Some time ago I took a tour of an organization that was interested in having me work a few shifts per week as a psychologist. At the end of the one-hour meet and greet, the young psychologist who would be my supervisor said, “Well, what do you think?” I told her, “In my other life I’m a management consultant. I can tell if a place is well-run in five minutes.”
“What do you look for?”
“Three things: 1. Are people working? 2. Do they look like they know what they’re doing? and 3. Are they smiling?”
“How did we do?”
“You got an A on all counts.”
Are people working?
I was once hired as a keynote speaker for a statewide organization’s annual conference. The topic they gave me was, “Why Can’t Our Jobs Be More Fun?” When I submitted my outline, I added to the title: “Maybe That’s Why They Call it Work.” My client quickly excised my appended title.
Work is work. When we go to work we’re supposed to…Work. This is lost on some people, especially those who feel entitled, or who think that they are not treated fairly. My book The N.E.R.D. Syndrome addresses this phenomenon. Some people spend more time trying to get out of work than it would take to actually do the work. Work is honorable, it validates us, and it’s what we’re paid to do. Studs Terkel elegantly, and in a blue collar interview style, explored the meaning of work in his book Working.
Do they look like they know what they’re doing?
Experts in non verbal communication, also called body language, tell us that when we communicate the words we use are only seven percent of the message, and our body is 93 percent. It’s not what we say, but how we say it – facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and so on. When you walk into a business, the nonverbal messages of the employees are immediately apparent. Confidence is transparent, as is competence. Add to that what Robert Pirsig, in his epic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,called involvement. High quality, motivated employees are involved in their jobs. As Pirsig put it, the work is in the foreground, not the background. Musing about why a couple of motorcycle mechanics botched a repair job on his bike, he opined that the radio was a key. Music was blaring from it. You can’t do your best work with noisy distractions. In fact, he said, the radio was in the foreground, along with the workers’ plans for partying that night. it was the work that was in the background,
Are they smiling?
In American culture at least, the smile is a universal sign of approval, approachability, and positive emotions. To walk into a business where people are smiling – whether or not they are communicating with you – is genuinely uplifting. Again, speaking in terms of body language, numerous messages are conveyed with the smile, all of them positive (unless of course it is a sneer). Sales people have known the power of the smile forever. Moreover, the smile enhances the messages of competence and engagement, as well as enjoyment of the job.
On second thought, maybe our jobs can be fun after all.