Hard work. Determination. Grit. Stamina. Drive. No doubt you’ve been taught that cultivating these virtues leads to success, and that seems to make sense on the surface. According to a State of the Workplace Productivity report by Cornerstone, 68 percent of employees surveyed said they felt there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
That sense of a time crunch may be a big reason why employees at companies such as Amazon and Google have been so vocal about how 18-hour workdays are normal and necessary to achieve success.
But that’s kind of nuts, right? LinkedIn’s co-founder even once said that he believes that too many leaders are stuck on doing more work when they should mix in laziness instead.
Reid Hoffman, now with Greylock Partners, said this in a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss: “The sort of grit you need to scale a business is less reliant on brute force. It’s actually one part determination, one part ingenuity and one part laziness.”
Yes, laziness. Surprised? Don’t be. Hard work requires hours put in, yes; but smart work demands a little downtime, too.
Getting it done while having fun
We work both harder and smarter at Hawke Media by embracing what we call the GSD (get sh*t done) mentality. And this makes sense: No one wants to play for a lame coach who says, “Yeah, maybe we’ll make the playoffs . . . that would be exciting.”
Instead, you want to be on the team that crushes the competition every year. At our company, we’ve found that by making GSD a core value, it’s possible to push ourselves hard and still take care of one aother. From the very first interview we have with an applicant, we talk about how hard it will be. We even have a poster in our office that says, “This is the most comfortable place you’ll ever be uncomfortable.”
One of my favorite stories is of a guy who’s been with us for two-and-a half years. This young man didn’t have a lick of experience on his resume. So, why why did we hire him? For one thing, he had started a lacrosse team at his college. The college didn’t have a team, but this guy wanted to play, so he made it happen. He figured out sponsors, helped the school hire a coach, got funds from the board and scheduled the first season — all by himself.
That’s the kind of person I want on my team. And he’s worked out. Since he’s joined us, he’s continued to GSD, while we’ve worked with him to develop the skills and talents he wouldn’t have been able to foster had we not seen him for what he is: a diamond in the rough.
Incorporating GSD into your own company’s culture will help you walk the line between aggressive work and supportive leadership, which, in turn, will help your people work harder and smarter. Here are some ways we’ve been able to achieve that balance.
1. The proof is in the proof.
I honestly don’t care if our team members are here for six hours a day or 14 — as long as the work they produce is solid, their clients are happy and they’re contributing to the positive vibe. But, how do you measure that?
We use BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) to summarize our missions and create a team rallying cry. According to James C. Collins, author of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, “A BHAG engages people — it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People ‘get it’ right away; it takes little or no explanation.”
Using that as a base line, you can create a BHAG that will clarify what’s expected and give your team a concrete objective to strive for. Basing incentives and compensation on output (i.e., successfully achieving the BHAG) rather than the number of hours put in will require a certain level of trust between leaders and teammates. But it’s worth building, as trust will move you forward faster and farther.
2. Don’t. Stop. Believing.
Take a cue from Journey’s classic rock anthem. You need a deeply rooted training and development program. Without it, your team members won’t continue to evolve. And when they try to just muscle through everything, they’ll lose faith in their own abilities.
You want to win, but remember Reid Hoffman’s quote above: Building a business not just about brute force. What you really want are people who will win through a combination of effort and intelligence. Provide good tools, bring in partners and have good educational material to keep your team moving. In fact, according to a 2016 Harris Poll found that 33 percent of employers surveyed that institute mandatory educational components see more employees stick around longer.
We hold a regular meeting every Friday, where my business partner, having read a relevant book that week, presents to the team what he learned, often incorporating other elements of professional development. Why? We actually care about our team members and want to provide them with the resources they need to succeed. They’re not in this alone.
3. Set fluid protocols to foster independence.
Your employees are adults. With that in mind, give them the latitude and autonomy to make smart decisions about how they manage their time. Before you can do that, you need to have basic processes in place. This keeps thing bracketed from a macro perspective, but not so much so that you’re inhibiting people’s ability to make good decisions on the fly.
Andrew Willis, VP of ecommerce technology at CustomInk, told Medium.com how he focuses on strengthening his team by making the connection between their responsibilities and the company’s goals very clear; that way, he says, he can depend on them to solve issues on their own. Willis said that he knows that well-trained, trustworthy employees make executives’ jobs easier.
Even if you have the best process in the world, if you haven’t empowered your people to make wise choices, you’ll lose. Even with a loose process and really strong people, you can win.
4. Lead from the front.
Here’s a sobering statistic: A Gallup study of 7,272 adults discovered that half of them had left their jobs to escape from a manager who provided little guidance. Don’t be that manager.
Joe Nolan, CEO of Motus, told an AmericanExpress.com writer how he gets his hands dirty doing the same work his employees do. He makes a point to never ask someone to do something he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. Seeing that kind of integrity in action means a lot to employees; it can inspire them to rise above petty resentments and focus on becoming as capable as their boss.
I’ve always said that if everybody in a company I lead doesn’t want my job or my brain, I’m probably doing something wrong. I want to embody what it means to be not only smart and hard working, but also easygoing and socially competent. Ideally, your employees will look at you and think, “Hell, yeah — I want to be like that.”
Want to get great work done and still have an awesome time? Remember that your team is full of strong, capable adults. Lead them well, by example, and you’ll be shocked at how fast and far you can go together.