I’m learning to play the guitar. I don’t really have a so-called bucket list, but I do have a few things I’d like to accomplish over the next few years. One of them is to play guitar in a group and to sing original music that I’ve written.
That seems an awfully tall order. When I picked up my guitar a couple of months ago I knew almost nothing. The names of the strings, words like tablature, and the differences between flat, finger, and thumb picking were beyond my ken. The only barre I knew anything about was a vague memory from ballet classes taken 30 years ago.
From a human resource development (HRD) perspective, instructional videos have been helpful, but most improvement will just take good old fashioned elbow grease. I practice nearly every day. Face-to-face lessons are on the horizon. The effort it takes to coordinate the move of two fingers just a quarter of an inch to two different strings is sometimes laughable and my fingers hurt! (The sound that emerges often hurts my ears even more.) And though I like to write poetry the idea of putting words to music is daunting indeed. The notion of playing a song of my own in front of people I know seems challenging; playing for the public seems fantasy.
I love it.
That’s the best way to describe it, and I’ll toss in some modifiers to boot – it is engrossingly, challengingly, enjoyably fun. When I take a baby step forward I can hardly stand it because it feels so good.
Why is it that something with so little immediate reward and which seems so difficult has captured my time, attention, and enthusiasm? It is because I am totally engaged when I practice. An hour of practice seems to disappear, as if it hadn’t existed. My family and friends are patient and encouraging. It’s an endless opportunity for learning something new.
We need to pluck employee heartstrings, help people to write their own melodies, find the harmony of talented people working in concert, and engage people in organizational music making.
I like this idea of employee engagement that’s become so popular lately. The notion of people being “engaged” – interacting with, fully attending to, laughing and crying about, being pulled in to and becoming totally absorbed by – their work just seems so right.
I was recently interviewed
by David Zinger of the Employee Engagement Network and, judging from the number of people who downloaded the resulting video
, combining the topic of engagement with the mobile workforce obviously clicked for a number of people. Commercial organizations like Gallup are studying engagement
and sharing what they know with organizations. Scholars are looking at it as well, studying the variables that contribute to employee engagement
. There is a lot of money to be made, productivity to be increased, and knowledge to be garnered in this arena. Those are all good things. More importantly – to me anyway – engagement builds upon the idea that creating conditions for employees to love their work benefits everyone.
It’s ironic. When Patricia Boverie and I wrote Transforming Work: The Five Keys to Achieving Trust, Commitment, and Passion in the Workplace
over ten years ago we were ahead of our time. The whole book is about passionate work and at the time few people were talking about the emotional climate of the workplace. Words like passion, love, and caring to describe work and work environments were considered just too touchy-feely. Today, the value of these kinds of emotions is increasingly recognized as contributing to highly productive workplaces, and places like the Great Place to Work Institute
are learning just how closely connected the relationship is between a great workplace for employees and organizational success.
In Transforming Work we said “We need a new conception of the workplace. Instead of squashing the emotions, we need to channel them. Instead of chastising the passion in employees, we need to help people to understand what they love to do. We need to have a workplace where employees are not confused because we say we want them to be loyal and hardworking and yet ask them to check their desire, their humanity, at the door” (p. 2).
It baffles me why this hasn’t been common practice over the years. We still have bullying bosses and dehumanizing work environments when we know how short term, at best, that kind of workforce strategy will be. Still, veritas vincit, the truth I believe will prevail. Passionate working environments – honoring people as fully human individuals who are motivated by the desire to do something meaningful and enjoyable - over time, will always trump places where people are treated simply as resources to be deployed.
Engaged employees, passionate about their work – is it always possible for every person in every job? No, I’m not that idealistic, life gives us situations we sometimes decide to just slog through, making the most of the situation for short periods in our careers and sometimes for much longer. But is it possible? Yes! Can organizations seek to create the best, most humane, meaningful, and enjoyable work environments possible, given the work to be done? Sure!
All I know is that I plan to keep on strumming.