We’re conditioned to believe that those who work the hardest will be the most successful. Rewards will come to those who are first to arrive and the last to leave.
Pedal harder and faster and people will notice your contributions. Get into your “performance zone” where the energy is high and the returns are great.
“Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” —Vince Lombardi
Work with Integrity
Being in the zone feels great, but what happens when we slip out of the zone and into the grind? The harder you work, the harder the work gets. The energy dissipates, the inspiration wanes, and the bright lights of purpose and passion begin to dim.
The recent cultural controversy at Amazon is a great example of this. How far can we push people to achieve ever-expanding ambitions? The article exposes edicts such as “toil long and late,” and “when you hit the wall from the unrelenting pace, the only solution is to climb the wall”as the Amazonian rules for success. While Bezos has publicly disputed many of the claims, the company manifesto that he wrote himself states, “You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three.”
Even according to Bezos, the currency at Amazonis time and energy for money. Considering that the very definition of energy is the capacity to do work, the logic is twisted. The more time we put in the less energy we have. The less energy we have, the less productive we are. The cumulative effect becomes a powerful current that leads us right out of the zone.
Organizations that truly want to not only achieve but fuel sustainable peak performance have to consider a new value exchange. What does it take to engage employees, enable them to contribute productively to organizational goals, and create the conditions where everyone operates within their zone?
The answer isn’t written down in a binder; it’s deeply embedded in the culture of the company. Enabling people to take risks leads to innovation, creativity, and even process improvement. But the culture must strike a healthy balance between challenging new ideas and promoting teamwork.
According to the New York Times article, “Of all of his management notions, perhaps the most distinctive is his belief that harmony is often overvalued in the workplace — that it can stifle honest critique and encourage polite praise for flawed ideas. Instead, Amazonians are instructed to “disagree and commit” (No. 13) — to rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful, before lining up behind a decision.”
Bezos’ stance that harmony is overvalued presents extremely disparate worlds of thought with“his main job of maintaining the culture.”I’m not suggesting that productive disagreements should be sacrificed by harmony. A healthy challenge of ideas is important. Without it, people fall into the status quo mindset and complacency sets it. However, research shows that challenging the status quo only works within the context of healthy relationships built upon mutual respect.
Care and empathy can coexist in a culture that fosters candor and honesty. Likewise, candor and honesty can be delivered with respect. Culture is not a tag line on a manifesto. Culture is the atmosphere that is defined by what people do and how they feel about what they do.
Companies can be profitable and care about the people who help generate those profits. When they do both, they actually increase the capacity to contribute to both personal satisfaction and organizational goals.
Leaders who foster a culture of respect, learning, and individual contribution recognize that there are currencies beyond salary and the corner office. They don’t take capacity for granted and they don’t mistake time for value. They create the conditions necessary for people to work in their performance zone and encourage them to shift to the renewal zone when they need to. These are the leaders that have the maturity and the vision to recognize that the health of the organization is defined by the health of the people within it.
So, the million-dollar question is this: Is the price of your success worth it? If not, perhaps it’s time to take inventory of what truly matters to you. Take a step back and evaluate what you do each day, how it makes you feel, and how it contributes to your own bigger purpose. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
Today is the day.