Part 5 – Effective Leadership Habit #4: Hard Work

effective leadership habbit hard work tom flick

As a leader in your organization, you’re probably working hard as it is. You might be thinking that you’re already busting your chops, and you couldn’t work any harder if you wanted to. But have you ever stopped to think about all your busy-ness, and if it’s actually producing the kind of results you want? I’m here today to challenge your ideas about hard work. Read on to find out more.

As a leader, you set the standard of work ethic in your environment. As we’ve discussed in part 4, there’s a trickle-down effect with your leadership character and behavior. If you want to be running a top-notch organization or team, then instilling a hard work ethic into your company culture is imperative. If you consistently put forth your best efforts, you will gain others’ respect while inspiring them to give their best. But what exactly do I mean by hard work?

Hard work vs. Being Busy

Our culture today seems to be busier than ever. From answering emails and running to and from meetings, to writing blog posts and giving keynote speeches, (ahem), we have a lot going on. We’re certainly producing a lot as a society, but does that mean that we’re actually being productive?
A recent survey from *AtTask done by Harris Poll found that U.S. Employees at large companies only spend 45% of their time on their primary job duties. The other 55% of their time was reported to be working on things such as email, administrative tasks, meetings, and interruptions. Those latter types of activities happen in business, but to have them take up more than half of our day’s working energy is atrocious.

There’re lots of things to be said for culture-wide organizational shifts in productivity, which you, as a leader, can affect. But this post is meant to have you take a look in the mirror and start paying attention to what you can directly impact every minute of every day, starting now. That’s your own hard work and productivity. Are you working efficiently or are you just busy?

Do you ever have days where you feel tired and stressed out from how busy you are, and then by the end of the day you look back on it to see you’ve barely gotten any real work done? You’re more than likely an efficient person, but I want you to take a solid look at how useful your hard work actually is.

Hard Work & The Eisenhower Matrix

To give you a different perspective, I have used this tool in my own life and I know a great number of people who use it today. It’s the Eisenhower Matrix, which was popularized by Steven Covey in the Book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

If everyone in an organization worked according to this matrix, your results would likely skyrocket.


Tom Flick explaining the rules for building a team 


The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making tool that President Dwight Eisenhower used to be one of the most productive men in our recent history.  This is a supremely simple yet powerful tool for taking action and organizing tasks.


Example Tasks In Each Quadrant:

  • Quadrant 1 – Answering important phone calls, showing up to meetings, reaching deadlines and dealing with urgent problems.
  • Quadrant 2 – Nurturing relationships, assessing personal and organizational goals, long-term strategy, and even exercising. Quadrant 2 activities refer to your work at the office and your personal life.
  • Quadrant 3 – Booking flights, scheduling appointments, answering certain kinds of emails, dealing with interruptions, and attending particular meetings.
  • Quadrant 4 – Surfing the web, sorting through junk email, and browsing social media.

If you haven’t already figured it out, those who achieve enormous accomplishments primarily work in the area of quadrant 2, in both their professional and personal lives. These people schedule their time to be spent on work that is truly important.

Important tasks are things that contribute to the long-term mission, goals, and values of oneself and the organization. Operating this way makes perfect sense, but most of us get ambushed by thinking that urgent also means important, which is rarely true. Not to say there aren’t urgent, important tasks, but it’s usually not the case in this context.

Many of us get caught up in the first, third and even fourth quadrant of this matrix. You do it and your team members do it. Heck, I do it. We fall into this trap because the tasks are often urgent and addictive. Engaging with these procedures makes us feel like we’re getting things done when in reality, were not accomplishing much of anything. Instead, this behavior is just us reacting to our circumstances and putting out fires. Start making it a habit to live in quadrant 2 where things that matter get accomplished.
Quadrant 2 is where life’s riches lie. This area is where the great leaders spend most of their time, inside work and out. Being an incredible leader doesn’t just mean being successful at your job, it also means having balance and taking care of what’s important in your personal life. For example, scheduling the time to take care of your health outside of work will positively affect your life and how you perform in your work.

Start looking at your work differently, and begin thinking about this matrix. How can you limit your time spent in quadrant 1, delegate quadrant 3 type work, and eliminating quadrant 4 tasks?

As a leader, you should be giving most if not all of your hard work to quadrant 2. As I mentioned before, your efforts in this area will inspire the others around you, earning you respect, trust and devoted followers, all of which are aspects of great leadership.

As you begin honing your new focus on real, hard work, realize that it’s a process and that you’ll need time to master.  No one changes overnight. If you have any previous habits of being busy in quadrant 1 or 3, it’s ok, no one is expecting perfection from you right away. With that in mind, stay tuned for my next post as we’ll be discussing the leadership trait of humility. Until then, continue improving your habit of hard, efficient work as a leader, making an impact on your life and the others around you as you spend more time in quadrant 2.