Hard Work Is Not An Excuse But An Opportunity

Blogging is hard work – anyone who has tried to blog seriously has come to that same conclusion.  Mark Evans, a great Canadian tech blogger wrote about this if you missed it.
The thing is, doing hard work is what leads to great accomplishments.  In today's economy there's a lot of hard work facing organizations both large and small.  Do you think Obama works more hours than you? Or Bill Gates? Maybe – but likely not.  In fact, you might be surprised at how many successful people might actually work less hours than you in an average week.  They are just making different choices about what it is they do with their time.
Innovation is hard because it often means challenging the backbone of how an organization or department might be used to functioning.  Yes, innovation is hard but so is implementing a new ERP system, institutionalizing a Six Sigma continuous improvement culture or re-engineering business processes.  Top performers gravitate towards the hard stuff and it is this type of talent that thrives when times are tough and companies are looking to make tough decisions.  
As Seth Godin writes,  hard work is all about risk.  When you are dealing with things that you rather not face – whether that be fear or failure or fear of the unknown – you know you're working on the right stuff.  Looking back, without question both in my own career and through coaching and mentoring of others, when you are working out of your comfort zone that's when you achieve the most growth and learning.  In corporate lingo we often call these “stretch assignments” – opportunities that if you don't offer, your top performers will ask for…and sometimes demand.
So blogging is hard, but the great bloggers keep blogging – they don't give up.  They have recognized the activity as being important and they persevere.  Having recently read Seth's The Dip, the main thesis of the “small” book is that top performers know what things they should quit and what things are worth pursuing.  When was the last time you asked someone “How are things?” and got a response back “Oh, pretty quiet – not much to do.”?  I'd like to know if you have – because quite frankly everyone is “busy”.  
The question is are you working on the really important stuff or just the urgent? Are you doing the things you like to do and that are easy and prioritizing to the bottom of the list the ambiguous and hard stuff?  Whenever I am looking for top talent I always ask when they last made a mistake and to tell me about the outcome.  Haven't made any mistakes lately? You're probably working on the easy stuff – the path well trodden rarely surprises or leads to failure.  And if you're not failing every once in a while, chances are you're not pushing hard enough..
In this economy and job market, organizations are looking for candidates who have demonstrated the ability to work on the tough stuff and be successful.  What tough things have you worked on lately? Too busy? Maybe you need to quit some of the easy stuff that don't add as much value.  For IT professionals and specifically leaders that might mean taking a hard look at the activity profile your IT department is performing and making some tough decisions about what to stop doing and perhaps outsource (or cloud-source) and really focus on enabling business value and growth in new and innovative ways.
The first step to get out of your comfort zone is to be aware that you are in fact there.  That's easy work.  The next step is tougher.  What are you doing about it? What's something tough that you've done lately? Let us know.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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