I recently attended a session at the AHEA conference in Chicago that was led by my colleagues Morry Fiddler and Catherine Marienau of the School for New Learning at DePaul University. The session was titled “??!!(Work)??” — so the title alone captured my interest.
The workshop itself was a nice opportunity for conference attendees to stop and reflect on our lives. We usually spend most of the conference talking about our institutions’ lives and our students’ lives, and rarely do we have occasion at the conference to stop and think about ourselves as personal/professional beings. Needless to say, this was a treat.
The workshop centered around the themes of a book by Howard Gardner and associates called GoodWork: When Excellence and Ethics Meet. I’ve not read the book yet, but I am eagerly awaiting the copy I ordered less than 1 hour after the workshop. According to Morry and Catherine, GoodWork highlights three qualities of work that is “good” (this is their high level summary):
- Excellence – doing things excellently
- Personally satisfying
- Of value to or good for others
I have since found myself giving a lot of thought to these qualities and thinking about the final question that Morrie and Catherine posed for us:
What story do we want to be able to tell about our work going forward?
By reflecting on where we have been professionally in respect to these 3 qualities, and thinking about where we are now, attempting to answer this question can help us identify what changes we might want to initiate for and in the future.
I am not sure if these three qualities need be present all at once or even in balance — it’s probably different for everyone — but let me encourage you to give them some thought as well:
- Are you most satisfied with your work when it is done with excellence; when it’s personally satisfying; when it’s of value to others?
- Do these qualities resonate with your version of “good work?”
- Do all of them need to be present at the same time?
- Do they need to be balanced?
If you are interested in learning more about these qualities or the work of Gardner and associates, you can explore the GoodWork Project website.