How To Think Like a Winner

Winners regard work as a privilege. Losers see it as a problem.

You’ve probably got some great employees on your team. They’re hard working, dedicated, and loyal. They’ve got commitment written all over them.

But you also know some employees who just get by. They don’t have a lot of drive, and they don’t take a lot of initiative. They just put in their time.

And some of them will even joke about it. They refer to their work as nothing more than “another day, another dollar.” Others will say such things as, “I’ve just got 7 more years, 3 months, and 2 days, and I’m out of here.” In other words, they don’t say much about their commitment to give their very best each and every day.

The trouble is, too many companies let these “just-enough-to-get-by people” get away with it. They’re left on the job and on the payroll, turning off customers and increasing overhead. It’s like the manager who asked his new secretary, “Why don’t you ever answer the telephone?” She said, “Why should I? Nine times out of ten it’s for you!”

Employees who see work as more of a problem than a privilege tend to be complainers. And if you’ve ever been to my programs where I demonstrated behavioral kinesiology, you know that a complainer can quickly and easily kill off your performance if you’re not careful. They’re dangerous to be around, and they’re expensive to keep on the payroll.

Complainers can almost always find something to complain about. For example, a condemned spy was led out at dawn to be shot. The rain was fierce, and the wind was bitter. The spy turned bitterly to one of the guards and said, “What beasts you are to march me out to be shot in a rain like this.” One guard replied with equal bitterness, “What are you complaining about? We’ve got to march back.”

Unfortunately, such employees don’t realize that they’re paying a huge personal price for not being fully committed to their work. They may even think they’re getting away with something by just getting by on their jobs.

The truth is, LOSERS PAY A HIGH COST FOR NOT BEING FULLY COMMITTED TO THEIR WORK. They pay the cost of lowered self-esteem. Losers can’t feel good about themselves just getting by, doing the bare minimum. Oh, they may feel clever or sneaky, but that’s a great deal different than having a deep respect for one’s self.

Think back to that teacher you had in high school or college who made you work, work, work. You may have complained about that teacher at the time, but that was the teacher you went back to visit some years later. Or that was the teacher you held in high esteem because he or she brought out your very best.

Likewise, COMPANIES PAY A HIGH PRICE WHEN THEY LET THEIR WORKERS GET BY WITH ANYTHING LESS THAN EXCELLENCE. Think about it. Many industrial psychologists say that 15% of your employees are true champions. They do the best work, and they do the most work. If that 15% called in sick, they would paralyze your company.

Some time ago, 3M conducted a study to see what would happen if they laid off the bottom 10% or their poorest performers at one facility. They did so, and their productivity at that site went up 18%. So 3M wondered what would happen if they laid off another 10% of their workforce, the next poorest set of performers. Productivity went up another 4%. It became obvious that they had been paying a high price to let their non-performers get by with their non-performance.

It’s a tough, competitive world out there. In fact it’s tougher than it’s been in a long time. So I think the handwriting is on the wall. I think all those employees who are just getting by, who think giving the bare minimum is good enough, are in for a wake-up call. I think they better get fired up, or they may just get fired.

Of course, that may be easier said than done, but let me suggest a few ways that winners do it.

First, WINNERS ASK HOW THEY CAN DO MORE THAN IS EXPECTED. Whether it’s dazzling a customer with better service than she’s ever experienced before or surprising a coworker by offering extra help, winners focus on how they can do more, not less. As one person said, one of the hardest problems a business person faces each day comes about 5:00 P.M., when he has to decide if he’s tired or lazy.

Second, WINNERS DECIDE TO ENJOY THEIR WORK, NO MATTER WHAT. Certainly, no job is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. There’s always something to complain about. In spite of that, winners decide they’re going to like their work. It’s a decision they make, not a feeling they have–if everything is going well.

Winners tend to hold Katherine Graham’s philosophy. As a great publisher, she said, “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”

And enjoying your work always improves the quality of your work. Aristotle said, “Pleasure on the job puts perfection in the work.” So it’s no wonder that winners are performers as well as quality improvers.

Your job may not be fun. It may not even be meaningful. But winners decide to enjoy their work no matter what. I know it sounds a little harsh, but I’ve often told my audiences, if you think your job stinks, if you think employment is bad, try unemployment for a little while.

Third, WINNERS KNOW HARD WORK IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL. Most people know it’s good for the company. It’s good for the customer. It’s even good for the country. But only the winners know it’s also good for the soul.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of several of the best books on the market in the last 25 years, says it so well. He says: “Work hard, not solely because it will bring you rewards and promotions, but because it will give you a sense of being a competent person. Something corrosive happens to the souls of people who stop caring about the quality of their work…and begin to go through the motions.”

Finally, WINNERS CAN ALWAYS SEE THE GOOD IN EVERY SITUATION. No, they’re not naive. Like anyone else they can see what’s wrong with a situation, but they don’t get stuck on that point. Winners keep themselves motivated by seeing the good in any situation and focus on how they could make it better.

Of course, such “positive thinking” will annoy the losers in most companies. They’ll see the winners as Pollyannaish or blind, and they’ll be disgusted with those winners who aren’t wallowing in the negativity with them. So be it.

It’s like Frank who constantly irritated his friends with his eternal optimism. No matter how horrible the circumstances, he’d remark, “It could have been worse.”

To cure him of his annoying habit, his friends decided to invent a situation that was so bad, so terrible that even Frank could find no hope in it.

On the golf course one day, his friends said, “Frank did you hear about Tom? He came home last night, found his wife in bed with another man, shot them both, and then turned the gun on himself.”

“That’s horrible,” Frank said. “But it could have been worse.”

“How could it possibly be any worse?” his friends asked.

“Well,” Frank answered, “If it had happened the night before, I’d be dead.”

Action:  Get some “positive” practice.” Select two difficulties or challenges in your job. Then, list two good things about each of those difficulties or challenges.