What does real work look like?

Many of us feel different when we return to work from a break. If you come back with better ideas, more energy and more creativity, it may be because your way of working is out of balance, or perhaps you’re just working too hard.

You were probably brought up with some sort of work ethic, with some sort of idea that success, wealth, prosperity, fulfilment were a direct consequence of hard work. It is an idea that has its roots in hierarchy. For millennia, religious and political rulers have promoted the idea that advancement was the consequence of working hard, not complaining and definitely not seeking to change things. Autocratic rulers’ interests are generally best served by compliant and hard working populations.

The idea is strongly embedded in our culture.

Conversely, wider society and innovative businesses are often best served by people being caring, conscious, conscientious and creative rather than just busy.

How many of you truly do jobs that are best delivered by working flat out?

How many jobs would be delivered better by creating more space to rest, recover, feel fresh and think about how to deliver value most effectively?

Think about an athlete – say a professional cyclist. It used to be that top riders would compete in everything they could, until they physically could deliver no more. With the pressure on to keep delivering more, riders looked for solutions. The skewed goal of over-competing inevitably steered riders in the direction of anything that would help them keep going. Pretty soon they got into a pharmaceutical “arms race”.

Good people, largely, compromising their ethics and their identity in pursuit of an impossible objective.

These days more enlightened teams pursue a much more focused strategy – identifying key high value objectives and designing the whole team around securing them and letting go of lower value objectives.

Design your teams and your work around very focused objectives, and work to “peak” for those objectives.

How many of you have been on a team, preparing for a key meeting or pitch where you have exhausted yourselves getting ready for the meeting, while simultaneously doing your day job and then expected yourselves to deliver a top performance in the meeting itself?

Conversely, how many of you have been in a meeting when you have listed all of the opportunities, evaluated their potential and then decided to ignore the 80% that offer the least value, in order to do a really good job with the other 20%?

Have you organised things so that you are completely prepared for the big presentation and then taken the day off to rest before the meeting? How many of you work in teams where energy levels are actively optimised through rest, nutrition, focus and meaning as well as incentives?

These things are beginning to exist, with many companies providing drinking water and fruit and a few providing rest and relaxation spaces. It would be interesting to know how many organisational cultures truly support people going off for a nap during the working day.

It all comes back to what “real work” looks like and what you expect of each other and yourselves.

Thanks to Neil Crofts at www.neilcrofts.com

If you’d like to discuss any of the topics raised here, then give us a call on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk .