Work ethic is not something that we are teaching in schools, but something which is direly important to achieving success in any career. I’ve been thinking a lot about work ethic lately, especially as I push myself toward being a better, irreplaceable employee. I have come up with a list of things which are key in building a strong work ethic. I call them the vowels of work ethic.
Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.
Without accountability, employees can fall into the bad habit of just coming to work to collect a paycheck. We have to be held accountable for the quantity and quality of our work. A good leader will hold their employees accountable, and a good team will hold their leadership accountable. Without accountability, there can be no improvement. I hold myself accountable to do the right thing the right way, and I except nothing less from those around me.
Autograph everything you do with excellence.
In 2015, excellence became my ultimate goal in the work place. I endeavored to approach every task with an attitude of excellence, regardless of how others approached it or if anyone was acknowledging my efforts. Everything I do, I do it to the best of my ability. I have made myself an expert in my field because I have never allowed myself to become complacent with mediocrity. As a result, my superiors have come to recognize me as a person who will always get things done quickly and correctly the first time. I have built a reputation based on my desire to always be excellent, whatever the cost.
Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions.
I don’t have a college degree. As a result, I am limited to taking entry-level positions. What sets me apart, however, is that I take initiative. I may always begin at the ground floor, but my ability to take initiative always allows me to quickly rise to greater heights. I have never waited around for someone to suggest that I take on new responsibilities. I have always been proactive in seeing a need and then doing what needed to be done to fulfill that need, even when it seemed outside of my job description. When you take initiative, you better yourself and you show a willingness to exceed expectations. Having initiative is almost more valuable than having a degree when you use your initiative to push yourself to new heights.
You will fail all the time, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming someone else.
When you start to point fingers for your failures, you deny yourself the ability to improve. Taking ownership is one of the most powerful things one can do for themselves. It goes hand in hand with being accountable for your work. You cannot hold yourself accountable if you refuse to take ownership of your own actions. It can be difficult to admit you have made a mistake, but people can respect a person for admitting they messed up far more easily than they would someone who refuses to accept blame for their own mistakes. When we take ownership, we are forced to be accountable and driven to do and be better.
A boss demands blind obedience. A leader inspires obedience through understanding and building trust.
Understanding is key to surviving in the work place. This is a two part definition. The first part is understanding your co-workers. When surrounded by so many different personalities, it can grow difficult to mediate conflict. One must learn to listen to concerns so that they can understand the root of the problem before acting on a solution. When you make the effort to understand an individual’s behavior and personality, you can more easily lead them in a way that they will be receptive to. Without understanding, one cannot lead. The second part of the definition is understanding your role and the role of those you are leading. If you don’t comprehend the procedures set forth, you cannot train and lead others to follow those procedures and become successful in them. Attending meetings is only beneficial if you are there to learn and understand, and to understand well enough to then pass the information on to others. You can never demand someone to understand that which you do not understand.
Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.
Bonus: Yield. When we are flexible and open to the ideas of others, we empower ourselves to become better and we prepare ourselves for change. While it can be overwhelming, things are constantly changing and the easiest way to ride the waves of change is to equip ourselves with an attitude of flexibility. We must be open to yielding to someone else’s ideas when their ideas are good and facilitate healthy change in the work place. While it is important to be firm in our values and our integrity, to be flexible is to allow for improvement.
These are my vowels of work ethic. They are not always easy for me to achieve. Every day presents a new challenge and an opportunity for me to become a better person than I was the day before, but I continue to strive for a stronger work ethic. I am not currently in a leadership role at my place of employment, but that doesn’t prevent me from being a leader in my attitude and in my behavior. Challenge yourself to work on these vowels this week and see what a difference is made in your attitude and in the way your co-workers begin to perceive you.
Success can belong to you no matter what job you are currently holding. A cashier at a grocery store has just as much opportunity to be great as a president of a Fortune-500 company. Live your life with excellence. Start here.