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Management & Strategy

Beyond the Noise: Appreciating the Quiet Work of Effective Doers

More often than not, we are grateful for and celebrate the wrong people. It is incumbent on all of us to take the time to appreciate and acknowledge the doers in our lives.

Have you ever noticed that the people who talk the most about how busy they are seem to be the least productive? Have you ever noticed that the people who frantically run from crisis to crisis never seem to be able to proactively put in place measures that would avert these crises? Have you ever noticed that the people who are the most boastful don’t seem to have the depth and expertise that those who work quietly behind the scenes do?

If you have noticed any of these things, have you ever taken the time to appreciate the doers? The doers are those in our lives that quietly take care of business behind the scenes. In many cases, few, if any, are aware of the work that they do and how important it is. We as an industry are long overdue in appreciating those who talk little but deliver big for us time and time again.

What makes a doer? While there are many different aspects that contribute to this type of personality, here are some of the values that I’ve noticed are common among doers:

Actions Over Words: Talk is cheap. Getting things done requires more than talk – it requires action, discipline, know-how, hard work, consensus building, and a constant focus on the goal. When working towards a desired end, there isn’t a lot of time to shout from the hilltops. Perhaps that is why the people who spend a lot of time talking about what they are doing aren’t the ones we look to when a job needs to get done.

Being On Time: Regarding being on time, one of my friends once shared with me that if you tell someone to be out front in 15 minutes to receive a suitcase with a million dollars, they would be there on time. In other words, being on time is about prioritizing what is important to us. If our work meetings, deadlines, and other obligations are important to us, we will be on time. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances that arise from time to time, but not as often as people claim they do. Think about it – when someone is late, what they are essentially saying is that something else was more important to them than what you needed from them. Whether it is showing up for a meeting, delivering ahead of a deadline, or anything else, the people we look to get things done on time.

Focus: The world is full of shiny objects that can easily distract us and pull us off topic. Some people are constantly throwing out new ideas, new directions, and new fads. In some cases, particularly when related to the task at hand, these things may be helpful. More often than not, however, what is thrown out is simply a shiny object that pulls us off track. This is seldom productive, of course. As much of a challenge as staying focused is, getting things done requires it. That is not to say that the course cannot be adjusted, corrected, or changed, but that it should be done in a focused and strategic manner. Not simply because we are chasing after shiny objects.

Underpromise and Overdeliver: I’ve always been fascinated by people who pontificate their grandiose plans, only to fail to deliver on them again and again. It is a tragic cycle, and generally, after two or three instances of it, people within the organization get wise to it. Yet, the same tendency to overpromise and underdeliver continues for some reason. Perhaps it is because the overpromisers aren’t aware (or self-aware) enough to realize that people have gotten wise to them. Or, perhaps it is because their judgment and ability to execute are poor, and so they aren’t self-aware enough to realize what they are doing. Whatever the reason, doers do exactly the opposite. They carefully estimate what can be accomplished and then strive to surpass that goal. They underpromise and overdeliver again and again. These are the people we look to when we want to make sure something will get done right.

Humility: In Charles Darwin’s book The Descent of Man, he wrote: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” I agree with this statement, as do many people I know, and it turns out that we’re not alone. According to Wikipedia, the Dunning–Kruger effect “is a cognitive bias in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities.” Or to try and summarize the gist of both of these colloquially, the people who generally speak the most loudly and forcefully on a given topic are generally the ones least knowledgeable about it. The doers I know are all the polar opposite of this. They quietly and humbly go about their work, delivering consistent results in a timely manner.

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We all know who we can count on, whether in our personal lives or our professional lives. Yet, more often than not, we are grateful for and celebrate the wrong people. It is incumbent on all of us to take the time to appreciate and acknowledge the doers in our lives.

Written By

Joshua Goldfarb (Twitter: @ananalytical) is currently Global Solutions Architect - Security at F5. Previously, Josh served as VP, CTO - Emerging Technologies at FireEye and as Chief Security Officer for nPulse Technologies until its acquisition by FireEye. Prior to joining nPulse, Josh worked as an independent consultant, applying his analytical methodology to help enterprises build and enhance their network traffic analysis, security operations, and incident response capabilities to improve their information security postures. He has consulted and advised numerous clients in both the public and private sectors at strategic and tactical levels. Earlier in his career, Josh served as the Chief of Analysis for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) where he built from the ground up and subsequently ran the network, endpoint, and malware analysis/forensics capabilities for US-CERT.


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