Work Hard or Work Smart

Published on February 4, 2013 by

(This post first appeared on where I am a frequent guest coach and blogger.)


Alan AllardIn the past month, I have asked a number of clients how clear they were on what their manager expected of them and what their managers’ priorities were for the next 30 days. Only two clients were really clear on what was expected from them. I don’t mean mostly clear – I mean really clear. Are you surprised?

Don’t be. Many employees are feeling the pressure of the “new normal” at work; more is expected with fewer people and less resources than ever before. That means you are busier than ever trying to keep up. And you know what happens with that scenario: the busier we get, the more we take communication for granted. That means you are working hard, when you could be working smart.

It’s time to take a communications test: Do you know what your manager or supervisor expects and needs from you? Are you sure? Let me put it another way: how sure are you? Would you bet me a hundred dollars on how clear you are and let me talk to your manager?

All kidding aside, here’s how to get crystal clear:

Talk to your manager. Ask your manager to sit down with you – where there won’t be interruptions – and ask him or her to tell you exactly what their expectations and priorities are. Discover their goals for the next month, six months, and year. Listen carefully, ask questions, share your thoughts, and write down what you hear.

Repeat it back. Read what you’ve written to your supervisor and ask what you missed – not “if” you missed anything. Then make whatever changes you need to. Finally, tell your manager you will e-mail your notes to him or her and you would like to receive a reply to confirm it. From there, you will have to devise a new work strategy to cover all of the bases that you have just confirmed with your manager.

If you do what I’m suggesting, you will stand out in a sea of employees who are doing good work. Why will you stand out? Because instead of just doing good work, you are doing the work your manager really needs and expects. All you have to do is ask, document, and verify. It’s not hard, but it’s very smart.


Alan Allard

Author of Seven Secrets to Enlightened Happiness: Your Guide to the Life You Were Meant to Live, available in kindle format:

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