Post by Laura Turner
Patrick Lencioni came to stage, disarmingly charming as usual. He talks in rapid-fire sentences about his minute attention span and his Evangelical Catholicism (fascinating!) and entertained questions from the audience. Much of this talk comes from his fantastic book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.
After college, Lencioni was recruited by a huge management consulting firm. It was, he admits now, miserable. He was ignored, out of the loop, and unable to assess where he stood.
People don’t leave jobs, on average, because they are tired or stressed. People leave their jobs because they’re miserable. Without further ado, the three signs of a miserable job:
1. Anonymity. On a client visit, Lencioni’s boss effectively quenched his enthusiasm for the job by telling him not to say anything to the client. “You carry my briefcase. You’re my monkey,” his boss told him. He talked about a friend of his who, on returning from maternity leave, was not asked a single question by her boss about her pregnancy or her child. When we lose our sense of efficacy and belonging, we lose the enthusiasm that carried us to this place in the beginning.
“Good people don’t leave jobs where they’re known.”
A colleague of Lencioni’s at the management consulting firm, at his exit interview, was asked, “What could we have done to keep you?”
“Anything,” his colleague replied.
Knowing the people around you is free and powerful and the most damaging thing not to do.
2. Irrelevance. “If you don’t think your job makes someone’s life better in some way, you cannot love your work.” If God gave us a desire to love others and if we spend most of our days working and if our work does not involve loving people, you will feel consistently disconnected from yourself and from God. To be relevant is to have a reason for doing what you do, and the job of a leader is to help employees find that reason.
3. Immeasurement. (This, as you probably know, is not an actual word.) We need to know how to measure our success, and it makes us happier to see it. An athlete needs to know their time or distance or speed; a waiter needs to know his hard work has been recognized in the form of a tip. The feedback may need to be daily, and it may not. It may be a metric, and it may not.
Quantitative assessment can be helpful. It’s necessary to many industries and many jobs, to be sure, but so is qualitative measurement. We can end up measuring the wrong things. Lencioni talks about a guy who worked at a drive-through restaurant. His manager asked him what he could notice to measure his success.
“The number of people who drive through?”
“Well, do you have any control over that?”
“Oh, no. I guess not. Maybe how fast it takes the food to get here?”
“Well, that’s the kitchen.”
“Right. Um, okay. How about making people laugh?”
So that was his metric. The teenage guy at the drive through made people laugh, measured his days in laughter, succeeded in laughter. And he was glad for this.
We can’t be Christ-like servant leaders if we don’t help people connect the reason they work with how they work. Management, Lencioni reminds us, is also a ministry.
About Laura Turner: Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.