The other day I was talking to a colleague who just retired from dental hygiene. I was telling her that I'm looking for a dental assistant so that I can spend more time on my management duties. We were talking about how hard it is to find people with great work ethics who love caring for patients. She mentioned that it seems like everyone just shows up for the paycheck anymore.
I have to admit to a momentary feeling of self-satisfaction. After all, I know that I don't do that. But, it was a feeling that brought questions with it. Ok, so I've been fortunate enough to find what I love to do. Not only that, I've had some success with it, and some people think I'm good at it. I am even lucky enough to work for a wonderful boss with a great team. That all feels good to me. But, then there's that first paragraph again. I was sitting with a colleague bemoaning the fact that I can't find others who love what they do. I have to admit, it doesn't sound like I was being part of the solution, so does that make me part of the problem?
Maybe I am. Maybe I've been looking too hard for that thing that tells me that this person doesn't care like I want them to. Maybe I should be looking instead for that tiny spark that I might be able to breathe into a flame. When I think back to when I started out in dental assisting at 18 years old, I have to ask myself, "Did I feel then like I do now?"
The answer is "No", in more than one way. I loved dental assisting, but I didn't feel it as a vocation; now I do. At 18 I wanted to put in a good day's work and take good care of our patients, but when the door closed behind me, my 18 year old world opened in front of me and I forgot about work for the day. I didn't go home and write up newsletters, blog articles or read dental periodicals. I wasn't trying to think up new and better ways to serve our patients. I was out with my boyfriend and my friends doing what other 18 year olds do. When I thought about the future, there was nothing dental in the picture; rather I foresaw a wedding, babies and a home. I was a good dental assistant, but it was in a box that fit where I was in life at that moment.
It seems to me that it would be more realistic to look at employees in more than a dental dimension. Yes, we want them to be in it for more than the paycheck, but that's where leadership comes in. I think we have to lead them to the satisfaction of a job well done, a patient well cared for. So much can depend on how we interact, react, and reward. When I read the line in the above Steve Jobs quote, "as with all matters of the heart", I realize that we must address the heart of the employee if we want their work to matter to their heart. Their heart has to matter to us. What do they need from us? When we find out, we have something to do with it. Even if, in the end, this doesn't end up being the work they love, at least you'll know that you did your part.