Why working hard and smart does not guarantee success

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Dec 17

Working hard and working smart are two of the biggest work clichés out there. “Work hard,” we’re told. Or, “Don’t work hard — work smart.” Both clichés have merit. But they don’t guarantee success, not by a long-shot.

Nina Simosko, on her site, nets it out:

Hard and smart work doesn’t guarantee anything other than that you will be working hard and achieving good results. But, to reap your due rewards from your efforts you need to be able to provide a context for your leadership in a way that others can identify with, understand and act upon.

It’s not just leadership that needs to learn this lesson: you need to learn this lesson as well. We can toil away working hard and smart and no one will really notice. Sure, your manager might — and that’s a good thing — but it won’t help you translate your career into something that provides employment security. You will just produce good results.

But how do you give context to your work performance that others can “identify with, understand and act upon”?

Context means understanding your value

Everyone isn’t a CEO providing strategic direction and great execution across a company. But everyone working in a company has value that contributes to the company’s success. If you are a person who reconciles bills all day long, it may not seem like you are contributing to a successful company. But you are. By reconciling bills, you ensure customers satisfaction, you handle mistakes quickly and efficiently, and you don’t allow tensions to build between your company and customers. And you keep the finances correct in your accounting area.

That’s value. It’s yours. If you know that, you can explain that value to others in the company — or in an interview for your next job.

Context means building your unique story about your work

All that advice about figuring out your unique perspective you bring to the work? This is what it means: you tell a story about your work so that others can understand what you do and can then act on it. Stories are more memorable than facts; stories stand out. Stories allow others to take your story and fit it into their story about their work and you now make a connection. Those connections become critical not only to explain your work, but to help you build your credibility within a business network.  What’s your unique contribution to your work?

Employment security means showing how your work fits with other work

Job security is one thing, but employment security means you are always employable. One of the tools for showing that is demonstrating how your work fits into the context of another company’s work. Or a department in your company. Helping others connect the dots to show how your unique approach to your work and the value you bring to the work will then lead to others seeing how you can fit into what they are doing at their company. If other managers can see you fitting into their team and see you helping to reach their goals, you’ve gone further than others who say they work hard or they work smart.

How do you tell others about the value you bring to work?

Photo by Gary’