Wayne Morris is the principal of Morris Consulting, LLC, specializing in growth for early-stage SaaS companies. He helps founders and CEOs successfully build their inaugural sales teams. He was featured in Work on Trial, the first documentary produced by The Predictive Index.
Wayne Morris doesn’t mince words about why he made a seismic career shift in early 2021.
“Life is short—I get one shot at it,” he says. “Why would I do something that doesn’t play to my strengths and passions?”
That maxim transcends work, or any other traditional method by which we organize our lives. You wouldn’t spend a lot of your time dabbling in a hobby you found boring and tedious.
For Wayne, it has universal application. Purpose and gratification have as much to do with how you organize your Google Calendar as where you live, who you spend time with, or any of the material gains we’re conditioned to believe are the spoils of “work.”
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne did what many people only romanticize: He left a lucrative and successful role in Silicon Valley, in favor of more autonomy, more time with family, more freedom to create his own schedule, and a sense of purpose that felt increasingly elusive working for a larger organization.
Employee choice means employer evolution
We’ve seen a key theme emerge from The Great Resignation: Employees crave more choice in their working lives.
It’s a point that reverberated throughout the Work on Trial documentary. But it was bubbling well before the calendar turned to 2021.
Respondents to our 2021 People Management Report indicated that choice is becoming a more attractive amenity than any ping-pong table or office kegs companies can conjure.
That might mean adopting a hybrid work model that affords people increased physical and psychological safety. It could mean giving employees more say in the projects they take on. For many, it’s about health coverage and benefits—including access to mental health professionals. Whatever the case, the upshot for employers seems clear: Employee choice is increasingly non-negotiable.
The employer-employee dynamic is inverting. Workers are no longer willing to blindly accept grind cultures, or stick around with a company they feel gives them little in return. Nearly two years of social distancing and mass uncertainty has prompted existential questions, chief among them: Why do we work?
Wayne didn’t start wrestling with these questions during COVID, but full-time remote work laid the stakes bare. He spent formative hours with his children that otherwise might have been lost to commuting or business travel. He developed deeper bonds through time with family and friends, and felt reluctant to return to a situation that, to him, stripped him of that time arbitrarily.
Wayne also recognizes not everyone may have the resources to quit their job and start their own business.
“I think I’m an exception,” Wayne says. “In the teams I’ve built, I’ve had to have people’s backs, because in my opinion they are too loyal, and too caught up in what the company expects of them. And they often lose sight of what they must expect of themselves.”
For employees reconsidering their professional lot, that’s exactly what it’s about. There’s a new premium placed on employee agency. More workers view themselves as the CEOs of their own careers. Because, as Wayne points out, when we exhibit blind loyalty to an organization that doesn’t reciprocate, we do ourselves a disservice.
Being good to yourself means also being realistic
It’s probably not a coincidence that The Great Resignation coincided with a mental health reckoning. COVID forced people to introspect. Some of them concluded it simply wasn’t good for their well being to stick with unfulfilling jobs. Once the economy rebounded from the initial shock of lockdowns and restrictions, those workers were willing to take the risk of quitting.
Over the course of his own introspection, Wayne came to some practical conclusions that led to a similar decision. He figured out that maybe 10-15 hours of his work week was spent providing real value to his clients and employer. If he got the rest of his time back, there was so much else to gain. So he made the leap—he started an independent consultancy. And in doing so, he says, he regained purpose and fulfillment, in addition to the most valuable commodity—time.
Wayne’s hardly the only person who’s coming to this sort of conclusion. The numbers don’t lie—people are quitting jobs at record rates, often without securing another full-time opportunity. Companies that adjust to this reality will be best positioned to mitigate the attrition. Those who ignore the “why” risk obsolescence.
Even before making his own career move, Wayne found that when he granted his team freedom and autonomy, their productivity improved. Free from arbitrarily rigid schedules, many of them even came in earlier, found more focus time, and achieved better results. When they truly enjoyed what they were doing, work became their golf course, or their beach, so to speak.
“So rather than stuff the other 25-30 hours of an employee’s week with whatever tasks you can pile onto them, what you should be doing is finding ways to understand what will make them happier, stronger and more fulfilled in their work, given time is their most precious resource.”
The next step in this employee enlightenment is for more people to identify (and adhere to) the limits of their labor. It’s a discipline Wayne puts into practice regularly as he scales his consulting operations. He’s learning where and when to say ‘no,’ and always erring against overpromising. Above all else, he’s valuing his time and energy.
Don’t be afraid to set people free
The same lesson applies to employers. To Wayne, the notion of lifetime loyalty is folly. Companies can’t continue to maintain the illusion of control. People may work for businesses, or bosses, but if they all left tomorrow, as Wayne asks, then who’s really the boss?
As leaders and managers, be realistic with your expectations of people. That means not demanding more than what they signed up for, not overpromising, and not selling them a culture you can’t commit to or fulfill.
The businesses that lord over employees as if they own them will ultimately lose. The better approach is to treat people for what they are: vital to the success of any business. People keep things humming, and aligning your business strategy with your people strategy is the essence of talent optimization. But people are not commodities, and at a certain point, their growth will extend beyond your business.
“Today, my view is this,” Wayne says. “Rather than promise the world of opportunity to your employees, if you cannot give it, just set them free.”
Wayne Morris has set himself free, forgoing a more traditional career for invaluable intangibles. He has control, and he has purpose.
As for companies? Those that recognize workers have this leverage will be rewarded when their employees choose to stay, instead of leave.