Hard Work Doesn’t Always Work

Michael Erath
Michael Erath

Founder & Lead Guide at Next Level Growth

Hard work is an inherent part of what makes every entrepreneur tick. It’s that mindset telling us if we just keep working harder and harder we can accomplish anything. It’s true — but only to a point.

Sometimes working harder involves simply doing more of what’s not working in the first place. It’s akin to digging holes and flinging the dirt from the new hole behind you into the last one. The harder you work, the more holes you dig and the more holes you fill — but in the end, have you made any actual impact at all?

The key to changing any paradigm is to change what you are doing rather than just doing more of it. These three principles are the keys to building real equity instead of just expending more sweat equity.

Make time to get out of the business 

Gino Wickman’s book Traction® stresses the importance of Clarity Breaks™. Wickman argues it’s critically important to regularly step out of the daily grind that consumes us, to clear our heads and focus on breaking through the status quo. I’ve found this an invaluable part of the EOS Toolbox™ to help break down problems and think creatively in ways that simply can’t occur in the heat of the daily battles of managing a business.

These breaks–essentially meetings with yourself–are times to think more strategically, ideate on tough issues, and take a step back to take two steps forward. Bring a notepad and simply come up with ideas, think through a process and how it might be done better, or work through a problem that needs time you’ve been unable to spare. The key here is taking your mind on a walk without allowing the typical daily distractions to creep in.

Empower your team to make recoverable mistakes on their own

As leaders, it’s always much easier to give the answer. Our teams are asking for direction, and we are very quick to give it to them. But there are times when it’s important you don’t.

For starters, doing your own job is hard enough without doing theirs, too. Your team needs to learn how to solve their own problems while also gaining insights on when they are empowered to act on their own. In the process, your team will find new, innovative ways of working that would have never emerged if you’d simply told them how to proceed based on how you’ve always done it in the past.

You didn’t get to where you are by doing everything right the first time, and neither will they. What’s growth without a little pain?

Build a culture in which issues get raised, understood, and solved

Companies that can identify issues proactively, get to the real root cause of those issues, and actually solve them are far more successful than those who don’t. Yet it’s one of the things many businesses do very poorly. Team members rarely raise issues they see every day because they’re afraid of offending coworkers or coming off as the office whiner. Leaders often discuss issues to death but rarely get to the real reasons why they occur, which are most often rooted in people or process, and even more rarely agree on tangible solutions with clear actions and accountabilities to solve them. 

Building an internal culture that appreciates, and doesn’t denigrate, employees that bring issues to light is a major component of the Entrepreneurial Operating System® and something I work with clients on every day. Engage your leadership team through structured discussions that recognize root causes, uncover solutions, and provide clear next steps, and then hold people accountable for actually executing those next steps to ensure the Issue actually gets solved.

When you practice these three principles, you and your team will start to work smarter, not harder. You’ll find your business making real progress instead of simply fighting the same fires over and over. And all your team’s hard work will result in building mountains instead of digging holes.

Next Steps

Written by Scott Elser