Employee Engagement: Are you building a cathedral—or just breaking rocks?

There is a classic fable about a man who approaches three laborers breaking and shaping rocks. The man asks the first laborer what he is doing. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m breaking rocks,” the laborer replies. The man asks the second laborer what he is doing and he responds that he is building a wall. The man then asks the third laborer what he is doing and the laborer responds, “I’m building a cathedral.” 

The three men are all doing the same work, but each with a different perception of its relative worth. Which man do you suppose is coming to work happier and more engaged?

The first man sees his work as a job, the second man sees his work as a task, but it’s the third man who sees his work as a worthy calling, because he is clear about the bigger picture and how his work connects and adds value.

And it is that man who, according to Blanchard employee work passion research, has more positive intentions about

  • performing at an above-average level
  • being a good organizational citizen
  • using more discretionary effort on behalf of the organization
  • remaining with the organization
  • endorsing the organization and its leadership to others

In a new monthly column for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the power of meaningful work and alignment. For leaders looking to rekindle a “cathedral” point of view in their people they suggest:

  • First, remember why you got into business in the first place. Without an occasional reminder, sometimes it really can seem like the only reason the organization exists is to make money for shareholders.
  • Second, connect the dots between an individual’s work and the organization’s overall goals. Make sure that individual tasks and roles are aligned to current initiatives by regularly reviewing what people are working on and how it is contributing to overall performance.

Helping people see and understand the meaningfulness of their work is one of the most powerful things you can do to create strong and powerfully motivated employees. To learn more about creating a sense of meaningful work in your organization, check out Scott and Ken’s new column at Fast Company here.  To learn more about Blanchard’s research into employee work passion, follow this link to Employee Passion: The New Rules of Engagement or From Engagement to Employee Work Passion: A Deeper Understanding of the Employee Work Passion Framework

6 thoughts on “Employee Engagement: Are you building a cathedral—or just breaking rocks?

  1. Pingback: Turning the Corporation Inside Out : A Fresh Perspective on Employee Engagement | Ecopreneurist

  2. Hello! Perhaps an odd question but i was wondering if i could use the image of the female constructionworker for a schoolproject i’m doing on equality. Nothing will be published or be used for any type of monetary gain, simply a schoolproject. Sincerly / Dan

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  6. Pingback: Breaking Rocks versus Building Cathedrals | John Maeda’s Blog | maeda.pm

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