I really enjoy reading and listening to Malcolm Gladwell. “Insight porn” is the name I have heard used regarding his genre of writing, since the thrill of similar books seems to be the “aha” moments that happen through such books. Gladwell references in several of his works a study1 studying what area of the goal a penalty kick is most effective and where most soccer or football players will kick a penalty kick or which area goalkeepers will dive to attempt the block. This study indicates that the most likely chance of success for a penalty kick is kicking the ball to the middle of the goal rather than to either one of the sides. Want to guess where most players kick the ball or guess where the goalkeepers usually go for the block? If you said “not the middle” then you are correct and you win the prize((sorry to tell you that there is no prize)). Gladwell speculates that the cost of looking like you aren’t trying as hard or looking foolish is greater to the players than the reward of the increased likelihood of a goal. Therefore the players kick to the sides rather than the middle where they are more likely to score and thus do a better job.
I bring this up because I struggle with the same thing every now and then. Sometimes I am more concerned with looking like I am working hard than actually working hard. The current specific instance occurs within one of the companies that I chaplain for, but I could also list pastoring and other situations if I felt the urge.
The best and most meaningful conversations I have in one of my companies consistently happen in the break room. I’m not sure what it is about the physical structure of the building, the culture of the company, or my own behavior but every time I take a book and sit in the break room really meaningful conversations about serious needs happens. I joked with the head of the company that I should just announce my presence and go straight to the break room instead of doing my rounds. So why don’t I do this?
Well because of my own fear of looking like I’m not doing anything. I know that I am a more effective chaplain when I sit in the break room, but I believe I look like a more effective chaplain when I am walking around the company. If I were in a signalling mindset at the moment I would say that I was more concerned with signalling that I am an busy than I was actually being effective. That’s why I am posting this here and I have discussed this with the head of the company. I am trying to be more concerned with being effective than I am with looking effective. The plan is set. All I need to do now is pick a book and go to the break room. I am going to be more concerned with being effective, than looking effective.
- This study is from Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame – you can hear the Freakonmics episode on this study here. [↩]