When you write a book called Too Busy to be Happy, it’s only natural for clients to ask about said busyness. How can they reserve more emotional real estate for their personal lives? How can they get ahead professionally without consistently giving up their free time? Is it necessary to always go “above and beyond” in order to get a raise, a promotion or even just recognition?

These questions are coming up now more than ever—and if you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve likely seen the subject discussed there. Millennials and Gen X are taking to social platforms like TikTok to vent about toxic corporate cultures, but also to express how fed up they are with going above and beyond for employers—and seemingly getting nothing in return.

As an executive coach, it’s a tough spot to be in. I’m constantly espousing the benefits of work-life wisdom, and how important it is to balance your professional and personal priorities.

But I also grew up and began my career in the time of exceeding expectations. Personally, I’m always thinking of ways that I can go above and beyond for my clients.

And that mindset started during my college days and Michigan State, thanks to an incredible guy named Jeff.

Jeff was the epitome of an overachiever and he taught me the power of going above and beyond. He believed that you never did anything mediocre—you always, always did your best to exceed expectations.

Jeff (and I’m sure it’s the same for many other self-motivated folks) woke up every day with a sense of pride and excitement for what he was about to accomplish. He was never fearful of the outcome of a big presentation or project, because he knew he’d gone above and beyond. This man had back-up slides just in case someone asked a question. He was over prepared—and it made me want to be over prepared too. It also made me believe that the business world would be full of people like Jeff.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

And now, in 2023, there’s discourse around the subject matter. This article, “Hard Work Doesn’t Always Lead to Success,” sums up a lot of what employees are venting about on social media. But it also highlights a key detail that many on social media are missing: putting in extra time or effort does not guarantee success; it’s putting in the right type of extra effort that can deliver a return.

So, how do you balance your time, energy and efforts, to ensure that going above and beyond will help you reach your goals?

The key, like so many things, is to focus. Figure out where that extra energy can actually make a difference. It may be something simple like staying late to help a client that’s really in a pickle. Or maybe instead of forwarding an email because that issue is “not your problem,” you take an extra few minutes to get to the bottom of the problem. Or maybe it’s something bigger, like creating a few extra slides in a presentation, to make sure that you can easily and clearly answer any questions that come up (just like my pal Jeff).

And on the flip side, if you’re a manager, reward these behaviors. Don’t expect them. And if you can lead by example, even better. From what I’m hearing, the discourse around going above and beyond is because it seems like employers just expect employees to go the extra mile. But going the extra mile isn’t in anyone’s job description. When someone puts in the time, energy or effort to make a difference, make sure you recognize it.

What are your thoughts on going above and beyond? Join me on LinkedIn and let’s continue the conversation.

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