It’s time to re-think lazy

I’ve been hearing a lot of leaders talk about lazy employees lately, and was discussing this trend with my wife Linda, over breakfast today.  Somehow this turned into a dissection of our tubing trip down the White (lazy) River in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  More specifically, it was about the behaviors of our guide, Otis.

The more we talked about it, the more we realized that Otis was not just a great guide, he was displaying great leadership qualities – qualities that do not let employees fall into the lazy category.

Here’s what Otis did:

  • He got into the water with us.  That might sound like a ‘duh’ for a tubing expedition, but looking back it set the stage for the entire experience.  He helped us get situated, pointed us in the right direction and made us feel comfortable.  He set an example.
  • He kept us together.  We were at the mercy of the currents, so every now and then Otis would come over to me and say, “where is your wife?”  Not long after that, Otis would be dragging Linda or I toward the other.
  • He helped us through the tough spots.  The White River has some “rapids” that made the trip more fun and adventurous, but also a little more trecherous. Otis took the time as each person approached to tell them exaclty what to expect and how to handle it.

Looking back, Otis could have simply put us in the water, wished us luck and waited for us at the end.  While I think we would have made it to the end just the same, our outlook on the experience would have been vastly different.

I think the same thing happens to our employees when we get them started on the right foot, pay attention to their progress and help them grow.  They know that someone values them, and people are more inclined to work hard for someone that values them as an individual rather than a company that simply issues a paycheck.

Other side of the coin – an employee is trained in their initial duties (even if trained well), but is never told how they are doing, given areas to improve or any positive recognition for when they really hit a home run.  Utlimately, that person begins to think that no one values what they do, so they don’t value it either.  Their performance slips and we call them lazy.

When I first got into leadership I heard the quote that “as a leader, everything is your fault”.  I know I will keep this, and Otis, in mind the next time I run across someone who might be “lazy”.

Thanks for reading!

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