Seven years ago, the now retired CEO of Porter Industries, Steve Hendrickson, introduced our leadership team to his favorite management author, Patrick Lencioni. The first book of Lencioni’s we studied together was “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.”

Lencioni often uses what he terms the “business fable” to communicate his subject and ends with brief chapters describing how the lessons can be applied to your staff and company.

In “The Three Signs,” Lencioni focuses on three themes that his fable’s protagonist, former executive Brian Bailey, developed after he assumed his career years were over. After selling his company, Brian filled his days skiing in Lake Tahoe. But after a skiing accident, he quickly found himself with nothing to do.

Brian and his wife occasionally ate at a small Italian restaurant near their new home. Both noticed the general apathy and lack of passion and execution on the part of the restaurant’s staff. After one of these experiences, Brian dropped by the restaurant to offer his help to the owner and walked out a part owner and evening manager. While observing the staff Brian developed his theory of what was keeping this restaurant from becoming a better place to work and patronize.

First, Brian observed several employees who were unable to measure their own performance, which he termed immeasurement. Second, he found employees saw their work as irrelevant. Third, Brian observed that the staff suffered from anonymity. No one was genuinely interested in the employees as individuals.

As the fable continues, Brian helps the employees find ways to measure their own performance. In addition he asks each employee to identify who they served, and therefore who would find their work relevant. Finally, as their manager, Brian spends time learning about the employees, their families and their extracurricular activities.

Lencioni’s three simple principles from Brian’s fable can be applied to any industry — and janitorial often faces a “miserable job” stigma. So, we continually search for innovative ways to help our janitors measure their own performance. We train our leadership to remind staff that their work matters to thousands of customers and building occupants who are affected by the cleaning efforts put forth in their workspaces everyday. Most importantly, we take the time and learn about our staff members, their lives and what is important to them.

I would encourage you to read this book and open yourself back up to the simple strategies that we all likely employed at one time in our careers, but may have set aside for “more objective” practices.  

Ken Sargent
President and CEO
Porter Industries
Loveland, Colorado

As a child, author Patrick Lencioni listened to his dad describe the frustrating dysfunction within the company he worked at for 40 years. As president of The Table Group, Lencioni has dedicated his career to helping organizations, and the people within them, become more successful.

With “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job,” published in 2007 by Jossey-Bass, Lencioni tackles the universal problem of job dissatisfaction. Using a fable to illustrate his message, the book gives employers the resources to engage, motivate and retain employees. The key is eliminating the three primary culprits: anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement.