Most everyone I’ve talked to who really cares about their work has that one thing that brings meaning, context and (as my kids used to say) “give-a-care” to the work they do.
The best way I’ve heard it described is this:
What do you feel strongly enough about to say “That isn’t going to happen while I’m here.”
Whether you own the place or are working for the weekend, it’s that thing you just won’t rest about if it isn’t done right. It might be that thing you first notice when you visit someone’s home or business.
Are any of your employees working jobs that have little to do with their one thing? If so, they may be doing their assigned work while watching in frustration as the work involving their “one thing” is done at a level of quality or expertise that’s below their expectations.
Sometimes their response will be to take another job – one that leverages their one thing. Sometimes their response will be to take ownership.
You may see this when someone takes ownership of some part of your company – without being asked. It might be all or part of a process, a product’s quality or craftsmanship, a customer or a customer group. They take ownership by making the quality of that area their responsibility, perhaps going beyond your company’s standards. It’ll often happen without them being asked.
If you have employees, have you asked them (or put them in charge of) their “one thing”? If not, the signals will be there if they’re interested. They’ll make suggestions – often good ones – about how something is done. They may volunteer to help on projects that require expertise in their one thing.
If your company has people who seem less motivated than they should be, ask them if they’re doing their ideal work for you. If they could do any job in the company, is the one they’re doing the one they’d choose? If not, a pilot project can show you if they’re qualified to do that work.
If the pilot works out, you might find yourself with a newly motivated employee who really cares about the work they’re doing. New blood has a way of asking questions about things that’ve been forgotten, fallen in the cracks or weren’t considered previously – all because that new staffer (even if they’re simply new to that job) cares about that part of the business because it’s their “one thing”.
In the shadows
You may have departments within your company doing their own thing because they can’t get that work done any other way – at least not to their satisfaction and/or within the timeframe they need.
At a recent #StartupWeekend, I spoke on this topic with people from several different business sectors ranging from retail to light manufacturing. Each of them knew of a department within their company that had a “Shadow IT” group.
“Shadow IT” is a small departmental group (or a person) building technology solutions for themselves that they couldn’t get from their company’s IT (Information Technology) group.
One person from a large national retailer (not *that* one) is doing their own thing because they felt it was the only way to get the solutions they needed. Rather than wait or do without, they built it themselves.
This isn’t unusual – but it’s a sign of someone’s “one thing”.
That person doing the Shadow IT work might be the person who needs to take on that role (or join that team) in your company . Perhaps they become the official Shadow IT group for projects that don’t yet have an IT budget and haven’t appeared on management’ s radar.
As an employer, do I care?
You should. The under-served “one thing” staffers may not be disgruntled, but they may not be fully engaged. If you’re unaware of people (and their “one thing” assets) within your organization who could serve your business goals in ways you haven’t considered and at a level of quality that you might not have thought possible – what are you missing?
Ask them privately if there’s a project or job in the company that excites them. You never know what you might find. Having little startup-minded groups inside your business isn’t a bad thing.