It was a dimly lit restaurant. Still she was dressed in
pink, and while I admit it's hard to tell the gender of three month
old babies, clothing color is a reliable clue. So, it surprised me
when the waitress began playing with my granddaughter, asking "How old is he?"
Twenty minutes later, that same waitress served our dinners into my
daughter-in-law's lap, spilling the contents of her tray as she
approached the table. We made light of the occurrence, assisting her
with basic cleanup, but the interaction got me thinking.
I've met and managed too many people who operate like that waitress.
They're "at work" but not "present." Preoccupied. Disengaged.
Daydreaming. Bored. Text Messaging. Socializing. Whatever. Their body
is somewhere their mind isn't. They're easy to spot as they go about
their tasks in a robotic dance of just enough-to-get-by-ness.
These disengaged people seem unaware their present actions carve
their future opportunities. They're surprised when they don't get the
biggest raise, next promotion, or most interesting work. They're
astonished when the fun project or great client doesn't come their
way. After all, they've earned it. They've put in their time.
But time spent is not the important currency at work, nor is it a key
to winning at working. What's prized is your presence; your engaged
passion; yours enhanced efforts.
Malcolm Forbes said, "Presence is more than just being there." He's
right. Presence is conscious action and deliberate intention.
Presence is purposeful engagement of self. And that purposeful
engagement differentiates people who are winning at working from
people who aren't.
You see, when you go through the motions or come to work without
being engaged, you're passing time. It's not only the boss or the
company or the customer you short change - it's yourself. Passing
time diminishes your ability to be winning at working, reducing your
opportunities, financial gains, and interesting work. Passing time
hinders you from living your potential.
Whether you're bussing tables or performing surgery, stocking shelves
or drafting briefs, cleaning houses or teaching classes, you can't be
offering the best of who you are to your work, your life, or yourself
unless you're engaged, conscious, attentive, and intentional about
the tasks you're doing. And I'd wager you can't be enjoying your work
But here's the thing. Even if those tasks are far from your
interests, when you're intentionally engaged, time flies. Purposeful
engagement transforms the way you think about and approach your work,
allowing you to both learn and contribute. People who are winning at
working know that being present magnifies their results, enhances
their potential, and creates their future. They're not just at work,
they're actively in it.
©2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at http://www.nanrussell.com.