When Working Hard isn’t Working
It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you’re working on the wrong things. Managers, leaders, and business owners are the hardest working people I know. Working in your business is necessary but dangerous.
You work “in” when you do business. Farmers milking cows, accountants accounting, preachers preaching, teachers teaching, and doctors doctoring are all working in their business. Working in is dangerous because it:
- Captivates attention.
- Consumes energy.
- Distracts from a powerful concern – working on your business.
Your passion and ability to focus on getting jobs done blocks you from:
- Creating or enhancing systems.
- Defining long term objectives.
- Identifying, leveraging, and enhancing the strengths on your team
- Offloading present work so you can focus on the future.
Working IN prevents you from working ON.
Get’er done works for the short-term – soon it drains – but, eventually it destroys you and your effectiveness. Constantly working in your business without working on it:
- Defeats your innovative spirit.
- Saps vitality
- Restricts growth.
- Limits your potential.
Breakthrough to working on:
Evaluate the use of your time. How much is spent working in rather than on? Breakthroughs materialize when you alter dead-end habits.
- Create a weekly “working on” appointment with yourself. Identify and take a next step.
- Make small adjustments. You’ll never shift toward working on your business in one giant leap.
- Find new eyes. Discuss systems, strategies, and vision with experts outside your field.
- Listen. Many leaders and business owners have too many answers and too few questions.
- Try something. Waiting for stunning success prevents progress.
- Delegate more even if it takes longer at first.
- Follow-up and follow-through. Frustrations inspire conversations regarding improvements but follow-through changes things. Perhaps some form of accountability would help?
How can leaders work on their business or organization?
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A great article with lots of insights.. thank you for sharing.
Indeed!! We all think that working in is the way to do business but if you never work on, your business won’t be as successful as it can be!
Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve have felt this for some time, but couldn’t find it articulated so well.
Right on as always Dan! I continually preached this as a former business coach. Now when entrepreneurs ask for advice I tell them start by designing it with you not working in your business.
Unfortunately, Americans have a disadvantage – too many people interpret ‘work hard’ as a virtue, hence they see a conflict when they work ON a business (they somehow believe/feel they are not working – or cheating). Middle class values work against our long term success.
Thanks for calling attention to a critical factor in the success of our economy.
This message was a slap to my face, a bucket of cold water poured over my head, a fire lit under my butt, and then another slap to the face. A great article that definitely got my attention.
Several weeks back, you listed top leadership “reads” and I was delightfully happy to see Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve. Today’s post shares some of those essential( I think) themes, most notably, how current leadership speak/thought/musings undervalue the role of the “self” as a crucial tool in an organization/system becoming unstuck. So yes, as you point out in this post, #1 is essential that leaders take the time to focus on themself and how the nature of their differntiated presence in an organization truly is a step in the direction of success and growth rather than remaining stuck……if ya dont know where your’e going……
Wow. I needed this post two decades ago. Where were you Dan?
I was busy, busy, working ‘in’ my business.
I think the more passionate you feel about a profession or skill, the more you want to spend your time working ‘in’ it. Working ‘on’ the business takes an entirely different set of skills.
If you’ve ever owned a busines, as I have, you have lived the honesty in this post.
I agree with J. Cleveland Payne, above. This message is a needed slap in the face and kick in the rear.
Dan, this is so true …. I have had the pleasure of working with a number of small business owners who work so hard, wearing many different hats within their business trying to juggle the everyday workload …… Like most of us in life, they wear the old familiar hats more often than the ones they don’t like to wear because they feel they are not competent in some areas ……
We all can be an all rounder when push comes to shove, though when reality bites hard, it is important to note the hats you aren’t wearing within your business, for these are usually the strategic elements that need to be addressed before the proverbial shit hits the fan and you have to move into crisis management mode ……
Take time at the end of each week to review what you have accomplished, set goals for the following week, share out the work if possible and give yourself a right big pat on the back for being a business owner in today’s climate dealing with the multitude of challenges around while acquiring the paycheck to give you the financial freedom to live your own life …………
Fabulous and true post, Dan. I suspect it hits home with many of us.
A truly in-depth post on affecting performance. I think working in is short term goal whereas working on is long term and perhaps sustainable goal. When people work in, they put labor like machine. And machine has always its own limitation. It does not sense and work on the data fed into it. I also believe that when people work in, they generally use their physical power. When people work on, they use intellectual and mental power. So, leaders should create change by influencing people. Influencing is the great process of leadership and it is like working and moving ahead. Leaders initiate, influence and inspire. They connect people with purpose. And when they are able to connect people with purpose, they start achieving and materializing their long term goals. It always starts with leadership accountability, without which nothing works.
Sometimes the focus is based on urgency not importancy, and the fact that we are busy makes us feel like this is right. We are not firefighters! We must plan ahead.
Great advice! I agree, some leaders overlooked some important corner on how to manage their business.
I totally agree with J Cleveland Payne –What a wake up reminder. I tend to get so wrapped up in it, I don’t set aside the time to work on it. Great post!
Hy, I have nominated you for an award. Link is here: http://themanalex.com/2012/04/20/versatile-blogger-award/