How Senior Executives Stay Passionate About Their Work

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When we talk about “learning to love your job” or “managing yourself,” it’s often in the context of junior or midlevel roles. But these things don’t stop mattering for senior executives. What aspects of their jobs are most important to them? What do they find rewarding? How do they sustain their passion for the work they do — without burning out?

Over the past few years, I’ve had in-depth, one-on-one conversations with hundreds of top business leaders, and questions like these frequently come up. I’ve identified several common themes in our talks, which I’ll share here.

Impact on society. As I was doing research and analysis for my recent book, I found that one of the best ways organizations can create a sense of purpose for their employees is to help connect their day-to-day work with the impact it has in their community and globally. People at the top also need

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How Freelancers Can Make Sure They Get Paid on Time

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One of the most stressful things about being self-employed is managing your cash flow. This is especially difficult when clients don’t pay you on time. What can you do to make sure your invoices are handled promptly? And if a client is late, how should you address it, especially if you want to work with this company again? Is there ever a point at which you need to involve a lawyer?

What the Experts Say
When freelancing is your primary source of income, you have to be meticulous and organized about keeping your books, according to Jon Younger, the founder of the Agile Talent Collaborative, a nonprofit research organization and the coauthor of Agile Talent. “If you’re not disciplined and rigorous about getting paid, you will not succeed,” he says. “It is a critical aspect of your reputation.” And yet, even if you do everything right, clients can

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Good Leaders Are Good Learners

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Dave Wheeler for HBR

Although organizations spend more than $24 billion annually on leadership development, many leaders who have attended leadership programs struggle to implement what they’ve learned. It’s not because the programs are bad but because leadership is best learned from experience.

Still, simply being an experienced leader doesn’t elevate a person’s skills. Like most of us, leaders often go through their experiences somewhat mindlessly, accomplishing tasks but learning little about themselves and their impact.

Our research on leadership development shows that leaders who are in learning mode develop stronger leadership skills than their peers.

Building on Susan Ashford and Scott DeRue’s mindful engagement experiential learning cycle, we found that leaders who exhibit a growth mindset diligently work through each of the following three phases of the experiential learning cycle.

First, leaders set challenging learning goals in the form of “I need to learn how to…” For some leaders, the goal

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Case Study: When You’re Successful, Stretched Too Thin, and Indispensable

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Marion Barraud for HBR

Carla was killing off her leading man. And it felt good—but not perfect.

She drummed her fingers on the editing desk and squinted at the monitors in front of her as she scrolled through footage from the season finale of Dope, her production company’s long-running drama series about DEA agents.

“What’s wrong?” asked Melanie, who had directed the episode.

“In that last scene, we need quicker cuts between the fire at the lab and the flashbacks. And the song isn’t right. Viewers should be sad, yes, but mostly shocked. This is their hero dying—without any warning.”

Melanie

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How to Work with Someone Who’s Always Stressed Out

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We all know people who seem to be constantly stressed out — who claim to be buried in work, overloaded with projects, and without a minute to spare. Colleagues like that can be difficult to work with, but you probably don’t have a choice. How do you deal with coworkers who can’t handle stress? Should you address the issue directly? Or try other tactics to help them calm down and focus? And how can you protect yourself from their toxic emotions?

What the Experts Say
Stress is part of everyday life. “We all go through periods when we are dealing with a lot of stress,” says Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day. “Those periods might last 10 minutes, 10 days, or 10 months.” But for certain people, “stress is a habitual pattern.” These folks always “feel overwhelmed, constantly stretched, and always out of their depth.

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