It’s the least I could do
Dave Durand writes that a growing number of employees do as little as possible at work. For leaders, the primary tool to help minimalists change behavior is a solid culture. There is a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch. This holds true because a great strategy without a strong culture leads to ruin, but a great culture leads to effective strategy . . .
To most of us, “it’s the least I could do” means, “I wish I could have done more.” However, to a sad and growing number of people, it is a goal.
I have a personal policy of attempting to provide solutions whenever I write on a topic that may strike some readers as a rant against an issue which undeniably irritates me. I will provide solutions in this article. But beforehand, I must admit, there may be a bit of a rant. My apologies to those who take offence. But to those who share my irritation, let’s get started!
Minimalist behavior is certainly destructive in relationships and organizations, but it’s the minimalist who suffers the most. Regrettably, I must include myself in this category at times. I think that’s partially why the topic ignites me. It seems that all of us have that tendency on occasion. In fact, during my college years and several years following, minimalism was my way of life when it came to my faith. I basically went to Mass on Sundays, but it wasn’t because I strived to be holy. It was primarily to hedge my bet against going to hell. That admission is embarrassing but true. I learned a lot from that experience.
When it comes to organizations, we have all worked with minimalists — the people who strive to do as little as possible. At work, they show up late, meander around their work day and scoot out as early as possible. Minimalists have a mental block and a retardation of maturity. Above all, they are selfish. The core problem for a minimalist is the lack of ability to suffer for a greater good. When people get trapped in minimalist behavior, they have a difficult time escaping the trap because they form habits which translate into nearly every part of life. At home they do as little as possible to contribute to family life, and asking a minimalist to volunteer is a waste of breath.
In order to free oneself from minimalist behavior, it is necessary to step outside of your own world and see the big picture. This is done by taking stock of the damage that is done and eventually seeing the upside to striving for the greater good. The good news is that we are all capable of this transition.
For leaders, the primary tool to help minimalists change their behavior is a solid culture. There is a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch. This axiom holds true because a great strategy without a strong culture leads to ruin, but a great culture always leads to effective strategy. Culture is formed by keeping the relevant outcomes of any organization front and center. This is done by teaching your team that what each person does at work is secondary to who they become as they do their work. Biblically speaking, we must remember the scriptural truth that it merits man nothing to win the world without saving his own soul. Of course, that was accomplished by Christ’s saving work on the cross, but or participation in that process is significant. In the life of a Catholic, we can feed the poor and spread the gospel, but if we don’t allow God’s grace to transform us, we will fall short.
Similarly, in leadership, if we expect our teams to work hard and sacrifice for the mission but we fail to hold the same standards for our own behaviors, we will be recognized as hypocrites. When hypocrisy is recognized by our teams, they will soon adopt the behavior and minimalism will become the culture. In order to overcome this danger, we must promote the mission and repeat it often in both word and action.
A powerful way to remember this is to know that an A today is a B tomorrow. A first grader’s reading skills, which merit an A in first grade will soon become a B in second grade and a C or D in third grade if progress does not follow. Likewise, our efforts at one stage in life will become less effective as years progress unless we strive to match our character and outcomes as we age. At the core, we are powered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to avoid minimalist behavior. Stay in the state of grace and pray for the fortitude to strive for the best you can be at work and at home.
DAVE DURAND s the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Say This, Not That.” He is a business executive and trainer of over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.