The Art of Strengths Coaching

G is for Great Work And Grunt Work

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How can you balance your great work and grunt work? People don’t mind doing tough jobs, providing they can see the point. But they don’t like performing grunt work that doesn’t make sense.

Let’s explore three steps towards doing such work.

You can choose to do a
specific piece of great work

Many people would love to do brilliant work, but their days are spent delivering the basics. They are consumed by doing the maintenance and get little time to make the magic. Sometimes this calls for taking radical action.

“Two years ago I took several steps to revitalise my career,” said one person.

“I had been hired to lead a pioneering team. But my days were spent managing, rather than leading.

“Looking at my diary for the next six months, I couldn’t see where I would get my creative kicks.

“Then I got savvy. I decided two things.

“First, to ensure that we found creative ways to run the engine and do the day job. Second, to focus on doing extraordinary work with one special customer.

“This produced remarkable results. Six months later we presented the improved customer satisfaction scores at the company conference.

“My bosses were pleased, saying it was exactly what they hired me to do. Meeting them 2 weeks later, I outlined 3 specific projects we could do to benefit the bottom line. But this meant refocusing our resources.

“Seeing the sense in the argument, they gave the go ahead. Now we concentrate on doing a few pioneering projects.”

How can you focus your efforts on doing fine work? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific piece of great work you would like to complete.

Describe the real results you want to achieve by doing the great work.

Describe the specific benefits of doing this work.

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You can do the
necessary grunt work

Imagine you are an athlete aiming to compete in the Olympic Final. Starting from this destination and working backwards, you will make a clear project plan.

You will map what must be done each year, each month and each day. You will then follow a daily rhythm on the route to reaching your goals.

The same is true for any project. There may be grunt work involved, but you will be okay if you can see how it contributes to achieving great work.

Encouraging yourself on the journey, you will keep working hard to ensure you reach the final stage.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Bearing in mind the specific piece of great work you want to do, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific kinds of grunt work that will be involved in working towards completing the great work.

Describe the specific things you can do to do the necessary grunt work.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage yourself while doing the grunt work.

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You can produce
the great work

People who do great work often keep their eyes on the big picture. This is illustrated in the various versions of the frequently told Cathedral Story. Here is one version.

Three people were working on shaping stones. When asked what they were doing, each person gave different answers.

The first said: “I am cutting stones.”

The second said: “I am building a cathedral.”

The third said: “I am serving the glory of God.”

What do you believe constitutes great work? One approach is to learn from superb designers. They often produce work that is simple, satisfying and successful.

Great design is simple, but in a profound way. It is satisfying on many levels. It looks good, feels good and is user friendly. Great design also works. It is successful.

You will, of course, have your own philosophy regarding producing superb work.

Let’s return to the specific piece of work you want to tackle. You will have done the basics, it is now time to add the brilliance.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following.

Describe the specific things you can do to produce great work in your own way.

Describe the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, add that touch of class.

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