secret mission,” no matter how elaborate, cannot compensate for poor performance. Performance should be your primary focus.
If you have that together, adding a “secret mission” might be a way to revitalize the workday for you and your coworkers. Perhaps you are the one who promotes exercise or reading more books. Maybe you are the champion of doing service work. I’ve seen all these “secret missions” from coworkers make a difference to folks over the years.
You can do it, so why not go for it? No telling where it may take you or your coworkers. Then maybe, when people look back at working with you, they’ll say, “Wow, what a great coworker!” Who wouldn’t like that?