top of page
  • ybethel

Updating Your Work Ethic

Updated: Mar 17


The traditional work ethic is centered on working hard to achieve results. When we choose to shift to an ecosystem approach to leading based on trust, working smart is more relevant. This is because when trust is present there is more room for connection, innovation, initiative and problem solving even when the budget might be limited.


I constantly hear employees lament about how hard they work and how their hard work is not noticed. This is because many people around them are working just as hard so it has become a basic expectation, not a distinguishing characteristic. Hard work is part of the traditional equation for success but there are people who automate or delegate. Others have figured out how to work three-day weeks that are equally productive. 


I would dare to assert that Time + Hard Work = Results is an outmoded formula for results.  In place of it, I would submit a more holistic, multi-dimensional formula that is more responsive (vs. reactive): Smart Work + Interpersonal Skills (Incl. E.Q.) + Adaptability + Value Placed on the Task/ Activity + Self Discipline = Results.  In this equation, hard work is replaced with smart work and the time element was removed because time spent is not always a primary indicator of balanced outcomes. People who are stressed and burnt out can attest to this.  Interpersonal skills were added to the equation because demonstrating emotional intelligence is an equally important component of enhancing your results. This is because most roles are part of an end-to-end process that extends beyond the contribution of one person.


Another reason why working hard is becoming outmoded as a work ethic is because uncertainty, competition and other external pressures are causing companies to focus more and more on reducing costs.  This means, companies expect better efficiency ratios which translate into higher productivity from employees who are expected to do more with the same or less resources. 


With this is mind, if you are constantly working late, your boss may not view your hard work and dedication in the same way as before if your results are not growing satisfactorily.  Executives expect increased productivity especially if profit margins are shrinking so if you wait for additional resources, you may be in for a very long wait.


Don’t get me wrong, hard work and smart work can coexist. There are employees who work hard who are quite productive. Sometimes this happens because they are pulling someone else’s weight or because they love what they do.  But at some point they will arrive at a threshold where their capacity will plateau and they will have to find new ways to work to meet constantly growing demands.


There is one more category of “Hard Workers” who can benefit from updating their work ethic.  There are employees who appear to be working hard, you can see their effort but they are really “spinning wheels”.  This is sometimes attributable to a lack of proper training, a lack of interest in the role or company, or some past experience that lowered your trust in your coworkers or your employer. Whatever your reason for being in a holding pattern, it is time to consider working smarter or a new career or job.


Tips for Adopting a Smart Work Ethic


Working smarter means working in ways that can open your capacity. This can happen by changing the way you prioritise your work and through automation, delegation, or restructuring.  Working smart is a gift you give to yourself because it has the potential to save time that you can use for more balance or to learn and grow in your role. Here are a few tips you can use to work smarter.


  • Know the difference between being a Team Player and being used.  There are many people who, at one time or another, thought that their managers or team members had confidence in them because they gave you a constant stream of work knowing that you would get it done.  While being a team player is important, you need to determine:  a) If you are really part of the team and are being developed or; b) if you are being used.  If you are being used, your time is being used so that others can work smart. Employees who are chronic doers can easily get caught in this trap. 


  • Learn the art of saying “no”.  The bottom line is that you should not take on more than you can manage because eventually your lack of boundary setting can lead to an experience of reduced personal performance levels.  Jory Des Jardins once stated that you should, “Try to make your boss happy.  If you can’t, then move on.” Being overly focused on a moving, mysterious target is not healthy.


  • If you can delegate, identify what you should delegate, keep or share.  If you delegate or share any of your work, be sure to have an organized, reliable system of follow up to ensure you really are working smart.


  • Get organized.  I have witnessed transformations in stress levels and productivity with the introduction of prioritized “to do” lists and diary systems.  Getting organized helps you to ensure you focus on the right things at the right time.  Additionally, it helps to zoom out to the big picture so you can renegotiate timelines instead of getting lost in the fear caused by a mounting list of tasks. Please remember that getting organized is contingent on your ability to be disciplined about creating your lists, managing your diary and following up on a regular basis.


  • Whether you are a manager or employee, if you are humble, approachable and well connected you will get things done faster through people than difficult team members.


  • Upgrade your technological skills within the scope of your role (there is too much to learn.) The world is becoming increasingly tech savvy so if you are not able to use technology optimally you will not be aware of tools and other resources that can make your life a whole lot easier.


  • Work/Life balance is another route to working smart.  Taking breaks gives you time to perceive your work from a different perspective.  Time off also helps you to tap into your creativity.  Many great ideas happen when you are away from work.  So if you are going to focus on how to become more productive, try to find time to zoom in on how you can make meaningful changes that can lead to increased productivity and innovation.


  • Ask again for the tools you need.  The previous “no” may change into a “yes” given different circumstances or a modified approach by you.


Bob Stoops asserts that, “Just because what we’ve done in the past has worked and worked well doesn’t mean that it will continue to.  We have really got to be smart in what we are attempting to do.”  What Stoops is asserting is that we should be open to modifying how we think about how we do what we do.  Keeping your hard work and smart work in an ideal state of balance is what you can aim for.  Sometimes the hard work is unavoidable, but there may be opportunities to transform it into smart work over time.  


Finally, it is also important to reinforce that while results do matter, how you treat yourself, your employees and coworkers as you shift to working smarter is of equal importance.

Connect With Us

With knowledge gained from almost 40 years of Fortune 500 and international consulting experience, Yvette shares her rich experience and proprietary model for changing businesses from the inside out. She is a thought leader in the areas of trust, leadership and organizational ecosystems, a multiple award-winning author and cultural consultant.

Sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date with our new podcast episodes and blog posts at Business owners, executives, management, leaders, aspiring managers, coaches, facilitators, therapists, and consultants can benefit from our suite of courses and tools. You can also access free courses and resources there.

If you are a leader and you want to learn a fresh approach to persistent challenges connect with us to learn about our one-of-a-kind, proven methodology. Check out the IFB Academy for courses based on our thought leadership in the areas of trust, culture, change management, and human ecosystems at It’s time to disrupt old ways of thinking and being.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page