Bang on the Drum

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!

Banging the drum, whale style
Banging the drum, whale style

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.

Being in flow!
Being in flow!

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!! 🙂

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

6 thoughts on “Bang on the Drum

  1. I love that your CEO has such an enlightened perspective!. Having worked for both for profit and not for profit, my experience is that often the people are not the first consideration in plans for achievement of the goals. In not for profit, the people being served/the cause being solved, become the focal point, and then the people. It is easy to find people in not for profit with the passion. It’s also easy to find people who are burnt out. I don’t believe it’s because the cause/work burns them out. I believe it is because of the lack of the shared vision/nature of the organization and the feeling of aloneness and resentment that comes from that place of “I’m the only one who cares”.

    I believe as a leader it is my responsibility to create space for those around me to shine – in their brilliance, I shine too. And, in shining together, we create space for wonder, awe and possibilities to open up. When we all feel fulfilled, reveling in the sense of achievement that comes from working together as a team, we create an even larger space for everyone to shine together..

  2. First off, I love that song! It’s great background music for cleaning the house. I’m currently reading a book called the Generosity Network. It talks about changing fundraising from being a transaction to being transformational. Although it is about fundraising, there are a lot of lovely tidbits that apply to teams, values, passion and alignment. I don’t usually go all ga ga over books, but I love this book, probably because it speaks so well to my passion on building community, teams and using and valuing the gifts around the table.
    Love this post Ian!

  3. I love this post and you keeping a foot in each camp, that vision for your retirement (or at least your wife’s) and the here and now of your own work; and how you can achieve more as leader for both yourself and your team.
    “The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does” J M Barrie (the irony of which is that Barrie fought against parental pressure and his compromised career choice of journalism so that he could end up spending his life doing what he really liked).

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