With the talk coming out this week, my hope is that the idea of your “Saturday-self” will become a more common idea that people talk about and think about. The concept is presented in terms of days of the week. But, for me, it was a discovery process that took several years to figure out. The origins of the idea came from 2008, when the financial crisis gave me an opportunity to gracefully leave Bank of America and spend some time thinking about who I was and how I wanted to contribute in my professional life.
I was in my mid-thirties… and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have anyone telling me what I was supposed to be good at. There were no promotions to chase, no assignments from managers, and no deal-oriented work to stay late and finish. It was a chance to really dig deep and think about what types of problems were the most interesting to me – and types of work would be fulfilling to me in the long run.
Over the next three years, I got to explore a number of projects in technology, non-profit, and community involvement. During this time, I also went to business school — which, in the wise words of Ryan Kasprzak, is “the most socially acceptable way to be unemployed.”
For me, that time away from corporate America was extremely refreshing. It helped me discover the difference between leadership and management. It helped me understand the mechanics that lead to people not being able to bring more of themselves to work. I constantly asked my classmates, “If so many executive leaders have been exposed to all of the same ideas that we are learning in school, then why does working still suck for so many people?”
Well, after more investigation, the answer became clear. In fact, the people who went to business school in the decades before us, were exposed to different kinds of ideas. They were asked to prioritize quality, profitability, and growth. The idea of “empathy” as a management technique was not something commonly taught in years past. But I truly believe that we are in the early years of a broad movement that says that the companies who empathize the best will win. Whoever understands what customers and employees really want will win the battle for both over the next few decades. When you look at how customers flock to Apple and Amazon, while employees flock to Google and Facebook – it should be obvious that this movement is well underway.
My hope is that in the next evolution of empathetic management is one that is focused on enabling people to bring more of themselves to work. As Harry Davis says, “finding professional happiness is about finding environments where you don’t have to leave too much of yourself in the trunk of your car.” We all have hobbies in our free time. We are researchers, shoppers, craft makers, carpenters, artists, and bakers. Each of these personal passions have economic value (because some people do them professionally). It’s incumbent on us to find more pathways to take these talents to our day-to-day work and make our core work better… even if it seems miles away. Because if we can bring the talents we use on Saturday into the office on Monday – the work and our human spirit will be so much stronger for it.