There’s an anthem that dominates many morning discussions in our house as we get ready for work. It’s especially a feature on Monday mornings after a great weekend, where Kendra says “I don’t want to work!” and I then complete the line by singing “I just want to bang on the drum all day”, which for you fans of music from the ’80’s you may recognize this as the opening line in Todd Rundgren’s song “Bang The Drum All Day”.Kendra is 411 calendar days from retiring for ever from work and they can’t go by fast enough. She doesn’t even like hearing that number so we try to estimate how many more mornings we will have the opportunity to sing our personal lament to working. Our best guess is 289 more sleeps!
On the bright side of this discussion, Kendra is thrilled by the prospect of retirement and all the creative and enriching things she can do with all of her free time. My anecdotal experience is this is very rare. So many professional people dread the thought of retirement as they are fearful of what they will do with their time, how they will find their meaning and what identity others will assume about them if they don’t have a career to refer to. On the flip side, how do we get to this state in our careers where we are so done with our work that we will torture ourselves daily with a dose of negativity regarding what is in front of us? In some cases it is quite environmental where leadership doesn’t provide a healthy environment. Politics abound creating inequities (real or perceived) in the way people are treated, individual contributions are ignored or claim by others as their own, performance management is unheard of forcing competent, motivated people to carry the load for those who aren’t contributing and perhaps even situations where unhealthy behavior such as harassment, substance abuse, sabotage, etc. are rampant and tolerated.
Listen to this every day when I get home from work
I feel so frustrated the boss is a jerk
And I get my sticks and go out to the shed
And I pound on that drum like it was the boss’s head.
I’m guessing that this condition is reasonably common in the workforce, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the norm, especially in office environments. I think it is more likely that people aren’t invested in their jobs because their organizations aren’t invested in them. The organization is instead invested in shareholders, with only secondary consideration for employees. My belief is that the heart of leadership involves building and driving towards a shared vision between organization and the team member. The CEO of the organization I work for refers to this shared vision as the combination of the team member’s passion and unique ability along with the organization’s business need. I really like this as a structure for a shared vision. All three really are required to provide a healthy environment for growth. From a team member’s point of view, passion is the prerequisite. Without it, there isn’t a compelling desire to engage in the work. But is passion enough? I’m passionate about photography, but my skill level isn’t unique. As a result if I were to be required to do this full-time I would probably find that I would become frustrated, lose interest and then turn around to find the drum again. Passion combined with unique ability can create an amazing experience for a team member, one that can be described as being in flow. Flow to me is a condition where we are so engrossed in our work that we start to lose awareness of the passage of time, and perhaps other things happening around us as well. I think we can all identify with that sort of state, and could agree that this is a highly desirable space to be in.
From a business perspective, often organizations look first to business need and when a need is identified, then look for the person with the unique abilities required to meet the need. The passion of the individual sometimes isn’t considered. As leaders, perhaps our best contribution to the growth of our teams is to understand the passions of our team members. When those passions have alignment with the organization’s business model, build development plans to create a unique capability that is ready for when a business need arises. How do you support your team’s passions? Do you look for opportunities to create flow for your team? Any interesting stories about what happens when the magic of passion / unique ability / business need comes together?
Here’s a link to Todd Rundren’s Bang The Drum All Day. You can say thank you for the tune running through your head for the next few days!! 🙂