Success Vs Effort

Success Vs Effort

One outcome of the pandemic lockdowns is the realisation that much office work can be done from home. Client after client is telling me, often with considerable surprise, that they had never realised how little attendance at the place of work was really necessary. It’s not a new trend and it doesn’t only apply to business. The military have long since discovered how much more efficient it is to bomb from a distance by drone or missile. Not to mention safer.

What companies who can do it are learning is that working from home has two benefits, one of which they hadn’t realised. The obvious savings are in travel time, fuel, pollution, carbon footprint, road wear and vehicle running and parking costs. 80% of these in an office add up to a tidy sum. Less obvious is the motivation of the employees. Attending the office has always been partly proof of effort. You checked in, were seen ‘being busy’, and your job was justified.

Failure to achieve the goals you are set is usually noticed and may lead to your being let go. But in the process of making that decision your regular and prompt attendance in the building will mitigate in your favour. Proof of effort has to count for something. Actually it counts for very little. What matters is whether you achieve what you were asked, and agreed, to achieve. Within reason nobody gives a monkey’s umbrella whether you do it during the night, at weekends, hanging upside down or more conventionally during working hours.

Working as your own boss, at least for some of the time, makes you think very straight indeed. On the one hand your goals are clear; on the other, the time and resources available to achieve them are also clear. It behoves you to be as efficient as you possibly can be so that you can be certain of success in the smallest amount of time. Suddenly, how and when you operate is up to you. We notice that a majority of people do not use their time well. Process, essential for the routines of life, is seldom thought through systematically.

Prior to my heart valve operation I had a morning routine which I thought was pretty efficient. Post-operation I was required to do several more things before starting work than had previously been the case. I didn’t want to devote additional time to this because doing so ate into my productive work time. So I re-processed the whole business to stay within my original budgeted time. It wasn’t difficult. In doing so I saved approximately 25% of the time.

Such time dividends are available to all of us. The incentive to save time is greatly weakened when two events occur together. First, when we doubt the value of what we are doing. Highly educated young managers frequently talk of the abyss into which their work disappears – especially the many lengthy reports some are made to write. No doubt there is a certain mental discipline required to produce such material but when the person doing so cannot see the purpose, and, indeed, can see that their work is wasted, they lose the motivation to do well.

When, second, they mentally didn’t agree with the purpose and goal they were set in the first place but were (they thought) given no opportunity to say so, the demotivation is doubled. And here I suggest that anyone finding themselves in this situation now should stir themselves to realise how authority and obedience are changing. This isn’t some theoretical concept. It applies in an organisation very close to your paycheck.

You are not invited to become a recalcitrant, grumbling worker – far from it. Saying ‘no’ is seldom a useful thing to do. But asking whether it might be more useful and quicker to do it another way is a positive suggestion. Good bosses will respond to it well. But we don’t all have good bosses all the time. What of the miserable “my way or the highway” type? Our emotions kick in too quickly. We have probably been harbouring some resentment against this type of boss. This latest pin prick is one too many. STOP! It is easy to let the emotions rip. It is even satisfying in the very short term.

We have an exceptionally intelligent client who, both we and he, knew was going to be fired after twenty years of excellent work, so that a wholly improper relationship could be introduced to the business. It was a disgraceful matter but the owner of the business was involved. I asked our client what he would do when the sword fell. His answer was perfect. “I’m going to shut myself in a room at home for two hours and scream blue murder. Then I’m going to get on with my life.” Screaming is a wonderful, if slightly scary, release. It gets over in an hour what might take years to recover from the system. I recommend it heartily.

Moreover, it epitomises the purpose of this Daily Paradox – to see success, not effort, as the criterion for working.

Especially at home.