28/06/2013 § 2 Comments
My six-year-old son is a nightmare to manage. For a start, he simply can’t remember some important things. How many times have my wife and I reminded him to flush the toilet, not to eat with his fingers, to tidy up his paper aeroplanes, to tidy his clothes and shoes away, to use a plate. He’s brilliant at remembering some things (“daddy, remember that you promised me this morning that I could have an ice cream this afternoon”) while things that are peripheral to his vision, but important to me, he can’t seem to retain.
He is also challenging to communicate with. If he’s upset about something, you can sense it because his whole body expresses it, but he won’t talk about it unless you patiently sit with him and peel back the layers.
He is demanding, noisy, messy, irritating, makes no contribution to the family finances, leaves doors open and is constantly challenging.
He is also an absolute delight. When he giggles, it dissolves away all my cares. His innocent way of seeing the world makes me believe that anything is possible. His joyful engagement with life is a constant lesson to me. His high regard for me (he is only young, bless him) constantly calls me to raise my game, to do my best not just for him but for all. His vulnerability brings out the caring side of me, driving me to work hard to nurture and protect him. He is a ray of sunshine who lights up our house.
If he were a member of my team, by conventional measures I could hardly justify keeping him on. What’s his contribution to the bottom line? Well directly, nothing at all. In fact he takes up a lot of management time, not counting weekends. What does he bring in? He brings in mud from the garden, sticks, stones and precious found things discarded by others. But no money. No customers. Is he doing anything productive? Well, he makes at least 10 paper aeroplanes every day. He whittles away with his knife on bits of wood. He creates colourful drawings. Does that count? No, I didn’t think so. I suppose I could try to explain to my boss how much more joyful, exhilarating and rich life is when he is around but in the world of management this doesn’t cut the mustard.
He is the chilli in our chilli con carne, the fizz in our champagne, the yeast in our loaf. He brings a wildness – something uncontrollable, unpredictable and very much alive. It is in us too but more hidden, and he calls it out.
It is perhaps this exuberance, this sense of the wild and free, that is most sadly lacking in our workplaces today. In the drive to become productive, to contribute to serve the needs of the economy, we fail to serve the needs of human beings and, as an inevitable consequence, the needs of the non-human world, the needs of life! All workplaces need at least one Lucas, whether they contribute to the bottom line or not. Our workplaces are sadder and drabber places without them.