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Book Review - Reviving Work Ethic

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration… Thomas Edison

I recently read an Executive Book Summary of Reviving Work Ethic by Eric Chester.  it was an interesting read and gave me a few take-aways to ponder.

The book comes about as the culmination of research into the Millennials and how to harness all of their positive attributes, and re-instill a commitment to an “old fashioned” (my words) work ethic. 

Eric suggests that our society has created a different set of expectations amongst the younger workers who have seen the lottery winners, the dot-commers and other “start ups” who got rich quick.  They have been schooled in an environment where failure was not possible and their “self esteem” was all important. 

Having said that, the Pew Research Centre produced a report suggesting that Millennials are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change in addition to being the first “always connected generation”.

How can we as employers, bosses and business owners harness all of those great qualities and bring back a commitment to a work ethic that will bring the best out in this next generation? 

First Chester defines work ethic as …knowing what to do and doing it.  It is marked by an individual’s positive attitude, reliability, professionalism, initiative, respect, integrity and gratitude.

Chester defines a matrix with the desired quadrant being for employees who (a) know what to do and (b) do it.  the GOAL for all leaders is to move people to this quadrant.  of course anyone who is a leader today understands the challenge here, and how do you motivate people to actually do what they are supposed to do?

Chester’s solution is to look hard at the seven attribute of work ethic and mentor, coach, reward, train and set a good example to encourage people to adopt positive work habits.

1. Positive attitude.  Some people are positive by nature others not so much … but developing a positive work environment and setting the right tome is critical.

2. Reliability.  people need to understand WHY this is important to your organization AND they need to see it applied consistently.  Leaders cannot treat themselves differently, or play favorites … if you want your team to be reliable then they ALL need to be reliable!

3. Professionalism.  Once again it is about education … why is it important to dress the part, to act professional and to operate in a professional manner.  Establishing the norm, setting the example and working with the team to achieve this state is the job of the leader but ultimately just becomes the way the team operates!

4. Initiative.  A tough one because you need to trust people to do what you expect of them and recognize when people go “above and beyond”.  Hold up the good examples, reward them and and let everyone know that is the expectation.

5.   Respect.  We all want and need rules and boundaries but this generations does not respond well to fear.  The best way to motivate them to respect the rules is to tell them why those are the rules, explain the need and set the right example yourself.  As a leader you can’t expect your team to operate at a higher level than you, so if you don’t follow the rules then you are telling them the rules don’t really matter!

6. Integrity.  Studies suggest that this generation by and large sees cheating and lying as acceptable … ouch!  Leaders need to explain what is acceptable and not within their particular environment, and WHY.  The why is very important to get buy-in and once again the leader needs to set the tone.  If the leader is cheating on expenses, or not putting in the hours then the team will just assume that is OK. 

7. Gratitude.  This generation needs to understand the need for gratitude … which may be obvious to some, but it will not be obvious to all.  they have been given “a lot” without a need to show gratitude, but developing this trait will help them to appreciate their achievements and to have a better chance of working their way to success.

This next generation workforce has tremendous potential, if they can develop the strong work ethic of former generations.  It requires a big commitment from today’s leaders, a significant effort in mentoring, teaching and setting the right example … but this needs to happen if our Western society is to retain its prominence on the world stage.

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile… Vince Lombardi