Productivity and success depend on many more factors than your solo smarts, drive, and persistence. One that’s often overlooked is the practical fit between you and the position in which you work: the better this fit, generally the better your results.
To gauge this fit, we can look at four simple factors that describe your work situation. If they mesh well, you’re a good fit in your situation, and you’ll find productivity and success far easier to achieve. If these factors go together awkwardly or antagonistically, you’ll feel frustrated – or worse, and your performance will suffer.
The four factors are:
- Support Structure
Let’s briefly explore each one:
We’re starting with you, because the quest here is to see how well your work environment fits your capacities, preferences, and personality.
To begin, think about the work you do, and what you bring to the job. Consider your skills, knowledge, abilities, working style, attitude, preferences, and all the rest. How often do you get to utilize all of your talents?
Now consider the work you are trying to accomplish. Answer such questions as:
- What are the central tasks you tackle most days?
- What do these tasks require of you, in terms of specific knowledge and skills, working style, attitude, preferences, and so forth?
- What satisfaction do you receive by completing these tasks?
- What other tasks might you like to do more often?
You and these tasks operate within some kind of structure that supports the work. This structure includes everything from your work station and its lighting to the amount of freedom you feel to work the way you prefer. Consider such details of this structure as:
- To what extent is the work you do adequately supported with tools and other necessary resources?
- How are decisions made? How quickly? How much does your input count toward the options selected?
- How is your work evaluated? How closely does this evaluation correspond with your own metrics for productivity and success?
- How is your performance rewarded? To what extent do extra efforts bring you corresponding extra rewards?
- How do information, opportunity, task assignments and responsibility really flow?
It’s also important to think about the people with whom you interact to accomplish your work. How well do these interactions generally go? Do they tend to hinder or help your productivity and success?
Whether you are in giant organization, a small business, or a solo situation, you operate within a variety of rules – some written, some unwritten, some poorly defined – that influence or perhaps even limit your opportunities, choices, and daily behavior.
This “work culture” helps to establish and maintain a variety of work-related attitudes, beliefs, motivations, relationships, and more. It’s helpful to be conscious of such cultural considerations as:
- What beliefs and values are expressed in actual behavior – yours, and perhaps other people’s – rather than in lip service?
- How does this “work culture” help determine your interactions with and insulation from others?
- Within this “work culture,” what is the relative importance of interpersonal politics versus achieving stated goals?
As you recognize more details about these three external factors, you can begin to evaluate how well they align with your capacities, your preferences, and your personality. For example:
Tasks: Are you working at tasks you enjoy? Do these tasks require your best efforts? Are you able to apply your key strengths? Are you “under-” or “over-employed”? Is there other work, other tasks, that would suit you better?
Structure: Does the structure improve or detract from your productivity and success? Does it facilitate or hamper your efforts and your personal growth?
Culture: How proud are you of the behaviors and values expressed by your (and perhaps others’) work efforts?
It’s rare to experience perfect alignment among talent, tasks, structure, and culture in a viable work situation. However, when any of these seem too far out of sync, the discrepancies nearly always lead to at least some degree of negative impact on your productivity and success.
But any discrepancies you may discover through this analysis are not necessarily “carved in stone.” Often, it’s possible to make meaningful changes to what’s out of alignment without disturbing what’s working well for you.
The first step in making appropriate adjustments, of course, is to believe you can. If you don’t, that’s a belief you’ll want to cultivate.
From there, it’s prudent to begin with yourself and examine to what extent you can adjust your own talents to better fit into your current working environment.
After that, try to imagine a system of tasks, structure, and culture that suits you better. What would have to change within your present situation to create that better-adjusted system?
Some of the necessary changes may be beyond your control, but some may be possible. As The Eagles wrote in their song Already Gone, “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”
Another set of needed changes may lie beyond your personal control, but nevertheless be eminently changeable by someone you can persuade to improve your situation.
And then there’s another potential course of action: if the fit between you and your tasks, structure, and culture is a poor one, it’s may be appropriate to look elsewhere for a better fit. Rather than squeeze or stretch yourself into an inflexible working situation, your work and life will go better in the long-term if you can find a place that fits you well.
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