In our work, we can sometimes find ourselves lost in the work.  We struggle to complete huge lists of tasks and we forget why we are doing some of these tasks.  Sometimes, we don’t even question if some tasks are hurting or helping our final goal.  We just need to get the work done.

As individuals (or an entire team) burn out from a grueling work pace, they may be asked to refocus on the goal.  That’s skipping a step.

I tend to focus first on this question, “What’s in it for you to be here doing this work?” (WIIFU = “What’s In It For You?”)

For those of you who have done some facilitation, this is the same type of question we use to design any meeting or event. A good facilitator will guide new participants in an event to ask “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) to be in this event.

Why don’t we ask this first when we start any kind of work?

Why not ask:

“What is your quest in being here?”
man walking on road towards mountain
Photo by Matthew Kalapuch on Unsplash

On one remote team I worked with, they had a good level of camaraderie. Yet, something was missing.  Work would occasionally linger on their task board.  In one of our more casual discussions, I asked openly what they liked about working remotely (WIIFU).  There were various answers about being able to have flexible time with their family, being able to exercise when they wanted to, or being able to play the music they liked to work to without disturbing others.

Then one of the team members, Tom, mentioned that he was an avid wind surfer.  Sometimes when conditions were right, he had to grab his gear and surf.  Tom also liked to sign up for work he knew he would enjoy and that he had deep expertise, but that meant some tasks got stuck on the board.

Two things happened after that.  Tom promised not to sign up for too much work in advance.  This freed up others to take on some tasks and sometimes collaborate with Tom who had that deep expertise.  Second, the team was fascinated by Tom’s wind surfing stories and asked if he had pictures.  Oh yes.  Tom had some great pictures and video.

This team ended up sharing more about how they spent their free time and how remote work enabled them to do this.  They even had a one-day-a-week virtual lunch where no work talk was allowed and they would discuss the latest things in their lives.  Pictures were often shared by Tom and others.

That team became much stronger by answering individually: “What is your quest — for remote work?”

Maybe you don’t feel you can ask that question openly in some teams you work with now.  That’s where I will meet with each team member one-on-one and ask questions such as:

  • What brought you here?
  • What do you enjoy about being with this team?
  • What’s in it for you to be here?

These are all variations of “What is your quest?”  It takes a little more time, but it’s time well invested.  If people want to learn more about specific types of work, I can then suggest people pair up.  If they seek more flexibility in their schedule, I may suggest making and adjusting an hours-of-overlap chart to make collaboration opportunities visible.  Then they start sharing more and make their own adjustments.

But they first have to answer the question: “What is your quest?”

Go well,


P.S. My friend Rowena Hennigan recently shared a great story about her quest for remote work. There are many reasons people work remote.  Be curious and ask.

P.P.S., There is an old Monty Python comedy skit where a mysterious gatekeeper asks three questions before the travelers can pass on.  Moral of the story, answer the questions carefully.  For a laugh and a bad coaching example, see Holy Grail - 3 questions.  Yes, it is the inspiration for the title.