Tim on Leadership

Musings on Management and Leadership from Tim Parker

Work Hard

 The folks I work with almost always end up asking why I work so hard.  I am usually in the office early, often work through lunch or eat quickly at my desk, and either stay late or work from home in the evenings.  The reason why is simple: I love my work and want to do the best I can at it.  And I always keep in mind that I am being paid a considerable amount to do that work, and I want to deliver not only the company's money's work, but more.  The simple truth, though, is that I work hard because I love what I do.  The work itself is my passion.  Computers are my hobby, and software development and the processes around it are what keeps me going every day.

So why work hard?  Many employees think executives sit around on their butts, drink coffee, chat with their fellow execs, and generally do very little.  Heck, that's what I wondered when I was an employee, so I can't blame others for wondering it about me.  To some extent, that's why I stay highly visible in the office and ensure my team sees I am working hard, just like they are.  Lead by example, in other words.  Of course, there's working hard and there's working smart.  Sometimes both are necessary.

A little story: I was updating some Web content which included dozens of pages, all requiring a few lines to be changed in every page.  I considered scripting the task, but there was enough variation in the content to be replaced that it would not be sensible.  So, I started doing it manually.  Open each page, search for text, cut and paste, make necessary minor text changes, save, exit.  Repeat 100 times.  Dull, boring, routine work.  My assistant wandered in and asked why the heck I was doing it, instead of allocating it to someone else.  But why would I foist off this mundane task on someone else?  She argued my time was worth more than the other persons, which technically is true, but since we were already in the evening hours and the whole process would take less than an hour, what difference would it make if I stayed and did it?  Sure, it was boring, but I got the job done that day, got the updates on the Website immediately, and knew I did a good job, regardless of how mundane.  And I didn't annoy some other employee by giving them a task I was "too good" to do. Lead by example.  No one in the team knew what I did, and I didn't tell anyone, but that's part of the job.  Do what's necessary to support the company and team, and don't complain!

I have noticed that when I join a company, others do take note of the fact that I am willing to roll up my sleeves and do any task.  And stay late, show up on weekends, and help out whenever I can.  I don't do it to show off or try to be impressive, I do it because it's my job and I love my job.  If I didn't like the job, I couldn't work that hard, and should leave!  And by working hard, I've found consistently that my team does the same, productivity and quality improve, and attrition goes down.  That's what they pay me for!

I have a very simple rule: work hard, make sure you are proud of what you do, and do it the best you can.  If you stick to those simple guidelines, you'll succeed in any job you tackle.  Nothing is too small or boring, or too big and complex, to be done.  And when you're the leader, you have to lead by example in every case, not just those that are convenient or interesting to you.