There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I was in a bit of a career rut. While I loved the company I worked (and still currently work) for, there was something tugging at me about the human resources industry. I’ve been doing this thing for over twenty years and it was starting to wear on me. I had the good fortune to be able to work with an executive coach through a leadership program in my organization. After a lot of work on evaluating what I valued most and where I got the most energy, we figured out a way for me to bring a little life back into my daily work. I came up with a plan I like to call my “Pancake Purpose.”
Through the coaching sessions, we explored many avenues and even going so far as to determine if my current role and company were the right fit for me. I truly enjoy my current company and value my co-workers and am grateful for the type of work I get to do on a daily basis, but there was something that was holding me back. My coach knew I was a runner so she used this metaphor when she asked me, “Are you running from something or running to something?” By thinking about a new environment, would I be running away from a problem or situation or was I running to a new opportunity? If it was a new HR role at a different company, the same issues and problems would still be there in a different environment. I had to find a way to solve my current problems.
As all great coaches do, she continued to ask questions and listen. She followed up with an inquiry about what truly makes me happy. Jokingly, I blurted out, “pancakes!” We laughed and she asked me to say more. So I went on and on about how Huddy’s Hotcakes came to be. I talked about the Instagram account, this blog, and about the times I’m truly in my element when creating pancake magic.
She stopped and made an observation. She said in the 3 minutes of describing pancakes, my mood, voice, and tone all changed. She described an energy and passion that she had not heard before when talking about my career. And then she challenged me to find a way to weave pancakes into my work. That was a challenge I was willing to accept.
Within a week of that conversation, I accepted a couple of conference speaking engagements with the topic of “Pancakes and Performance Management.” I set up a pancake breakfast in one of my regional offices as a way to get to know the employees. That lead to a pancake breakfast in my Chicago office. These were a hit and nothing brings a smile to someone’s face like a stack of buttermilk pancakes.
I’ve found that this simple act of making pancakes has opened up conversations and connections I would have never made over a cup of coffee. People share stories of their own pancake experiences, whether from their childhood or creating their own for others. We share recipes and ideas and crazy pancake concoctions. I’ve learned about their backgrounds, what they currently do, and where they want to go. It has been a great way for me to break the ice with employees and move past some of the typical HR stigmas that go with the role. I’m not just the HR guy anymore. I’m the pancake guy who does HR.
If you find yourself in a career rut, sometimes you don’t have to look too far to dig yourself out. Sure you can follow the billionaire self-help dudes or find your purpose in a deep meditation. Those are great avenues of exploration. You can also ask yourself a few simple questions about what makes you happy and what you enjoy. If you can find a way to incorporate a little bit of that into your day job, you’ll be well on your way to finding your own pancake purpose.