Does Your Work Matter? Yes, and Here's Why.

Steadman Harrison is a CEO.

He’s worked closely with companies and organizations all over the world. If you asked him what he does, he’d simply say, as he did to a group of local Ugandans in 2005: “I teach leadership development skills.” 

At which point just about everyone perks up and responds, “Come to our business?”

To which the Ugandans added: “Come teach our youth?”

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Steadman’s work has shown him two truths about workplaces everywhere:  

  1. People want to learn how to lead, or want to be led by good leaders. 

  2. Leadership development is about a whole lot more than the workplace.

If you’re a leader in a company or organization, or a parent, or an active member of a community, this post is about your work. 

It’s about how the reach of what you do every day is far greater than you ever thought possible.  

And it’s about Steadman, who we love working with, who has given us a glimpse of what ‘possible’ can look like. (Think big: It’s global.)


Forget everything about work as you know it.  

Steadman could have coined a leadership development strategy, cemented the presentation, and called it “mission accomplished” years ago.

That’s not what he did.

Steadman is ‘a subscriber’ to the narrative mindset we talk about here on the blog. He believes that the stories we tell ourselves about our work are powerful

In fact, Steadman actually wrote a mantra for his work story: “from - here - towards.” In other words, he sees his work as something that’s evolving and changing, as opposed to saying, “Okay, now I’ve arrived.” 

When we talked with Steadman, he mentioned the importance of perspective shifts. He said that he actually seeks out the experiences that will cause a shift in his perspective. Why?

  • When your perspective shifts, you get an even bigger picture. 

  • The bigger the picture, the more you understand your context.

  • The more you understand your context, the bigger your story gets. 

  • The bigger your story, the more important your part.

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That last line may sound a little bit like a paradox. But remember cumulative toll? When you know that your work contributes to a larger story, you know that your every interaction impacts that end. 

Every interaction has an impact, every day. When you know this, your work takes on a new, powerful meaning.

So yes, your work matters.

And the more you can shift your perspective to see your work in a new light—conflicts and pain points, included—the more you’ll be able to maximize its impact.


Here’s a perspective shift for you.

The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, according to Business Insider

Think of all the interactions that take place during those 90,000 hours. (For parenting, it’s a whole lot more.)

What’s the cumulative toll of 90,000 hours of work? 

On your mindset? On your relationships? On your energy level?

On your decision-making? On how you value and treat others? 

At ⅓ the total makeup of your lifetime, your work is changing you. 

And after work? You go home, or go to dinner, or take your kids to practice, or make a phone call...Naturally, by extension, your work impacts your family and your local community.

Not only is your work changing you, but how it changes you matters. 

What indirect impact is your work having?

When you express gratitude for a coworker, and they feel appreciated, they take that appreciation home. Your expression of gratitude indirectly impacts your coworker’s family, roommate, neighborhood, community groups, and everything else within their sphere of influence.

This is not an exaggeration. 

The positive impact you’re having on your workplace is having a positive societal impact. Of course, the reverse is also true: Negative impact in the workplace translates to negative societal impact. 

The better we develop leaders in our workplace, the greater our communities will be. This is the power (and the urgency) of workplace leadership development. 

So think about it: What impact are you having on your people?

What direct impact could you (and your team) be having?

Steadman’s company GOinnovation was just hired by the EU-funded European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) to help navigate conflict in Ethiopia

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“In the midst of uncertainty, leadership development offers hope.” —Steadman Harrison

During a leadership development exercise with more than 50 representatives from the Civil Society Organizations that represent more than a million constituents across Ethiopia, one participant said, 

‘If we could have our nation do this exercise together, we could achieve peace and unity.” 

There are people like Steadman who are looking to directly impact communities—who take their tools (leadership development, mentorship) and teach them on a community level.

If you’re a leader in any capacity, the call to action is to consider:

How can you take the positive at work and translate it into community engagement?

And if you and your team (your coworkers, your community group, your family) were to take on that question together—with your combined resources and creativity—how big do you think your story could get?


—Steve

If you’re interested in leadership development resources, be sure to visit GOInnovation’s website and follow Steadman’s work on instagram: @talk2steadman.

And as always, reach out to me through my contact page. We can chat about how to Get Started.


Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at admin@cstevebeck.com.

Culture Killers Series: What Makes a Workplace?

What is Culture?

Culture is everything.

It’s the color of the walls. It’s the PTO policy. It’s the morale about last month’s report. It’s the quality of watercooler interactions. And the quality of the boss’s tone at a big meeting.

Culture is anything that impacts your experience of a particular place.

The workplace is where we spend the majority of our waking hours. We’re steeped in that culture all day long. Think about your work culture for a moment…

Physical environment: What’s the aesthetic? Is it clean and fresh? Is there a cohesiveness to internal signage and communications? (Don’t think fancy—think about the raw materials you have to work with daily.)   

Organizational structure: What about policies, procedures, and workflow? Are they clear? What mindset and behaviors do they encourage?

Sense (or absence) of success: Are you achieving your mission together? Do you feel personally effective?

Quality of interactions: How is conflict typically handled? Do people feel appreciated? Is communication open? What’s the sum total emotion you feel about all those small workplace interactions?

That’s your workplace culture—what it’s made of.


At this point, a lot of people feel powerless. You’re not in charge of office decor. You didn’t make the policies or run the meeting. Leaders have this power, and good leaders will pour their energy into enhancing culture across the board. But just because you aren’t in charge, doesn’t mean you aren’t impacting the culture.

If the color of the paint on the walls is shaping the daily experience of the workplace, then you can bet that you are, too—whether or not you’re trying.

Here’s my argument for trying.

Here’s why I believe in making the conscious effort to impact your workplace culture, wherever and whoever you are. You matter to your culture, and here’s why your workplace culture might matter to you:


Your job satisfaction depends on it.

How you feel about yourself at work is a crucial factor in your job satisfaction. The quality of your experience—not just as a worker, but as a human being—depends on the quality of your workplace culture.


Good culture fuels success.

We all want to be part of a success story, and the success of a business depends on the sum of our individual efforts. A good work culture—where you feel appreciated, where communication is open and honest—motivates you to do and be your best, which is always good for business.


You are a whole person.

A compassionate work culture doesn’t see each employee as having a split life between work and home. Good work cultures care about whole people. They recognize that work life impacts home life (arguably more than vice-versa). When you have positive experiences at work, those will positively impact your home life. When you make a positive impact on your coworkers, you impact their lives, too.


Here’s what that kind of healthy work culture feels like:

It’s where you feel you belong. Where the work is meaningful, so that you look forward to waking up. It’s where you and your coworkers value one another. Where a sense of connection is alive—not because there aren’t any problems—but because every single thing (from the fresh coat of paint to your boss’s words of recognition) tells this core cultural truth: That every person matters.


—Steve

Note:

If you’re in a tough workplace culture, where you feel isolated or discouraged, find one person to connect with daily. Instead of fueling unhappiness by ‘venting’ or gossiping, do this: Empathize with difficulty, then brainstorm and dream about how to work together to do something positive within your sphere of influence.

Or: Consider a change. Find someone outside of work who can offer that outside perspective, who knows your value and can help you think about other opportunities.


Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at admin@cstevebeck.com.