April 2, 2018
Below is a lesson from Bloomberg on why sometimes doing less is more, as well as our key learning.
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The Hardest Workers Don’t Do the Best Work
The U.S. soccer team beats the world in hustle. There’s a lesson there for business.
By Jerry Useem
January 2, 2018, 5:00 AM PST
At the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, the U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley put up a statistic that wowed folks back home: He ran further than anyone else. Through three games, Bradley had covered a total of 23.4 miles, according to a micro-transmitter embedded in his cleat, while his team finished tops among nations in “work rate,” a simple measure of movement per minute otherwise known as running around.
Commentators at the New York Times, U.S. News, and NBC Sports were duly impressed. Left unmentioned was the fact that the lowest work rate of the tournament by a non-defender was recorded by its most valuable player, Argentine goal machine Lionel Messi.
It seems strange that soccer’s greatest player spends most of his time moving at a golfer’s pace. And also that those hustling Americans couldn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
But forthcoming research by the Norwegian-born business scholar Morten Hansen supports the idea that people who do the most work aren’t the ones who do the best work. And it raises this interesting question: Could America’s valorization of hustle be a cause of failure?
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- Successful people do fewer things, and seem to have better developed mechanisms for deciding what not to do.
- Research performed: Record the work habits of their bosses, their subordinates and themselves.
the top performers also did less, and seemed to have a knack for figuring out how to sidestep inessential tasks to obsess on a few important things.
- Top performers successfully dodge distracting tasks without antagonizing bosses and colleagues.
- James, a junior management consultant, who when asked to add an extra sales pitch to his docket, was able to decline without actually saying “no.” Adding the task would result in diminished attention to an all-important merger project. This left the actual decision to the boss, reinforced his position as decision-maker.
- Resolving to decline assignments outside your specialty
- Some can be choosy because they’re star performers, not the other way around.
- That cause and effect go both ways. Strategically selective workers get ahead. As they build reputations, opportunities multiply. Book deals lead to speaking offers that lead to online teaching opportunities. Selectivity becomes ever more essential to continued success.
- “If you’re not careful,” Hansen said, “you can expand your scope until you lose one of the elements that made you successful in the first place.”