Carrie Bedingfield

purpose-led business


The search for meaning in an ‘ordinary job’


Here’s what I took from Doug Kessler’s talk – and my build. Doug is here> @dougkessler

DK_stencil-262x272“My work is meaningless!” – overhead on the underground.

Doug Kessler describes himself as a B2B marketer. B2B marketing is often a case of finding fresh ways to market important but dry technology in a very crowded space, fishing from the same stock of words and imagery. From my own experience, the people can be interesting but the technology is often grey. Of course the challenge is to make is considerably less grey…

Doug may be attending the Supply Chain conference 2016 (which I can confirm is quite dull) but by his own omission, this is a role of privilege in which meaningful clients can be selected. His company, Velocity, may not be working to eradicate poverty, but there is meaning to be found.

Doug says: “I love my work and I always have done” and that others may judge this: “How dare I love my totally meaningless work?!”

This type of ‘ordinary job’ is hardly the same as packing boxes of Tropicana at PepsiCo or picking up dogs**t in council-managed parks. Does that mean Doug’s got nothing for people with a different life scenario? For example those who work in manual, repetitive jobs for the minimum wage with relatively little sense of choice in their life in general who are experiencing a lack of meaning?

No. But we need to hack what he shares to open up the insight for a wider audience.

Doug highlights correctly that work can feel:

  • embarrassing
  • beneath me
  • unimportant
  • not what I want to do

Many, many people at all levels of all kinds of organisations feel disconnected from their role. For these reasons and for lots of others.

He offers his list of what makes work meaningful for him. My challenge for all of us is to develop our own list of sources of meaning. If we’re in a position of choice or influence in an organisation, we have a responsibility to help others seek out and find meaning. We all have a full set of choices – I know this – but ot everyone has the privilege of feeling they have choice at work.

Doug’s list

  1. I love helping good companies grow. Building a company is a worthy thing to do and a GOOD company really does matter. So helping a good company grow feels like it matters. For example Salesforce gives away 1% of its profit and time – that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. That feels like it’s a company worth supporting.
  1. I like helping clients succeed in their career
    Who has stuck their neck on the line for me? And how can I reward someone who has put their faith in me?
  1. I like working alongside people who are interesting people at the top of their game.
  1. I love learning new things.

Not everyone is in a role where they are learning all the time, working directly with customers they like and respect alongside people who are at the top of their game. They may not want to.

The question is … what is your source of meaning?

Hear are some sources of meaning I’ve heard along my travels at Onefish Twofish:

  • Taking home a regular wage that supports our family
  • Community and friendship
  • Pleasurable routine and stability
  • Doing a task extremely well
  • Sense of satisfaction of completing what you started
  • Making improvements in your area of influence
  • Helping someone new find their feet
  • Teaching other people in a team what you know
  • Supporting someone who is having a hard time at home and for whom work is an escape
  • Feeling of experience and mastery
  • Feeling part of an organisation that treats people as humans

So what should and organisation do to help people find meaning? Big question I don’t have the answer to yet but my instinct is to understand what their real people really say is a source of meaning for them. Don’t guess or assume. Discover, and in doing so, develop some empathy.

Three ways to humanise your communication at work (and save time)

helen_gamevyThree things I learnt this morning at Spark The Change conference from @helenislovely about how real people at Places for People humanise their communication. Communication actually doesn’t need to be efficient as much as it needs to be effective. Try these:

1. Read your emails aloud

Does it sound like a human? No? Ok, rewrite it. Read it again.

2. Shoot the messenger (which is probably you)

Trying to communicate a message about what matters to someone or a group of people? Video the person that it matters to explaining why it matters to them, or what it’s like when it isn’t right. Share it with the people who need to hear this message. Stand back and let them interpret the message and self-organise to respond to it.

3. Don’t email, speak

However beautifully you craft your email, it probably takes an hour and it may only go to 12 people. Here’s an idea. Call them and tell them yourself. My tip – leave a whatsapp message to convey your tone in 60 seconds (the part that takes the whole hour to convey in an email). Talk more, email less. Use your voice, use your ears, use tone.

How I’m leaving email behind (Part 3)

I’ve already share why I’m giving up email and what that is all about. Here’s how I’m doing it.

Over the four weeks since (inspired by Lou Shackleton and her email sabbatical in January and Jack Hubbard’s #OfficeNotRequired campaign), I decided to put email aside as my main comms tool, I’ve been working on the how.

The how has led me to conclude that:

  • Never ever using email is inconvenient. For me, for others. It’s an over reaction.
  • Email is the most convenient way to share or receive one-off small documents or written details with someone you don’t collaborate with in a system like slack. So let’s keep using it for that. (“Can you tweet me those flight details?” “Um, no.”)
  • But that’s all I want to use it for
  • Oh, and for system registrations/booking confirmations etc. I don’t think Cineworld will personally whatsapp me my receipts just yet.

So how am I managing it?

Firstly, I’m communicating with my friends and colleagues that:

  • I’m no longer using email as my primary tool
  • I will fish important emails out of my inbox a few times a week
  • Whatsapp, slack and the plain old brick phone (hello…? HELLO! I’m on my PHONE!!) are the best ways to contact me
  • We can c0-contribute to communities that we share via slack and Facebook and possibly even Linkedin – let’s take our 1:1 conversation wider.
  • If you ever completely stuck, you can find me on Linkedin and message me there. I’m not going off grid, just off email.

And how have I set up my world?

  • Auto responder on all my email accounts saying roughly ^^
  • Signature messages on whatsapp, linkedin etc explaining that I don’t use email as my primary tool
  • Keep Mail closed apart from a quick check every couple of days
  • Get used to ignoring stuff. If it’s important, they’ll find a way to get me to do it.

That’s it 🙂

What will leaving email behind be about? (part 2)

February 6th. Twenty three days to go until I give up email (find out why I’m giving up email). What is going on right now as I get ready for it?

First – my fears:

  • It will frustrate and create work for people I care about
  • I will slip back into it
  • I’ll miss something important

Second – my motivations:

  • Spend the day in the stuff I’m working on, not the stuff people want me to work on
  • Reduce context switching and the barcode day
  • Spend more time ‘in the tribe’ and less time outside of it (thanks Jack Hubbard)
  • Reduce anxiety and checky-checky
  • Have more conversations
  • Save the earth’s precious resources (those bytes don’t grow on trees you know. Oh hang on…..)

Third – what I’m reading:

Why I’m leaving email behind from March 1st 2016 (Part 1)

I just said it, now I have to do it. I plan to reduce email down to <1% of my time/energy from March.

Email isn’t good or bad. It just is. It’s a channel.

For me, it’s not actually a huge frustrating beast. I don’t loathe it. In fact I quite like it – I can ping stuff off to people and then tick if off my to do list. Very satisfying.

But it’s not where the work is (thank you Lou Shackleton). In fact the 5 projects I work on right now are all communicating on Slack, FB and Whatsapp. Which means that what drops into my inbox is:

a) new stuff

b) often unsolicited

c) not directly with what I have committed to do with my time and energy

But because of my generation (not digital native, but have used email all my working life), I live in Mail. It’s the first and main thing that’s always open on my screen. I respond to incoming emails like a I am paid to lovingly answer each one individually and I get far more than I can respond to. It’s like 150 people a day have given me a little task to do that I haven’t asked for or said I’ll do. If I don’t, I’m unresponsive, inefficient or a bit rude. My judgment – not Actual Fact.

I have already put in place an explainer on my email signatures about how I manage email. But actually, it’s not enough.

So from 1st March, I’m moving out of email almost entirely. I will have a permanent out of office and will be asking people to call me or whatsapp me with anything urgent. I will scan handpick out emails that I do want – perhaps 2 or 3 times a week. But only in the same way I scan my junk folder now for false negatives. From 1st March, my whole inbox will be the junk folder.


Why entrepreneurs should definitely stare at strawberries

Starting and growing a business is one of the most turbulent, high pressure things you can do in your life.

Sensing pressure, the brain reduces the blood flow to the logical data processing part of our brain – the part that pays attention to what IS. It short circuits us to the part of the brain that reacts FAST – “the reptile”.

As entrepreneurs facing pressure all the time, this is a problem.

It dramatically reduces our ability to a) make good decisions and b) enjoy the experience of running our business.

Across the board, there is one thing that brings the brain back to its logical processing. That’s ‘attention’. Or mindfulness.

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer (1989) reported “a mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics” – and we should be very interested in these, as entrepreneurs. They are:

  • the continuous creation of new categories
  • openness to new information 
  • and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective 

Some people find mindfulness easy. Most people don’t. It’s a muscle that takes practice to strengthen. But it’s something some successful and happy entrepreneurs have told me they do every single day for their whole lives. They live under pressure. So they find ways to avoid what that does to their brains.

The easiest route in is to pay attention to something tangible for longer than you normally would.

One way which I use with entrepreneurs I work with is to have a little adventure with a strawberry. The strawberry is one of the most beautiful, intricate, exquisite things you can buy in a supermarket. It’s entirely natural. It’s the perfect Minimum Viable Strawberry. No engineers created it. No one coded it. It has a majestic architecture when you look closely, complete with taste, texture, smell, feel, nutrition, aesthetics.

We look at it for 10 minutes (those that want to – no one has to). I start the clock and instantly wonder whether I am going to be able to last the duration myself. *Flight!*

I once bravely did this with a slightly unwilling group – the whole ten minutes. I later realised from her blog, that one of the entrepreneurs had spent 50 hours staring at something similar. Wowzers, I thought.

The 10-minute-let’s-stare-at-a-strawberry thing sends blood through relatively unused neural pathways in your brain. Do it tomorrow and the next day…  and those pathways will become highways. Your brain learn to pay attention and use its logical processing over its fight or flight response.

End result? Better decisions. Enjoy running your business more.

How I manage email

I get lots more emails than I can answer and I hate not answering email (how rude!). So here’s what I do…

  • I answer emails twice a day – one Pomodoro in the morning and one in the afternoon
  • I prioritise the most urgent first and leave the ones I don’t get to
  • I accept that some will go unanswered and that might be a problem
  • Then I delete anything I haven’t got to 10 days after I’ve received it
  • I trust that people will tell me if their thing needs to go up the priority list.