Tag Archives: hard work

How to find the biggest trick for success where you work

Are you trying to be successful doing the work that successful people throw out? What successful people refuse to do? Then hard work won’t help you.

Man pushing huge straw bale by hand.

How can you succeed doing all the wrong stuff?

This true story is about more than salespeople. It is about accountants, programmers and managers too.

Paul, beginning his job in sales, told me, “My manager seems to be able to make a sale every time we go on a call together. All the people we visit want to buy. He sells as much as everyone else in the office put together. When I take the leads he gives me, I can’t get them interested at all. What am I doing wrong?”

Paul was doing nothing wrong. His manager was visiting only high quality leads. Paul was visiting everyone that his manager didn’t pick for himself. His manager got the golden leads and Paul got the brass. Worse, Paul refused to look for the best quality leads in what he was given. He just went out and visited everyone.

Successful salespeople, accountants, programmers, managers, secretaries and septic tank cleaners all know what sales leads, jobs, duties and knowledge are most important.

Pick out the most successful person you know who is doing the job you want. Invite him out to lunch. Ask him, “What do you do that is different from less successful people?” Take notes. Don’t let him stop with one quick answer. Ask about what he reads, what he does, and the jobs he refuses to do.

If you really pry, you will find out that he no longer does a lot of things he used to do. Ask him, “What have you stopped doing because you no longer have the time to do it?” You’ll find that successful people really do work differently. They are picky. They find ways to get drudge work assigned to others. They study particularly difficult problems so that they are assigned the most interesting projects. They also invite themselves into meetings where thorny issues are discussed. They go prepared with fresh information. That’s how they get reputations as problem solvers.

If you want to become a guru, act like one. Do what the gurus do. Just as important, find a way to get out of the work that successful people throw away.

Something To Do Today

Make that call to a successful person doing the job you want next. Find out what they attribute their success to. Also find out what they no longer are doing.

The secret to getting credit and a raise

Eventually every great plan deteriorates into hard unexpected work. The trick is to get credit for it, and a raise.

A newly minted Psychologist went to a new elementary school.  Her job was to help children develop strong characters, overcome problems, and become fulfilled individuals. At 11:15 that morning the Principal poked her head in and said,  ”Come with me.  We need your help.”  A crisis intervention? Her training would really pay off now.  They both went to the lunchroom.  The Principal took the Psychologist over to the milk cooler and told her, “At lunch you sell milk to the children who bring lunches from home.” That Psychologist said she nearly quit.  It took her weeks to realize that every job has some work that just needs to be done.  Someone has to sell the milk.

She works for the children.  She really does change their lives, just not always the way she expected to.

You work for people.  Your boss is one.  He is a customer.  Your coworkers are customers.  The people who see and use your work are customers.  The people who buy your company’s products are customers.  Are you giving them what they need and want?  Are they satisfied?  Can you prove it?

In a job journal you can keep track of how you have served your customers.  Tracking what good you have done will improve your performance.  Telling your boss exactly what you contribute each week will get you a raise as you improve.  If your boss doesn’t give you the raise you have earned, your job journal will help you get a new job.

So, who did you help?  What was their problem?  Did your answer save time, money or frustration?  Write down and report on your expected duties.  Also report on the times you just have to sell milk.

It is not hard.  It’s a great plan.  It just takes a little work.

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Something To Do

Do you have a job journal?  Create one for as far back as you can remember if you don’t have one already.  Unemployed?  Create one for your last job.  Write down what you accomplished. What things are better because you were there?  Did you save money, earn money or keep a customer?  Write it down.

Here is the gutsy part if you have a job. Managers need to know what you accomplished, but most are afraid to admit they don’t know what you do every day. Submit a report to your manager in a format he can use to show his boss.  Do it every week.  Give your manager something to brag about every week.

Write down your failures in your journal too.  That way you can show how much things have improved later on.  Report failures along with how you have fixed them and how much money your improvement will now save.

Are you job hunting? or working hard?

Useful work or administrivia?

One of my managers told me, “Bryan, you don’t work hard enough.  I put in 60 or 70 hours a week. Even if I’m just in here filing stuff, I’m getting more done than you.”  I couldn’t answer him.  I was too amazed.  He took my silence for the deep pondering of a well taught student and left. I am grateful he could not read my mind.

The hardest working people I know are paid about the same as others who work steadily and put in 40 to 45 hours a week.  Both the 70 hour week and 45 hour week people are VP’s and directors. They are paid the same.

The people working seventy hours a week focus on the 3 do’s differently.  They focus on working efficiently or hard.  They want to get a lot of work done. At the end of the day they point to the fact that they did the work of 3 people in only 70 hours.

The 3 do’s

  • Do it.
  • Do it right
  • Do it right now

 

The people working 40 to 45 hours a week also focus on the 3 do’s.  But they first prioritize.  They try to avoid adminstrivia, the things we are asked to do that don’t really help.

One director I worked for said, “When my boss asks for a new report, I faithfully send it to him for 3 weeks.  It is always a masterpiece.  The fourth week I prepare it for him and don’t send it.  If he calls and asks for it I apologize and he has it in his hands in minutes. Most of the time he never asks for it.  I prepare it for a couple of more weeks just in case, then I stop entirely.”   He was one of the most highly rated directors in that company.

Now lets get something straight.  45 or 90 hours of wasted time will get you nowhere.  Solitaire, internet poker and reading the news don’t count as well spent time.  You have to be doing what’s most important for 40 hours each week to beat out the person working 70 hours.

In your job search or your job this lesson applies.  Are you only putting in the time or are you focusing?  Are you doing the hard things that will have the biggest impact, or are you spending your time in the same online job boards praying for miracles?

Do it.  Do it right.  Do it right now.  Don’t get distracted.  Focus on what is most important.  Then take some time off with your friends and family.  They’re important too.

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Something To Do Today

It is time to figure out what you are doing.   Really.  Make a list of the things you do at work or in your job search each day and each week.  Think about it.  Are you consistently working on the most important stuff, or are you merely focusing on activity?

2 things that create career luck

IQ experts say that Thomas Jefferson was the smartest man ever born.  I don’t doubt he was brilliant.  He harnessed his brilliance to the ox of hard work.  Without his hard work, that incredible brain would have been wasted.

I am sure there have been many others born who were smarter than Jefferson, no matter what the experts say.  Those who were smarter were never recognized because they either worked in obscurity or didn’t work much at all.  They used their brilliance to just get by.

So, two things:

  1. You have to work hard
  2. You have to be recognized

Make sense?

I constantly talk to job seekers who have managed to get themselves into a great position.  They work hard, have a great attitude and are willing to take chances.  Interestingly, they commit with all their heart even though they may change jobs or positions frequently.  They commit, work hard and make sure their accomplishments are recognized.

These superstars often hit bumps in the road.  I know one that went from COO, to $24,000 per year junior associate, then back up to senior associate at $70,000 per year in 24 months.  A year later he was CTO.  He makes commitments, works hard and gets recognized.

Something to do today

It is time to look at your habits.  Are you performing at the level you want to be recognized at?  In other words:  work hard and get recognized.

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Next:     Ask and you shall receive

How to get cleat marks up your back

“I want to find a place where I don’t have to work so hard anymore.  I’m 6 years from retirement. With my experience, I should be able to get top dollar for my next job.”

Do you see the absolute logical disasters in that statement?  He wants to work less, slow down preparing for retirement, and be paid as much as ever. I hear these words at least once a week.  They are the prelude to disaster.  This guy may get another job, but he will be fired.

No one wants to pay you to relax and take it easy.  They want your best effort.  They want miracles.  If you decide it is time to slow down, then step down too.  If not, someone who wants to work hard is going to leave cleat marks up your back. He will run right over you to climb his career ladder.  Your boss will cheer him on and give him your chair.

A lot of people complain about age discrimination.  There is a fair amount of it.  More often the problem is that the young guy is obviously determined to excel.  He commits to hard work. His record shows 50, 60 and 70 hour weeks. The older person literally says in an interview, “I’ve learned how to work smart and not hard.  I don’t need to put in more than 40 hours a week anymore.”  The boss who is putting in 70 hours a week will not believe the old guy can do it.  What is worse, often the older guy has a history of declining output.

“In accordance with our principles of free enterprise and healthy competition, I’m going to ask you two to fight to the death for it.”  (Monty Python)

Who would you hire? The person whose output is increasing, or decreasing?

Especially if you are over 40, like me, you have to show in every second of your interview that you can outwork, outlast and out perform any of those young guys.  Your message is that they don’t know the meaning of accomplishment.  If you prove you won’t relax and take it easy, you’ll get the job. It doesn’t matter who you are competing against. If you relax, you’ll get cleat marks up your back.

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Next:         The attention business

Your New Career Is Only 3 or 4 Steps Away

There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. (Powell)

Gary decided the world needed a better way to pay insurance claims in 1996. He made a plan and took a step.  Then he planned and took the next step, over and over. Along the way he picked up investors, technicians, sales people and managers.   The company changed into a stored value credit card company.  A few years ago he sold his company for over $200,000,000.  

Did you notice that his company is not the same as it started out in 1996?  There was a problem with the payment method they wanted to use.  When they solved that problem, they found the possibilities in the payment solution were greater than in their original plan.

Let’s not concentrate on Gary.  Let’s concentrate on the people who work for him, the people who do what you do.  He has accountants, programmers, lawyers, salespeople, managers and secretaries who all took a chance.  They found someone who could daydream.  It was Gary.  They believed in his daydream.  They hitched their careers to his star and away the whole team went.

If you are doing exactly what you like, stay there.  If you want to do something else, look for someone who can help you achieve that dream.  You may first have to hitch your career to a place that will help you pay for the school education you need.  The time will come when you are too constricted there.  You will have the school education.  Next you need hands on experience.  First try to grow where you are.  If you can’t grow, start looking for the next place you can grow.

Your career will be a set of steps.  Your initial plan will undoubtedly change.  Plan three or four steps out and execute the next step.  Then when you accomplish that first step, re-plan.

The world changes incredibly quickly.  Plan to change your plans.  Now, work the next step and cause your future to change.

Write out your plan.  What do you want to do?  Then plan 4 major steps to get where you want to be. 

Being a business owner, consultant programmer or the number one salesperson in your field may be right for you.  Or you may find that being a great mother or father is even more important.

Make sure your plan gets you to what will really make you happy, not just to where other people will worship you.

Heal work pebbles – the Dr. No method

The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (unknown)

The team leader I disliked personally the most was a good project manager.  One redeeming social skill was that he knew about Doctor No.  When he was asked to add just a little more to a project he would agree and then ask what he got to drop to make up for adding that little bit.  He did it religiously. He didn’t just say, “No,” he used the Doctor No approach. He asked the person adding work to tell him what else he could say “No” to. He turned the person giving him the work into Doctor No, a healer.

I hate firefighters–people who commit a project to disaster.  The most difficult problem for firefighters is to say, “NO!”  It is hard to refuse to carry a mountain as it is thrust upon you one pebble at a time by smiling friends.  Still, you MUST gently refuse the pebbles.  The best way I have found to refuse pebbles of additional work is to require the person handing you the pebble to tell you which other pebble you can drop. They become Doctor No and fix your time and resource problems.

The velvet glove on the steel fist comes in handy here. As the person trying to hand you the pebble tells you how small it is, you have to clearly tell them it will not get done unless they tell you what else to drop.  When they say, “You decide,” tell them, “I won’t do your task unless YOU tell me what to drop.” If you absolutely can’t get them to let you drop something, you then decide to drop something.  Tell everyone by voice AND memo what will not get done due to the specific additional burdens placed on you.  Then “don’t do” what you said you wouldn’t do.

Does this apply to job hunting?  Absolutely.  I will give you more information on job hunting than they can possibly apply in a day, week or month.  Doctor No is about prioritizing.  If you ask me what order to do things in, I’ll tell you.  Otherwise I expect you to figure out what is most important and drop the rest.

Doctor No is about setting priorities.  It is a nice way to get the people overloading you to help unload some of the burden.  Turn those people into Doctor No. Let them be the healer.

Something To Do Today

Most people are afraid to try the Doctor No approach.  Try it out the first time with a smaller project, something thrust on you that really is not that significant.  Don’t say, I’ll try to get that done and then stay late to finish it.  Ask the person to help you figure out what to drop instead.  If they won’t tell you what to drop, tell them it won’t get done until they open up a hole in your schedule for you to do it.  Then don’t do it.  Your pebble pushers need to find out you are serious.

Your great idea is worth….

The most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will. (Thomson)

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  (Goethe)

I got a furtive phone call from a candidate a decade ago, “Bryan, this idea can make you a fortune.  I don’t want to tell it to you unless you promise me half the money you make from it. This will make you rich.”

I answered, “You want half of my business for an idea?  Great ideas are wonderful.  I have them all the time.  What I need are people who can execute great ideas.  Will you quit your job and risk everything to make your idea work?  Will you be content to be rewarded only after your idea is making money?”

“Well, no.  Listen Bryan, if you do it, you will make a fortune.  You only have to give me half.”

Unable to keep the idea to himself, he eventually told me that his idea was to bring cheap programmers from India to the United States.  It was a great idea. One I was approached with literally every day by phone or email.  And many people made their fortune doing it.  I just needed someone daring enough to take the idea and run with it. I needed someone to execute the idea.

Do you have a great idea?  If you have the guts and energy to gather supporters around you and execute that great idea, you will have the ride of your life.  It can be done in your present company, a new company or your own company.  Make sure the idea and your plans are big enough.  As many companies fail from a big idea executed in a small way as from a small idea executed in a big way.

Write down your plans.  Get people to critique the idea. Use criticizers to figure out how to do things better.  When someone says, “It can’t be done,” consider the source.  Go out and make things happen.  Life will never be the same for you.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal write down all the great ideas you have.  Do it in a separate section.  Discuss your ideas with people who can help you make them happen.

Guerilla gardening, jobs and job searches

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” (I found it!) but “That’s funny.” (Asimov)

I was down to 5 blueberry plants.  I had more in the past.  I love blueberries.  Because of the varieties I have, I get to pick them for 2 months each year.

I decided to plant.  I didn’t have the $200 in my budget for the plants I wanted.  So I looked up how to grow my own blueberry plants.  The instructions included mist boxes, planting medium, hormones, infections, mold and other horrible things. I wasn’t about to grow them that way.

Guerilla gardening was the only real possibility.  I spent a couple of months thinking about the problem.  I looked up some things about houseplants and roses.  That spring I gave some fresh ideas a try.

I cut 22 budding branches from blueberry plants of 6 different varieties. I dug holes in the deep leaf compost of the blueberry garden and planted them.  Then I covered the cuttings with jars. The jars keep the moisture level high around the cutting.  It gives the twig a chance to develop roots.

I took off the bottles a month after planting the twigs.  18 of the 22 blueberry cuttings looked like they would survive.  Alas, they didn’t.  I took the jars off too early.  But guess what?  I’m going to try again.  This time I will leave the jars on another month or two.

Guerilla gardening triumphs again. Not only will we save $200, the new plants will grow just as well as mail order plants.  Mine won’t be yanked out of the ground and sent by mail to us.  They will just keep on growing where they are.

Can’t get a reply on your resume? Why not come up with a guerilla campaign – a series of things you can do to get a job.  Do something more than just sending a resume.  Pick a company or 3 that you really want to get into.  Now figure out how to get to know the people who would be your coworkers and hiring managers.  Emails, phone calls, mailing them a bag of M&M’s or inviting them to lunch can all be a part of the campaign.

Unable to get the resources you need at work? It could be an opportunity to shine.  Think of ways to get the job done at low cost.  What resources can be diverted for your project? Study alternate ways of getting the job done. In Spanish “guerilla” means little war.  Figure out how to win each project as a little war of its own.

If your project succeeds, tell your boss in your weekly report.  If it fails, tell him all the alternate approaches you considered.  Let him know you are trying to get essential tasks done with less resources.  He will appreciate it.

If you are job hunting, the guerilla projects that succeed go on your resume.  The companies you apply to will want to know how you can make projects succeed without a budget.  They are eye catching advertisements for your intiative.

Something To Do Today

Take a project you want to do, but don’t have resources for.  List 10 possible ways to make it a guerilla project. Do some research and list 5 more ways.  Is the result worth the effort if it works?  Then make the effort.  Succeed or fail, you will learn something.

The hours game – how to avoid it

A coupla months in the laboratory can save a coupla hours in the library. (Westheimer’s Discovery)

A friend sold me a chainsaw cheap.  She was doing me a favor.  She admitted that it ran, but it did not cut well at all.  I took the chainsaw home and reversed the chain.  It works great now.  A little while ago my son decided to cut some monstrous tree roots with the chainsaw.  Suddenly it wouldn’t cut anymore.  The dirt on the roots had horribly dulled the chain.  I took it into my basement and spent half an hour sharpening it.  Now it cuts again.

The career trash heap is littered with the bodies of people who thought 20 MORE hours a week at work would get them promoted. While they were slaving away, someone else reversed the chain or sharpened the saw.  The thinker and planner got promoted.

You need to do your basic job well.  Other than your basic job, what will set you apart?  What will make you the best?  What will make you the natural leader?

Your boss wants to look good and get a raise and promotion.  What can you do to help him? Is your working more hours the only thing that will make him look better?

Your company wants to make more money, spend less, and keep the customers happier.  Can you do something a little better while you are doing your basic job? Can you get involved in highly visible projects?  How can you set yourself apart?

In addition to being better, you have to get noticed, respected, and appreciated. Give your boss a weekly, monthly and quarterly report of exactly what you did better.  Then in your next annual review, you have ammunition.  And if you go job hunting, you have proof.

Take a careful look at your job.  Can you reverse the chainsaw chain somewhere?  Can you just sharpen the saw?  What do you need to do that will move you forward the fastest?  Is just putting in more hours really the most important thing you can do?

Ask your boss how HE is evaluated.  Now ask yourself how can you help HIM get a better evaluation?  Sharpen your chainsaw, don’t just work more hours.