There’s a quote from John Ruskin that has been teasing me for the last few days…”When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” I love the message, and think we often lose or sacrifice one of these two elements in the workplace. I know what you’re thinking, ‘ are you really going to raise the spectre of love as an essential element of creation at work?’ Yup, I am. Before you leap to disagree though, think about your best professional years – or moments – and what they required from you.
Certainly success involves skill – though arguably every success is not a masterpiece. And not every act of love – as well intended as it may be – elicits a feeling of success. If there is no love for what you commit to doing on a daily basis, I think your efforts are diluted by its absence. And at least in the areas of work that I know well, there seems to be less attention given to loving what you do, and a skewed emphasis on just getting it done. A friend of mine asked me recently where the ‘humanism’ in management has gone. After participating in a panel discussion at a well known law firm, she was struck by the comments of young associates who attended the session. Their expectations of upper management were narrow and indifferent, acknowledging that these first years in ‘big law’ required many hours of work, but little of the relational connectedness that makes the ridiculous time commitment worthwhile. The concerns for their development were formulaic, the environment rich in superficial attention (if you’ve never been in the offices of big law, you’re missing some pretty magnificent work spaces) and sorely lacking in emotional investment. We’re not talking about daily ‘kumbaya’ moments, rather the contagious, energizing sense that people were engaged in doing work that they loved.
The workplace in general is delicately positioned right now – on the one hand, employers want their people to do more with less; however less and less time is being spent considering what new ideas or programs can be put into play to engender enthusiasm and passion for individual effort. So if you love the profession you’re in, and little is done to foster that indescribably powerful motivator, love will morph over time into benign acceptance. The reality is that at some point each of us has the ingredients to create a masterpiece. As a manager, director, chief officer, etc – what are your responsibilities to develop and/or sustain the professional and personal inventories from which your people can draw to create a masterpiece? Or in the interest of production, does it even matter any longer that people love what they do? Personally, I’ve done my damnedest to foster both love and skill instead of accepting skill and personal interest every time. What about you?