Why smart workers aren’t busy doing nothing

Want to know the secret to success? Peter Foy reckons it’s all about using your energy wisely. Here’s how

“It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” Ronald Reagan.

Compare the words of a former president of the United States of America with the work ethic and philosophy of Elon Musk, billionaire CEO of Tesla and other high-tech companies. Musk claims to work 120 hours a week, while Reagan was famed for his laid-back approach to life.

    For every swan drifting over the surface of a lake, there’s a pair of legs doing a lot of work beneath.  

So the question I’m thinking about is: who’s right?

Busy fools and smart workers

We have all experienced the busy fool as a colleague. That person who is always early at their desk and late to leave, but actually achieves very little. The one who is quick to tell you about their long hours and the awesome responsibility that comes with their job, but who doesn’t really make an impact on the workplace.

At the other extreme is the professional who appears to glide effortlessly through the working day, taking everything in their stride. This person makes it look simple to win deals, easily exceeds targets and still manages to enjoy a great life. They probably have a beautiful family, a dream house and a fantastic future. It’s hard not to feel a little envious of the ease with which they live, even while acknowledging their brilliance.

Of course, we all know that nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Even those people with an apparently charmed existence, titans of time-management who coast through life with all the grace of an accomplished ice skater, have moments of self-doubt. For every swan drifting over the surface of a lake, there’s a pair of legs doing a lot of work beneath.

But there is a valuable lesson to learn from these two stereotypical extremes – and that’s about the need to expend energy wisely in order to succeed.

Inputs and outputs

Over the past 40 years I have learnt that successful professionals, be they software developers, sales folk or recruiters, share a pattern of behaviour.

With salespeople if you take a snapshot of activity halfway through a quarter, some will already have made the target and be building pipeline for the next quarter. They are organised, steady and structured in their approach. They identify priorities, work methodically and with dedication, and get things done. As a result, they can enjoy their downtime, secure in the knowledge that work is going to plan. And it’s all thanks to careful planning and appropriate application.

Those, hopefully the minority, who haven’t adopted these virtuous habits things look very different. Their targets aren’t close to being met, let alone beaten. They’ve no prospects for the next quarter, because they’ve barely planned to the end of this week. And they look constantly harassed, like butterflies flitting from flower to flower but never resting.

In short, they’re busy fools. 

People deliver results

Now, it’s my responsibility as a manager and leader to help these people develop the right habits. Which is why staff training and development are so important to business success. Invest in your people and you’ll reap the rewards. It’s as true now as it’s ever been.

What’s also true is that, if you get the right people in place, your chances of succeeding increase dramatically. We can help with that, because it’s our business to find the employees who will make your organisation take flight.

So, if I can help my staff to work smart, it’ll increase the chances of your staff following suit. Sounds like a good bit of business for all concerned, doesn’t it?

Oh, and by the way. Reagan won the Cold War. As for Elon Musk… well, he may be rich, but the jury’s out on his achievements.

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2019

Published: 26 November 2019

If you liked this article you may like to read – Spotlight on Haverhill

You may also like to read – Business insight: Analysing UK employment figures

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