Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Great Work

You've heard the story: a person walking by a bricklayer asks, "What are you doing?"
"I'm laying bricks," the reply comes with a derisive attitude.
Further down the block, the pedestrian sees another bricklayer and asks, "What are you doing?"
"I'm building a cathedral," the bricklayer replies with a smile.

We all need a purpose, which is one of the things Kohn and Pink point out as an element of motivation. In a recent book by David Sturt, he uses a story of a janitor in a hospital who goes beyond his job description to encourage young patients providing some emotional healing. I've seen the same effect with others. I thank the janitorial staff and include them in bonuses because it's also their efforts that make the organization successful.

But how would you motivate the part-time, often temporary burger flippers in your organization? Does Sturt's book provide any clues? He suggests that creating 'great work' involves 5 skills:

  • ask the right question regarding the product or service you provide, helpfully from a different perspective
  • see for yourself, exploring what happens within your organization and outside of it to create some opportunities--people sometimes don't even realize how their work effects others
  • talk to your outer circle, or benchmark in another industry--how does another business deal with a similar situation?
  • improve the mix, which means adding and subtracting from the job content, an aspect of motivation that Kohn and Pink highly recommend
  • deliver on the difference, by creating progress each day as Teresa Amabile suggests in The Progress Principle as the key factor towards maintaining and improving motivation.

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