This year, for most of us – whether by choice or through circumstances – we have been afforded a little bit more ‘me’ time. I’ve recently taken the opportunity to read, or rather re-read (actually its possibly re-re-read), a book which looked at why some people are able to achieve more in comparison to their peers and many of the points being examined resonated as much, if not more, with me this time around as I applied the author’s thinking to what I see every day working in recruitment. We probably all remember being a child and hearing the story about the hare and the tortoise? It’s a familiar tale; the super confident hare sets off at such a pace that he feels he can afford forty winks and still beat the cumbersomely slow tortoise to win the race. The outcome – which has no doubt been repeated by parents time and time again – is that it is the tortoise who in fact claims victory and the moral of the story is that ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
We tend to focus on how it is the hare’s 'sure-of-himself attitude' that causes his comeuppance, but, just for a minute, let’s consider what it was about the tortoise’s approach which resulted in him gaining success and how that can play out when we apply that to achieving our own career ambitions.
What we are seeing is momentum. Rather than charging off at a break-neck speed which cannot be sustained for the duration of the race, the tortoise adopts a much more manageable pace which he is able to maintain for far longer. And the real undoing of the hare was that after stopping, he found that it was much, much harder to get going again.
How does that translate into the work place? It’s quite simple really. Essentially, it comes down to doing most – if not all – of the right things for most of the time. Being consistent, getting better results for putting in small amounts of effort into tasks over a sustained period of time as opposed to having to make a huge effort to get something done in a shorter time frame.
I thought about this some more in the context of candidates that I’d interviewed and placed over the years; what sets those that had gone on to achieve arguably greater successes in their career over a longer period of time apart from those that perhaps hadn’t quite fulfilled the early promise they had shown was this idea of momentum. There will always be the few exceptions, but for the most part, you could see how those that had climbed the career ladder at a steady and consistent pace – a more manageable pace - over the course of a number of years were achieving ‘more’ than many who, in the early stages of their career, had burst onto the scene with a bang but had been unable to maintain the same trajectory.
After initially showing great potential, what were they doing – or not doing – that was holding them back? I kept coming back to this idea of momentum and how it is somehow easier to keep something going once it has been started – when it has become a habit - and how it’s harder, or more time consuming, to have to go back to tasks we’ve let slip but ultimately still need to be done. And these are often uninspiring, yet no less important, everyday tasks. For example, think back to when we had paper copies of everything and documents needed to be filed. It was a far less onerous task for those people who took a few minutes to diligently file everything away at the end of each day, rather than leave it to pile up until the end of the week (or month).
If we consider again the moral of the hare and the tortoise story – slow and steady wins the race – and understand that what we are really aiming for is ‘steady’ then we see that whilst the drive and confidence in one’s own abilities as displayed by the hare will undoubtedly serve you well, it’s the tortoise-like qualities - reliable, diligent, methodical, dependable – that are absolutely fundamental to achieving longer term career success.
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