Are you having fun? That’s the question that once stopped me dead in my tracks. I was an earnest first-year associate at the time and the person asking the question was a very senior lawyer. Given current economic conditions, you may be tempted to say that a question like that should be reserved for a bull market. However, that senior lawyer thought the question was important enough that he raised the issue during a significant economic downturn.
I’ve never forgotten that lawyer and I’ve never forgotten his question. Consequently, I was interested to read today “How to Make Knowledge Work Fun” by Larry Stybel. In it he describes the four modes of being of knowledge workers:
- Insanity: If you are serving people you don’t like to be with and are not getting paid, that is insanity.
- Give-Back: If you are serving people you enjoy being with but are not getting paid, that is give-back.
- Work: If you are serving people you don’t like to be with but are getting paid, that is work.
- Fun: If you are serving people you enjoy being with and are getting paid, that is fun.
The key to having a great professional life is to stop merely working and start operating in the Fun Mode. To do this, Larry Stybel recommends the following steps:
- First, find people you enjoy serving. This means finding people whose values you share, people you like to spend time with.
- Next, find problems you enjoy solving. Find out what those people need and which of those needs you want to address.
- Third, position yourself. Assess your skills and experience. Do you have what it takes to meet those needs? If not, what additional training or experience do you need to be the solution for your preferred clients?
One challenge for law firm knowledge management is that far too often we are serving people we don’t know terribly well. Our lives may intersect briefly from time to time, but we don’t always have relationships with our internal clients. As a result, we lack the luxury of time to discover that we enjoy being with them. In addition, I have on occasion been at meetings of knowledge managers where the conversation has taken on a faint whiff of “us versus them” or “the knowledge management staff versus the lawyers.” Alternatively, I’ve heard vaguely condescending remarks about “the lawyers” and “how little they understand” about KM (and, possibly, about life). If you feel strongly about this, perhaps you’re working in the wrong industry.
If you are in the right industry, are you working on the right set of problems? (Or as a friend once remarked: right church, wrong pew.) If the needs of your constituency are not ones you’re interested in serving, something has to change. Odds are, it will have to be you.
If you are in the right industry and working on the right set of problems, do you have the wherewithal to provide a solution? If this isn’t within the realm of possibility for you given some elbow grease or training, you’re going to have to find another place where you can have a positive impact. Otherwise, I guarantee you won’t be having any fun at work.
Striving for fun at work may seem frivolous in these difficult economic times. However, life is too short and the work day too long not to try to have fun at work.
[Photo Credit: alobos online]