In 1978, one of my classmates in school said something when replying to a teacher that has stuck in my mind to this day. I think the topic was something about what vocations we might be interested in. This classmate of mine said something like “We are brain workers. We will have jobs that use our intelligence fully.” I remember thinking how arrogant that sounded. Yes, we were in the so-called “top” class for our cohort, but I didn’t see how anyone could be happy working in a job that required the use of only three percent of their total body weight. I knew that Sherlock Holmes was reputed to have told Watson on more than one occasion that “I am a brain, Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix”, but to me that also meant Sherlock resorting to drug use in order to escape the inevitable boredom that would result from such thinking. I had worked in various places doing things as diverse as putting stamps on hundreds of envelopes, scraping paint off the floors of colonial-era bungalows, operating cyclostyling machines and helping out in a bakery. None of that seemed menial to me, nor did I consider them a drudgery. Sure, I wasn’t working at those jobs full-time, but I think I would not have despised them if I had been working at them full-time. We are far too enamoured of this thing we call cognition. We’re obviously too smart for our own good.
Lately, I have encountered more instances of people bemoaning the fact that they had to engage in bothersome admin work. Whining and complaining about the necessity of admin work while trying to appear composed and sophisticated about it. Now, I am no fan of admin work, but I will go at it hammer and tongs if it is necessary for me to do so. Admin work is far from menial drudgery. It requires clear and organized thinking, self-discipline and determination for getting the job done in a way that supports business objectives. Now, if admin work could be automated, please automate as far as possible. Just don’t bitch and whine and try to foist doing all the necessary bumph on to some other unfortunate victim you happen to have in your sights at the time. Real leaders don’t just assign someone else to do admin work. They know what needs to be done, assign the right person to do it, and makes sure that that right person has the right resources to get it done well in the shortest possible time. Leaders don’t shirk off admin work. If necessary, a true leader will do the admin work himself, find the best and most efficient way of doing it, and then assign the right person and show that person how best to get it done. If automation is available, the leader makes sure that automation is integrated into the overall company systems as well.
If you’re normal, you probably don’t like admin work, either. Do you shirk it off, or do you help your people do it better? Pay attention to admin work, too. It’s part of the package!