“It’s slow tonight,” I said to the owner of our favorite Italian restaurant with a laugh, looking out across the full dining room that usually featured many folks waiting to be seated. “Is it because Easter is tomorrow?”
“Maybe,” he said. “We were busy this afternoon, and we’re booked solid all day tomorrow.”
“You have to work on Easter?” my wife asked, admitting later that she felt sorry for his wife.
“I work seven days a week,” he said, with the kind of smile that revealed contentedness rather than masked suffering.
“Well, I guess it keeps you out of trouble,” I said. “And since you’re working all the time, your bank account must keep going up.”
“Well, you know, we’ve got a lot of expenses, but it’s ok. We can pay our bills. We’ve got 14 employees,” he said with pride, “that’s 14 families eating out of this place.”
He smiled and topped off our wine glasses. “You folks have a good night,” he said before moving on to the next table.
“That’s it!” I said to Marie. “That’s how I feel! He just expressed it better than I ever have.”
In order to accomplish something — to get somewhere — in an efficient manner, it is important to know the destination as soon as possible, for only with the goal in mind can the myriad decisions that must be made along the route be reached. In order to construct a satisfying life, it is important to know what drives one and what gives one happiness and satisfaction; for only then can those priorities be honored.
The last few years have taught me clearly that my independence — including freedom of time and action — constitute the most important “thing” in my life (minus family, of course). Therefore I know that any action which would materially deprive me of this is a non-starter. Since I transformed from business owner to employer in January 2012, I found another aspect of life that gives me deep satisfaction, and it is that which was articulated so succinctly by the restaurant owner above. In essence, there are three families “eating out of” healthsystemCIO.com and, more than that, they are allowed to do so — to do their work — in a manner of which they can be proud.
That they can be proud is critical, because I have no interest in presiding over an organization in which employees must barter joy for a paycheck. For me, it must be both, or nothing at all.
“But Anthony,” you say, “sometimes people have to do things they don’t like as part of their jobs.”
To be sure, that is true. If revenues does not surpass expenses, we all have to take our ball and go home, but I know Kate and Nancy understand that fact, and they know I would never ask anything of them that wasn’t necessary and appropriate.
What is equally necessary is that I know what drives me — a mixture of forces that is always in flux to some degree, but critical to stay in tune with. If one of your priorities, like mine, is the happiness of your team, I think that will stand you in good stead. I think it will help you made 1,000 decisions that increase their satisfaction and, thus, effectiveness. I think caring about how the folks who are “eating out of your department” matters. And I think if that’s where your focus lies — whether your accountant balance rises or holds steady — “It’s ok.”