Check Your Brain at the Door

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Author Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, reminds us that “job” and “work” (where work is your “art” – your contribution) are very different things. The job requires showing up and doing recurring, routine tasks – not a lot of independent thinking is required. In fact, if the more an organization can create repetitive non-thinking functions, the cheaper the job. This worked well in the industrial (make things) age.

Work, on the other hand, requires knowing your unique abilities, and using them to think through the day with ways to add value and make a difference. Success happens in building value in the moment – by thinking through the best, most efficient and most profitable responses – not doing the “one-size-fits-all” approach to performance.

This is critical in today’s intellectual (provide service) age because employees are no longer hidden behind machines; they are now face-to-face with customers. Customers want what they want and how they want it so following a script, or a set of routine steps for a customer, just disappoints a customer and kills your brand. To build loyalty, employees must think their way through each service event to make it efficient, effective and extraordinary – or the customer may not come back.

Management determines whether the organization has jobs or does work. Do you want employees who check their brains at the door, or employees who are actively think, solve, invent and create outstanding customized responses for customer?

To encourage a move from the job mentality to the work mentality, consider:

  1. Clearly define employee performance expectations that define the success metrics but leave the “how to achieve” up to the employee. This forces employees to think and be strategic in how they approach their work. This encourages accountability and performance ownership.
  2. Be available to constantly coach and guide employees. Today’s managers are less “bosses” and more performance coaches. Guide employees as they create and implement plans to achieve their performance expectations.
  3. Insist on learning and development as part of the culture of the organization. Make educational resources available and a requirement of all employees’ success plans. It encourages greater thinking and greater success with building and implementing performance plans.

Organizations live or die by the quality of the thinking and responses their employees provide – your people are your profits – or not. Getting them to actively use their brains all day, instead of checking them at the door, is the most significant way managers can drive performance and results.

More about employee training and retention on the Mindflash blog.

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Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of “Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition” and “The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World.” Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. follow him on Twitter.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user The Cleveland Kid, CC 2.0)