Hero worship

Which type of person do you prefer to work with, someone who thrashes early and gets things quietly done, or someone who swoops in at the end for some last minute heroics?

Which type of person receives the most attention in your organization? Are you more likely to hear, “John was squared away and relaxed when it was time to ship” or “Did you see that incredible last push John made, working all night so he could meet ship date?”

Which type are you?

Next time you find yourself in a situation where you see some people cramming like crazy, and others sitting back apparently doing nothing, take a moment to think about which ones you’d prefer to have work with you to ship your product.

7 thoughts on “Hero worship

  1. I actually got let go (downsized) from my admin/manager position 5 yrs ago because the do nothing boss I had gotten wanted me to become the ‘heroic’ Rich rather than the planned-out, do everything in increments, and setting priorities Rich. It appears that drama, drama, drama is what the American workplace is all about nowadays … and that is unfortunate!


  2. Hi, Brett – interesting question.

    I am reminded of my college days, when writing a passable essay or paper was a task to be delayed until the last possible minute, providing me with oceans of time to do something else. Drinking beer comes to mind first:)

    As I entered my work career, I continued this approach to accomplishing thing and, regretfully, received some positive attention for my willingness to stay later and longer, work harder right before the bell, and otherwise engage in the type of behavior we engage in when we are running out of time.

    I have to admit a soft spot in my heart for the “last-minute hero.” I was him.

    At this point, I realize that while immense and focused effort might be commendable in some situations where unforeseeable conditions arise, this is not the way to achieve our best work, it’s just a way to scrape through the days.

    As you so beautifully point out, the person who has their act together is ready to ship without all the drama and the need for last-minute effort. Somewhere along the line, they have learned how to plan and think, and combined those skills with a dedication to doing great work, not just getting the job done.

    Nice post!



  3. In the vein: There is a book on overtime titled “40+” that asserts that overtime is just a symptom of poor management. Often it is– either personal time management, project management, or general management.
    I once worked on a big project where the Project Manager was so adept at fighting fires that he let things become big fires so resources could be marshalled. Once I walked into his office when there were absolutely no fires and he was literally walking in circles in his office, like a fireman waiting for the alarm bell to ring. (Would you be surprised to hear the project was waay over budget and very late?)


  4. Hi, Kim

    Your comment reminds me of the psychological aspect to all this: some folks just need to admired and being the “hero” as they deal with crises. Just not as much adulation from managing effectively from the get-go:).



  5. Rich and Kim,

    I was inspired to write this post in part by a section in the book Rework, specifically the section titled “Workaholism” in which the authors write:

    Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all nighters and sleep at the office. It’s considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work.

    Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid.

    Some other tidbits from that section: “They even create crises”. “They enjoy feeling like heroes”. “Working more doesn’t mean you get more done, it just means you work more”.

    And my personal favorite, the closing sentence of the section:

    Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.


  6. John,

    I was that college student myself.

    I agree with you that there are times when a “heroic” effort is needed, but those should be truly rare occurrences.

    Kind of reminds me of something I heard once: If everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.

    Perhaps we can rewrite that to say: If everything requires a hero, you’re doing something wrong.

    btw, thanks for the tweet and the link on the Linchpin list.


  7. Kim,

    Your comment touched on one of what I see as a big problem that many managers have: the inability to do nothing.

    I feel a blog post coming on….


Comments are closed.