Imagine one of the world’s oldest and most resilient toys: the wind-up. Do you ever feel like your employees or team members come equipped with their own little plastic knobs in the back, and you’re constantly teaching them the latest “how’s” of the job, only to have to wind them back up just to get them to start over again? It’s taxing and counterproductive, isn’t it?
There is a better way.
As much as we may teach or refine our employees’ skills – the “how’s” of the job – we often fail as leaders to instill the “why’s” of the job.
It’s important for everyone to feel he or she has a purpose.
It seems so basic, yet conveying and creating an environment where the meaning and significance of tasks that otherwise may be robotically performed is crucial to employee morale and productivity.
When you connect your team members to a purpose or greater meaning beyond the simple task or technical skills at hand, you have done so much more. You are shaping an employee that can see the greater good – the forest and not the trees – and feels he or she is part of something much bigger.
And when that happens – magic! You don’t have to give a pep talk — the equivalent of the vintage toy being wound up – at every turn. What you see instead are employees who are getting things done without having to be told or pumped up to do so. Employees are fueled by their own inner drive. They’ve got the gas to keep on going, and you don’t have to keep investing your resources to provide the fuel that fills their tank.
You can’t replicate or let your employees “borrow” your energy. They must have that inner ambition to do so for themselves.
Likewise, remember how tiring it is to keep “winding up” your employees? It’s not sustainable to be in a situation where your people are just going through the motions with no sense of “why” they do what they do day in and day out.
Instead of letting others “borrow” your enthusiasm in the near-term, borrow this very “Confucian” Chinese proverb for sustainable forward momentum: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed for a lifetime.”