Construction workers don’t always have it easy. They often work under harsh and dangerous conditions. The work is physical and they might be underpaid. But they have something that many don’t — the satisfaction of seeing the results of their work. That they are building something. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all look back at the day and measure our progress with pride? If we could point to something that we completed? Would we all be more satisfied at work if we saw the same results?
This simple truth was brought to mind when I found this description of a day in the life of an IT Project Manager:
“I was in the office this morning at a weekly mandated meeting. There was a group of ten of us talking about the why, when, where and how on the cutover plan for the new software implementation. I spent most of my time looking directly over the shoulder of the high-level exec leading the meeting. The view behind him was much more compelling.
Across the street, a construction crane was hoisting steel girders. The hook would come down to collect each piece, lift it and move it into position. Five people were involved – a crane operator, a rigger, two steel fitters and a supervisor. The construction crew was one half the team that was in my meeting. By the end of my meeting the construction crew out the window had added seven pieces of steel to the fourth floor of the building under construction. The formed square of steel was solid evidence of a productive crew.
Meanwhile, we looked at the same slides that we looked at last week, discussed how they should be rearranged, and changed the dates on the deliverables. Apparently everyone felt that the hour was productive as they left the room. I didn’t.
We’ll do the same again next week — but I expect the building will be two stories taller…”
How frustrating. My heart breaks with sympathy. Phrases like spinning our wheels and rotating bald tires come to mind. The exec and the software integrator are not satisfied and they are looking with envy at the results they see across the street. Why this envy?
The answer is simple: The construction workers are building something. They can see the results of their efforts right away. And the results mean something. And they can be proud of those results every day. Most of those in the workforce today are not in that spot.
We can learn from the construction workers. We can learn from builders and bricklayers and sewer pipe crews. Here are a few planks those workers might provide for our satisfaction platform:
- Find your own building. Although you may not be working with a hammer and nails but you should be able to show progress. Could be a page of new content, a line of code, calls to customers, the final touches on a report. Work toward something and show progress.
- Think of completion. When you finish your day or project, what do you have? Is it a ramshackle shack or a beautiful new building? It may not matter as long as you are working toward something. Be proud of what you have completed and know you did your best.
- Results matter. As the construction workers will tell you, planning is essential but not much happens until the crews start hammering or digging. Sometimes it is better to stop the planning and start the building.
Next time you look out the window at the window washer or the construction crew, remember that to be more satisfied at work, help build something and show some results.