Don’t phone it in

The Signal - - Business - Paul BUT­LER GO­ING THE EX­TRA MILE

Even after liv­ing here for 14 years, I still hear Amer­i­can English phrases I don’t un­der­stand.

Just this week­end, I heard some­one say: “Don’t just phone it in.”

I’ve come to un­der­stand this trans­lates into English English as: “Don’t be half-soaked.”

See, be­ing “half-soaked” is much clearer than “phon­ing some­thing in.” The late Sir Win­ston Churchill once said: “We are two coun­tries di­vided by a com­mon lan­guage.”

I won­der why some peo­ple at work “phone it in” and some peo­ple “go the ex­tra mile.” Why do some peo­ple do the bare min­i­mum at work and oth­ers al­ways give max­i­mum ef­fort? I’ve come to be­lieve it’s be­cause there are es­sen­tially three types of peo­ple at work.

Type 1 peo­ple have what I call a “strong per­sonal con­sti­tu­tion.” What do I mean by “strong per­sonal con­sti­tu­tion”? Well, rather like how or­ga­ni­za­tions have a mis­sion state­ment, (which is meant to be their “why” or as the French say, “raisen d’etre”); I’ve no­ticed ef­fec­tive in­di­vid­u­als have their own rea­son to work well. It is as if there’s a com­pass — a true north you could say, guid­ing them through­out their day, re­gard­less of what hap­pens around them.

I re­mem­ber work­ing with a Type 1, called Gor­don. It was al­most as if he was serv­ing a higher pur­pose and wasn’t swayed by the ups and downs around him. Gor­don was per­haps the most no­ble, hon­or­able and hard-work­ing in­di­vid­ual I’ve ever worked with. He was a su­perb di­rect re­port to me and an out­stand­ing su­per­vi­sor of oth­ers.

Type 2 work­ers are tossed about by the winds of the work­place. Such in­di­vid­u­als take their dis­ap­point­ments of yes­ter­day

into to­day and push them into their to­mor­rows. Type 2’s are re­ac­tive rather than proac­tive. They can be quite mil­i­tant in the way they see their work — think­ing every­one is against them and that man­age­ment is out to get them.

Type 2’s are in a con­stant state of worry and fear. They rarely if ever change their in­ter­nal sound­track or look out of a dif­fer­ent win­dow, through which to see their world. There’s an old phrase: “Mis­ery likes com­pany” and of­ten Type 2 peo­ple will feel most com­fort­able with other Type 2’s — choos­ing to align with other neg­a­tive peo­ple around the cof­fee pots and water cool­ers of the world. If lead­er­ship doesn’t step in, Type 2’s can poi­son the op­er­at­ing sys­tem of an or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Type 3’s do choose to “go the ex­tra mile” but only when they’re treated well. They dif­fer from Type 2’s be­cause they will al­ter their be­hav­ior and level of en­gage­ment based on how they’re treated. Type 3’s will en­gage as long as they are con­stantly pam­pered, which can take many forms. They re­spond to lead­er­ship that gives them plenty of au­ton­omy and who ask their opin­ion reg­u­larly. Type 3’s like hav­ing ping-pong ta­bles in the mid­dle of the open-plan of­fice area and a run­ning buf­fet of snacks in the break room with bean­bags and game sta­tions. They work bet­ter when work is like a play­ground.

When I think back about Gor­don — I don’t think he would have changed his quan­tity or qual­ity of work based on how nice the en­vi­ron­ment was around him. He didn’t strike me as a, “ping-pong” kind of guy and he pre­ferred bring­ing in his own packed lunch as I re­call.

Maybe I am look­ing at the work­ers of the world too sim­ply but I do think there’s some truth in the par­a­digm that sug­gests we see three types of em­ploy­ees — Type 1’s such as Gor­don; Type 2’s, which in my opin­ion need to be re­placed as soon as pos­si­ble, and Type 3’s that need con­stant stim­uli to stay en­gaged.

As I think more about the com­pass that called Gor­don, I do think that lit­tle French phrase “raisen d’etre” con­cisely sum­ma­rizes his way of see­ing life. See, “raisen d’etre” means: “The most im­por­tant rea­son or pur­pose for some­one or some­thing’s ex­is­tence.” I came to know Gor­don out­side of work — fun­nily enough, a group of us once cy­cled from Lon­don to Paris to­gether. Dur­ing those five days of cy­cling I asked him in my school­boy French about his “raisen d’etre” and I’m eter­nally grate­ful he shared it with me. It changed how I see the world.

The work­ing world needs more Type 1’s to pos­i­tively in­flu­ence Type 2’s and to en­cour­age Type 3’s to ac­tu­ally get stuff done.

Paul But­ler is a Santa Clarita res­i­dent and a client part­ner with Newleaf Train­ing and De­vel­op­ment of Va­len­cia (newleafca.com). The views and opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are those of the au­thor and do not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent those of The Sig­nal news­pa­per. For ques­tions or com­ments, email But­ler at paul. but­[email protected]

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