A Strong Work Ethic

by Randy Murray on November 8, 2011

The other day a friend complained to me about some people he recently hired. “They’re lazy,” he said. “I can’t get any work out of them. And when I do, it’s crap.”

He blamed it on the latest generation out of college and their need to be coddled. I’m not sure that’s it at all. I think it’s about learning how to work and wanting to do the work more than wanting to do other things.

If you give someone a task that they’re not interested in it will be very difficult to keep them doing it for a long period of time and to do it very well. They’ll find something else to do, something to distract themselves from the boring task, something to get them back to something that is closer to what they want to do. It won’t work to try and motivate them or threaten them. If what you want someone to do isn’t aligned with what that person wants to do they will do as little of it as possible.

But how do you align what you need to have done with what an employee wants to do?

You have to talk with them. If you’re the one having trouble getting something done yourself you may have to have a talk with yourself.

It’s not enough for you to explain why you need something done. What works is to state what you need to have done and find out what you or your employee wants. It’s not enough to say, “do this and I’ll pay you.” That gets you what my friend has: employees who don’t focus on their work for extended periods of time.

Getting strong effort, lots of work, from yourself or others requires that what you you’re doing is aligned with what you want. Sometimes that’s easy, but most of the time it’s not completely clear. Rather than say, “sort all of these widgets and I’ll pay you,” you might say, “You say you want to be a manager. If you want to become a manager I need you to spend time sorting widgets and finding out what’s the best way to do it. The only way you’ll learn that is to become the best at sorting widgets, drive new production levels, and send me suggestions on how to improve the process.” And you’ll have to real, honest goals and keep your promises.

It’s difficult to find that alignment for everyone, even yourself. You have to keep your goal in mind for the entire time you’re performing the little tasks that will get you there. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re not clear on why you’re doing something. Those we see who produce amazing amounts of work, who seem to drive themselves to higher and higher performance, have their goals firmly in mind all of the time. All of the time.

A strong work ethic isn’t about working hard, it’s about doing the work that’s necessary to get you what you want. Find that for yourself, for the others you work with, and you’ll be amazed at what you can get done.


See also: A Strong Play Ethic

The A Strong Work Ethic by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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