Nan Russell | Your five acres

It was the third time in as many weeks he’d asked to see me. Once again sitting across the desk, Jeff was expressing distress at something. This time he was upset that Lydia was making more money than he was. Last week he was unhappy with the hours Joe wasn’t putting in, leaving at five when he was often stuck past six. The week before, he registered a complaint about the way work assignments were handed out by his supervisor. As my mother would say, “Same song, thirtieth verse.”

Jeff’s focus was on everything but his own work. He fixated on the latest rumors, viewed work policies as unfair, kept track of what was happening down the hall and fretted over what others might be getting that he wasn’t. Worrying what was happening in someone else’s work-acres, his own were filled with uncultivated opportunities and backlogged projects. In the process, he was sabotaging any chance of his own winning at working.

In 20 years of management I’ve met too many Jeffs. People focused on everyone except themselves. They fritter time away trying to straighten out others, rather than deliver results. They complain, blame others and point fingers. They believe the world owes them a living, others are out to get them and nothing goes their way. You can recognize them by their victim mindset and frequent anthem, “It’s not fair.”

They’re right. Work-life isn’t fair, but then, what is? Does fair mean equal pay increases and work assignments? What people offer to the workplace isn’t equal, so how would it be “fair” if rewards were? Unbiased? Well, we all have biases, and life happens to be subjective. Just? If just means one gets what’s merited, then for people like Jeff, the workplace is pretty just. They get back what they give, which is not much. That doesn’t mean the issues they raise are not valid, at times. But like Chicken Little, frequent complainers are tuned out.

If Jeff focused attention on his own five acres, putting his energy into personal performance, he’d significantly impact his results and his rewards. He’d also impact his credibility and ability to be heard. In the words of novelist Aldous Huxley, “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

People who are winning at working are too busy producing results to track what others may or may not be doing. They’re focused on their five work-acres, fertilizing them with new ideas, skills and challenges. They plant positive thought-seeds that yield high harvests and personal motivation. And when they consistently produce results in their corner of the universe, they help others do the same. Want to be winning at working? Make your five acres exceptional. Then don’t be surprised when you get more or better acres to tend.

Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008), and host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on www.webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over 20 years in management, most recently with QVC as a vice president. Sign up to receive Nan’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at www.nanrussell.com.

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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