Work Ethic 1.0: Good Stewardship

The recent “web 2.0” boom of the past few years has changed the dynamic of the workplace, in many ways for the better. At the same time, it has brought an era of dramatic privilege, a sense that employees should do what they want, whenever they want, and that employers should work to fulfill those desires if they want to keep said employees. And in my opinion, that change in work ethic proves the point that some things don’t change for the better.

Nothing typifies this more than the crazed directions the personal branding phenomena has branched into. While many purists debate with me about semantics — feeling that personal brands really mean an individual’s reputation — it’s clear that the movement has become something much more akin to Internet fame and rock stardom.

Lately, you’re not hearing that attitude so much. Millenials are now realizing their first economic downturn, and a more sober attitude seems to be arising from the general web 2.0 crowd towards works. The common statements of the day are “I’m grateful we’re busy,” or “I’m happy to have a job.”

That’s not to say that some of those gains should be turned away. In a world where you move from job to job or project to project in periods of years and months (rather than decades), it’s only natural to seek work in areas of interest. But being satisfied with a non-fulfilling job — even just for today — is OK, too.

One almost surefire result of America’s most difficult economic time since the Great Depression will be a return to old fashioned work ethic. This ethos, something that got drilled into me by my father and mentors in my twenties, revolves around good stewardship. While the nature of jobs have changed dramatically within a much shorter window of time, the principles of good stewardship still apply.

Good Stewardship

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s define stewardship as the successful execution of the management of another’s property or financial affairs; one who successfully administers anything as the agent of another or others. So when someone pays you to do something — a.k.a. a job — they are financially compensating you for acting as their steward.

You don’t see fulfillment or building personal brands in this definition. Far from it really. What is evident is an underlying attitude of service. Rather than preach, it seems best to put down ten of the standards I try to apply to my own activities past and present:

1) I am responsible for my actions.

2) As part of my job (either full-time or as part of a consultancy) I am paid to perform a service. I will do this, even if I only intend to stay for a year (or the project is for a couple of months).

3) Sacrifice is required at times. I make those sacrifices, even when it affects me personally. I did this before I owned my own company, too.

4) That’s because a job is not about accepting status quo, instead taking the baton and moving it further.

5) Success means passing the baton on so the next person can take it and run, with a real opportunity to do even better than me.

6) By being a good steward, I will build a good personal reputation as well as benefit the larger brand. But selfish motives in day-to-day activity will actually reap the opposite reward.

7) In that vein, I succeed when my boss/client/company looks good as a result of actions taken.

8) Agreement with my company/client is not something I need to perform my responsibilities. If I voiced my concerns and I’m told to do something a different way, then so be it. I’ll do such activity with the best attitude possible.

9) When I make mistakes, I try to own them and when appropriate make amends.

10) Perfection is not possible, but progress is. Therefore, I seek to evaluate, analyze, explore weaknesses and build. More progress is always attainable.

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