Working Hard is not Enough
Work smarter, not harder.
How many times have you heard that adage?
Don’t get me wrong: I am in favor of working smarter. If you’re not working smart, no amount of hard work will get you ahead. In fact, it makes me wonder…
Can hard work overcome the absence of smart work? Probably not.
Can smart work overcome the absence of hard work? Sometimes, I think it can…
This train of thought was inspired by an article on Forbes.com: The 13 Money Mistakes Most Business Owners Continue To Make.
Entrepreneur, consultant and author Garret Gunderson anchors the article. He’s the founder and Chief Wealth Architect of Wealth Factory. He’s published two books: the New York Times bestselling Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity (2008), and The Money Tree: The Roots & Fruits of Poverty & Prosperity (2016).
Inspire Employees by Backing Off
Item #11 on the list struck a chord with me, in which he unpacks this mistake: “Thinking that simply working harder will move your business ahead.”
Gunderson doesn’t chime in with the old saw about working harder. Instead, he talks about strong and well-articulated vision:
He cites… JFK going on television in 1961 and saying we’ll get a man on a moon within this decade and we’ll get him home safely. “NASA showed up for work differently after that happened,” he says.
He proposes that sometimes, owners’ ethic of hard work and long days presents an obstacle to learning for teams and individuals:
People get better vision when they learn to take better care of themselves as an asset. Consider spending fewer days at work than you currently spend. People can’t operate properly when the owner is always available. Owners are the cheapest labor available when they’re always there to solve problems. The team never gets tested or upheld, and the business owner burns out. Days out refresh the mind and allow the team to learn to make better decisions. When you think about it, most people are doing nonproductive things all day long. Create the opportunity for them to step up, and in most cases, particularly if you’ve hired and trained correctly, they won’t disappoint.
When to Work Hard, When to Work Smart, When to Inspire
Ultimately, no single adage provides the wisdom of the ages in one tidy package. There are times to work hard, to work smart, to emphasize vision.
It’s also not a zero-sum game: I think most circumstances call for a blend of these strategies, and that’s where the art lies. Much as we’d all like to apply one simple, inflexible rule and ride it to success, that’s just not how the world works. However, I appreciate Gunderson’s perspective on re-thinking how to cultivate excellence in a team through calculated absence.
What do you think? Do owners need to back off a little so their teams can learn to fly?