A man stepped up from his midtown subway and headed home, walking along a route in his neighborhood he'd not taken in quite some time. Suddenly, he happened upon a large flurry of dust, noise, and construction, with a dozen or so bulldozers and dump trucks swarming in and out of an enormous new hole in the ground that took up almost half the city block. Curious about it all, he carefully entered the site and approached the first worker he saw, a crane operator using a wrecking ball to demolish an old retaining wall, breaking it into smaller pieces so the bulldozers could load them onto the dump trucks and carry them away. Where the operator sat was an amazing collection of dials, gauges, camera screens, toggles, and levers, certainly the latest high-tech set-up for this type of operation; it all reminded him of a modern airline cockpit, something obviously requiring significant training and technical skill to operate. After catching his attention and asking him what all the activity was about, the operator just looked over and snarled at the man, "Can't you see? We're bustin' up all of these rocks!"
The man continued over to another worker, a manager of some sort, he supposed, judging by the way he was dressed and standing over piles of contracts spread around inside a little trailer. This person looked very important and certainly could help him understand this big new development in his neighborhood. The man tapped on the little trailer window and asked him who he was and what all the new activity was about. Shouting at someone over his iPhone, the manager paused and partially turned his head just long enough to shout through the open window, "Can't you see? This is the project office and I'm the manager!" The man stood there just outside the trailer for a minute or two longer, as he was truly interested to know what, exactly, was this project, but the project manager just ignored him and kept shouting into his phone.
Finally, walking on past the site to leave and go home to his apartment, he spotted, through the clouds of dust, an older woman standing off to the side, working diligently. She had a look of determination on her face and was sweeping up debris from some of this construction work into little piles, a seemingly insurmountable and endless task. Her tattered, nubby broom and somewhat crippled posture gave him the impression that she'd been at this same job for a very long time, and probably would be there for a long time to come. He patiently waited a few minutes until she had finished with one of the piles, and then approached her. "Excuse me, what's going on here?" he inquired through the chain link fence separating them. The old woman paused, looked over at the giant hole in the ground and then back again, looking directly into the eyes of the man. Her eyes lit up, she smiled, and then said with such pride, "Oh, can't you see? We're building a beautiful cathedral!"
There's many versions of this timeless story, but the message is the same: Some workers develop a focus on all the little things and difficulties of the role at hand. Some others will go on to find a purpose in their role, yet it always seems to begin and end with themselves. And, then, there are those workers able to find real meaning in what they see going on around them, however humble their own role, because they've been able to connect it to a greater purpose.
When your domestic staff look around them, what do they see? Are they just bustin' up rocks? Or are they building a cathedral?
And what could be your role in helping them make the connection?