A nephew of mine who regularly comes to stay with us can be a bit of a paradox! He is contradictory, an enigma.
His reluctance to do chores around the house could lead you to think he is lazy.
And yet you know this can’t be true when you see the extraordinary effort he puts into his work.
Or, when you see him cycling 12 km to take part in intense football training, and then cycle back 12 km home – in the cold or rain.
But, then, against that, ask him to do something around the house and you get a reluctant response, a shrug of the shoulders and you know that if the something does get done, it will be, kind of, got out of the way as quickly as possible, done – if poorly dusted!
You could, then, be surprised at what happened recently when my wife asked him to help reorganise a room that she wanted turned into a kind of office. I was going to be away on the day she had organised for this to happen but she told me she was going to ask Rob to give her a hand. I guessed what was likely to happen.
But, when I got back from my trip I found the room suitably reorganised and I asked her what had happened.
She told me how surprised she was when Rob arrived into the room early on the day equipped with screwdrivers and tools that were required for the reorganisation job.
This was, indeed, behaviour out of character. Or was it?
So, why are you doing this?
I confessed to her that I had had a conversation with him the day before, before I left on my trip. The conversation went something like:
“I believe you’re going to help with the reorganisation of the room tomorrow.”
“Only that I was wondering why you are going to do it?”
“Because she asked me to help out and because it has to be done!”
“Why does it have to be done?”
“Because I understand you want that room used as an office as well.”
“And why do we want that, do you know?”
“Because it will make better use of that space and allow you to get more done and in a better way.”
“And why is that important?”
“Because it seems to me that that would make more sense and, as I said, be a better way of getting things done.”
“Why is or might that be important for you?”
“I don’t know. I would just like to see it done nicely and it would be good to feel part of the whole thing. You know, to have made a contribution. I am part of you guys in a way, after all.”
And the conversation continued a bit more and I finished up by saying something like:
“That’s great. I hope that goes well tomorrow.”
Are people Lazy…really?
So back to my question or paradox at the outset! Is Rob lazy or is he full of energy?
You are right, of course; it depends… on the situation. And the ‘situation is up or down to us…to YOU.
If Rob sees purpose and value and meaning in something then there is no end to his energy and the effort he will make. Remove that and it becomes a task, a chore, something he doesn’t want to do but will do…eventually, reluctantly. Do you recognise that?”
What happened in Rob’s case is what happens and will happen in everybody’s case, namely, having a meaning and purpose for doing things that make sense to them radically changes the nature of what they are doing.
Most times we forget or ignore this and so work becomes a task, a chore, a bore, a burden, something that you do for money, because you have to.
But, if we are able to find the genuine meaning behind work and the various tasks that constitute work, then we will get people turning up, like Rob, all set to go, equipped with screwdrivers and bucket loads of energy and good-will, because they see the value in what they are doing and why it is valuable and meaningful for them.
This might sound simplistic and look like common sense but, unfortunately, the problem with common sense is that it’s not very common.
And, yes, it could be simplistic unless there is a genuine purpose and meaning in work, in what we do in our companies , and one that goes beyond earning money for ourselves or for our owners and shareholders.
Just a few Questions:
- If I can transform what is a boring chore for Rob into something meaningful that he wants to do, then why might you not do the same.
- Tell me. Is there anything more important for you to do than this?
- What conversations, like mine with Rob, can and should you have with individuals and with groups?
- Could these have similar effects on your people as mine had on Rob – changing chores and tasks that have to be done into things that they want to do?
- Could not this transform your organization and the people like the short conversation transformed Rob?
- What a difference would THAT make!