June 15, 2010
News & Opinion: Why do you work?
I'm sad to admit that I've had jobs in the past that were difficult to get out of bed to go to. Once at the job, I would try my best to find something interesting about the things going on to occupy some mental space; imagination playing a big role. I would create stories, I would plan projects, and I would accomplish all sorts of things in my head while my body went around completing totally mundane (and sometimes downright unpleasant) tasks. That's a lot of mental space being used up for things that have nothing to do with the work at hand. Last night, I met a bunch of people at a Seth Godin inspired Linchpin Meetup who each left great companies to focus on their own endeavors. Inspiring stuff, as I pictured each of them likely sitting in these great companies imagining their own stories, their own projects, etc. Then I sat down at my desk today and picked up a book called The Why of Work by Dave and Wendy Ulrich, and it all came full circle. As the book poses: "Before you ask, 'Why aren't my employees working harder?" ...ask yourself, 'Why are my employees working?'" An interesting statement, and likely a question many leaders and managers have a lot of assumptions about. As the book points out, it's not all about the money. From there, the authors explain what it is about, and how leaders can address the needs of employees (and customers), make work personal to motivate, and create a team of passionate people that make the work (and the results) the type of situation anyone would want to be involved in. All those imaginary stories, projects, and other day dreams might actually be useful to a company. The Why of Work discusses how to first understand why we do what we do, and then develop the situation to make it as fulfilling and successful as possible. I wish I could have passed this book to some of my old bosses!