Team Building: Developing a Strong Work Ethic in 5 Difficult Steps

Jan 27, 2014 | Goals, Good Working Environment, Organization, Productivity

Strong businessman holding heavy rock

We’ve all driven by highway construction sites and noticed one guy digging a hole surrounded by five guys watching. My standard remark is: “It takes five guys to supervise that worker.” Apparently, a good work ethic can be difficult to find.

How many of us have been irritated while co-workers take an hour to discuss their wardrobes? Have I touched a nerve? No doubt, we feel peeved when we’re arduously working while others play. So how does one turn the ship around when some seem to value socializing above the common goal?

This is a good question with no easy answers. Short of firing the schmucks who constantly goof off, how do you develop a team that exhibits a high degree of self-motivation and commitment? Let’s look at a few steps to help make it possible. They may take time and be difficult, but when it comes to team success, they are vital:

1. Communicate the Goal.

Workers can flounder when they don’t see how their roles fit into the big picture. Some will find other things to occupy their time when they don’t have a clear view of how vital their roles are to the organization’s goal. So, make your vision for the team’s objective clear, and your expectations for each role clearer.

2. Provide Measurable Tasks and Deadlines.

There is nothing like a solid deadline to keep one’s mind focused. Having a due date for an assignment can be a great motivator. It starts in the classroom and transfers into our adult life, so use deadlines as metrics for accomplishing goals.

3. Reward Those who Demonstrate a Good Work Ethic.

This should be a no-brainer. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people who have shown exceptional levels of achievement go unrewarded. Management can be insensitive to the fact that, at a human level, we all long to be valued and appreciated. Even if the reward is simple praise for a job well done, this recognition can be a catalyst for a continued strong work ethic.

4. Lead by Example.

Most times, a good work ethic is a start-at-the-top attitude. A culture of unwavering commitment to project completion (and genuinely caring about the results) trickles down from leadership. Conversely, an “I’ll get it done when I get it done” mindset can be toxic. Ask yourself the question: “Would I want someone emulating my work ethic?”

5. Practice Self-Discipline.

My wife is the most disciplined person I know. Because she can delay gratification, she is able to work circles around me. Over time, she has trained herself to keep going, even though the temptation to slow down and take it easy has been strong. Of course, there is always the danger of becoming a “workaholic,” but the axiom of “all things in balance” should apply. The point remains to develop persistency and follow through in completing your goals.

A good work ethic is more than just spending long hours on a job. Rather, it is a matter of exhibiting personal integrity in attitudes and actions—not just when management is looking.

Although she probably didn’t intend it this way, Helen Keller once wrote “I long to accomplish some great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

This is a good reminder for those of us in the workforce to strive each day with tasks both great and small.

How have you helped develop a strong work ethic in your organization?

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