Friday, October 03, 2008

Three Signs of a Miserable Job

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read from Patrick Lencioni, and have found practical uses for what I’ve learned in each book. But for some reason, his latest book sat in my “waiting to be read” stack for several months. Maybe I was afraid that I’d learn that my job was miserable or that I was making others miserable in the way I managed them! I won’t comment on the misery index for me or them, but I will say that I’m glad that I read Three Signs.

Lencioni addresses the issue of why so many people are unhappy and unfulfilled in their jobs. And more importantly, he asks what managers can do to change this. As in his other books, Lencioni uses a fable to present his concepts. And as in his previous work, the concepts are quite simple but have far-reaching implications.

So what are the three signs? The first is anonymity, which is the absence of someone in the workplace (preferably a “boss”) who takes a personal interest in you. Next is irrelevance, which is the inability to see clearly how the work you do is making a meaningful contribution. And last is “immeasurement,” the result of working without clearly defined targets over which you have some control.

Lencioni makes a compelling argument that even people in low paying or seemingly menial jobs can enjoy work if their manager pays attention to these three factors. He also contends that CEO’s, professional athletes and other highly successful people are often miserable because they lack one or more of these key needs.

The book has huge implications for those of us who manage other people, both paid staff and volunteers. For example, do you really know what is going on in the lives of the staff members and key leaders in your church or do your conversations focus on the task at hand? Does the person doing a seemingly insignificant job – entering data, greeting people at the door, changing a dirty diaper – see how his or her work is an important part of a Kingdom-minded enterprise?

Three Signs also gave me some new insights into the struggles of “second chair leaders,” which I’ll address in my next blog. Even thought I’ve “given away” the three signs, you really should read Lencioni’s book to understand how to apply these principles and make sure that you’re not making other miserable!

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