Working Man

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. John F. Kennedy

My uncle Dusty (married to GOK’s eldest daughter, Barbara) sent me a link to a TED talk. I am always humbled when someone with Dusty’s life experience shares something me that impacted him. So, I was eager to watch and listen and I was not disappointed:

Some of this material will be familiar to you, but in thinking about all the ways we attempt to motivate people I believe we have plenty of room for improvement.

What most captured my imagination was the fact that people are motivated by Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Of these three, I think Purpose is the trump card.

Purpose. Why do we do what we do?

Some things we do out of habit. Why we developed the habit in the first place could be a subject of discussion, but we do these things without thinking. In most cases, our habits meet fundamental needs that are recurring and important but not urgent. These habits are usually mechanistic functions that do not require cognitive skills, creativity or problem solving.

Some things we do because we must. Either we are forced by someone else or by circumstances. For many people this includes basically observing the posted speed limit, working and possibly, visiting certain family members. Even if these behaviors require cognitive function, we rarely do our best work here. Mostly we produce the result we are required to produce, no more, no less.

Some things we do because we are passionate about them. These are the things we truly enjoy. Going to football games. Holding our babies when they are sleeping. Things that we are connected to, that we believe in, that are part of our identity. This is where purpose resides.

In “Working Man” by Rush, Geddy Lee sings:

I get up at seven, yeah,
and I go to work at nine.
I got no time for livin’.
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.

It seems to me
I could live my life
a lot better than I think I am.
I guess that’s why they call me,
they call me the workin’ man.

As leaders, we should care about helping people move the work they do from something they must do, to something they are passionate about doing. This is not for the benefit of the organization (though it most likely will have a positive effect), it is for the person. If we care about people, we should want them to truly enjoy the things they spend more than a third of their waking hours doing.

At Kimray, it would be a hard sell to convince everyone that getting one more valve out the door will make the world a better place. That is why our mission is not building great valves. We build great valves as an enabler for us to make a difference in real people’s lives. You know by now that I don’t believe in “work / life balance”. Our work is much of our life. We should find passion and fulfillment there too. This won’t be easy, but it is important.

It turns out that enjoying what you are doing has very little to do with the actual task, the conditions under which you are doing it, or any monetary reward you may receive. Real satisfaction is directly tied to passion and purpose.

We do a lot of really creative things to help people connect their daily tasks to the impact Kimray has on the community and even the world, but we need to do more. For example, we need to reset our charitable giving in a way that focuses more of our dollars where our people are actually getting involved and getting “dirty.” When we put the dollars, that are the result of the improvement and excellence they create at KR, into the things they care for, are passionate about and are involved in, people can be passionate about what they do every day.

We have created a supportive and loving culture that helps make Kimray a place where people can actually DO LIFE, not just work, but we need to do more. We need to find community white space so there is time to listen to and engage with each other. We need to encourage vulnerability and openness as a path to real connection. We want Kimray to be a place where people work hard yet come away energized.

Ultimately, for those of us who identify as Christ followers, we have an even greater source for passion in our work. In both Ephesians and Colossians we are instructed to “work as though we were working for the Lord rather than for people.” One of the ways I try to make this real for myself is to imagine, when I am doing something for someone, that I am doing it for somebody like Bono. I mean, let’s be honest, if Bono showed up and asked me to do something for him, I would literally trip over myself trying to get it done. I certainly wouldn’t be put out, huffy, impatient or upset about the request. I would be delighted, DE. LIGHT. ED. that he ask me. Heck I would be beside myself that he even noticed me.

So if the work I have in front of me is actually from the Lord, shouldn’t I have the same response? If the people I am serving were put into my life by God, and I have been given the “job” of serving them, shouldn’t I be passionate about that? I should.

I want that to be the Kimray Way.