Work Hard and Work Smart

In the 80’s I did not like Kirk Gibson because he was always causing trouble against whatever team I was rooting for that day.  Many people, especially Oakland A’s fans, only remember him for the pinch-hit home run in the 1988 World Series and limping around the bases.  You can see from the highlights that Gibson was one of the most competitive and enthusiastic baseball players of his era. His team could be in last place down by 12 runs in the 8th inning on the last day of the season and he would go as hard as he would if he was trying to score the winning run in game 7 of a World Series.  He didn’t put up Hall of Fame numbers but because of the way he played he was one of the most iconic players of his time.

Baseball and every other sport would be much different if there were more people who played with the intensity and enthusiasm that Kirk Gibson played with.  Now translate that to life, not just your personal life but your professional life, as well. In 30+ years I’ve been in the workforce I’ve worked with a ton of people at all different types of places–both where I worked as well as those who worked for customers, vendors, etc. I’ve seen superstars at work, but I’ve also seen everyday players, those that don’t try despite their talents, superstars that fell to vices, some that had all the desire in the world but no talent to leverage, and more.  I could line up those I’ve worked with over the years and literally pair them with ball players with mirroring levels of success and failure for mostly the same reasons. When you’re working, supervisors are evaluating you constantly just like coaches and team managers do. If you’re not hustling and making things happen, you’re one step closer to riding the bench or being released. Every organization is just like a baseball team. You have a structure to climb that is available to you and anyone’s job can be taken at any given time.  If you work hard and work smart you can move up pretty easily. If you don’t, someone may surpass you and take your job because they recognize the opportunity. Some employers will say, “If you don’t care about your work, there’s the door.” Instead, I want my employees care.

Working hard is only a part of the equation, though.  Working smart is just as important because it can further enhance how hard you work.  If you are working smart you are constantly thinking about the best way to accomplish tasks in a thorough and efficient manner without making mistakes and wasting time.  One of those things I try to teach is no matter what environment you work in, whether it’s an office, warehouse, or outdoors, do not waste steps. When you are walking from point A to point B, do it with a purpose and never be empty handed.  If you are on one side of a warehouse and going to retrieve a broom on the other end of the facility, figure out if there is something that needs taken to the other end or at the least, look for things you can do on the way such as pick up trash in the floor.  Do not carry the broom back, push it and sweep–make every footstep a useful step.

Author Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are some of the best work and personal habits one can follow:

  1. Be proactive – Don’t sit and wait in a reactive mode, waiting for problems to happen before taking action.
  2. Begin with the end in mind – Know where you want to go and what you want to accomplish and plan the steps to get there.
  3. Put first things, first – Learn how to properly prioritize.  
  4. Think win-win – Things you do that are good for you and good for someone else (or an organization or group of people) are always better in the long run than tasks that only benefit you.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood – Listen and understand intently before reacting.
  6. Synergize – Use teamwork to accomplish goals.
  7. Sharpen the saw – Renew yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually through exercise, rest, prayer, etc.  

A lot is said about today’s youth and Millennials with regards to their work ethic, but every generation is faced with much of the same criticisms.  As parents we have worked harder and harder to provide our children with more so they have to do without less than we did when we were younger. There is nothing wrong with that but they also must learn what life is all about and that life is not fair.  One of the basic laws of physics is an object’s motion cannot be changed unless acted upon by an outside force. If you put a baseball on a table, it doesn’t move until something or someone moves it. You, as an employee, will not move without taking action.  Do what’s required of you or less, and you will go nowhere. Every move you make will be lateral or backwards and not a step up. Walk slow, dragging your feet, automatically adjusting your speed to how important you think the task at hand is or according to how much time you have to do something and you will get nowhere.  But if you always work hard, accomplish tasks in less time than required, and make yourself available to do more the hard work will be recognized. Whether you plan to work on your current job for a year, five years or 40 years, you should be looking at it as though it is a stepping stone. Your current position should be a stepping stone inside your company or somewhere else.  You should always look at whatever you are doing as a way to better yourself.