I mainly go to the gym because I like food. I find that if I don’t go the gym, I become a bigger version of myself, but not in a good way.
Joking aside, I have always enjoyed health and fitness.
My wife and I met at a gym nearly 27 years ago and, in fact, we’re partway through a long-term goal of running a half-marathon in every state.
My wife likes running. I like eating. So, we thought it would be “fun” to run and eat in every state. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Recently, during a rather intense cycling class at my gym, I was reflecting on why I admire the instructor so much. It occurred to me that it was the simple things she does — she starts on time; she doesn’t talk about herself too much; she really knows her subject well; she is very enthusiastic about her job; she has fun with us; and she always finishes on time.
Imagine if every employee in every workplace did those same, simple things — be on time; don’t waste time; have a stellar command of your job; be enthusiastic; be a nice person; and finish all your work on time.
As I pondered this further during the warmup, I was reminded of two workplace principles I have found to be so true.
The first is that all organizations are volunteer organizations. Why would I say that? Well, people will choose how much to give of themselves. Human beings are four-dimensional — body, heart, mind and spirit.
Relating this to the workplace — the physical dimension, (the body) turns up to work. Most HR departments will stop putting money into your checking account if you don’t show up. Whereas the physical body will come to work for the paycheck, the other three dimensions are volunteer-only.
The heart displays one’s passion for the work we do. The mind is our offering of our best ideas to improve process and service. The fourth dimension (the spirit or the soul) can encourage us to “make a difference” or to “leave a legacy.”
The second principle I was reminded of during my cycling class was that our motivation to do a great job comes from within.
Organizations spend a lot of time and money coming up with a mission statement; a vision for where they want to get to and by when, along with a set of values. Essentially these are external motivators and many executives feel clarity of mission, vision and values help bring out the best of employees.
I would agree with this from our experience at Newleaf Training and Development, having facilitated leadership retreats around the world. Our observation is that an organization works better when it has a meaningful mission, a challenging vision and a set of honorable values, than to not have any of these. The only thing worse is to have a meaningless mission, no vision and vanilla (you know, “blah, blah, blah”) values.
Through gasps of breath while wiping the sweat off my eyelids, I could see how our instructor’s motivation came from within — she volunteers the very best of herself in the work she chooses to do. I am confident this instructor wouldn’t need a corporate mission statement to kick-start herself in the morning.
It’s almost as if she has her own internal mission statement — her own “why.” On the rare occasions she does speak about herself, it’s very clear she has a good marriage and that she and her husband love their children very much indeed.
This reminded me of Dan Baker’s work in his groundbreaking book, ‘What Happy Companies Know.” Baker’s research concludes that “happy people” make “happy employees,” which create “happy companies.”
Even though I believe his book is excellent, I’m not a fan of the word “happy” as it sounds to me a little superficial, temporal and conditional. I think a better word to describe the person calling out instructions opposite me, as my calf muscles begin to crumble, is the word, “joy” — she seems joyous in her work. Joy conjures up to me, a personal compass — a constitution that’s not affected by the external. Maybe, just maybe this level of inspiration does actually come from something outside of oneself?
My philosophical thoughts collapsed as the class ended… and to think I actually volunteered for this! I’d most certainly worked out my body over the last 75 minutes, but my mind, heart and spirit were also reminded of some profound workplace principles. My final thought as life came back into my lungs was, “I wonder whether I have time to pick up a bagel on the way to the office?”
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.