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Leadership: Giving 100%, 100% of the time

Is it possible to give 100% of your effort, energy and focus to your job, 100% of the time? Is it a good idea? And if it is a good idea, for how long can you reasonably keep up that level of activity? That question is on my mind a lot today.

Is it possible to give 100% of your effort, energy and focus to your job, 100% of the time? Is it a good idea? And if it is a good idea, for how long can you reasonably keep up that level of activity?

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That question is on my mind a lot today.

Yesterday, in a somewhat stunning announcement, Seattle Mariners manager, Mike Hargrove, announced that he was resigning his post. This was shocking on two fronts: first, the major league baseball season is in full swing – we haven’t even reached the figurative halfway point of the season, the All-Start Break. And second, the Mariners are the hottest team in baseball, riding an eight game winning streak to a position within spitting distance of leads in both the AL West and Wild Card races.

What was he thinking?

The Seattle Times quotes Hargrove saying “I don’t expect people to understand it. I really don’t. Because there’s times I don’t understand it. But I ask everyone to respect it.”

More from the Times:

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Though Hargrove dismissed the term “burnout,” calling it “a crutch,” the explanation of his current mind-set seemed to contain several of the classic elements of burnout.

The M’s news release announcing Hargrove’s resignation quoted him saying, “I can not continue to do this job if my passion has begun to fade.” But he bristled at a question about his loss of passion.

“I haven’t lost any fire for this, passion for it, whatever you want to call it,” he said.

But Hargrove said it was getting increasingly hard to summon that passion.

“I have never had to work at getting that out of myself, ever, until recently,” he said. “I found I had to work harder at giving that same commitment to my bosses, and to my players and my coaches.

“That’s not right. They deserve better. They’re good people. There’s a good thing going on here. And it’s time for me to leave.”

As a Mariners fan, I am torn. I never thought Hargrove was the right manager for this team. When the team was mired in a long losing streak earlier in the season, I hoped that the management would wise up and fire him. But of late, the Mariners have been playing some of the best baseball in the league, and some of the best baseball the franchise has seen this century, so it was hard to argue with his performance of late.

I am also personally and professionally torn. Of late, I too have been waking up in the morning and finding it harder to summon the passion for my work that I had just a few years ago. Since I was 15 years old (I am now 29), I have worked almost non-stop in a variety of fields: as a professional political operative (on more than a dozen campaigns), a speechwriter, as Briefing Director for Vice President Al Gore in the White House and during the 2000 campaign, I have run my own straetgic consulting practice, and for the past five years, I have been an internet strategist. most recently for a leading brand marketing and communications agency. I have worked on some of the biggest, most intense projects you can imagine. The longest vacation I have taken was for my honeymoon, just shy of two weeks back in 2003. And, most mornings and many weekends are devoted to the pursuit of excellence in my work.

I think the concept of burnout is a crutch as well, so let’s skip that line of thinking. Don’t talk to me about balance either — I actually do better than you think. There is always room for improvement, but I have learned over time, for the most part, to leave a lot of work at work or just focus on the other aspects of my life when I want/need to. Besides, we all know its not about the time that I spend at home with my wife (who is also pregnant with our first child) or with friends and family. It’s not about the time I/we take to go on vacation (we use up all our allotted days each year). There is something else that is causing this feeling and no amount of time away from the office, or focused on other things, seems to make it go away.

So back to my questions: Is it possible to give 100% of your effort, energy and focus to your job, 100% of the time? Is it a good idea? And if it is a good idea, for how long can you reasonably keep up that level of activity?

On the first question, I think the answer is yes. It is possible to give 100% of your effort, energy and focus to your job, 100% of the time — when you are at work. I believe I do that every day. On the second question, for me the answer is also yes. Not only do I think giving your all is a good idea, I think it is necessary. Don’t mail it in, not even a little — its not fair to your clients, your colleagues, or the work you do. And don’t save yourself for something that might come up in the future — as if performing slightly below excellent on this proposal or that project will somehow make itself up on the next one. Nobody wins in that scenario either.

The third question is where I am still unsure. I have given 100% of my energy, focus, and attention to everything I do at work for the past 14 years, since I began working. I don’t know any other way — and I don’t want to know any other way. At the same time, as I find it harder and harder to muster the passion for my job, for work in general, I find myself placing the blame on myself, as if something is wrong with me for not wanting to push as hard as I used to. Am I doing something wrong by putting in all that time and energy? Is my job not worth it? I don’t like that feeling, I don’t want to feel bad about myself because I don’t have as much emotional energy to put towards my job as I once did. I’m excited about all the other aspects of my life, so how do I summon the same passion for work?

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My work hasn’t suffered at this point, I don’t believe, and I will surely stop work – as Mike Hargrove chose to – before it gets to that point. My question to you is this: when do I know I have reached that point? What do I do then? I can’t quit my job and not earn a salary – I have responsibilities to my family among other things. I don’t want to quit my job, only to go searching for another job and find the same challenges there.

Does anyone else share my thinking on this? Does anyone have a suggestion?

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