I was flicking through the Sunday newspaper yesterday and I was struck by two articles that really resonated.

The first was an article by Rose Squires entitled “Fat chance of Olympic future”. It was a piece on Susie O’Neill or Madame Butterfly as she is known amongst swimming circles. It highlighted that many young kids today don’t have the same drive to “play sport and keep active” as Susie’s generation did. For the record Susie and I are the same age. Due to this lack of drive her concern was the shrinking base of athletes coming through the ranks so those that do reach the top of the “pyramid” are not reaching the heights of the past when we had a much larger base of athletes to choose from.

The second article was “No smart cookies – Praising kids intellects can make them lazy” by Jordan Baker. It spoke about the potential damage parents can do to their children by praising them too much, so that children are often more likely to take the easy option and be praised rather than tackle real challenges.

I thought about these two articles and wondered if there is a correlation in the Australian workplaces of today. Are many employees today lacking the drive of past generations? Is our talent base shrinking in different sectors, hence we are not producing the top performers we have previously? Do we reward mediocrity and praise people just for having a go, rather than for delivering superior results and overcoming difficult workplace challenges?

Would our grandparents and great grandparents look at our work with awe at what we’ve achieved or would they think their work ethic has been diluted through the generations?

But the great news is Australia is blessed with tremendous talent and some outstanding individuals who have achieved great things in the workplace. Some have started their careers with nothing and made it big, some have got lucky, some have lost everything then rebuilt and started again, some have come to our country lacking language skills and lacking formal education yet achieved fantastic things. Recently I’ve been reading about many top Australian CEO’s and how they have got there. There is one common thread for them all… hard work and a preparedness to do things that others aren’t. It is going above and beyond.

I realise not everyone aspires to be a CEO, Olympian, Professor or Prime Minister but everyone has massive potential and I believe it is up to each of us to do whatever we can to turn this potential into reality. If not, aren’t we just being lazy or expecting to be praised without really doing anything worthwhile?

Ben Walsh – General Manager – Qld

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