In the new book The Right Fight: How Great Leaders Use Healthy Conflict to Drive Performance, Innovation, and Value, authors Saj-Nicole Joni and Damon Beyer state that contrary to popular belief, happy employees aren't necessarily the most driven or best employees, and that tension, channeled properly, can create breakthrough performance. Joni and Beyer cite a range of case studies from Campbell Soup, GE, Dove and Microsoft to demonstrate how a certain amount of struggle and stress energizes organizations and individuals.
Looking for a job, or even trying to keep one in this uncertain economy can also put a great deal of stress on individuals, but learning how to direct it in productive ways may actually improve your results.
Here are key principles from The Right Fight that you can apply to your own career advancement to help turn any stress and tension you're feeling into a winning outcome:
1. Focus on the future, not the past. One of the questions I get all the time from job seekers is how to answer the question "What do you do?" which always comes up in networking situations. I tell them not to get bogged down in the details of what happened but instead, be able to clearly articulate where they want to go from here. On the job as well, getting caught up in the blame game is just a waste of energy.
2. Pursue a noble purpose. Your most immediate career desire may be for a steady paycheck to pay your bills. While that goal is certainly important, it's not tremendously inspiring. I don't know anyone who jumps out of bed in the morning excited to pay bills, even when money isn't an issue. Challenging yourself to find a deeper purpose in your work will keep you motivated on a daily basis, and especially when the going gets tough.
3. Structure formally, but work informally. This is where relationships come in. Tapping into your contacts for ideas, feedback and information can help you solve problems more quickly, get answers and uncover new opportunities.
4. Turn pain into gain. Just as athletes improve their performance through intense training, investing time in your own personal development can make you a stronger player in the organization. Stretch your skills into new areas and acquire new knowledge to keep yourself relevant.