What it really means to give 100%


We hear it all the time, “Let’s all give 100% on this!”  Or, we read about how important it is to give 100% as leaders or team members or employees.  We are bombarded by advice to give 100% to work, to family, and to outside activities.  What does it really mean to give 100%  How do you know when you are there?  Is it ever possible to achieve 100% effort?  And, when should I give MORE than 100% (if ever)?

Today, I would like to try to at least provide some perspectives on what 100% means and, perhaps, more importantly, what is does NOT mean.

So, let’s start with that… giving 100% does NOT mean:

  1. Neglecting another important part of your life (e.g., family) to further your career – There are too many examples of parents that prioritize their work life over their children to their detriment.  The song “The Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin is a chilling reminder that we only have one chance to raise our children.  So, don’t buy the lie that says you aren’t giving 100% unless you work longer hours than everyone else, travel more than is necessary, or must work evenings and weekends to “stay in touch.”
  2. Accepting or tolerating an abusive situation – There are leaders that will take advantage of employees… yes, believe it or not!  This can be especially true for workers early in their careers or individuals new to a job.  The leaders continues to ask for more and more to the point that the workload becomes abusive.  Failing to continue this overload spiral does not mean you are giving less than 100%
  3. Trying to do more than you are capable or more than is possible – Do not fall into the trap of believing that you aren’t giving 100% unless you do everything requested, or finish earlier than needed, or that you achieve perfection in all things.  Sure, we need to do our very best at what we do.  We need to achieve all that we are capable.  But, we must not continually feel we underachieve when we fail to do the impossible.
  4. Overcommitting which has detrimental outcomes – There are times when we need to just say, “No.”  It is true that leaders tend to keep going to their best people or best performers for every important task.  It is OK to be honored by this, but we must have limits.  We cannot allow our pride to overcommit our lives to the detriment of other important aspects of our lives.
  5. Subsidizing the company’s decision to have too few resources – I have always believed that there are some companies (none that I ever worked for, of course) that always under-resource activities, projects, and functions.  So, by providing fewer resources that are needed, everyone else must pick up the slack.  This can result in excessive work hours that, essentially, are subsidizing the company’s decision to under-resource.  When you consistently have to work 60 hours/week, for example, to perform the basic functions of your job, you are either inefficient OR, more likely, you are subsidizing an under-resourcing situation.  In this case, you need to help your boss justify additional resources by showing the value to be gained for the company by adding the required resources to do the job well.

To be fair, there are some individuals that would claim “abuse” simply because they are asked to be at work every day on time.  I am not attempting to promote a lower standard or a culture of whining.  But, there are employers or leaders that believe that they can get your best output only when they challenge you to the breaking point.  I have an acquaintance that was once give three times more projects to get done in a year than was possible.  His boss claimed that even if he finished only half the projects, that would be more than he would have done otherwise.  This is not what I advocate.

So, what are some practical ways you can give 100%?  What defines 100%?  Giving 100% effort simply means doing your very best work in every situation.  Following is a list that I call indicators of 100% effort.  An individual that is giving 100% effort will consistently:

  • Seek ways to assist others when your work is caught up or a low period of work activity is experienced
  • Be reliable – this individual will give a full day of work, give full effort when needed, bee engaged, and strive to achieve (or exceed) required work in the time allotted
  • Promote a positive work environment by avoiding distractions, rumors, and negative situations – this person will work to create a positive work environment with an encouraging attitude, work ethic, and demeanor (e.g., body language)
  • Achieve goals, timelines, and requests without complaints, drama, or constant urging
  • Provide alternative solutions to problems when hurdles occur – seek ways to accomplish needed work despite unexpected challenges, problems, or changing conditions
  • Work exceptional hours on occasion to support the team’s key business objectives – this individual knows that there are times when extraordinary effort will be required and will willingly do what is needed, in those times, to meet business needs
  • Motivate others through words, actions, and deeds
  • Seek to improve their own knowledge, skills, and abilities – this person understands that as they improve, their ability to help the team or company is enhanced
  • Simply, does their best in every situation – an individual that is giving 100% will maintain a high level of personal standards for work effort and performance

I think we all want to give 100%.  We all think we are giving at least 100%.  However, a peek at this list might reveal opportunities to become even better.

Today might be a good day to take a fresh look at our own performance.  Are you being asked for more than is reasonable?  Have you crossed that line?  Or, alternatively, are there things you can do better or with more vigor to more closely attain the 100% effort our employers (and families) deserve.

Have a wonderful day!  This could be our “best day yet!”  There is still that chance.  Enjoy!

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