I remember interviewing someone for a key leadership position at my operation in Thailand, and halfway through the conversation, as he was telling me about his qualifications, he announced, with much pride, that he was an alcoholic and had a lot of passion for what he did. Startled at this revelation and puzzled as to why he would so freely divulge this information and wear it as a badge of honor, I circled back to the comment and asked him to elaborate a little. He went on to mention a few more times that he had been an alcoholic for as long as he could remember and that his job always came first. Upon further questioning, the poor fellow realized that he had been saying “alcoholic” when he meant to be saying “workaholic!”
Years ago, I discovered that the joy of a fancy family vacation at an exotic location could be very quickly nullified by aggravation and frustration over the hesitation to pay $15 for a $2 toy at an amusement park or tourist trap. Over time, I decided that it was worth more to enjoy the whole vacation experience than to try in vain to save a few dollars on an overpriced souvenir and sour the mood for the rest of the trip. After all, I reasoned, a few extra bucks was a small price to pay to get the most out of the thousands of dollars we had already spent.
Have you been feeling the pressure of trying to do more with less? I know I have, many times in my career and I have witnessed many organizations struggle with the same challenge as they felt they didn’t have enough skilled or talented people to accomplish the work that had been deployed to them. While we continue to develop more sophisticated ways to hire and train people and provide them with better systems and work processes to reduce waste and increase productivity, statistics consistently show that only 30% of people are actually engaged in the work. In most workplaces, of the small group of people who are engaged, only a handful are entrusted with the truly important tasks. there are a few “go to” people who are extremely busy, even to the point of being overworked, and then there are the rest who, despite—or because of—the lack of responsibility entrusted to them, often report being dissatisfied at work. As long as this is the case, we will continue to get, at best, 30 cents on every dollar we spend on hiring more people and installing systems whereas cracking the code on employee engagement would yield an infinitely more attractive return. The good news is that there is something each of us can do immediately to make an immediate and meaningful impact on engaging the other 70%.