You can pick up any business or news magazine at any time and read articles about the rapid pace of change, the increasing speed at which everything moves, the globalization of industry and commerce, and how technology is changing our world.
Of course all of these things are true. Further reading will lead us to articles about the “new world of work” and how our working lives are changing; that we are changing jobs more frequently, are expected to multi-task, taking less time off and being completely connected all of the time. All of these facts can lull us into a belief that there is nothing we can learn from workers of the past – that the world is so different that history doesn’t hold valuable lessons for us.
This I don’t believe to be true.
It is time for us to consider our careers, our productivity, our success and our satisfaction in a new – a new but decidedly old – way.
I encourage you to think of yourself as a craftsman.
A craftsman (for my purposes please consider this to be a gender neutral word) is a person who as always been seen as one who exhibited high levels of skill, and whose output was of exceedingly high quality. As you read this word you are probably thinking of certain types of jobs or even of particular people.
Regardless of your initial thoughts, there are some characteristics of craftsman that we can all learn from and aspire to, even if we think our work is very different from the work of the past.
Craftsmen are consistent. You always know what you will get from a master craftsman. You can expect the details to be right. You can expect it to be right the first time. With a craftsman, your expectations are always met – and often exceeded. We can aspire to this level of consistency as well. If we have changed jobs or roles or companies three times in the last five years, this will be a harder standard to live up to, but it doesn’t change the goal. Strive to be a model of consistency in your work.
Craftsmen learned from experts. In many cases they learned their skill or trade as an apprentice. While in some trades the apprentice process still exists, that isn’t the case for most of us. This is a fact, but not an excuse. Your opportunity to learn from experts comes from finding a mentor or coach and learning from them and their experience to shorten your learning curve and increase your success. The process works for craftsmen, and it will work for you.
Craftsmen practice. Master craftsmen continue to practice their skill to find new approaches and ways to enhance the creativity and quality of their work. We too must practice our crafts regularly and purposefully. When we complete our daily work with a practice mentality, we are continually learning, rather than doing it by rote to get it off our task list.
Craftsmen develop remarkable skills. Their practice and focus leads a craftsman to a high level of skill. This is why we call them a craftsman! We will become more successful when we continue to build and invest in our skills. Don’t use the excuse that your work changes too quickly. Too often today we settle for proficiency, rather than excellence. A craftsman continues to polish and hone their skills, because they have set their sights very high . . . and we should too.
Craftsmen’s work is of the highest quality. Along with exceptional skill it is the quality of the work that sets a craftsman apart. It is the overall quality of their work that makes their work output desirable, it is what sets their reputation. What is your reputation based upon? Does the quality of your work correlate with the highest levels of quality? If not, why not? And if not, what will you do to change that perception?
Craftsmen have great pride in their work. My daughter looked at a painting on our wall last evening and asked who painted it. I pointed to the signature and explained that an artist always signs their work. Craftsmen and artisans take great pride in their work. They sign it. They back it up with their reputation. They re-do the work if necessary – sometimes to standards far above what the customer may need or desire. When we take greater pride in our work we produce better quality work, but at least as importantly we begin to derive more meaning and satisfaction from our work. The pride comes not only from exhibiting our skills but from creating life from our time spent at work.
As you have read the characteristics above you may have continued to think “yes, but” with every line.
“Yes, but it is easier for a craftsman because their work never changes. ”
“Yes, but a craftsman hasn’t had to deal with doing their job with new tools higher expectations and more. ”
“Yes, but the world is just too different to hold myself to those standards. ”
Don’t allow yourself to fall prey to the yes, buts. Look for the lessons, not the excuses. When we think of ourselves as craftsmen – craftspeople – we will reach new heights of success, productivity and satisfaction in our work.
I wish you great success with this new view of your work.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com ), a learning consulting company. To receive a free Special Report on leadership that includes resources, ideas, and advice go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/leadership.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888. LEARNER.