When I was hitting tennis balls this weekend, I noticed quite a few people out running. Ugh! I’d much rather chase a ball, a frisbee, or a hockey puck. I also enjoy honing a tennis stroke or carving the perfect turn on the ski slopes. But running? No thanks. I get bored. For me, there is no challenge in putting one foot in front of the other over and over again; I mastered that a long time ago. When I convince myself to run, my brain quickly conjures umpteen pressing tasks, articles to write, and alternative activities that are actually fun.
My husband is different He likes to run. He gets in the zone. Mile after mile after mile.
The lesson here? People are different. Some abhor anything repetitive and others find pleasure in it. Some want to be challenged constantly and others want to settle into a task they know they can do well. Some like to compete. Some like to assist. Some like to work alone and others thrive in a group. There is no harm or shame in being one type or another.
Unless your daily responsibilities violate your basic motivations. Put me in a job where I would have to do the equivalent of running all day and I would fail miserably.
Unfortunately, workplaces and bosses usually ignore these differences. They hire skills and experience, toss employees into predefined jobs, and then rank performance on totem poles, creating winners and losers, mostly losers. Both the company and the employees suffer as a result.
What can be done?
- Self-awareness – Learn what makes you tick and thrive.
- Boss-awareness – Stop ranking employees. Stop seeking the “best” employees. Start paying more attention to matching employees with tasks and responsibilities so they can spend most of their day in the zone.
- Find adaptations – We all have to do tasks that aren’t exactly motivating. Some of the runners were in pairs. They undoubtedly recognized that they needed the added discipline or just wanted the company. Adaptations like these, of which there are many, will help employees succeed even when tasks aren’t perfectly aligned with their talents and temperament.
The match between employee and daily responsibilities is absolutely critical. And I’m not just talking about skill sets. Skills can be learned, but I don’t think anyone could ever teach me to be a happy runner.