A Job Well Done!
Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance of work ethic and role that it plays in our lives.
There is certain joy we can find in our work when we embrace our job with a sense of pride. We all know that virtuous feeling that bubbles up within us when we ‘give our all’ to the task at hand. We care about the outcome. We even have sense that we’re ‘putting our name’ on it. We’re staking our reputation on the care we put into the work and the quality of the ultimate result. That ‘thing’ that keeps us going, keeps pushing us forward even when we are fatigued or simply just ‘don’t feel like taking the next step’ – that ‘thing’ is our ‘work ethic.’
Interestingly, it is exactly this ‘work ethic’ that has powered the American Dream. The American work ethic lies at the core of our being as a nation. For instance, have you ever come back from a shopping run, unpacked your bags, and noticed the little stamp or phrase on what you just bought that says Made in USA. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved seeing those three simple words, namely because of what they signify; pride in one’s work and what we tend to gain when we commit ourselves fully to the task at hand. They’re synonymous with hard work, accomplishment, and a job well done.
Naturally each of us has our own process when it comes to approaching tasks, but something we all share is the satisfaction that comes when we accomplish them. I want you to think back to a moment where you’ve put together a to-do list, whether it be for chores around the house, some personal projects you’ve had on the back of your mind, or tasks at work. When we put our heads down and our best effort forward, and see something through to completion, we tend to feel pretty good afterwards. Seeing what may have at first felt like a series of arduous tasks completed helps instill confidence that we can perhaps take on bigger projects where the risk may be higher, but so too is the reward. I liken this process in some ways to making Ikea furniture. Most of us are not furniture designers and I can’t help but think there are even fewer of us who like putting together an Ikea bed frame or bookshelf. But we follow the directions and slowly but surely, what looked like a bunch of random pieces of wood, plastic, and metal satisfyingly come together to nicely fit into our home. Had we not taken the time, nor had the patience to work through each step, we probably would’ve found ourselves more frustrated in the end and ultimately unhappy with the outcome. The point is this: we made the effort to arrive at a satisfactory end-result because we chose to dedicate ourselves to the job. Much of life is in the end like this.
Perhaps though you find it difficult to tap into your best or most motivated self? The truth is we all do. I’m reminded of a story I once heard of the late basketball player Kobe Bryant telling a group of students about how he regularly found it difficult to find the motivation to get up early and begin his famed 4 a.m. training regimen. A 5x NBA champion and 18x NBA All Star, even he struggled to always put his best foot forward. Yet he still managed to find a way. In his own words, “Dedication makes dreams come true.” It’s fair to say we all have good days and bad days. But the reality is that when we make it our habit to regularly apply ourselves, and commit to putting our best foot forward, especially when it’s most difficult, we’ll rarely be disappointed with what we receive in return. We are blessed to enjoy the wonderful feeling of a job well done.
Work Ethic in the North Country
I love the sense of pride and work ethic demonstrated throughout our North Country of New Hampshire. For many years our North Country has been known for its beautiful mountains covered with trees – but historically also for the numerous small manufacturing companies – paper mills, the small textile and shoe manufacturers along the rivers and the job shops doing assembly, fabrication and more. And while there has been a shift over the past several decades away from manufacturing and towards tourism, hospitality and some of the service sectors, the work ethic in the North Country has remained strong and vital. Moreover, thanks in large part to the North Country Chamber of Commerce, the region is thriving - creating jobs and highlighting the strong sense of community throughout the towns of the North Country.
A true leader in these efforts has been my good friend, Beno Lamontagne – ‘Mr. North Country’ - known by one and all. He is the regional resource specialist for the NH Division of Economic Development. If you want to know anything at all about economics in the North Country, Beno will have the answer. Beno is known for being a magician in providing opportunities for workers - leveraging his own work ethic in the North Country. For example, not that long ago, after struggling for six months to find 40 people to fill positions for a manufacturing business, State Economic Developers, including Beno, helped the business hold a job fair during evening hours and had over 100 people show up. The business now employs more than 200 people.
Economic development breeds more economic growth. Good jobs bring people into the community, and work ethic plays a large role in attracting new business. All of which - in turn - brings prosperity to a community. Getting this ‘virtuous cycle’ started and then accelerating it, of course, is core to our mission at the Sunshine Initiative. Importantly, the success that is being demonstrated in our North Country brings renewed energy to our efforts as we continue to expand our positive efforts in revitalizing small towns and communities throughout New Hampshire and beyond.
Remote Work – Making it Work
Over the past three years since the beginning of the pandemic, our work lives have experienced dramatic change. Throughout New Hampshire and the nation, remote work has become a core component for many types of jobs and industries. As we think about this phenomenon, some of the key questions are: ‘How well does It work?’ ‘Are workers more productive working remotely?’ And, ‘where will ‘hybrid or remote work’ evolve over the next 5-10 years – esp. in a beautiful place like the Granite State – where our communities provide such a wonderful environment for ‘at home workers’ to do their jobs, raise their families and enjoy all that New Hampshire has to offer?’
Well, the answers to these questions seem very much to depend on whom you ask! A recent report from Future Forum claims that workers with full schedule flexibility report 29 percent higher productivity and 53 percent greater ability to focus than workers with no ability to adjust their schedules. On the flip side, Microsoft in a new study found that 85 percent of leaders say that the "shift to hybrid work has made it more challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive." And more to the point is that 49 percent of managers of hybrid workers "struggle to trust their employees to do their best work."
And we need to look no further than the new owner of Twitter for someone who falls into this latter category. We have all watched with great interest Elon Musk's moves with the Twitter staff. His belief that remote workers are "phoning it in" and only "pretend to work" is what drove him to demand that all Tesla and SpaceX employees be "visible" and in the office and work full-time in-person - including knowledge workers. And while a survey by Microsoft showed that 50 percent of the bosses of knowledge workers intend to get them back into the office in 2023, it's appears that it’s really the leaders in their 50’s and 60’s who think that way as leaders under the age of 50 are much more accepting of hybrid and remote work while also trying to figure out how to make it work better for those involved.
However, even pre-COVID, there was a NASDAQ-listed company that participated in a peer-reviewed research project to demonstrate that remote work improved productivity. They randomly assigned call center employees to work from home or the office for nine months. Those working from home had a 13 percent performance increase which was attributed to a combination of fewer sick days and a quieter and more convenient work environment. A more recent study using programmers, marketing and finance staff found that hybrid and remote work reduced attrition by 35 percent and resulted in 8 percent more code written.
One of my colleagues is Jon Morton - one of the hardest working people that I know. He is a founding board member of our non- profit organization, Small Town Turnaround. He is also a certified professional in financial services at a Fortune 100 company. His current work can best be described as a ‘truly hybrid approach’ as Jon works from his home office, his company/general office, his clients’ homes and businesses, and he even works at networking events throughout the country. Early in the pandemic, his time was mostly spent in his home office and very little in-person. As we've emerged, the advantage is that many people of all age groups and computer literacy skills are now accustomed to utilizing DocuSign and Zoom, which helps in doing business with clients remotely – whether far away in Florida, California or even overseas – or just down the street.
He predicts that it will continue to be varied in terms of interactions, with far more in-persons for in-depth meetings while using Zoom and phone calls to handle the details. What he’s noticed with clients that work remotely, even if it had been a temporary thing for them or perhaps it had been their spouse/significant other or other family members doing so, it created a new awareness about life. What people are finding they value most....their relationships, their time, their legacy....has become enhanced, and they are making decisions now they were putting off or not even considering previously.
What isn't clear is if it's both the type of work as well as one's surroundings and home situation i.e., those who can afford child-care versus those who can't afford or let alone find childcare - is a big determinant in how productive they will be. Additionally, those who care about a company's culture are also concerned about the loss of connectivity and engagement. The Sunshine Initiative is currently engaging with organizations and the arts i.e., dance studios, artists, musicians and storytellers while even exploring the use of technology to help address this extremely important element of an organization - which has been greatly impacted by this fairly recent phenomenon of remote work by the masses.
Positive Profile of the Week - Maura Sullivan
This week we are delighted to highlight a friend and leader in our state who certainly personifies a commitment to achievement, contribution and of course, a strong work ethic. Maura Sullivan combines an amazing set of experiences - including service as a Marine, involvement as political leader and candidate, concerned citizen in our Granite State, senior executive in the corporate world and balancing all of this while also a devoted wife and mother of young children.
By way of background, Maura proudly served right out of college by enlisting with the U.S. Marines after graduating from Northwestern University. Her deployments took her all over the world including Iraq. She served bravely and her actions earned her the Marine/Navy Achievement Medal with a Gold Star. Her attention to detail, strong work ethic and outstanding service helped her achieve the rank of Captain.
Maura then went on to earn degrees from the Harvard Business School as well as the Kennedy School and thereafter began her career in business.
In 2014, President Obama appointed Maura to the post of Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs. A year later she would go on to serve as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense in the Office of Public Policy where she would oversee the crafting of communications and policy programs for the Department of Defense.
Shortly after leaving her role in the administration, in 2017, Maura announced her candidacy to run for Congress in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, where she ran a strong and spirited campaign for her party’s nomination in 2018. Truly a remarkable resume for anyone – but even more so, to achieve all this at such a young age.
Maura has gone on to start a family along with her husband, Marc – also a highly accomplished business professional and veteran. Together they are a ‘power couple’ in the best and most positive sense of the phrase. Raising a great family, devoted to our veterans and with a strong faith and devotion to their community and America.
She continues her mission to give back and serve. She is an advocate, leader, and friend. We in New Hampshire are blessed to have her among us. Thank you, Maura, for all that you do!
Quotes of the Week: Work Ethic
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”- Muhammad Ali
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” ~ - Mahatma Gandhi
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of great things in my life, and one of them was work ethic. And with work ethic, you can make anything happen.”- Jon Runyan
“I never dreamt of success. I worked for it.” - Estee Lauder
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” -Albert Einstein