In a previous life, I almost moved to France.
Almost being the operative word.
I worked for another marketing firm in the dot.com heyday and we had a satellite office in southern France where we worked with a division of a Silicon Valley icon.
The client needed another marketing project manager onsite to manage product launches and I became the chosen one. The project was only for six months, but for someone who at the time rarely traveled, it was to be an amazing opportunity.
The owner of our firm — I’ll call him Don — managed the negotiation and logistics of my journey. He was a unnaturally quiet but savvy businessman and all would be tended to by him.
Except that at times he was an unnaturally volatile man full of control-freak issues.
At some point during the trip negotiations, I took it upon myself to ask our client contact in France some questions. Seemingly innocent questions about my stay, my stipend, and other general questions. All done via e-mail.
My cubicle in our office looked out and down the long hallway to the other side of the second floor. Not more than a few hours after my e-mail contact with the client, Don came storming up the mid-building stairwell, face on fire and visually throbbing, and his over six-foot frame came right at me.
At first I didn’t think anything of it; I hadn’t put anything connective thoughts in motion as to why Don was so angry and coming at me.
As soon as he entered my cube space and erupted with one molten expletive after another, it became painfully clear what I had done wrong.
“Nobody negotiates with the client except me!”
And although that wasn’t what I had done, it overshadowed any and all meaningful work I had done to date; it was all taken away. No trip to France. The local sister account gone. Nothing remained except my job and severely bruised spirit.
I was told by a colleague who had witnessed the meltdown that every employee experienced Don’s wrath at some point. It was a rite of passage at our firm.
Not really the way to instill passionate productivity and longevity in your team. I mean, I get that employees don’t have to be happy all the time, and according to Vineet Nayar’s Employees First, Customers Second program from HCL Technologies, work isn’t about happy or comfortable or being satisfied or engaged.
EFCS is not about making employees happy or comfortable. I don’t even really care if employees are happy. I don’t think that employee “satisfaction” is something a company should strive for. Satisfaction is a passive state, isn’t it? Satisfaction doesn’t produce change or improvement or innovation or much of anything.
As for employee “engagement,” that isn’t much better than satisfaction. I would hope that everybody, no matter what their job is, would be alert and paying some attention to what they do, would be engaged.
It’s all about passion.
We want people to be burning up with desire to pursue their interests. Fascinated by their assignments. Jumping out of their skins with excitement about what’s next. Eagerly pursuing better solutions and new initiatives.
My trip to France being ripped away didn’t entice me to eagerly pursue better solutions and new initiatives. In fact, I almost quit.
Fortunately I didn’t, because for everything that my years at that firm wasn’t, it was when my professional trial-by-fire experience grew exponentially and I’m so very grateful for that. Don’s misplaced passion motivated me to learn and be better (and I did eventually have the opportunity to go to both France and Spain).
No pain no gain, right?
No pain no passion no picnics, right?
Life is work, and work is life, and both are a struggle. It’s doing meaningful work and being valued for it–not picnics–that makes it all worthwhile.
Leaders like Don should take note and develop some emotional intelligence and instill more passion in their employees, because for all the savvy business decisions that are made over time, valuing your employees’ meaningful work instead of focusing on devaluing them and their mistakes always plays better to your customers and the bottom line.
A little passionate EI goes a long way, while a lot of tyranny doesn’t.