Work Smarter, Not Longer

Does success come from a commitment of hours or from a commitment of passion and focus? I want to advocate – primarily – for the latter. I was professionally raised in a time when we were measured by the number of hours we put in as well as by our sales results. Yet it was always clear to me that there was not always a consistent correlation between the number of hours that we worked and how well we did. Some people could achieve as much as others in a lot less time. Today, I am not sure that much has changed – people still may be measured by the hours that they put in, and with the constant state of being way over-connected and “on” 24/7, I think the issue gets muddied even more. Here are some basic truths we all need to think about as we plan our days so we don’t get caught up in just working longer hours.

  1. Being “present” is much more important than actually being present. Being physically present for the sake of being there is overrated – being in the same physical workspace does not guarantee better results. People can do great work and accomplish great things even if they are physically elsewhere, as long as they are focused on doing good work. Customers can tell if you are “there” but the lights are out!
  2. Passion counts. I don’t care how many hours people work – if the passion for doing a great job isn’t there, then it does not matter what the timeclock says. As a sales leader, I will take a passionate sales professional who believes in the product and in what he or she does over someone who simply works longer hours any day. Passion is profitable; it creates excitement around everyone, and we all feel good about what we are doing! Being “on” is important!
  3. There’s no glamour in exhaustion. Working long hours to earn some sort of mythical badge of honor – “Look at me and the hours I worked” – does not necessarily mean that someone is a better or more successful worker. My observation is that this leads to people being more tired, a state that builds until a more permanent exhaustion sets in. Clients see this as well. As a sales manager, I always kept an eye out for people who needed to be told to go home and stay off email. I believe that more rest means more sales! Answering your boss’s emails at midnight makes you both sleep deprived and cranky!
  4. Balance is important. We all know what we have to do to be seen and measured as successful. So work to find the right balance of hours you spend working and focused passionate work to ensure that you meet and exceed your success metrics. These may change as our lives take their inevitable turns.
  5. Optically busy? I once had a boss give me some great advice. He said that being busy is much more than giving the appearance of being busy! Doing things that you think will make people believe that you are busy usually don’t work. People see right through things like constantly walking throughout the office as if you are on a mission, or sending long, detailed emails at odd hours, and so forth. I once had a coworker tell me that she was sure she fooled people into believing she was doing her job by writing two memos a day. Really? I think people are smarter than that!
  6. Trust is profitable. Trust that people will get the job done! Assessing people by how many hours they work as a measure of how hard they work is not always fair and can be very demoralizing. Focus on helping people succeed and finding their own way to get “there.” I have seen amazing salespeople exceed plan in half the time it takes others; on the other hand, there have been times that I thought that some people took longer than I may have liked. I had to take a deep breath and just let go and trust that people were passionate and focused about their work. Just because they didn’t stay until midnight and work every weekend, their passion and focus weren’t necessarily less than my own, and in almost all cases I was pleasantly surprised that people did a great job!

I am not saying that I don’t work long hours – I do, and there are times when I need to just stop and pick up again the next day. I have seen that people who are good at finding their balance ultimately do a much better job. They are people who can be trusted to get the work done, which creates a much healthier environment for us all.

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