When my neighbors, a husband and wife, moved in about two years ago, they came with their dog, two kids and parents in tow. Soon, we became friends and I became particularly fond of my friend’s father, Mr. Ernest. He and his wife grew up in our area well before suburban sprawl took over, when “Northern Virginia” didn’t exist. Now home to one-third of the state’s residents, our part of Virginia was simply farmland when Mr. Ernest was young. In fact, where I live now was so far away that DC locals used to consider it a day-trip destination. Now, people who live further out than me commute regularly to Washington, DC.
You can tell that my friend’s father misses being active outside because he finds any reason to be there: trimming a tree, mowing the grass or even edging the sidewalk. If he could have chopped and restacked their wood for the winter, he would have. Never mind that last week was the hottest week we had seen since last summer, or that we were under a heat advisory pretty much daily. We still found Mr. Ernest mowing his lawn. He reminds me a lot of my dad, which is probably why I like him so much. My dad insisted on mowing his lawn, with a regular push mower, a week after having angioplasty.
Mr. Ernest stays active despite his age and knee issues, too. He uses a riding lawn mower to cut the grass. His determination to do yard tasks that his grandson or son-in-law can do is what most inspires me. There is always a family dynamic at play that cannot be underscored. And, I totally understand. As parents who live with their adult children, he and his wife want to contribute.
Much of this family dynamic is transferrable to the workplace. Most of the people I know simply want to contribute. They want to be part of the solution. They want to feel empowered to make good decisions and be thanked for a job well done. They want to believe that what they are contributing to the organization matters.
As managers and leaders, it’s our job to make sure that our staff members not only do the work assigned, but also feel as though what they do matters. So, in the hustle and bustle that is everyday work, let’s focus on telling our employees this.