In Action, Change, Leaders

“The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.” – Jeff Haden

Most people you meet like to talk about how hard they work. They talk about putting in a lot of hours, about their terrific work ethic, and, depending on their age, how younger people just don’t want to work as hard as they do. They talk about how all of that hard work has paid or will pay off. Some of them are actually correct when they say these things.

But most people are confused about the value of “hard work”. Congratulations on working hard for eighteen hours a day – but what if everything you’re doing is of little to no value? I know for a fact that there are days I’m more valuable in just a few hours than some people are in a week, and unfortunately, vice versa. Just because you’re tired at the end of the day doesn’t mean you’re doing a great job.

If you’re going to successfully lead an organization, you can’t just work hard. You have to work hard doing the things that will make you successful. That maybe doesn’t seem like a statement of pure genius, and yet many (most?) leaders don’t seem to understand it.

Think about what you’re doing on a daily basis. Is it the same stuff you’ve been doing for years? Is it the same stuff most people in your industry are doing? Should it be? If you and your business are going to succeed in today’s environment, you can’t just work hard doing stuff you’re comfortable with. You can’t just keep doing things you did ten years ago. You and your business have to constantly evolve. If you feel like you’re completely comfortable with what you’re doing at work, then you’re probably not doing it right.

Make a list right now of everything you do in your job. What are the five or ten things that are least important on that list? Why are you doing them? Do they need to be done at all? Could somebody else do them? At the very least they need to be off your plate. And don’t bother with the “nobody else can do it” excuse. That’s your own fault for not developing your people.

The point of all this is that working hard doesn’t pay off. Working hard at things that are important is what pays off. Working hard at things that don’t matter is a form of laziness in itself. Don’t be too lazy to stop & figure out what’s valuable. Work hard at things that matter.


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