4. There’s a Reason They Call it “Work”

Most of us expect something more from our work than a paycheck. We look for fulfillment, growth, maybe an impact on the world.

But our employers are businesses with revenue goals, stakeholders, and responsibilities. Organizations hire people to help achieve those goals — not just to give them growth opportunities. Only one type of organization exists for that second purpose: a school. And you don’t get paid to go to school.

If you’re thinking, “Dave, I don’t get this rant. You’re describing the basic tenets of the employer-employee relationship; of course you have to work in service of employer goals,” then you haven’t been in an organization where people refuse to work on tasks that don’t excite them. You’ve not had the pleasure of asking someone to do something and then, a week later, hearing, “Oh…yeah…I decided not to do that.” You’ve never asked about a timeline and been met with confusion or hostility, simply for asking the question.

If instead you’re thinking, “But what about servant leadership? Shouldn’t leaders enable employees to be their best selves?” You’re absolutely right. Great managers are servant leaders: They understand the strengths, goals, and needs of their teams and work to enable and unblock them — in service of company goals. It’s a two-way street: leaders synthesize goals and work with employees to translate them into projects. Employees take projects and run with them. In exchange, leaders help employees grow in the course of tackling those projects, and ensure their voices are heard in determining the goals in the first place.

But not every project is fun, not every goal will be the one you wanted, and not every moment is a growth opportunity. That’s not a philosophy; it’s just the cost of doing business. And no employee is an island: effective teamwork means overhead, coordination, and sacrifice. I think some of us have forgotten these things.

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