Sunday, 11 August 2013

Four Practical Habits to Improve Your Work Life

(This article will take 6 minutes to read)

These are four habits that can help an individual make a difference in their organisaton. These four habits are simple in form and definition and yet we find so often that those that are joining the workforce for the first time or even those that have been working for a while do not understand these foundational principles. 

These four habits can be considered the foundation of your engagement in the world of work and business and once learnt will remain with you throughout your career and will help you excel in business.

These four habits include:        
  • Commitment 
  • Effort 
  • Attitude 
  • Results 
Let’s take a look at these four habits in more detail:

Commitment – a definition:

a promise to do something or to behave in a particular way; a promise to support somebody/something; the fact of committing yourself’, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Commitment actually has a number of definitions, however this one served the purpose for my post. Many people lack commitment to a cause or belief, whether that be the company they work for or the direction of their life. For example: when employees sign an employment contract they make a ‘commitment’ to that organisation to offer their services to the best of their ability for the period defined within the contract.

Many people do not see this transaction in this light and simply see it as a ‘commitment’ by the organisation to pay them a monthly salary. You don’t have to be a Professor to see the difference between these two, and yet it takes for this point to be highlighted for some to realise that their commitment is lacking and could form part of the reason for their lack of progress, lack of recognition and lack of reward for their services.

Your commitment to the company that you work for therefore starts with understanding what is expected of you and understanding this may require you to explicity ask the questions not make assumptions. Commitment could be considered an output of the following two habits in terms of externalising this behaviour.

Effort – a definition:

a vigorous of determined attempt’, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Effort seems like such a simple concept, yet when you read this definition many people are probably thinking to themselves that they don’t really exert much ‘effort’.

When I was 12, I joined a Scout Troop called the 23rd Harrow Scouts. To be invested into the Scout Troop you had to endure a ceremony in front of the other Scouts where you recited the Scout Promise and the Scout Law and took your oath to uphold both.

At this Scout Troop you were also advised that the Scout Master would ask you during the ceremony the question, "what does 'on my honour' mean to you?". You were told this a few weeks before your investiture to give you time to 'think' about this question and your answer.

Many of the boys would not know the answer to this question, nor would they know how to go about finding out. At the age of 12 these boys were being primed for leadership, taking initiative and for lateral thinking. Yet most of them at this stage would not know really where to start. The young Scouts’ Patrol Leader would monitor the progress of his new recruit over the weeks leading up to his investiture and would try to help him think through his question and to offer some ideas. Many of the new Scouts would need a lot of help with this and ultimately, if they had not worked it out, they would be told by their Patrol Leader what 'on my honour' meant as an invested Scout of the 23rd Harrow Scout Troop, a few moments prior to their investiture ceremony.

‘On my honour’ meant ‘to do the best of one’s ability’. One could say to make an ‘effort’.

I recount this story, because this exercise of making the new Scout think about his understanding whilst then providing him with guidance and thus direction is what we should be doing for those that work in our organisations. Unless people are guided on these principles they can lose their way. Conversely, if you find that you are not receiving the guidance that you feel you need, or if you are unsure then you would do well to ask, in order to demonstrate that you are doing the best of your ability.

Commitment combined with effort is one half of the journey, if you can achieve these two habits you are well on your way.

Attitude – a definition:

a settled way of thinking or feeling about something’, the Oxford English Dictionary.

A good attitude can make up for a limited amount of ability, especially in those that are still learning and gaining ability through experience. However, that is not to say that they are mutually exclusive. A good attitude where one operates with high moral values and ethics is a sure way to success and will assist with being considered a trusted individual. I mention trust in this section as trust can be easily asserted through having a positive attitude coupled with a growing inherent ability that is externalised to those that you engage with.

Results – a definition:

a thing that is caused or produced by something else; a consequence or outcome’, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Commitment, effort and attitude are key aspects to improve your work life and can be considered the inputs of this equation. Results can be considered the consequence or output of your commitment, effort and attitude. This may be a lagging indicator, in that results may take a while to realise and show, but should ultimately arrive within a reasonable time frame to substantiate your work on the other habits. Celebrate your results and track those so that you can rationalise the time spent on the inputs producing the output.

To recap, the four practical habits for those that are new to the workforce or even for those that need to reassess their approach to their work life, to promote success are:
  • Commitment 
  • Effort 
  • Attitude 
  • Results 

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