My reason for attending was to hear the keynote speaker Patrick Lencioni. Author of Death by Meeting, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and one of his most recent books, The Advantage, he certainly didn’t disappoint! He focused on his 2007 book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. He shares that he wrote the book because he remembered as a boy watching his dad trudge off to work to a job he didn’t enjoy that was pure drudgery. He thought to himself that when he grew up he knew what the future had in store for him. In fact, he starts working for one of the most prestigious management firms in the United States and quickly realizes that it doesn’t make his heart buzz! In fact, the people who courted him to join the team treat him like he doesn’t exist!
Lencioni in the book shares that there are three signs of a miserable job:
- Anonymity- The feeling that employees get when they realize that their boss or leader has no clue about their hopes, dreams, feelings, and personal “story.”
- Irrelevance- The feeling that employees don’t make a difference to the organization and don’t know their impact on the organization. Employees need to derive relevance from the work they are doing. How are they changing the lives of others? How does the work that they do impact others, the organization, the community, etc.
- Immeasurement- Lencioni shares that this is a made up word, but it means that employees don’t have a way of measuring success for themselves with the work that they are doing. How do they measure their contribution or success?
I reflected on my first year as a principal way back in 1995, (while many of you were still in grade school! Heck, I could have been your principal!) My school, a K-2 center, had 660 students and a staff of about 65 including teachers and support staff. One of the biggest challenges that I faced was the division between the teaching faculty and the support staff. There was a great divide between the two and support staff did not feel valued for their contribution to our mission. As a school family, we began working on this issue and ensured that support staff was included in all professional learning sessions, included them in determining our school wide procedures and rules, asked their opinion on perceptive surveys, and included them on teams that made decisions at our school. We reached out to bus drivers at their first meeting of the year and had them teach bus procedures to our kids, included cafeteria workers in not only making special luncheons for us, but as part of our team that taught lunch procedures and our wellness initiatives. Our custodian learned that his job was not just to clean vomit and respond to maintenance calls, but to “break bread” with individuals who needed some community service; to understand the implications of what flushing the toilet too many times will do and meet the person who would have to clean it up. I realized after hearing Lencioni, that we were trying to include everyone in learning about their “story.” We were helping individuals learn the relevancy of their work and the impact on the children, so they could be the best learners they could be.
Our bus drivers are the first ones to greet the children and to send them home at night. Do you know their story? Do they know how they impact your school and its mission? Do they know how to measure their success? As leaders, we must get on buses, ride the routes, talk with drivers and learn about their story. We can then assist in teaching how to employ procedures on the bus that will build relationships with students and manage what anyone would consider an impossible job, driving while maintaining order of nearly 80 kids behind your back!
Our cafeteria workers ensure that our children are well fed each day at breakfast and at lunch. Do you know their story? Do they know how what they do impacts your school and its mission? Do they know how to measure their success? Besides including cafeteria workers in determining lunchroom procedures and wellness initiatives, I have heard of some schools who ensure that workers are included in specific learning goals at school. One school with a predominant non-english speaking population had a goal of ensuring that students were speaking in complete sentences. They shared with the cafeteria workers their goal and included them in having students practice complete sentence answers when they came through the line for lunch.
Lencioni mentioned that as educators we had the knowledge of relevancy down. One of the joys in being an educator is when you finally put your head on the pillow at night, you know you have done something to change the lives of others in this world. As leaders Lencioni mentioned that first we needed to know each person’s story. He suggested that we make a chart with all of the names of each school family member on it. Create three columns. One with anonymity, one with irrelevance, and one with immeasurement. Then ask the question for each person. Do I know this person’s story? Do they know how they impact our school and our mission to ensure the success of every child as a learner? Do they know how to measure their own success if what they are doing is successful and impactful?
You see, if YOU are doing what makes your heart buzz, then you need to make sure that everyone around you is doing what makes their heart buzz! Lencioni emphasized that leadership is about servanthood and in fact he believes that “Management is a Ministry!” Our impact as leaders is somewhat immeasurable, we often don’t realize how the way we treat others in turn ensures how others will treat the people in their world. What will dinner table talk be about? How you spoke to someone with a smile that day and emphatically understood what their “story” was? Or how you ignored them as they walked down the hallway?
Are you doing what makes your heart buzz? Are you finding out if others are doing what makes their heart buzz? If not, what are you going to do about it?