The three tenets of work

Just finished Timothy Gallaway’s The Inner Game of Stress. It’s a fantastic read and if you’re a busy professional or an entrepreneur, give it a read and it might change the way you look at work and stress. Besides the great gems that I discovered in the book, the one that truly stood out for me were the three stable components of work:

  • performance
  • learning
  • enjoyment

I call these the three tenets of high-performance at the workplace as it relates to each and every employee at any level or organisation, regardless of their size. And balancing them is the key to performance that doesn’t burn us out.

For example, while performance is a critical, non-negotiable aspect of an employee’s objectives and key areas of focus, it can also be a major source of stress for employees. After all, companies don’t hire people to be or stay mediocre during their stay. Right? That’s a great insight to acknowledge but it sure does add that pressure to perform.

And all that pressure wreaks havoc on people! Employee turnover goes up, morale and overall performance goes down. The HR and talent management teams start to panic. They spend hours brainstorming ideas, facilitating meetings, trainings, seminars, and coaching sessions hoping that things would change. They seldom do.

The alternative is to build a culture where performance doesn’t have to be pressurising but challenging. There’s a difference. We can muscle through a challenge, lose, and still feel good. Like those days when we don’t feel like going to the gym but still do. The workout may not go as well as you had thought but you enjoyed whatever bit you did and are okay with it. Tomorrow’s going to be much better.

What happens if we encourage teams to embrace this mindset? Where the expectation isn’t to break records but to do the absolute minimum to be productive while truly enjoying themselves and learning as much as they can about the impact of their work on the business and the clients at large.

If this were to be experimented on a sales team, one immediate change you would notice is a spike in their overall productivity and hence, sales. But most importantly, they would have built a deeper relationship with their clients. Something that quite possibly have been ignored until you decided to implement this!

Of course, the three tenets aren’t a magic pill that will fix everything forever. There’s a lot of work to be done. A lot of faith to be had in the process. Both take time and effort. But it takes one fearless leader to experiment with this concept and see his team’s performance soar.

There’s a reason why enjoyment and learning are part of the three tenets. They’re interdependent. You can’t perform if there isn’t any enjoyment. And you won’t learn anything if you don’t enjoy. Why the heck would you perform if there’s nothing to feel excited about?

And ironic it may seem, all this has less to do with our mindsets and more to do with the way we’re wired. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

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