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Winning At Working: What Basics?
by Nan Russell

The cyclical and now ubiquitously appearing phrase, back to basics, ignites supporters. The reasonableness of returning to previously successful principles, ethics, systems, accountability, approaches, or you-name-it, appears a tantalizing remedy for our individual or collective woes.

Who can argue with the refocusing trend of business to trim waste or reconnect with customers, or an expert's approach to help income-starved entrepreneurs at a motivational conference, or a pundit's prescription for Toyota's headline woes? Like a dieter refocusing his energy on an intake-to-output equation of eat less exercise more, a back to basics approach works. At least for awhile.

But, business is not as simple as it once was. No longer can supervisors, managers, or CEOs announce goals, objectives, and initiatives with an expectation that organizational alignment and support follows.

No matter what you think of Internet discussion boards, bloggers, or social media sites, not to mention text messaging, instant messaging, or tweeting, one thing is clear: the world has changed.

And whether you're a fan or not, technologies that provide instant access to alternative perspectives, influence, and thinking are here to stay. The box has been opened, and back-to-basics isn't enough. Success requires basic-basics. These are the basics that don't change with technology, industry, or economic times.

You see, the question we should be asking in our work groups, companies, and communities isn't whether we should get back to basics from time to time, but rather, what are the more inherent basics that are missing?

I contend those are the ones that touch the core of what's absent in many organizational relationships, punctuating why staff disengagement plagues companies. While merely common sense, these basics are, unfortunately, not common practice.

So here are three fundamentals from both sides of the desk, for individual contributors and heads of organizations, for business owners and entry level employees; these apply to all of us:

First, a thank you. Thank you for taking on additional tasks during the hiring freeze. Thank you for giving up your weekend to finish the proposal. Thank you for an exceptional job solving that problem.

Thank you for fighting for me for an increase. Thank you for giving me the flexibility to stay home with my sick child. Thank you for taking time to show me the new system. Notice what I do, and say thanks, and I'll want to keep doing it.

Second, a heads-up. Whether the priority has changed, the release has accelerated, you've changed your mind, or you're working on something that is going to impact what I'm doing, how about a heads-up?

Ongoing dialogue is a winning mindset for this century. What I do affects more than my work acres and what you do does, too. Helping each other thrive helps all of us survive.

Third, an understanding. We both work for ourselves, no matter whose signature is on the paycheck. I get that about you, my boss. But please understand that about me, too. We all want to live our best life. Please don't try to motivate me with shallow promises, outdated trinkets, or last-century carrot or stick approaches.

Don't assume you have the answers, the best ideas, or the only way to do something. And please don't think you know what I want. If you treat me as the individual I am and help build a work culture with trust and communication, I'll use my talents and gifts, offer my discretionary efforts, be engaged in interesting work, and contribute to the greater whole.

People who are winning at working, no matter their role, realize that when they offer the best of who they are to their work, in the deepest sense, they live these basics.

You see, when you show up to do your best work, these fundamentals are part of who are you and what you do. Want to be winning at working? Make these common sense basics common practice in your work.

(c) 2010 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell may be contacted at

Author of two books: Hitting Your Stride and Nibble Your Way to Success. Nationally syndicated radio host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell." New seminar: More about Nan and her work



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