Fill up your glasses and let’s make a toast to work!
By Barbara Soalheiro — Column “Toast to Leadership”, published in Fast Company Brasil
March 16th, 2021
I am really excited to be here for the debut of this column. I love premieres. They bring butterflies to my stomach and the joy of knowing I moved one step forward, which is an important reward to the daughter of working-class parents who dared to open their own business and got rich in Brazil between the 1980s and 1990s. Moving forward, bettering myself and overcoming obstacles have always been important values to me. And possibly that’s the reason why work has become something so crucial in my life. So, come on! Fill up your glasses and let’s make a toast to work.
I’d like to begin by saying that work is one of the most pleasurable things in the world. And I put it like that to avoid reprisals because actually I’d like to say that work is THE most pleasurable thing in the world. But when organizations try and improve their employees’ relationship with work, they invest in stuff that has nothing to do with it, such as ping pong tables, free food, colourful post-its. Instead of creating more space for what really make people connect with their professional routine: the chance of learning something new, the opportunity to relate to people with whom they share lots of interests and, above all, the chance to create things.
Nothing is more rewarding to humans that creating something. The feeling of “this did not exist and now it does”. No wonder the great majority of religions there are explain gods as creators.
And it’s work that most frequently gives us the opportunity of experiencing this sensation. Of course, there are people who do not wish to find this level of pleasure in work. And there are many more who don’t even have this possibility — while I raise my full glass, there are many still fighting to be part of the game. What astonishes me is that leaderships don’t realize that investing in a new floor that looks innovative has no impact on the levels of connection between people and their work and thus no impact on their bottom line. On the other hand, the relation between daily tasks and final result, the feeling of wasting time in meetings that didn’t require one’s presence and lack of clarity on what exactly the company recognizes as being one’s talent appear to be at the top of ranking of things responsible for low levels of mental health in recent studies on the subject.
Why then are we spending so much time and money with accessories? Especially when the secret lies in motivating people to make assertive decisions and to take consequences into account, that’s what any leader wants.
I suggest you pick a big problem, that’s really difficult to solve and very relevant to the survival of your company and test the following:
Present the problem to your team. Tell them you want an end-to-end solution, considering all the necessary aspects that would enable it to be implemented immediately.
Don’t ask for the perfect solution. There is no such thing. What you are looking for is a solution that considers all of its consequences and that can be implemented in a month’s time. Or five. You decide the timeframe. But give them a deadline.
The harder, the better. The best talents are driven by the opportunity of solving complex problems. Big conundrums. Dead ends. So no sparing them when it comes to choosing a difficult challenge.
It’s for real. What I am suggesting is not an exercise. Therefore, there is risk involved. That will make the people in your team deliver their ultimate best. It will require them to get information they don’t have now and speak to people in the organization that are far from them on a daily basis and come up with a solution that they’ve never seen before.
I bet you that when the experiment is over your whole team will have experienced a kind of magic joy, an exciting feeling of having taken the plunge. And it’s even possible they will have moved work up on that list of the best things in life.