I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, so here's another lesson regarding a book I just finished. Finished for the second time I might add, as it's not the easiest read.
It's called The Four Agreements and if you manage to get through it, there are 4 lessons in it that you can twist to apply to your work life.
1) Be impeccable with your word: This seems similar to what we all learned growing up - be honest. Yet being impeccable with your word stretches a bit beyond that. Not just speaking the truth, but doing what you say you will. At work, it's easy to agree to things, say generally what we might do and then let our commitments fade into the night. Now that I manage people, I find that this rule is the hardest and most important thing I can do. People who report to me are looking for honesty, they are looking for someone who will do exactly what they say they will. The easy thing is to kinda say what you're going to do, and then kinda not really do it. We all must practice each day being super, super true to our word; what you say is just as critical as what you do.
2) Don't take anything personally: All I can say about this one is it is very hard! We all take everything personally, especially at work. Say someone criticizes your creative concepts, just you try and not take that personally! Very hard. When I started at my new job I had meetings set up with key people in the company to get to know them and their area of work. One guy no showed our meeting. I waited for about 10 minutes, then sent him an email asking if we were still on. No answer. This is exactly the circumstance that we all take personally, I sure did. Why didn't he come? Why didn't he reply to the email? Why didn't he reschedule? I wasted a good hour of brain power on the speculation about this person. If I didn't take it personally, I wouldn't have spent more than a minute on it. We all waste precious energy and brain power taking things personally. When at work, try try try not to do this. What others do and say has absolutely nothing to do with you.
3) Don't make assumptions: This rule goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Because right when we are taking things personally, we are making assumptions to justify how we feel. Back to the no-show guy - I assumed he was blowing me off. I assumed he got my email. I assumed he would politely provide a reason for not coming. All my assumptions fed into me taking it personally. When we assume things about our co-workers it makes life complicated. We almost always assume people feel the same way we do. When we assume everyone is in agreement things start to disintegrate before they even start. Account folks assume the creatives know the background on a client/product/project. Finance assumes production overspends without regard. We all assume all day long...because it's easy. Easier than asking questions to clarify. Questioning takes more time and mostly we are in a hurry. Questioning demands smarter folks to provide answers. Lots of problems come with questioning, but I'd counter that lots of problems come from NOT questioning, from assuming.
4) Always do your best: Don't let laziness take over your work ever. As the years go by in your career, laziness gets harder to fend off. We get better at what we do, we get promoted, we get to a point where the work is easy, we get comfortable, then we get lazy. This last rule is the reminder to never get to that point in your career. Always doing your best is the antidote to laziness. Look around at the folks working around you, I bet you see a few who aren't always doing their best and I'd bet it shows in the work they produce. I'd also bet a lot of other co-workers notice them too. When someone is disengaged, is not doing their best, it shows. And when someone is lovin' their job, doing their best work, it shows. It's just as easy to do your best as it is do be lazy, so opt for your best always.