One of the fascinating parts of my job is that I sometimes get to listen to the story of someone’s career from start to finish. I have them begin with being a little kid in school, and talk about what they studied, how school was for them, what beliefs their family had about work and accomplishment, and every job they’ve held leading up to present day.  I get to find out what they loved most, what grated on them horribly, and what their patterns are around work, colleagues, partners, and so on.

I find  that *everyone* has an career story arc with common elements that form a discernable pattern. Even people who have held wildly different jobs during their career have striking commonalities, especially in the positions or situations that they loved most. They’ll often describe one or more positions during which they were able to create “flow“. When they describe these situations, their eyes light up and you can feel the excitement and love for the work they were doing.

As each person matures in their abilities and skills, the situations that create flow change: what was challenging and energizing 10 years ago becomes rote, or at least has to be approached in a different way. A great manager will be looking to understand what each person loves most, and to create that flow experience for their staff as often as possible by matching the right assignments with the right people. When you can do that as a manager, you have people practically clawing their way into the office every morning. Flow is addictive!