Labor Day has been celebrated for more than 122 years. The holiday is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country”. Since then the labor force in the United States has shifted dramatically, and like many of our national holidays, the purpose and intent of the day has become obscured by modern traditions and fanfare. For most of us, Labor Day is a farewell celebration for summer, the kick-off of a new school year, and the start of the football season. It means backyard cookouts, picnics in the park, parades, and more.
I’m not sure I can think of a single Labor Day when I stopped to think about the “contribution workers make to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” So today, it seemed appropriate to share a few thoughts on how, if we truly want to honor the contribution of our workers, it shouldn’t be a once-a-year occurrence. It should be an everyday occurrence. It should be manifested in our daily interactions with our co-workers, peers, leaders, managers and subordinates. It should be part of the DNA of our team and company cultures, because it is indeed the workers in our companies that serve our customers and create the backbone of our company’s success and our nation’s economy. Paying tribute to our workers should be a core value of our company.
As I think about the SolutionsIQ mission and the work we do with our clients, I reflect on Agile values and principles, qualities of outstanding organizations, and characteristics of admired leaders. Here are a few points that resonate for me, and I hope they may inspire you to make the tribute of Labor Day a part of everyday.
- Transcendent Purpose – Start with Why
If we want a company with strength and prosperity, we need an engaged workforce. People that are passionate about what they do and know it makes a difference. A key factor in successful organizations and with impactful leaders is a focus on WHY, the purpose behind how we do things and what we actually do within our organizations. Honor the workers in your organization with the gift of purpose.
- Sustainable Pace – Agile Principle
“Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” (3) I could write an entire article referencing research that touts the benefits of focus, WIP limits, and slack time in the work day. The fact is that our ever increasingly technologically complex society is crushing us with stimuli and our brains just can’t handle it. We fall victims to a rat race where folks believe it’s a badge of honor to work on 13 projects all at the same time and be “needed” 60-80 hours a week. But to what end? Children that don’t really know their parents, divorces, aging parents that just want to see their child, bad products, and poor customer service? Is it really worth it? Be a leader that models sustainable pace (a challenge I personally have), and give the gift of slack time in schedules. Talk about a way to improve the well-being of our country – wow!
- Bring Humanity to the Workplace
If you watch “RSA Animate: Dan Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth About what Motivates Us“, you’ll see that he’s talking about more than motivation. He says we should treat people like people, not just “slower, smaller, better-smelling horses.”
Pink’s book “Drive” is really about the core of bringing humanity back to the workplace. Valuing our people, not treating them like infinitely expendable resources. Celebrate this every day, and Labor Day isn’t just a holiday for you – it’s a way of life.