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Rundles wrap-up: 200 percent



Early one morning last month I ran into an old acquaintance while we were walking to our respective offices, and we each inquired about the jobs we were heading to. He said something I hear more and more all the time: "Hey, it’s a job. I am happy to be working anywhere."

Let us just say that the enthusiasm level wasn’t exactly high, and I was thinking I was happy he wasn’t my doctor or my lawyer or my car mechanic or the guy who fixes my sprinkler system. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes the attitude of my sprinkler guy, which explains the brown patches on my lawn.

Anyway, conversely – and in spite of some of the "our amazing team" rhetoric you often hear from business owners and managers – I hear complaints from many employers about the quality of and commitment from their employees. Of course, the response seems to be that since so many people are out of work or underemployed and that each job opening receives a myriad of applicants, people can easily be replaced and probably for less money – a sentiment that is circulated, overtly or tacitly, quite regularly to the rank and file.

I am not necessarily criticizing employees or employers. What with the economic downturn and its persistent resistance to recovery, everyone is just a bit – understandably – frustrated. Employees go through the minimum motions, and employers support them to the minimum necessary. It’s not exactly a formula for innovation, much less progress.

Then I was having a marriage relationship discussion with my wife – fortunately about someone else’s marriage – because she had been counseling a friend that marriage is a "50-50 proposition." I thought about that a lot, because it sounds good on the surface, but struck me as lacking. Sometimes my mind works way too literally, but it sounded to me like, "I’ll give 50 percent if you give 50 percent." Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that I try and give my relationships 100 percent – I don’t always meet the goal – and I hope that my wife, family and my friends try and give 100 percent, too.

Business is a relationship as well. As an employee, I at least strive to give it my all – 100 percent. I strive to put 100 percent of my talents and my efforts into each and every task, and I want to work for and with people who do the same. When I deal with a client, supervisor and co-worker, I seek to exceed expectations, and in doing so raise the bar each time so that the measurement of 100 percent constantly grows.

But I have to admit that many times over the years I have failed to meet the mark. Occasionally it’s because I can be boorish, and sometimes it is because the other person in that relationship seems to be giving me short shrift. My enthusiasm wanes. This experience has occurred to me as an employee, an employer, in relationships with clients and, like everyone, in my personal relationships. Sometimes everyone retreats to the minimum required, measuring the output against the input. That’s 50-50. Turn it around and you get the Beatles: "The love you take is equal to the love you make."

I have a good friend in Canada who quite frequently employs one of my favorite expressions, and he’s the only person I know who does this. If he agrees with something you say, he says, "Hundred percent, hundred percent." When he discusses a project he’s involved with, he says, "I’m in. Hundred percent." He does everything "hundred percent." When we work together – or for that matter have dinner together in Toronto – my tendency is to return the favor, hundred percent.

That, if you go by the conventional wisdom of 50-50, means 200 percent and by any measure is more rewarding for everyone than a mere 100.

Besides, life is already too short for too much shrift.

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Jeff Rundles

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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