I apologize for basically having two book review entries in a row, but I wanted to somewhat keep up with the #SAchat Book Club.

The book for the month of July was “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink. The book talks about how motivation has changed along with the type of work being done in modern day and age, but many companies and employers are still treating employees like it’s the industrial revolution. I’ll be honest and say that I was not the biggest fan of the book. Last month’s selection had some sort of plot and was much more an “easy read” than this months. I’ve mentioned earlier (or at least in my page about the books I’ve read) that I’ve just come off what seems like a lifetime of assigned readings. This book read like something from grad school – lots of theories being mentioned. I wound up skimming many sections. Luckily, I found the video below that summarizes the main points of the book nicely and even includes some of the anecdotes that were enjoyable to read.

Some things that stuck out…

Near the beginning of Chapter 2, there is an excerpt from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer about how Tom basically tricks his friends into painting a fence for him by making them think the work is fun. Basically, Tom HAD to paint the fence, so to him it was work, but his friends didn’t HAVE to, so they thought it was fun. This makes me wonder if I can “trick” my RAs into thinking some of the more mundane tasks of their job are fun. I don’t think there is any one person on this earth that likes every single aspect of their job and my past RAs are no exception. Some love planning and hosting programs and meetings. Others enjoyed making floor decorations. I can only think of one RA off the top of my head who enjoyed being on duty. Maybe two. Ironically, both are pursuing careers in law enforcement, but that’s a different story. Anywho. There are many tasks that RAs HAVE to do, but how can I make it feel more like play and make it something they WANT to do?

Another section mentions using fines to make daycare parents come get their kids on time. In theory this should work. But it didn’t…once the parents knew that there was a fine in place, they knew what would happen. Before the fine was in place, the parents did not know the consequence of not picking up their child on time. Now that they know, they aren’t “afraid” of the consequences. I have worked at schools where students were fined for a variety of infractions. At one school, students were charged if the common spaces on their residence hall floors were excessively dirty. In some halls, students were made aware of these charges at the beginning of the year whereas some just knew that they would be fined without knowing the amount. The halls in which the students knew how much they were being fined (or had already been fined once and therefore knew the amount) tended to be dirtier because they knew the amount was not much and that, heck, if they were already paying the school $10,000 for the semester, what’s another $10 charge? One of the things I am nervous for in my new job is that the RAs are fined if they do not have the required number of programs, post the required number of bulletin boards, etc. While many of the RAs are RAs because they like the job or need the money, I am worried about that small percentage who might think, “pay $$ or post a bulletin board?” and then opt to just pay the fine. If I see that this is a problem during the academic year, I am going to have to show this part of the book to my supervisor to encourage her to come up with alternate sanctions for RAs not meeting administrative requirements.

One part I made sure to make note of was three practices for getting your employees to do simple, routine tasks. This is something I’m going to use with my RAs, especially on some of those tasks mentioned above. Here are the three very important practices… 1. Offer a rationale for why the task is necessary. 2. Acknowledge that the task is boring. 3. Allow people to complete the task on their own.

Another idea I am very much in favor of is ROWE – Results-Only Work Environment. Basically the idea is that you can work whenever as long as you get your work done. This does not apply to all lines of work, but could definitely apply to some degree in student affairs. There’s not really a comp time policy at my current institution, so it is understood that you are here all day in the office and then attend whatever events you need to in the evening and for X days per month, be the on call person. I knew coming into the profession that I’d be working more than forty hours a week, but there will be certain times of the year where I’m going to be overwhelmed and I believe as long as I’m doing the things I need to be, I shouldn’t need to be just sitting at my desk during traditional working hours. There have been times where I am not doing much at this desk, hence how this blog was born.

At Google, employees get 20% of their working time just to create something new. So many projects we use today have come out of that 20 percent…GMail, Google News, Google Talk (which we all call GChat). I’m sure Google+ came out of that, but I still don’t believe people really use it. While I can’t think of much of a use for it in my office, I just thought this was interesting because of  how many of the services my friends and I use.

I really enjoyed the “Take a Sagmeister” section.  Every seven years this guy closes his graphic design shop and takes a year off. His reasoning is that he’s just taking the time from his retirement and enjoying it when he is physically able to. As of 2008, the average person stayed with an employer for just over four years. While I don’t think I can be taking any full years off any time soon, once I get loans paid off and my life in order, maybe taking a full year off in between jobs wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world? I’m glad I’m hearing about this idea now when I am starting my career and can possibly plan for it, rather than finding it out when I’m forty.

One thing I appreciate is the amount of freedom that I have now compared to when I was working in retail where every minute had to be accounted for. I also thought back to my days as a student employee in admissions. The secretaries that supervised us when we helped with data entry, filing, and mailings probably hadn’t heard the three practices for routine tasks. I knew why we had to be doing many of the tasks and I certainly knew they were boring, but I never heard any of them acknowledge it. Also, we were definitely not allowed to complete the tasks on our own. They implemented a headphone ban sometime during my first year. For the life of me, I could never understand why I couldn’t listen to my iPod while stuffing tons of envelopes.

I definitely can see how the concepts in this book can apply to individuals that are higher on the food chain than myself. I think that’s maybe another reason I did not like the book as much as last month’s. It’s less applicable to my own life. I can see some improvements I can make in the areas where I supervise and advise, but I do not have the authority to make institutional changes…yet.

So while this wasn’t my favorite book, I have been reading many more books and I will continue to post book reviews and I’ll even make sure to space them out. Maybe I need to start updating more often…

Any readers out there read “Drive” for either higher ed reasons or in another profession? How did you apply what you learned from the book into your workplace?

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