Longing for the Meatball
Roughly a year ago I was seated in a large open space in the restaurant of the company I worked for at that time. I was surrounded by my colleagues while the Business Unit Director was in front of the crowd to announce the next year’s vision and strategy.
Right behind him the various Powerpoint slides faded in and out. The slides were covered with beautiful graphs and impressive numbers. Preparing them must have cost a lot of effort. Especially a lot of time spent by senior management and someone who had mad Powerpoint-skills.
The painful truth about motivation at work
When I realized that I was more interested by the background sounds of meatballs that we’re being fried than by the impressive looking presentation, I was shocked. I looked around. I wanted to know if I was the only one wondering how long the presentation would still be keeping us from eating those meatballs. Even though I tried hard to find such expressions, I couldn’t find any.
What I could see was some who were focusing on the birds outside, the somewhat boring interior, or the haircut of the colleague in front of them. Wherever I looked, I saw surprisingly few people with attention for the vision and strategy of the Business Unit Director.
That was the moment I realized that something was terribly wrong. How can it be that when the future is presented of the thing you spend the biggest part of your life on (besides sleeping), does not grab your attention? Another year of your life dedicated to work of which the vision and strategy are boring to you? That cannot be the way it should be.
Imagine that your husband or wife would give a presentation, of course with impressive Powerpoint slides, on the strategy for the family for the next year. Would you have more attention for the frying meatballs? The birds outside? The boring interior? Or would you interrupt the presentation after 2 sentences to ask why the hell you were not involved in making any of the plans? Aren’t you guys a team then? Don’t you have valuable information essential for planning the future?
Myself, I don’t have a family yet. And maybe the comparison is a bit of a stretch. But what’s more important is that at that moment I realized something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
After a bit more research, it actually seemed to be a more or less generally accepted problem. Lots of studies show that employee engagement is shockingly low. One of the most prominent research studies within this field (the “State of the Global Workplace Report” by Gallup) shows that worldwide only 13 percent of employees is engaged with their work. 13 percent! Take a moment to let that settle down… Painful right?
And so it seems to be time for a change. A change that will improve that sad statistic and the fact that people will be happier and more fulfilled by the work they do. That you wake up in the morning filled with new ideas on what you will be doing that day. And that you come home afterwards filled with inspiration and fulfillment to focus on your family with all your passion and enthusiasm. And where hopefully the meatballs are awaiting you.
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We first visited Haier headquarters in Qingdao, China in 2017. We enjoyed an extended conversation with CEO Zhang Ruimin. He told us "there is no such thing as a successful company. There are only companies that move with the times". Those words intrigued me. In hindsight, I never truly understood them. Now I think I do. Let me explain.
For years we've travelled the globe visiting the world's most radical organizations. We've visited more than 120 pioneers so far, and continue to learn how workplaces can be more joyful, fun, and rewarding. Today, we launch a new initiative: an initiative aimed at giving more people the opportunity to learn directly from pioneers.