A wag once quipped, “No man goes before his time—unless the boss leaves early.”
Another said, “I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and look at it for hours.”
I recently spoke with a man who ran a business that trains managers to use their time and energy more efficiently. He told me that a lot of his trainees don’t implement the processes he gives them, even though those practices are proven to yield better and more productive work.
I asked him why not.
“It’s amazing to me,” he replied, shaking his head, “the lack of discipline. Just amazing! But then, that’s probably just the symptom. Probably at the heart of it is most people aren’t doing what they love.”
Hmmmm. . .
I’ve long claimed that job misfit—doing a job one is not born to do and therefore doesn’t love to do—is a widespread problem. My visitor was only confirming that hypothesis.
“I’ve done a lot of business with hospitals,” he went on. “Done a lot of business with universities. Done a lot with state government-kinds of stuff. And, you know, just a lot of people are not really where they should be.”
Experts—But In What?
I pointed out that when a person is not working in their sweet spot, distractions come rather easily.
“Oh, yeah!” my friend agreed. “Yeah, in fact, you become almost an expert in not doing things that you really know are important to do.”
In other words, you become an expert in mediocrity. Wow!
That mirrors the Gallup statistics I gave in an earlier post, which show that 70 percent of American workers are not “engaged” with their work. That is, their hearts aren’t in their work. For 58 percent it’s just a job. And another 18 percent actually hate their work.
Meanwhile, companies nationwide spend countless sums trying to cut costs, eliminate waste, introduce economies of scale, and boost productivity. But such efforts hardly matter if 70 percent of their workers have become experts in mediocrity because they are doing work that doesn’t fundamentally fit them.
Wouldn’t the smarter—and by far, the more profitable—strategy be to pay attention to the workers themselves, and particularly the fit between people’s core strengths and motivations (their giftedness) and the jobs they are being asked to do?
But then, what do I know?
An efficiency expert began his research into government waste by asking an office worker, “What do you do here?”
The worker had endured an endless parade of such intruders over the years. Yet she still labored away in tasks of mindless tedium, redundant forms, endless red tape, and relentless bureaucratic wrangling. Apparently this fellow was one nuisance too many, so she sarcastically shot back, “I don’t do anything here!”
The expert made a note of that and then went on to someone else. “What do you do here,” he asked him.
This man was at least as fed up with the broken system as his colleague, so he likewise retorted, “I don’t do anything here!”
The expert again duly noted the man’s reply. Then his eyes lit up with a sense of discovery. “Aha!” he exclaimed. “Duplication!”
Kind of gives a new twist to Peter Drucker’s observation that “if you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
Question: What makes people ineffective where you work?
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