Follow Your Contribution
How do you move from self-focus to other-focus?
“The key is to invest more time where your talents will yield the greatest return for others.” -Tom Rath
Often, after I record a podcast, I return to it and think about what I discussed with my guest. It’s such a privilege to talk with so many great leaders, writers and thinkers who have so many great things to teach us. This week’s guest, Tom Rath, is no exception. And our discussion about his new book, Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to the World was really special. And in reviewing it, I was struck again not just by how smart he is, but how kind. His basic premise—thinking about your work in terms of what you can contribute—is such a great way of thinking about an outward-focused life and servant-focused commitment to leadership.
“How can I take the job I have and make it into a job I love and that serves others?” -Tom Rath
But he said something else that, upon reflection, I realized was a great metaphor for living an outward-focused life. We talked a bit about the importance of creating an environment that encourages good choices. For example, not leaving plates of unhealthy snacks on the kitchen counter. If they’re there… we’ll just eat them. Similarly, if you leave an exciting novel on your bedside table, you’ll be tempted to read one more chapter and you may not get enough sleep. However, if you build a “personal environment” that encourages good habits, you’ll be more likely to make healthier choices.
What occurred to me is that the people we impact at work are a part of our environment, too. When we focus on ourselves, we actually create a “personnel environment” that encourages bad habits. We don’t set up our colleagues and teams for success, and therefore we aren’t set up for success. This is what Tom means by focusing on contributions over passion. His new book has a lot of good advice on this topic, and when you buy it, you can also register for the Contribufy tool, a 20 minute exercise that helps you identify areas where you have the most potential for contribution. It’s a great, new way of thinking about how to center what you do externally and create an environment that will help you, ultimately, find more value in your work and your life.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Listen to Aim Higher by clicking here.
Tom Rath is an author and researcher focused on how work can improve human well-being. His many books including How Full Is Your Bucket? and StrengthsFinder2.0, have sold millions of copies and regularly top bestseller lists. During his years at Gallup, Tom led the organization’s strengths, employee engagement, wellbeing, and leadership consulting worldwide. He also served as Vice-Chair of the VHL cancer research organization and has been a regular lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Tom co-founded a publishing company. Tom holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Ashley, and their two children.
“Every hour invested in the growth of one of your closest relationships will just grow and grow and grow.” -Tom Rath
“Great work is forged with effort, it doesn’t just fall from the heavens.” -Tom Rath
For more information, see Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to the World.
Image credit: Evan Dennis.