We’re at a waterpark resort in the honeymoon capital of Canada. It’s
been a great day for the kids. A long day for the parents. And the
night is still young.
We’re off to a bedtime story in the front lobby. Dozens of kids in
their PJs crowd around a talking tree. Also taking centre stage is a
20-something staffer who’s drawn the short straw and has to perform for
over-stimulated and over-tired preschoolers who are this close to
hitting the wall.
No sooner has he launched into the story than the kids starts buzzing.
The staffer is holding his book upside down. Some kids find this
hilarious. Others find it a cause for grave concern. Then the heckling
starts. “Turn the book around,” shout the kids while the clueless
staffer kibitzes with the talking tree.
And that’s when my then four-year-old daughter gets up, works her way
to the front of the crowd, walks over to the staffer and turns his book
right-side up. I feel like cheering and telling the groggy and soggy
parents lining the perimeter “that’s my kid!”. Here’s hoping I’ve just
witnessed a lifelong habit my daughter never tries to break.
So how about your folks at work? How many would follow my daughter’s
lead? And how many would sit there griping and groaning about how
someone should do something at some point?
If you believe the research, 75 per cent of us are disengaged and less
than loyal to our employers. From the frontlines to the presidential
suite, we’re dead people walking. We’re miserable, bored out of our
minds, screwing up our careers, short-changing our organizations and
shirking our civic duties.
Authors Kevin and Jackie Freiberg have an immediate and simple
solution. Start exercising our freedom to choose. “The freedom to
choose may be the most powerful attribute and precious resource you
have in your life. It shapes who you become, how you express yourself,
the success you achieve, and the influence you have in your world.”
Now, lots of us like to believe our freedom to choose is severely
restricted. We blame our boss, our coworkers, the corporate culture.
Senior leadership is too hands on. Too hands off. There’s no clear
vision. Or it’s the wrong vision. Sure, our supervisors are toxic and
the work is soul-crushing dull but we have mouths to feed and a
mortgage to pay.
Yet not choosing is still a choice and not a very smart one. “By
rationalizing that you have no choice, you are choosing not to
recognize legitimate alternatives that are yours for the taking. You
are stuck in a comfort zone of inaction that is functional and safe but
leaves you dead and disengaged. Your choice comes with an unhealthy
price tag, one that could cost you more than the price you would’ve
paid for constructive confrontation or moving on.”
The Freibergs have come up with a seven-choice manifesto that they
claim will blow the doors off your career, your workplace and your
community. “If you accept our call to arms and join this revolution, at
least three things will happen. You will expand your influence, you
will become a positive force for change and you will live with fewer
Choose to be a player, not a bystander. Get off the sidelines and onto
the field. Know who you are and what you believe in. Take a stand. Join
the dialogue and shape the debate. Think and act like owners. Refuse
to sell out. And be the change you wish to see in the world.
Choose to be accountable. Quit the blame game and stop casting yourself
in the role of victim. “Accept the fact that no one is going to ride in
on a white horse and rescue you or your organization. No one is going
to magically lift the weight of responsibility from your shoulders.
Don’t wait for others to show you the way. Blaze the trail yourself.”
Choose service over self-interest. It’ll keep your ego in check and
save you from becoming an intolerable self-centred jerk. Take it from
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, who’s donated pretty much his
entire $44 billion estate to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The hell of it is you’re only going to be loved if you’re lovable. If
you are, you get it back in spades. The truth is you always get back
more than you give away. Some people never learn that.”
Choose to focus forward. Sure, you can fixate on what went wrong, who’s
to blame and make excuses. Or you can focus on what’s right, what can
be done and how you can be part of the solution. “The most important
thing about you today is not where you’ve been; it’s where you are
Choose to play to your genius. “Engagement increases when you lean into
your strengths, not your weaknesses.” Take it a step further. Figure
out what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about and where you can
make the greatest contribution. This leads to your sweet spot, where
work will never again feel like work.
Choose to get it done. It’s not about what you shoulda, woulda, coulda
done. It’s all about what you’re doing. Champion a culture of results
over a culture of red tape and rhetoric. Don’t be the wet blanket at
work who dampens, disheartens, iscourages and sucks the life out of us.
Instead, cultivate vitality, energy and buzz.
Choose to risk more, gain more. Sticking with the status quo is
actually the bigger risk for you and your organization. “You can’t
innovate without experimenting, you can’t experiment without making
mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes unless you’re willing to risk
failure and rejection.”
So no more procrastination. No more rationalizations, laying blame or
playing the victim. Get off the sidelines. Run onto the field.
“Time is a tyrant,” say the Freibergs. “It takes no prisoners and it
never stands till. The moments of opportunity you miss at work and in
life can never be regained. Your life is not a dress rehearsal. Your
life is now. Time is ticking.”
Jay Robb works in Hamilton and blogs at jayrobb.typepad.com.