Book review by Hazel Jackson, CEO of biz-group

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees) Are you suffering from what the author called the Sunday blues, but we might call the Friday or Saturday blues? He describes that dreaded feeling of returning to work after the weekend. For some people it becomes a depressing thought and even spoils the latter part of their weekend. With many people in the UAE still only getting one day off, this can be even more disturbing. The Sunday Blues are traditionally perceived because you have a ‘bad job’ but Pat Lencioni goes onto to challenge our assumptions that its nothing to do with the type of job you have; what one person thinks is bad another might really love. He describes these jobs as miserable ones. Everyone can understand the context of a miserable job, and Lencioni suggests that there are three signs of a miserable job and quiet simply three solutions. As with all his books he shares the insights in the form of a story, introducing us to an executive Brian Bailey who has had a successful career ending as CEO of a business that is sold. He profits out of the deal but is left with time on his hands and curiosity about a small diner that is failing close to his home. There is obviously a lot more content in the story but he puts into practice some basic people management principals he used in his career but never really named or shaped. He tests out his theories with a group of downtrodden, demotivated employees working long hours in menial tasks at this diner. He not only succeeds in this experiment, but he builds a reputation and continues on to use the principals to turn other businesses around, with his three step approach. The three signs of a miserable job are: 1.Anonymity 2.Irrelevance 3.Immeasurement Anonymity People need to feel known as a person, not just a number or a job description. If they feel invisible, generic or anonymous they cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing. Most employee survey’s say the number one reason why you leave a job is your manager. How many managers don’t really know the team members they employ? I’ve read the same thing in many books – great managers understand the real strengths of their team members (Marcus Buckingham), Multiplier Managers spot the native genius in individuals and put it to work (Liz Wiseman), but they do this by talking to their employees, getting to know them beyond the most obvious elements of their job. Irrelevance Everyone needs to know that their job matters to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, you simply can’t get lasting fulfillment. Connecting the dots of what you do to how that benefits the business makes everyone feel important. Great example I often use in training, is two brick layers building a wall. One is sullen, frustrated and slow to achieve any results. He is accurate but there is no passion or joy in the task. The second is whistling, has made much faster progress and is also accurate but enjoying the challenge. They both have the same tools and the same environment. When asked what they are doing? The first rolls his eyes and says “Building a wall!” The second smiles and says “Building a children’s hospital”. Making a task relevant and giving it a great sense of purpose is what Lencioni is saying in his book. Not rocket science and not an expensive process to implement. But surprisingly I wonder how many people really understand what impact their role has on colleagues, other departments and the overall business. Immeasurement My favorite of the three, because it’s something I endlessly repeat to clients with an endeavor to keep it simple. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. What was crystal clear about this chapter in the book, is not fancy high level measures, but very specific measures that the employee personally impacts. Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. Not measures that take a month, quarter or even a year before you see the results. Lencioni provides tangible examples in the story of how employees find the measure that makes the difference to them. Something they simply control and measure. Many organisations in the region struggle with performance management and want to build a performance based culture. These three signs are perhaps the simplest starting point for any business. Consultants have through the years overcomplicated the tools and measures you need to hold people accountable. Creating complex form filling systems and extensive reporting. Although in large companies these tools are important, they only work if the simple mentality of these three principals are integrated into the culture. Making sure managers have regular conversations with their team, Liz Wiseman suggested a great interview question for a new manager or a good review question when performance managing someone, as “ Tell me about your team?,” If the manager becomes animated and passionate and starts talking about the actual people, their performance and their potential – this is positive. If they start on the team and quickly turn the conversation back around to what they have had to do to solve problems or how much they are picking up the challenges, you know where the real performance issue lies. So often these conversations with employees don’t happen as they seem intrusive or just plainly too simple. Making sure an employee understands how their role impacts others seems obvious, why do I as the manager need to make the connection? But what harm is there in having the conversation, or better still getting the employee to make the connection and answer the question. When we are dealing with sophisticated knowledge economy companies, I believe the more sophisticated solutions provided in Multipliers will drive improved performance, motivation and results. But perhaps your company does not need to work at such a level or maybe the nature of your industry needs something simpler. I see Pat Lencioni’s The Three Signs of a Miserable Job as a great starting point to building a motivated, engaged and productive workforce. It also doesn’t need the whole organization to buy in, or even your boss. If you have people reporting to you at any level, start by making sure you build a greater understand and connection with them as a person, make it clear how their role is relevant to the success of your department or team and put in place simple measures with them. What are the consequences of your team being miserable?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: