What Were You Doing On Your Best Day? Do More of That.

posted by WMC

Desk Workstation Keyboard

When I am coaching, the conversation usually starts with a simple question: tell me about the best day you ever had at work. Everyone has had a “best day.” It is one of those days when you feel like you are in control: you understand the goal, have the skills you need and you like to do this kind of work.

In one instance, I asked this of a project manager who was getting incredibly stressed about project schedule, deliverables and timelines. When I asked her to tell me about her best day at work, she talked about a time when she had an important meeting coming up with the senior executive team and she had to work on the PowerPoint presentation the day before in preparation. I asked what made this day great. She talked about the fact that she was in control: she had all the information she needed and knew the story she wanted to tell. Her task was to craft the message in the most informative and compelling manner, and she got to work heads down at her desk for most of the day with no one bothering her. When I asked her how typical this day was in the life of a project manager, the penny dropped. This project manager did not really like the constantly changing dynamics of project management. This was an important insight and led to her career change from project management into a communications management role that focused on critical analysis, crafting messages and influencing others.

Another time, I asked a director of operations to describe his “best day.” His best day was one where he was working with his team on defining key measurements and outcomes. When I asked him what made this day great, he talked about how he brought all his managers together and worked collaboratively to define the key metrics they needed to focus on to be successful. He talked about the teamwork, the collaboration and the trust amongst the team; and most importantly how excited he was to be able to provoke, inspire and lead the conversation. Then, we talked about how he could leverage this passion for team building and facilitation. This insight drove him to seek out opportunities to support large cross-functional initiatives within the company that would soon propel his career into leading enterprise change management programs.

Everyone that I have helped steer their career by asking about their “best day”, already had the power within themselves to identify what they really loved to do most. They just didn’t give themselves the time or permission to ask this question of themselves. If we take the time to reflect on our best days and identify what we were doing that made these days great – more productive, fun and engaging – we can all identify our core strength. Then we can start to focus our career on roles that leverage this core strength.

What was your best day? What were you doing that day? Now go do more of that!


Post script: I have asked myself this question too. I have had a diverse career which has included working as an operations and IT executive in a Fortune 100 financial services organization, working as a management consultant in big and small firms and teaching at both the high school and college level. In all of these roles, my “best days” always involved helping others solve problems and learn how to do something new. This is the common thread in my career.  By understanding what I do on my “best days,” I can make sure I do more of those activities. I have been able to weave this aspect of work into all of my roles. I have had a happy life at work…doing, for the most part, things that I really like to do and am good at.


Nancy Icely – WMC Toronto

Click here to see Nancy’s article on LinkedIn.

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.