The Work Shows The Workman

A little known fact about me: while growing up my Grandpa used to speak Russian to us grandkids. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but looking back it was kind of cool. Many years later, I started to teach myself Russian to understand what he was saying. One day while looking through phrases, I found one that stood out to me:

Видно мастера по работ

which translates to the work shows the workman. Having uncovered this phrase after a few years in the workforce, I felt like this was a profound thing for me to hear!

I take it to have two meanings:

  1. The quality of work you do shows how skilled you are, and
  2. The more quality work you do, the more opportunities you will be provided.

Now, anyone who has been in the workforce for a while might find this obvious. But it never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can throw away commonsense in the face of a tight deadline or even a light request from upper management. We get into this idea of “if I deliver ahead of schedule, then they will be happy!” as opposed to stopping, thinking, and questioning the request before diving in.

Oh, what a thing to reflect on especially when you are in your late 20’s! But a phrase alone does not change a life – no, no! Let me delve deeper into this topic of what it means to be a good worker.

What does good work even mean?

While we all have different talents and callings in this life, there are still some things that are common to excellent work. When you think of someone who does a great job or even a company who provides great service, it will typically boil down to one simple idea: deliver quality and consistent results.

The Devil is in the Details

Do you have an eye for detail or are you constantly glossing over things? Are you organized in your approach or can your approach be described as scattershot? I am certainly guilty of this, even today. The best thing we can do is slow ourselves down and focus on quality. I rely on my co-workers, mentors, and managers to also help me in this arena. Sometimes the best thing we can do to ensure quality work is to either step away and return to the project later or even get a second set of eyes on the project. Of course, all projects call for different levels of details – we can’t hyper-focus on every detail or else we’ll go crazy – but depending on your final output, it’s important to focus on the parts that are important to your customer (be-it your manager or an actual customer). This boils down to our next point…

Know What is Important (and what is not)

This can be the most difficult part of anyone’s career. Sometimes we focus so heavily on reports or features that we think will “change the game” and end up falling flat. It could be because of delivery, but it could also be because it truly was not as important as we initially thought. Getting to the root of any problem will take you very, very far. (I recommend reading about the 5 Why’s to help you get to the root of any problem). Another important part to understand in delivering results is asking “does my solution answer all the questions?” Sometimes we get so focused on the data and problem-solving, we end up walking away without even a recommendation. If you can get to the heart of the problem and be very explicit and detailed in your solution, you will an unstoppable force.

Note: Of course, you always want to provide a correct answer or recommendation, but errors will happen. Sometimes you may need asterisk (*) your results for the uncertainties or simply say “I don’t know but let me get back to you” to a difficult question, but more on this later – the important thing is that you identified the need and tried to fill it.

Organization Begets Opportunity

Back to the details, one thing you can do that may never be customer-facing is your organization and methodology for working on a project. Now, there are numerous documents on project management that can be helpful, but this is not a course for PMI.org. I would always recommend documenting the request as much as possible up-front and then decide on a methodology before starting anything new. Even informal projects like a data request or a quick report can benefit from an “organized plan of attack.” This serves two purposes: 1) If any issues or discrepancies come up, you can retrace your steps more easily if you’re organized and 2) very rarely (and I do mean very rarely) are there true one-off requests. Yes, you may turn in a report and never hear from that person again, but you can bet your bottom dollar that someone in your organization will request another report similar to the one you produced. Odds are, whatever you documented and whichever method you used can be re-used for the new request, thereby limiting how much time it will take you for the next request. By being very well organized, you can focus on quality output instead of methodology, and you can deliver consistent results to your customers.

The Bottom Line

There is so much to talk about with this concept that I will be splitting it out into multiple posts. However, I have chosen the top 3 ares of focus that are career-changers, no matter what you do (manager or individual contributor). Following the idea of delivering quality, consistent results will open many doors for you, your team, and your organization.

I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring! Please let me know your thoughts. Also, please consider signing up for my e-mail list to be alerted when new articles are posted.

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