Another nugget from the archives...
A discussion took place in the TurfNet.com Forum this past month about interns and their university-imbibed book knowledge but lack of any semblance of practical work ethic. Many have their sights set on the Superintendents Desk but with little or no understanding of the work. Yes, sometimes manual labor required to get there.
Isn't this the age-old gripe of one generation about the next? Those young kids don't know what work is. They have everything handed to them And thats probably true, at least in part.
I recall reading many years ago a biography of Winston Churchill, one of the great statesmen of our time. It read, Young Winston never learned to perform work, primarily because it was never required of him. That didn't stop him from achieving great things, however.
While many young people today might not know how to work, that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't capable of it. A work ethic usually isn't innate. If he or she has it upon arrival at your doorstep, its because it was learned (either by instruction or example) at home. Either way, its not necessarily too late. It can be learned on the job, too.
I recall with a certain amount of anguish my, uh, rather ill-defined work ethic in my college years. I worked summers banging nails and hauling board lumber on a house framing crew, before the days of hydraulic lifts and pneumatic nail guns. I was told that quitting time was 3:30, so at that time every day I would happily make the announcement that it was time to go home, and start coiling up the power cords. The glares from my boss didn't hit home, but he didn't say anything, either.
What I didn't understandand what was never explained to mewas that, being an outdoor job that utilized electric tools, we didn't work when it was raining. Because we lost time and income and productivity when it rained, we needed to make that up when the weather was good. Make hay while the sun shines, so the saying goes. Pretty simple concept, in retrospect. But I was focused on the clock rather than the project at hand.
I'm sure many young people today are of similar attitude, staggering around in a daze half the day due to the excesses of the evening prior, looking past the job at hand until the clock says its time to regroup with friends and do it all over again. It goes with the age bracket, but doesn't mean they are incorrigible. Hey, even I turned out OK, I suppose, sooner or later
So what's the key to creating the emotional buy-in of a highly-motivated workforce? If I knew, I'd be selling tapes on Sunday morning infomercials or consulting with Fortune 500 companies. I have, though, worked for one man who was a master of it, and another who was a disaster at it -- both of whom gave me a bit of insight.
It starts with selection, proper training, communication of goals and expectations, leadership by example, variety of task (with appropriate cross-training), empowerment, freedom to fail, shared rewards when the goals are achievedand a little bit of fun thrown in. The last one, along with a pat on the back and thanks for a job well done, is the easiest and least expensive. In the minds of many young people, it may also be the most important and doesn't hurt at any age.
Originally published October, 2002