Thursday, June 19, 2008

Success at work is a drug...

I don't normally read the Financial Times, but picked up a copy at the airport the other day. In it, I found a great article titled "Success at Work is a Drug."

It discusses our culture's addiction to work. According to the author:

Many would see nothing wrong in this approach. Sir Alex Ferguson, the highly successful manager of Manchester United football club, is a good example. Asked last month how he felt about his latest triumph of winning the European champions league, he admitted that, of course, he would be celebrating that evening.

But: “The thing about me is that I won’t get carried away with it, and tomorrow morning I will be thinking about next season,” Sir Alex went on: “It drains away very quickly – that drug, that final moment. I will be thinking about the future and looking into the players’ eyes to make sure their hunger is still there.”

Drive, hunger, ambition: today’s workplace seems to demand more and more of such stuff.

The author also discussed how each person is like a team in that they must have a strong identity. I've always heard of a team creating an identity, but never thought about it on an individual level.

As for work addiction, after completing a successful season or winning a championship, I feel strongly that a coach and his players must enjoy it and get away for a while.
 My dad was a workaholic, but he always took the entire month of August to hit the beach and relax. He felt as a coach it was important to re-charge your battery.

I talked with someone the other day who, after about 18 months with an entrepreneurial internet start-up company, joined a major corporation. The internet start-up had a small staff with people who worked intensely while in the office. They worked strange hours, but while in the office they worked hard. If their work was done at 11 a.m., they had no problem leaving the office (though they might return at 7 p.m. that same evening). They had a purpose and a passion.

In his new job, employees are expected to be in the office by 8:30 and remain there until 5:30. Period. As you can imagine, people end up wasting away much of their day.

I've never believed in office hours just to be in a office. Do your work and do it well.
 If you can do the same quality of work in a place other than the office, that's fine with me. What's important is not time in the office at a desk, it's achievement -- what are you getting accomplished.

Just to say you're in the office makes no sense to me. 

The work-week in pro sports has always been a 7-day-a-week commitment. But now there's no off-season. In the NBA, the regular season is followed by the playoffs, then draft workouts at the pre-draft camps in Portsmouth and Orlando, the NBA draft, summer leagues, free agency, staff planning for the upcoming season, and on and on.

Even when I'm on vacation, it's hard to really get away from it. As I sit here with my boys and my 98-year-old grandmother on her back deck, I'm studying and reading and talking on the phone and emailing from my BlackBerry. Of course, 98 percent of it is related to basketball.