The New Labor Movement
When I was 15 years old, I desperately wanted to leave home and see the world. Mom made it clear that to do that, I’d need some cash. So I did what any self-serving kid would do. I got a job.
My first teenage jobs were:
- Church camp dishwasher
- Auto dealer file clerk
- Guitar cord assembly line
- Restaurant busser
There were a few things I liked about these jobs besides the meager paycheck. I loved my friends at the church camp. The couple who ran the guitar shop loved my ability to work fast. The boys washing cars at the auto dealer were cute and lastly, so were the restaurant cooks.
These jobs were a massive toleration of boredom, long hours, schedule changes, inconsistent job descriptions, and stressed out managers.
What did I learn? Work Sucks!
Here are the things I hated most:
- Begging for raises
- Not getting feedback
- Getting “unfairly” judged
- Being micromanaged
- Not having my opinion or knowledge respected
After college and years of waiting tables and tending bar, I started selling records for a music importer. This “cool” company was no better than the rest. I decided that I would have to create something of my own.
I went into business at the age of 23. I wanted to build something that didn't suck. I wanted people to like their jobs.
By trial and error, I learned how to macromanage rather than micromanage. We created multiple ways to communicate openly and safely. And in an early fit of frustration when employees weren't sure whether or not to trust me, we opened the books.
Opening the books paved the way for a deeper conversation, a team that moved together in unison, and empowerment on a scale I’d never experienced before.
As it turns out, I am not alone. There is a whole movement afoot to change the way we do business by creating collaborative models. Turns out, the research is in, it is not just about prosperity. If we don’t change, and work continues to suck out our souls, we die.
It is therefore, critical, that in whatever way we can, the most important movement of our time is still the labor movement: The quiet revolution that eliminates soul sucking jobs and replaces them with soulful jobs.
It sounds daunting because there is a confusion of methods. But don't be fooled, you can put the soul in your organization - your way. I'll simply provide the barest of essentials:
Shine a Light on Information:
Most workers will tell you that they are better at their jobs and have the ability to meet their goals more reliably if they are trusted with information. People can’t act responsibly when they are in the dark.
We are Problem Solvers:
People want to be trusted problem solvers and all you have to do is give them information and resources. Just like quality control, when trusted, they will do it and they will do it well.
“Weigh in” not “Buy in:"
Making decisions and then asking people to “buy in” sucks. The inverse requires a high level of communication but people know they are valued when they are implementing decisions they are responsible for making.
The Whole Elephant:
A meaningful team member knows what everyone does, what the customer needs, and what their challenges are. When everyone participates at an organizational level, not just at a task level, they light up. Get beyond job descriptions. Create more trust, imagination and participation but inviting everyone to manage the beast.
There are many beautiful stories of companies that have implemented solutions of their own design that have made for loyal, responsible, happy, and successful businesses. Those leaders didn't need an instruction guide telling them what to do. They simply used their intuition to put the soul in their organization.
Not sure where to start? Ask people in your organization what sucks. They will tell you. And be ready to lead the biggest revolution of our time. Are you ready to eliminate soul sucking jobs forever?
Photo credit: @Atholpady, That Sucks!
Good comments Ruth,
I believe these are steps being taken by larger contemporary firms as well such as Google and Ebay with wide success. I see the challenge in larger organizations today is the split in leadership structures. The C suite can have conventional views on leadership and management, which are bottom line focused, opposed to contemporary views that raise the top line through employee engagement and performance. Bridging that gap in the corporate world is the trick.
That may well be true. I’m working in small business primarily and there are different challenges there that, I believe, can be and must be adapted or die. Corps are slower moving but have greater impact. You take it from the top and I’ll bring up the rear. However, people are demanding the change and the faster we move the more prosperous are those in the lead. Of that I am sure.
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