Managed By Give Me 110%
I listened to an interview with the musician Dave Grohl yesterday. He shared that even after playing on stages around the world for decades he remains motivated to give 110% every time he appears on stage. His reason? This may be the first or only time someone is going to see him perform and he wants to be sure that what they experience is the best version of him.
Mr. Grohl is paid very well and receives abundant appreciation for what he does. But I have been to performances by other artists where the effort seemed a bit less dazzling than I would have expected.
You might ask yourself: Do I give 110% in the work that I do? Strangely enough, I do, a relatively high percentage of the time. I am more modestly paid and appreciated than Mr. Grohl, but I mostly love my work. I have carefully curated where I spend my time. I genuinely enjoy the coaching, advising and strategic work. And I know that given my limited time with people and their limited experience with someone like me I want to be sure that they have is a worthwhile and memorable experience. And I get a bit of an adrenaline rush whenever I do this kind of work. Not quite like opening up a week of shows at Madison Square Garden, but I take my adrenaline a bit milder.
Meanwhile, writing is not always fun for me, but I am motivated to share ideas that I think matter. And because I love structures, the opportunity to create and review spreadsheets and tracking documents pleases me in the way that reorganizing the pantry can.
So why then is giving 110% such an irksome phrase to me? I will grant you that a part of it is that I am a poor cheerleader and a poorer taskmaster. The words reek of hacky leadership. More than that though is that it is built on a set of unfair assumptions and delivered by people without empathy or grasping the complexity of their colleague’s lives. In an ideal world, or even a world where they care about sustaining your growth and best output, their language and assessment of you would also calculate the following.
You are probably like me in that you do not see a recording going platinum soon. If you find yourself in a role where 110% is routinely asked of you by your motivational boss, or if you are the one asking it of others, I ask that you consider the following.
Is This Task or Set of Tasks Enjoyable?
Is this an outlier task that is a small part of the overall job where there tends to be a struggle? If so, Is there training or guidance that could help in the moment realize the goal?
Or is the work a bad fit where it might be suited for another employee?
Is this the central or primary focus of work?
Is their vision of getting better or wanting to get better at doing this?
Is this what was signed up for initially?
Or is this not a fit as the job description has shifted over time?
Are the responsibilities for this role different from other employers? Should you go somewhere without these expectations?
What Are Your Other Work & Life Demands?
Can 110% be realized given the set of other things expected?
Is the set of things expected realistic?
Can you have a conversation about what is realistic? Or, at least what is realistic at this moment?
Are there things outside of work affecting productivity?
Do You Have the Needed Skills or Training?
Are the tasks being asked possible without having additional training or resources?
How quickly can training be implemented?
Are you measuring inputs or outputs?
110% effort is really about an effort input rather than a work product outcome. What is that work product outcome goal that you/they have? How was it determined and is it fair?
What is interesting is artists as varied as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Kanye West, and the Beatles had a song that was a HUGE hit that they hated but felt compelled to perform by their fans. Of course, a song out of a set of a dozen or two is a small percentage of grin and bear it from a full show.
Are you in a role where much of your time is being spent to prod you to do work that demotivates you? If so, it is time to work towards that pivot that I write so often about. If you are that 110% boss, please consider the questions above and be better. The world is greatly improved when we are in the right role and the motivation to do our work comes from within.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.