People Going the Extra Mile

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Saskia Constantinou
Journalist, Cyprus

People Going the Extra Mile

One of the most important lessons I learned from a young age is discipline and "going the extra mile". What does that actually mean in terms of business and management?

Whether you are a manager or a knowledge worker, there is fierce competition for positions and it's not always about your qualifications or expertise. It's very often about your character, your willingness to work, to be pleasant and to help others. As a professional musician, I worked for many years as a violinist in an orchestra. When a vacancy was filled, the musician was on probation for 6 months – not to test his expertise, but to see how well he/she would fit into the team. It's all about collaboration and teamwork.

Orchestras are nowadays used a lot as training models for human resources, as they usually both are composed of many different nationalities, egos and characters who all must merge together with the same aim when the conductor raises his baton. That is, to deliver the best of themselves for the good of the whole.

Ning Li et al. of the University of Iowa conducted interesting research which showed that when team members who went the extra mile were put in a central position in the workflow and came into contact with as many teammates as possible, there was greater team dynamic and performance. The ones who go the ‘extra mile' have 2 additional traits: they physically help others with their jobs if they are overwhelmed or ill, and they speak out. They make constructive suggestions which provide for a better work flow or speak to management to help make the job easier for workers.

Managers need to pay attention to such key players in a team, because the extra milers can be relied on to have a positive impact on the team.
Management should however trust and give freedom to such employees. I can't stress this enough. This type of talent does not need constant engagement by managers. If you have to micromanage, you have failed in your hiring and promotion process. Browbeating and stick wielding does not motivate top performers to go the extra mile. It is something inherent.

  • Display a ‘can do' attitude and try to anticipate any problems which might occur.
  • Keep learning and up to date with the latest technology and trends. When you are caught up, you're valuable to the company.
  • Be trustworthy – both to your employees and coworkers. It's all part of being a team player. Trust takes so long to build, and can be destroyed in a minute.
  • Take initiative and don't wait for assignments to land on your desk!
A final thought… remember: People of excellence go the extra mile to do what's right.
Source: Li, N., Zhao, H. H., Walter, S. L., Zhang, X.-a., & Yu, J. (2015). "Achieving more with less: Extra milers' behavioral influences in teams." Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 1025–1039.

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