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Is that Really Your Best Work?

Of course we always try to do our best work, or do we? The harsh reality is that we don’t. You may not believe that, there was a time that I wouldn’t have believed it either. But I heard a story that made me realize that we rarely do our best. Yep, rarely.

Put yourself in the shoes of the intern in this supposedly true story. The intern worked in Washington, D.C. for a senator or congressman or maybe a cabinet secretary (it’s been a while since I heard this story and I have been unable to track down the source). The official asked the intern to research a particular issue and write a paper with his research and conclusions. He delivered the report on time. The next morning he was called to the official’s office.

“I received your paper. Thanks for delivering it on time. Tell me son, does this paper represent your best work?” asked the official.

After thinking about it and assuming that the official was not thrilled with his work, the intern said, “No sir. I will have it on your desk first thing in the morning.”

The intern worked all night long to get the report just right. He came up with some additional facts, further supporting his conclusions. He had it on the official’s desk by sunrise, hit the shower and waited. The call came in at 9:30. He rushed off to hear the official’s critique of his revised paper.

“Son, is this really your best work? My meeting was rescheduled, so you can have until Monday if this is not absolutely your best effort.”

“No sir, but by Monday it will be,” said the intern, wondering what he had missed this time that his boss had discovered.

So the intern spent the weekend working constantly and furthering improving his report. His level of pride in his work increased at about the same rate as the weight of his eyelids. By Monday morning, the report was perfected. He delivered it and again waited for the verdict. The phone rang and he sprinted to the office hoping to hear some positive feedback.

“Did you give me your best effort this time?”

At this point, the intern didn’t know what else to do. The report included absolutely everything he could think of. He had no other way to make it better. He had turned over every stone, looked in every nook and cranny. He had proofed the report 12 times. It was as good as it was going to get. “What could I possibly be missing,” he thought. After thinking it through, he made a bold move.

“Yes sir, it is. That is my best work, and I am proud of it.”

With a nearly sinister smile on his face, the official said, “That’s great son. Now I will read your report for the first time and give you my feedback. Next time, bring me your best work from the beginning.”

How often do we really give our best effort? How often can you say, “This is my best work, and I am proud of it”? Our customers pay for and deserve our best all the time. Do they get it? Put yourself through this test. Ask yourself, “Is this really my best work?”

About the Author

Phil Bounsall

Phil Bounsall

As president at Walker, Bounsall is focused on the development and execution of strategies and operating plans designed to enhance Walker’s position as a global leader in customer intelligence. Bounsall also works with Walker’s client service teams to help meet the needs of Walker’s clients.

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