Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Measure Your Mojo

How much Mojo do you have? How do you know if you have any at all? How can you measure your Mojo? Before you start measuring your Mojo, let’s focus on understanding what Mojo is—and isn’t—and what its absence looks like.
You know that definition of Mojo I tossed out so casually in the previous chapter? The one that said “Mojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside”? I didn’t come up with it blithely or quickly. It took me some time.
For a while I thought of Mojo as another word for momentum—merely a function of direction (how do I become who I want to be starting from where I am now?) - and speed (how quickly can I make that happen?).
But then I realized that this definition assumed that to have Mojo people had to striving to be different or better than they are now. Not true. There are plenty of people who demonstrate great Mojo and are not trying to change—they are finding happiness and meaning in their lives right now. How do we account for that? 
I also realized that there are people who by all external measures—money, respect, power, status—are “winning.” They are outpacing their peers and competition quite handily, thank you. And yet inside they derive little satisfaction or meaning from their job or achievements. I suspect that we all know someone like this: seemingly set for life on the outside yet dissatisfied on the inside. How do we account for that?
That’s when I realized that Mojo is not merely about the rush we feel when we’re on a winning streak. It’s not only about the direction we’re heading in, nor is it about the pace of change we’re creating around us. Mojo is an expression of the harmony—or lack of harmony—between what we feel inside about whatever we are doing and what we show on the outside.
That’s the thinking behind my operational definition of Mojo. I stress the phrase operational definition, which may not be familiar to you. It’s a concept I learned from my mentor Dr. Paul Hersey, one of the pioneers in the field of organizational behavior. When Dr. Hersey discussed broad terms such as “leadership” or “management” in his classes, he would always begin with an operational definition of each. Paul knew that such open-ended terms were ripe for semantic debate and that different people ascribed different meanings to them. Without clear, operational definitions, he might be talking about one thing while his students might be hearing something else. He made no claims that his definitions were better than anyone else’s. He merely noted that, for the purposes of his class, these definitions were what he meant. I was amazed at how much time and energy Dr. Hersey saved by never arguing about the “right” or “best” definition. That’s one reason Paul is such a great teacher: When he speaks, his students always know what he’s talking about.
So please imprint the following operational definition for Mojo in your mind.

that positive spirit
toward what we are doing
that starts from the inside
and radiates to the outside.

I’ve divided the sentence into parts, as if it were poetry, haiku, because each deserves some special attention.
Positive spirit is unambiguous. It’s a feeling of optimism and satisfaction. It conveys both happiness and meaning.
Toward what we are doing focuses us on the fact that we’re dealing with an activity or a task—as opposed to a state of mind or a situation. For example, when we assess our Mojo at work, we’re not assessing the size of our office, the proximity of our parking space, or the digits on our paycheck. Those are conditions, not actions. We’re assessing the various layers of our engagement in the job we are doing. We can assess Mojo at home as well as work in considering activities that involve our friends and family members.
Now’s meaning is obvious, though its importance cannot be overstated. When we are measuring our Mojo, we do so in the immediate present, not in the recent past or vague future. Our Mojo in the past is over because, for better or worse, we’ve changed since then. It’s like reading week-old news. Our future Mojo is impossible to measure because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a fantasy, still unreal. Happiness and meaning can’t be experienced next week, next month, or next year. They can only be experienced now. That’s why the most successful professionals are always “on” when they’re engaged in their craft. They’re not distracted or saving themselves for later. In their professions, it is always now for them. They love what they are doing when they are doing it. They are finding happiness and meaning in the present.
That starts from the inside is my reminder that measuring Mojo is an exercise in self-assessment. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers. No instructors handing out grades. Only you know what you’re feeling. Only you can score yourself. It also reflects a lesson I’ve learned from my executive coaching: Nobody every gets better because of me. I can provide help and point the way, but the improvement from my clients is self-generated; it has to come from inside them—not inside me. 
And radiates to the outside is my nod to the cause-and-effect dynamic between what we feel inside, how much of it we show, and how it is perceived by others. People who love what they’re doing but somehow never show it are doomed to be misunderstood. Their Mojo and their careers do not reach their full potential. Likewise, people who hate what they’re doing but manage to paint a convincing picture of positive spirit on the outside are phonies—and their inauthentic act usually catches up with them.
No single segment of this definition of Mojo is more important than the others. Remove one and the concept crumbles. But the unifying element is radiates to the outside. To everyone who has to deal with you, this is the part that makes all the difference.

Life is good.


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