We’ve all worked on a team at some point, but have you ever been told you would be on a team and cringed at the thought because of a previous bad experience? As we have more opportunities to work with teams, we realize that there are people who we would LOVE to work with again at some point, and there are others who we would prefer to leave in the past. Whatever your experience, it is safe to say that every project that involves group work teaches us a lesson about relationships.
As a teacher, I sometimes use class time to observe and discuss group dynamics. A student once said to me, “team work makes the dream work,” and yes, it does! At least, it does if there is cohesion, trust, engagement, and reliability. What happens when the team doesn’t work? Will you remember who worked their tails off? Will you remember those who still have their tails because of the lack of effort? Sure, you will; the memory of the efforts or lack thereof will always be there. Present behaviors can have a future impact, whether we realize it or not. Pareto’s Law, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a theory that explains that 80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input. Speaking in terms of employee performance, this theory suggests that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Have you ever experienced that? If not, you might at some point.
My point is this: work ethic matters because people are watching, and no job comes with the security of lifetime employment. Whether you realize it or not, you are subconsciously observing people and they are observing you. You know just from your own observations whether or not you would want to work with a particular person again. You remember those who are great, those who are less than great, and forget those who fly under the radar and get lost in the middle. Let’s be honest – you’re not going to recommend someone forgettable for a job anytime soon. Establishing solid relationships and putting your best foot forward are important because when things go awry in an organization and labor cuts need to be made, you need others who can vouch for your work ethic. You need people who will say, “Send me your resume so that I can forward it to…”
As an educator, I put my best foot forward because I know my students are watching me just as I am watching them. I know which ones are dependable and reliable; I also know the ones who are not. I enjoy writing recommendations for those who try, and I write recommendations for those I would hire. I do not feel comfortable recommending someone for a position I would not hire. And who knows? My students might be in a position to hire me one day, so I better be the best possible leader for them.
The key takeaway here is that present behavior impacts future opportunities. Through the power of observation, opportunities can be created or lost. Strive to be in the 20% of the workforce that gets remembered for your impact, and your future self will thank you.