When I was happily employed as a full-time musician many years ago, I noticed the difference between those who played music as if their life depended on it and those who didn’t.
Maybe I was just lucky, but the former description fit nearly all the rock musicians I shared a stage with, from talented local bar bands to concert headliners such as Sly and the Family Stone and The Grateful Dead. These musicians performed and rehearsed with urgency, with something at stake. They weren’t always playing for their livelihood but they always seemed to be playing for their life.
Unfortunately I also knew a few musicians—usually in wedding or "general business" bands—who would actually nod off during a rehearsal or gig! (Just for the record, I have nothing against wedding bands—or weddings for that matter.) I remember when a leader of a cocktail quartet complained to me about his drummer: “I wish he would just quit.” I could only respond: “I think he did a long time ago.”
This is all too often the case in business at large. You probably know plenty of workers who “mail it in.” Their life is not in their work. In fact, surveys show an alarming number of employees in most organizations are mailing it in.
According to Gallup’s new State of the Global Workplace report only 15% of employees worldwide are actively engaged in their jobs. 85% are not living up to their potential, which affects their value to their employers and the degree of fulfillment they get from work. (The numbers are better in the US—68% not engaged—but nothing to crow about.) These statistics may surprise you, but they have remained roughly consistent over many years of detailed Gallup surveys. There are survey results by other organizations that are less shocking, but still not comforting.
No wonder Matthew Kelly, author of The Dream Manager, says, “Disengagement is probably the only problem larger than the turnover problem. A lot of employees quit and stay.”
A favorite quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr:
Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.
The lesson here? Don’t worry so much about employees who quit and leave. They aren’t your biggest problem.