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Ask John Dame: Make work meaningful and leave drama at home

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As an executive coach for the past 15 years, I have worked closely with dozens of CEOs and their leadership teams. All of the executives with whom I work face similar issues. Send your questions to JD@johndame.com.

Q: I don't understand why people have to bring their personal lives to work. I don't need the drama. Can't they just put up a virtual wall between their work life and their personal life?

A: As hard as it is to believe, an absence of drama in life is a pathological condition. Drama is the meaning, the interpretation of our human experience. If there is no drama at work, most people will bring it from an outside source.

If you, as a manager, have not created the context or meaning for the work, people will insert their own. If what happens outside of work is more meaningful than what happens inside of work, you will notice that people will bring that outside in.

This means you have to create a story or purpose in your company that is more meaningful than any drama your employees can make up. If the purpose or story is strong and meaningful to each employee, they will love coming to work and leave all that other drama elsewhere.

Q: What do you do when things are going “south,” yet everyone indicates they are hitting all their quotas?

John Dame
John Dame - ()

A: My first response is that you have bad goals if individuals seem to be performing well yet your company is floundering. I also see leaders not looking for perspective.

Here is a quick story that will help illustrate that point. A high-growth services firm experienced a 25 percent to 30 percent drop in net income in 2017. The president of the company, rather than look for help within or outside his division, decided that more sales would solve the problem.

Not only did it not solve the problem, but it exacerbated the problem. It was not a revenue issue but an escalating cost issue. Not one time did he reach out and say, "I know less than you do. Can you give me a hand?"

We are all far too slow to ask for help. We see this as a sign of weakness. My advice to you is to say, "I don’t know what I don’t know," and then find a consultant or mentor to offer you some perspective. It is not a weakness to ask for help, but rather a sign of maturity.

John Dame is a CEO coach, executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County. Visit his website at www.johndame.com.

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