Regardless of who I'm leading, one challenge is consistent: how to help somebody get jazzed about work. Sometimes that somebody is me.
If I'm an employee who just shows up and goes through the motions, I'm probably not feeling the love when I come in every day. So what do I do? Well, whether I'm managing myself or someone else, it's helpful to know that employees have a few basic choices. They can live with the situation, flee it, or fight it.
If, as an employee, I decide to live with it, I'll probably end up to be the whiner everyone hates to be around. You know the type. It's like working with poor, depressed Eeyore unless I just keep to myself and do little more than show up. It's not too satisfying for me or anyone else.
If I decide to flee it, I'm going to beef up my resume and hit the job boards hoping to land that elusive dream job, provided I can even find a job. It's a risk. Who says the grass is really greener somewhere else? There are no guarantees things will be better. In the meantime, I'm stuck and probably not feeling too attached to the business.
If I decide to fight the situation, I'll become responsible for putting the smile on my own face by creating a reason for punching in each day. Fighting it is not simply broadcasting that I'm not happy and I want everyone else to know. That's really the same as living with it. Fighting it means I take charge of changing the situation for the better.
So, how do I do it? Beyond employing my attitude wrench, there are some specific things I can do to be a good boss of Me and create more of a reason to put energy into my work.
For example, if I ask, the marketing people will be excited to share with me what's going on in their world. How many people wouldn't love to tell me all about what they do at work? If I can get them to sit down for more than a few minutes, even the busy operations people will be happy to explain how products and services move through the system and how they measure it. Eventually, I can become fairly expert in the business and "get" why what I do is important in the grand scheme of things. One human resource professional learned more about the business he worked in by hanging around a marketing department. Then he moved to the operations group. Eventually, he became knowledgeable and helpful enough that he was asked to manage a small overseas software group.
As an employee, anywhere I work I probably see a lot of problems that get in the way of doing the job. Instead of leaving it up to someone else to fix them, I can make suggestions and try to push for changes. If I understand what's going on well enough, I can probably make a pretty good business case to convince others to support my ideas. If I start thinking more organizationally, I might even come up with some ideas for new ways to make money like they do at Springfield Remanufacturing. There, line workers have started over a hundred subsidiary businesses for the company.
I can work to build my skills in a lot of different ways. If I'm in one area of production, I could try and work on a project part time in another. I might work with quality, or some other department, to get a broader skill set or just ask staff members in my own department to teach me what they do. If I look hard enough and ask around, I can probably figure out what skills are missing that could really help the business and take a class, find a mentor, or some other way to become that resource. A colleague of mine tried this and noticed excess scrap that was costing the company a lot of money. He was already a trained mechanic from a previous career, so he convinced the president to let him use his former training to set up a product refurbishing function that created salable products from scrap and a new revenue source for the company.
So, why do all this? Because it helps me understand why I'm important to the business and lets me do more to help it succeed. The result? I'm more committed and excited to come to work each day. If I can do a good job of managing Me to make my job more satisfying, as a leader I'll be better able to help others do the same. After all, if I can handle Me, I can handle anyone, right?
Trying it on for fit:
Make a list of departments or groups in the company that are less familiar to you. Identify leaders in those groups and speak to them about projects or other opportunities to learn that part of the business. Identify problems that seem to show up over and over. Find out why they don't get resolved and look into learning how to fix them or find someone who can. Take classes or find other ways to broaden your personal skill set for your company.
Send an email and let me know what you learn from your experiences. I would love to hear from you!