Personable and enthusiastic about her work, it took me
months to uncover the problem. Calling Cheryl to my office for a
quick question, I inquired why the information I needed wasn't in the
file. "Oh," responded Cheryl, "I haven't done the filing yet."
Thinking she misunderstood what I needed, I explained that what I was
looking for was from four months ago. "Yeah, that filing's not done
yet," she said matter-of-factly.
It turns out Cheryl didn't like to file. So she'd ignored that aspect
of her job, working on the growing pile, stacked unobtrusively in the
supply closet, for just five to ten minutes a day. By the end of our
discussion, I realized it wasn't just filing Cheryl was ignoring.
Several tasks were minimally touched.
Cheryl did what many who are not winning at working do. They
intentionally dawdle, procrastinate or ignore the parts of their work
they don't like. They choose their to-dos, not by what needs to get
done, but by what they feel like doing that day. Personal desire, not
business needs, dictate their cherry-picking approach to a job
description. And then they wonder why they're bored, don't get a big
increase, or are not offered the best assignments.
As a new manager at the time, I didn't get it. As a seasoned manager
twenty years later I still don't. You see, work is much like Henry
Ford's adage: you can have "any color, as long as it's black."
There's not much choice on the basic model of job responsibilities.
You've been hired to do what needs to be done. So like it, or not,
that's why your job exists. There's no smorgasbord option to the work
you're commissioned to complete.
But here's what many people miss about job responsibilities - they're
only the start. You can cherry-pick the best and most desirable work
and choose what's fun and interesting to you. People who are winning
at working do it all the time. That's because they understand
discretionary effort and cherry-picking are options they can explore
after the work they've been hired to do is done, and done well.
So instead of procrastinating, they get through their work, so they
can tap into the best new assignments. Instead of putting off what
they dislike to do, they get it out of the way. And instead of
dawdling or wasting time with least important to-dos, they prioritize
their work around the needs of the business and tackle the more
difficult responsibilities, impacting results and contributing to the
You see, people who are winning at working make a different choice
than Cheryl did. Recognizing that the path to more interesting and
challenging work comes by doing the job they've been hired to do
exceptionally well first, they do that.
Like J.P. Morgan said, "You can't pick cherries with your back to the
tree." People who are winning at working never turn their back on
their job responsibilities. Instead, they help grow a bigger tree.
They know that higher pay, promotional opportunities, discretionary
work endeavors and assignment cherry-picking follow strong
performance and accountability.
©2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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http://www.winningatworking.com. Currently finishing her new book,
Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way, Nan is an author,
consultant and speaker. Visit http://www.nanrussell.com