One day, a master commanded his two servants to plant seeds while he was away.
One servant placed the command of his master to his heart and obeyed, while the other servant only heard the words of his master and went on his own way.
The first servant, who loved his master more than himself, worked hard. Every day he planted seeds underneath the sun. Though sometimes he felt so tired, he never quit; he just took a rest and thought of his master coming back. There were also times when he got hurt because of stones, insects and other harmful objects but still he never gave up; he continued doing his master’s command. He knew that someday all his hard work would pay off and his master would be pleased with him.
The other servant, who loved himself more than his master, enjoyed the pleasure of the world. He thought that his master wouldn’t know what he was doing. He used his freedom for his own sake. He put aside his master’s command and followed his own will. Many years passed, still the master did not come back. The faithful servant kept following him, bearing his master’s promise, while the other servant wandered around the world.
One day their master appeared and was pleased when he found one servant in the field harvesting the crops but disappointed when he couldn’t find the other one. The master called the two servants and explained why he had been gone for such a long time. He said that he built a beautiful home as payment for the service they rendered, and those who have been faithful would be with him, back on his property, in their new home.
So he asked them how good their harvest was.
The faithful servant happily announced that he had hundred fold of harvest every year while the other servant bowed down and asked for forgiveness because he had nothing for his master. The master, who was just, rewarded the first servant and took him back to his land and gave him a new home but the other servant got nothing and was punished.
I have a problem with parables like this, especially when we are trying to draw inspirations that can engender workplace productivity and peak performance. You don’t just tell people to plant seed and go on a far journey. Some folks deserve to know why they are planting the seed, for how long are we going to be planting the seed. What is the timeline? What is the big picture? What are we trying to achieve? If it is achieved within the stipulated timeline, what is in it for me? That is some of the questions that bosses need to answer in order to get people perform their best even while you are away. You don’t just dish out instructions and then take a walk and expect optimum performance from your staff. Most workplace are operating the model we just saw in that parable and they wonder why they are not getting the best performance from their employees.
Instructions play a critical role in the formation of a person’s character. However, you cannot just continue to feed your subordinates or your team members with plethora of instructions until they begin to suffer from mental kwashiorkor!
Don’t do this! Do this! If you don’t do this, I will do this.
This live these have become the instructional main courses that some employees get fed on a daily basis. Of course, the idea is to reveal and address issues that might affect productivity in the workplace.
Most of the young career persons go to work each day with a predominate goal in mind: How not to violate the instructions of the boss. They appraise their effectiveness in the workplace by the quantity of instructions they obey. Why? That’s the main course that their bosses feed them with!
When you ask these young professionals to communicate the core vision of their organization, they either falter or they proclaim something utterly or fairly different. Yet, this situation has caused, and is still causing, serious growth and productivity problems in several organisations.
Many bosses in today’s workplace struggle to drive healthy and sustainable growth simply because they continue to stuff their subordinates with heap of instructions, while starving them of visions. In fact, the following are the prevailing stances in many workplace:
Boss: “I’ve to meet my target. Therefore, I need to always give instructions to my subordinates.”
Subordinates: “I’ve to obey my boss’s instructions so that I can receive my pay check and don’t attract his punishment or reprimand.”
Okay, now don’t get me wrong. Instructions are important and they’re needed in the workplace. They’re tools for getting things done, no doubt. However, if we must attain healthy, sustainable productivity and growth, then we need to always feed our subordinates with vision. Communicate the big picture and also how the functions of the different arm of the organization affect the big picture.
Don’t hoard the vision and then only dish out the instructions. When you always feed your employees with instructions, the truth is that they may get so engrossed or used to obeying instructions that they lose sight or grip of the big picture. Achieving peak performance in the workplace requires that you bring your subordinates at par to the core vision of your operations or task. And they can only be at par when they understand and own your vision. And bringing and keeping them at this point requires that you always communicate and reinforce the vision and not just the dos and don’ts.
Listen, attaining peak performance from your workforce is not a sprint. You need your employees to help translate your great vision into reality. And you know something? Your employees aren’t robots! They’re humans—and they got hearts and minds too. So rather than continue to just feed them with unremitting instructions, start now to always feed them with a vision. When you do that, you’re not setting your team or your organization up for strategic, long-term growth, but you’re also raising HEALTHY employees that truly THINK!
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