Working Smarter and Not Harder

I am in the middle of a project that is requiring identifying someone to be the “face” of the initiative.

The nature of the initiative isn’t relevant, but it’s like hosting a radio/podcast program, authoring a book, or something similar. I was searching for the right candidate, and a colleague suggested a particular person’s name. I immediately rejected the name due to my experience with the person. Not exactly an out-of-the-gate rejection—we talked about the upside and downside of approaching this person for the project. But my support was less than tepid, not because they weren’t “able” to do the work, but more were they “willing” to do the work?

My past engagements with this person were all pleasant and courteous, and they were most certainly qualified on the competency front. But in my opinion, they failed on the willingness front—were they willing to actually put in the work to do what it would take to make it a success, long term? I voted no.

Pretty much unilaterally all my experiences with this person had been such that when it came down to putting in the required effort to build, develop, practice, and sustain the launch of an effort, they were often either unable or unwilling to meet my standard.

It was a hard no for me.

Then, as I listened to myself reject this person as a candidate, I began to wonder if my criteria was fair to hold them to. I was judging them against what I would do if I was selected for the project. More specifically what I had done in the past when I was selected for very similar work. I found myself lamenting all the hard work I’d done in the past and this candidate’s clear lack of interest in offering the same.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this person had just set better boundaries for themself than I was capable of. After all, they were highly respected by others and seemed to have developed a superb career for themselves that worked just fine for them, without any help from me at all.

I further wondered why I was willing to “go so far” on every project—even when not asked by others to do so. I said to the colleague helping me identify candidates that upon further reflection, maybe I should be more like this other person and not ask them to be more like me.

Why was my Private Victory so weak and tenuous that I was willing to go to extraordinary, sometimes absurd, efforts to earn the respect of others, when this person had the same respect, having not, in my estimation, gone nearly as far as me?

Lots of arbitrary judgment here, I know, but perhaps ask yourself the same questions I was: “Am I good enough?” “Am I trying too hard?” “Can I accomplish the same with less effort, risk, or sacrifice?” “Why am I toiling so hard to earn what others aren’t willing to do?”

Your Private Victory, as defined by Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is basically taking responsibility for yourself, determining what you want in life, and prioritizing your efforts and attitude around it.

I’m not suggesting you lessen your effort or focus on your goals. Sometimes the very definition of success is indeed doing what others are unwilling to do. But perhaps there’s something to this concept of “working smarter and not harder.” Do you need to put up some boundaries, not only for others, but yourself as well?


Building a culture of trust starts with a shared vocabulary of simple, yet powerful phrases that leaders use to express gratitude, offer compassion, and provide support. Here are 10 phrases leaders use to build trust with team members.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company and grew up in Central Florida. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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