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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

David A. Zimmer

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
Patrick Lencioni

I am really looking forward to reading this book. The dust cover makes it sound very intriguing. But at the same time, I'm reading it with some trepidation. What if I discover my job - currently employed by myself - is a miserable job? What should I do? If I fire myself, then I won't have anyone to do the work in the company. If I quit, then I won't have a job, even if it is miserable.

Actually, I really like what I am doing for a living. I enjoy it. So it will be interesting to learn why others hate their jobs.

Epilogue: WOW, what a powerful book. And the concepts and ideas are even more so. Good news: I don't have a miserable job.  Bad news: I could have a miserable job.

I've already taught the principles of this book in my seminar just to prove what Lencioni was describing as accurate or was in simply a softy-feel-good theory that wouldn't really work. But the attendees seemed to resonate with what he was describing as the critical aspects of jobs, and more importantly to the discussion, project managers' ability to direct the activities of a project.

As project managers, we usually have zero authority but 100% of the responsibility of getting tasks accomplished in our project plan. There are no reasons any project team member should ever listen to us or do as we ask. Only our ability to connect and work with the team members can turn a lackluster group of people into a performing team.

By leveraging Lencioni's ideas, while many might consider it silly and soft, we can excel. In fact, I would bet the best leaders employed these ideas without knowing, yet with profound results.

Lencioni calls the three signs of a miserable job anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. To put them into understandable terms, I'll use the terms "knowing the interests of my team members," "relevance of their activities to others and the project," and "measurable in terms of impact to others."

The state of "no one knows me or wants to know. I'm simply a cog in the wheel and if I get out of joint, management simply whacks me back in place and we move on." When I got my first job, the boss said the door of the establishment was a demarcation, "On the outside of the door was my personal life and on the inside was my job life. Don't mix the two." Fortunately, my co-workers and I mixed the two in a good way so we knew each others' interests and concerns. We understood personal problems should be dealt with on personal time, but we also knew each of us had a personal life. It made for a fun place to work because we cared about each other. In other jobs, that personal touch wasn't there and I felt disconnected.

Does my job really matter? If so, to whom? Where am I making a difference. I like the idea I can make a difference which is one of the reasons I enjoy being a consultant, coach and trainer. My behavior and work can and does make a difference in people's lives. That is very rewarding. Employees want to know, regardless of their job, they make a difference.

This is the tough one. I want to be known as a person and not just an employee and I want to know I am making a difference. The big question is, "How do I measure the impact?" For me, I can see it in my students' faces as I describe concepts and see eyes light up, recognition occur and understanding take place. I hear it in their questions and responses to mine. And the ultimate is a handshake and thank you after 5 days of grueling instruction and discussion.

These are very powerful concepts and definitely ones we, as project managers, can implement without requiring permission or authority from management and watch the profound effects on our teams. If there is any book I would assign my project management students to read, it's this one. This book provides the key to unlocking a team's performance.

Get it. Read it. Implement it. (Oh, and if this review made a difference to you, tell me. Thanks).

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