A brilliant blue sky over a field of white clouds, with a plane wing jutting out. We would often like to fly over the details, but that’s not how things get done. At the same time, diligence keeps us moving toward the goal when details threaten to weigh us down.
I’ve always wanted to have integrity, even before I knew what it was. I wanted to be someone who was true to herself and her values, and also to do what she said she would do. Recently, at work, I was asked to discuss what diligence, one of our organization’s values meant to me. So, this might seem a little hokey to most people, since most every organization has some dysfunction, and it usually centers around follow-through.
To me, diligence means follow-through. At our organization, we don’t just put processes in place, we use them. When we make decisions, we stand by them. When we make changes, we let people know. When we say these are our values, that’s what we work from and live by. At our organization, when we make recommendations, we researched and thought it through to come to the best path or set of options. And at our organization, when we say a job is completed, the work is done.
I think diligence is important because work is often wasted if it is not carried across the finish line, whatever that finish line is. Sometimes you do not have to go an extra mile to be extraordinary, just go the last mile to the finish line. People are not going to use your program or procedure or form or even that equipment or software you installed if you do not finish the work, let people know it is available, show them how to use it. People are not going to take your recommendations if you do not put any thought into them. If you are a leader, other people are relying on your diligence to review, approve, and support their work, and they need you to move forward. And if you are not content where you are, if you want to improve yourself or move up in the world, that takes diligence too.
I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about diligence, or how much I had learned about it, until I wrote this, but I think it’s an important value and skill. Diligence is the skill that finishes the job. When the excitement and novelty for a task has worn off, when it’s not interesting any more, when you’re bored with it, there comes a point where you decide if all the work up to this point is meaningless. If you decide you’ve wasted your time, then sure, don’t finish. Sometimes, the value and meaning was in the journey up to this point. But, if you want that work to have meant something, if you want to have integrity, you probably have to finish it, because people with integrity do what they say they will do. And it takes diligence to finish the tasks you’ve committed to.
Again, I’m sure this sounds hokey to many people, but where I work, I see many examples of diligence which help me to feel proud of our work and secure in the knowledge that my coworkers will deliver, and so my work will not be wasted, approvals or next steps languishing on someone else’s to-do list.
No one’s perfect at this or anything else, but I’m proud of my integrity, and so I am careful what I commit to, and I try to finish what I start.