Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

What grabs your attention?

Military Press

Mark arrived at Denver International Airport and settled-in at Gate A-7. “May I have your attention, please?” the gate attendant’s voice competed with the noisy airport. “There is a gate change for Flight 2356 to Phoenix, it will now depart from Gate B-15.”

Making his way through Terminal B Mark spotted Elway’s where they feature a uniquely Colorado menu. “With a delayed flight, I’ve got time to grab some lunch,” he thought as he maneuvered through the crowd.

Not one to waste time, he snatched his MacBook Pro along with a menu. “At least I can catch up on my email,” he mumbled. He logged on and his attention was captivated by a stuffed inbox.

Scattered attention 

How often do you find yourself thinking, “I just need more time”? Or hear yourself repeating, “I’m so busy!” Or perhaps after another interruption you wondered out loud, “What was I doing…?”

The ability to concentrate is greatly diminished by the pace of life and the expectation of immediate access. The abundance of distractions makes it hard to give your attention or thought to a single object or activity. It’s like asking a kid to study while watching a movie.

To be attention challenged is the new norm.

It’s not time management anymore

Announce a training class on time management and watch the line form eager to find the silver bullet. Enthusiasm and registration skyrockets. But what must be managed, time or something else?

In Personal Productivity Secrets, Maura Thomas points out what highly productive people manage…

“Time management” is a twentieth-century term that has far outlived its usefulness. The longer into the twenty-first century people continue to frame their productivity in terms of “time management,” the less efficient they will be.

The secret to defending against the constant demands on your attention is learning control—and the most important place for you to exert control is over your own attention. When you control your attention, you control your life. In the twenty-first century, “time management” and “information management” are no longer as important as attention management.

Today’s self-managed teams and leaders are more productive because they are paying attention to what gets their attention. The reward of such attention management is greater productivity.

Attention and your story

Here are two ideas to support your attention management:

  • Create Space – make a 15 minute daily appointment to reflect, think, and plan
  • Close the Door – schedule 45 minutes to concentration on one thing (airplane time.) Silence notifications, put your device on silent, hang a sign on your door or the back of your chair. The goal: giving your undivided attention to one important thing.

“May I have your attention, please? This is the last call for Flight 2356 departing from Gate B-15 for Phoenix.” Near panic rushed over Mark as he sprinted to “catch his flight.”

Mark’s email grabbed his attention. This time he needed to be interrupted in order to keep his commitment to what mattered most.

What you give your attention to will shape the reality of your world.

What hinders your productivity? What grabs your attention?

What boundaries can you set up to help control your attention?

Oh, by the way, what is your attention worth?

Here’s to your productivity,

Steve

PS: If you live in the Tulsa Area come join other leaders committed to improving performance and expanding their influence at Charleston’s for our First Thursday Next Level Leadership Lunch. Use this link or click on Have Lunch on Us on the right sidebar for more information. Experience what Next Generation Leadersteam-based coaching is all about.

Use this link for more information on the book, Personal Productivity Secrets.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License Jayel Aheram via Compfight

Comments Off

Why your productivity sinks

Smooth flight......

Sam sat down to complete his report. “Stinking weekly reports … I’m great with my customers. This is such a waste of time.”

“Ding.”

Sam’s iPhone pierced his thoughts whispering the seductive suggestion: “Something big is in the works; you’ve got mail.” With the speed of a barehanded housefly catcher, Sam grabbed his phone. “I hope Marlene is confirming they’re ready to go on my proposal. What a great way to end the week.”

While his inbox did not contain Marlene’s message he did discover 20 new emails. Eleven minutes later he returned to his spreadsheet.

“You busy?” Mark said as came in and sat down.

“No, what’s going on?” Sam eagerly responded.

After ten minutes of small talk, Mark stood up to leave, “Hey, I’ve got to go. Heading out of town for the weekend and I want to beat the traffic. Could we talk about this Monday?”

“Well sure,” Sam stuttered. Alone again, he tried to re-focus, “Now, what was I was working on? Oh yeah, my weekly report.”

After about 5 minutes of focused effort his communications device produced the delightful “Tri-color” tone. Immediately his mind processed the moment, “Only key people send text messages … this must be important.” And like the gun slinging Marshall Dillion on Gunsmoke, Sam whipped out his iPhone from its holster.

“What time does the Thunder game start Saturday night?” his buddy Dave asked.

“7 … can’t wait … C U there!”

Just to be sure, Sam pulled up the team website.

Ten minutes later, Sam circled back to his weekly report. That’s when he noticed the time… 6:45 pm, on a Friday night! The office was empty except for the cleaning crew.

Frustrated, he started another email message: “Mary, my report will be on your desk first thing Monday, I’ve been very busy this week….”

Overload or Overconsumption?

Distractions. There’s no shortage of things that make it difficult to think or pay attention. Web “research” that postpones making that decision. Email that sucks prime time out of your day to think and reflect … to set your course. A shot of social media the perfect diversion and just add chocolate or coffee or both when stressed.

Some say we live in an age of information overload. Recently, I heard Darren Hardy provide another perspective:

Obesity is not food overload it’s food overconsumption.

Distractions are not about ‘Information Overload’ its information overconsumption. The more overwhelmed we make ourselves, the more likely we are to get distracted, and we are doing it to ourselves.

Can you pay partial attention?

When you pay attention you engage the power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something. You focus on one thing while ignoring other tasks or activities. You might say paying attention sharpens focus by restricting peripheral vision.

The nagging question of our hyper-connected world is, “What am I missing?” This fear of “missing out on something” undermines productivity.

Linda Stone, a former Apple and Microsoft researcher, calls this “continuous partial attention.” She writes,

…we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter.

We pay continuous partial attention in an effort not to miss anything.  It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always on high alert when we pay continuous partial attention.

Perhaps there are moments when this behavior works. But it has become the norm for many.  We pay a price for being always accessible. In large doses, continuous partial attention…

… contributes to a stressful lifestyle, to operating in crisis management mode, and to a compromised ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively. In a 24/7, always on world, continuous partial attention used as our dominant attention mode contributes to a feeling of overwhelm, over-stimulation, and to a sense of being unfulfilled. We are so accessible, we’re inaccessible. The latest, greatest powerful technologies have contributed to our feeling increasingly powerless.

Productivity requires focused attention. It is an intentional selection of one thing over many, supported by undivided concentration and effort.

Undivided attention

Monday morning, Sam arrived at the office a few minutes early. Instead of checking email, he opened his weekly report. When his phone rang, he let it go to voice mail. Fifteen minutes later he sent his report to Mary.

Over the weekend, he took inventory of his projects and identified Monday’s big rocks. “If I complete these, I’ll have a very productive day,” he thought.

At 9:30 a.m. a meeting reminder popped up: “Airplane Time.” He remembered how much work he got done on his last trip because he was disconnected.

Sam’s commitment to disconnect for 45 minutes paid off as he focused his attention on his first big rock. The progress energized him, “I can’t believe how much work I got done.”

What if you scheduled “airplane time” on your schedule, how might it keep your productivity from sinking?

Here’s to your freedom,

Steve

Photo credit: Frans Persoon via Compfight
Comments Off

Do you have the NEW work-life balance?

La Fanfare d'Occasion à Blandy-les-Tours

JobPro’s management team slunk into the room for Thursday’s meeting. Two weeks of 60+ hour work weeks had stolen their engagement.  Most crash-landed in their chairs, some with a sigh. Dave just stood, staring across the room, instead of starting the meeting.  No wonder productivity had dipped.

“You gonna start this so we can get out of here or what?” Marlene snarled

“I’m gettin’ there.  Needed a bit to collect my thoughts,” Dave replied.

“Looked more like staring into space,” Marlene replied.

“Give him a break.  It’s not like anyone’s thinking clearly with all the overtime and staff cuts,” defended Phyllis.

“Yeah, and why’d they have to get rid of Jackie?” Barry chimed in.

All their conflict washed over Dave.  He felt stress clawing at his insides. His frustration blended with theirs.  Everyone had been picking up the slack of his or her lost teammates.  What could he say?  Their life outside of work was gone.  His own work-home boundary lines had been blurred.  Venting his frustration would only add to the rising tide of disunity…

“Life Harmony” a new paradigm

The longing for life harmony makes dissonance increasingly unpleasant. Dissonance brought on by inconsistency between what you believe and how you behave sometimes.

Harmony, on the other hand, is a pleasing arrangement of parts. In your story, harmony is the interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative. Life harmony represents the new work-life balance.

First, there is the harmony of being human – the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual “parts” which create your story.  Physical chaos occurs when the need for rest, nutrition, and activity are ignored. Mental chaos can be brought on by what Douglas Rushkoff calls, digiphrenia“a digitally disordered condition of mental activity.” Distracted by the constant connection of technology, mindless entertainment, advertising, and social media adding to the turmoil.  Emotional chaos happens when fears are unaddressed, gratitude is unexpressed, and forgiveness is withheld. Spiritual chaos comes if we choose a worldview of self-sovereignty and providence.

Life harmony is the new work-life balance. The image supports giving voice to all your roles in life as a man or woman, a son or daughter, a sibling, perhaps a spouse or parent, an employee or employer and so forth.

Life harmony is less about share of voice and more about voice recognition. Imagine a vocal ensemble with beautiful harmony.

Harmony is achieved when each voice sings its part.

Said another way, life harmony blends the role of individual, family, community, and work into a single narrative. Think about it. Your Story began when you showed up as a person, the newest member of a family; you found your place in a community where you learned how to make your contribution through meaningful work.

Everyday is an opportunity to cultivate life harmony. Today, you will add to your story. Are you writing the story you will want to tell?

Control the pace to create space

The pace of life provides little margin. What happens when the pace of life out of control? It becomes easy to live “out of control.” To create life harmony in the midst of chaos demands discipline.

Creating space is the disciplined use of time, place and resources to reflect on what’s really going on. Chaos happens; harmony is intentional. When your actions are aligned with your beliefs and values the new work-life balance is near.

Dave took a deep breath. “Grab a piece of paper and finish this sentence: I’m grateful for…. List your top five or so. Got it?

Surprisingly, Barry was first to start writing. Marlene just stared at the blank page before starting.

“What was that like for you?” Dave asked.

“I feel more positive … more grateful,” Phyllis said.

“Yeah, it helped me to realize how much I’ve got to be thankful for,” Barry chimed in.

Dave took another deep breath and pressed ahead, “Now, you won’t be asked to share this, but who is the team member you have the most conflict with?”

He waited and watched the look on their faces. “Okay, finish this sentence: One of the things I appreciate about (person’s name) is….”

As they looked up from writing, Dave asked, “What do you notice about yourself, what changed?”

“I started to see them as a person,” Marlene confessed.

“It caused me to look for the positive instead of the negative,” Barry said.

“Sometimes, we get so caught up in our work, our agenda, and the pace around here that all we do is deal with problems. Then, we allow the “problem” to build a wall between us and we lose sight of the people.” Dave continued, “Gratitude and appreciation grease our relationship gears, helping to reduce the friction and reduce the unnecessary stress.”

The energy of JobPro’s management meeting changed. It became a time and place for the team to step out of the chaos and re-connect as people. With time set aside to think, new ideas were discussed and the energy of the team increased. It wasn’t a quick fix, but a beginning.

So, with pen and paper in hand, what are you grateful for?

Who are you in conflict with? Now, what do you appreciate about him or her?

What do you think about the NEW work-life balance idea of “life harmony?”  When do you create space to think and listen to your Story?

Here’s to your freedom,

Steve

PS: If you want to be a self-managed leader or want to develop your team, Next Generation Leaders coaching is available for individuals or business teams. Get more details at the team-based coaching page.

Want to listen to a great example of harmony? Watch this 2-minute video of the vocal group Committed.

 

Photo credit: Matthieu Luna via Compfight

How to contribute to your disengagement

Flood Road Closed

Christina’s work eats an unhealthy portion of her life.  The past 20 years she intensely pursued her career. More recently she carried a heavy load with a start-up of epic proportion.

The cost? It’s taken a toll on her relationships and leadership … yes, conflict and unnecessary stress. The demand and pace squeeze out self-limiting behaviors that have minimized trust, disengaged the team, and created frustration.

Business eats people

The nature of business is to consume – not right or wrong – just the nature of business, which includes eating people. Business consumes, produces, exports, depletes the inventory … and then, asks for more. One leadership function is to determine how much of an employee’s life is consumed to do business. That leader is you.

As a self-managed leader, you stand at the mouth of the “beast” (no judgment, just descriptive) and must determine how much of your time, your energy, your creativity, and your life you will feed it. Whether you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, frontline worker, new manager, middle manager, vice president, or CEO … How much will you feed the beast?

Smartphone snacking

The beast likes to snack and technology makes it easy. Yes, this is about drawing boundaries … a line between work and personal time, family, recreation and rest? To stay engaged requires life harmony (the new work-life balance.) Setting work boundaries is critical to engagement, as reported in a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Using a Smartphone after 9 pm Leaves Workers Disengaged.”

Smartphones fit work activity into life outside the workplace. Easy access to email, the web, video conference calls, webinars, text messaging – even old-fashioned voice calls – all allow work to be done anywhere, anytime. How much work has invaded your non-work hours?

To stay engaged and productive research indicates we need space …

This greater connectivity comes at a cost: using a smartphone to cram more work into a given evening results in less work done the next day. The reason for this … is that smartphones are bad for sleep, and sleep is very important to effectiveness.

…that a well-rested employee is a better employee is well established by research. To note just a few recent studies, insufficient sleep has been linked to more unethical behavior at work, cyberloafing, and work injuries, and less organizational citizenship behavior.

Predictable time off

Considering the research and the undesirable outcomes of insufficient sleep, how you are you doing? How well to you create space for life outside of work? When do you create space for reflective thinking? How committed are you to taking time off? Where are your boundaries? Simply put, what’s your bedtime?

It was a new experience for Christian, she “took advantage” of days off at Christmas. Returning to work she noticed a difference in her perspective, the reward of “time off.” To pursue greater life harmony, she committed to the following:

  1. Daily appointment – for 30 minutes the door is shut, devices muted, a little music is added, and she creates space to think
  2. Business hours – she is leaving the office at a reasonable time to go home
  3. Disconnecting  – she does not log on and work from home during the evening, unless it’s an emergency
  4. Time off – she plans to enjoy days off in 2014

For you to think about:

  • If you establish predictable time off, what would that look like in your story?
  • How is your sleep affected by your work habits? Load? What can you do about it?
  • What boundaries do you need to set up?

Here’s to your breakthrough in 2014,

Steve

Smile. Think. Be present …

 Next Generation Leaders 2014 – Tulsa

Most businesses expect employees to turn into leaders with a title.  They load them up with responsibilities and a diverse team of people to manage.  Conflicts arise.  Pressure builds.  People leave. Managers crumble. Those who navigate their way to success seem to have leadership planted in them at birth.

But the study of truly effective leaders reveals that leaders learn to lead.  Their success depends on whether or not they become self-managed.

Next Generation Leaders turns employees into self-managed teams and leaders,

Get more details on Team-Based Coaching.

Photo credit: Ian Britton via Compfight
Comments Off

Why self-managed matters

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARLENE !

For over 20 years, Toni’s career has moved forward. Respected for her technical expertise, she is an “outstanding contributor.”  But the feedback on her people skills is another story. Relationships are strained. While “brilliant” she is seen as unapproachable. Her personal influence is restricted by impatience and no tolerance for incompetence.

How much stress do you think Toni experiences and adds to the workplace?

Workplace stress

The Wall Street Journal reports “Stress is the number one workforce risk issue, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity” when it comes to health and productivity. However, employers and employees disagree on the causes of stress. Towers Watson’s recent Staying@Work Survey reveals the differing views.

The employer view of the top 5 causes of employee stress:

  1. Lack of work/life balance (excessive workloads or long hours)
  2. Inadequate staffing (lack of support, uneven workload or performance in group)
  3. Technologies that expand availability during non-working hours
  4. Unclear or conflicting job expectations
  5. Fears about job loss; too much change

The employee view of their stress:

  1. Inadequate staffing (lack of support, uneven workload or performance in group)
  2. Low pay or low increases in pay
  3. Unclear or conflicting job expectations
  4. Organizational culture, including lack of teamwork, and tendency to avoid accountability and assign blame to others
  5. Lack of work/life balance (excessive workloads or long hours)

If your goal is to reduce stress, the employee’s message is: “Pay me adequately. Support me on the job. Guide me on my job priorities.”

What if…?

What does it take to thrive in today’s stressful, lean and mean workplace? At least part of the answer is self-managed teams and leaders. Check out a few of their characteristics to see if you agree:

  1. Gets the business of people (understands who they are and the behavior styles of others)
  2. Communicates and engages others effectively
  3. Sets clear expectations
  4. ‪Establishes and builds trust
  5. Accepts personal responsibility
  6. Accountable to self and team
  7. Creates less stress and unnecessary conflict
  8. Engaged and highly productive

Imagine your workplace experience as you and your team show up like that. The reward? Engagement, productivity, performance, less stress and unnecessary conflict.

How committed are you to leadership development?

Toni is fortunate her company supports personal and professional growth. Executive coaching created space to activate her ability and willingness to learn and change unproductive behavior. She gained insight into the “why” of her behavior and picked up a few new tools. Her performance improved bringing less stress and unnecessary conflict.

The organization did not change. She changed. Now she is more engaged, productive, and is expanding her personal influence. Work is less stressful for her and her colleagues.

So how stressful is your workplace? How much do you add to the stress? What can you do to reduce the stress?

Now, about your performance improvement plan for 2014 …

Here’s to your Next Level,

Steve

Improve engagement, performance, and productivity by developing self-managed teams and leaders in 2014. Check out the support offered with team-based coaching or executive coaching.

Photo credit: Fabio Gismondi via Compfight

Why just show up?

The kindness of strangers

Going the extra mile counts.

What happens when someone gives more effort than is expected? And when your waiter does more than required?

People who go the extra mile are in the minority in today’s workplace. Gallup’s recent worldwide survey reports that only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs.

Where are you?

Here are Gallup’s definitions. What do you see?

  1. Engaged. You work with passion and feel a profound connection to your company. You push innovation and move your organization forward.
  2. Not Engaged. You’re checked out – sleepwalking through your workday – putting your time in but not energy or passion.
  3. Actively Disengaged. You aren’t just unhappy at work you are busy acting out your unhappiness. You undermine what others are accomplishing.

Harvard Business Review reports engagement levels for the United States. Only 30% are Engaged or “emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day.” Those Not Engaged account for 52% of the workforce and 14% are Actively Disengaged. Where are you?

Why does your engagement matter?

Yes, employee engagement leads to business growth and higher profits. But what if you don’t own the business? Why does it matter?

Who do you want to work with? Engaged employees collaborate and contribute to the good things happening at the office. They are involved, enthusiastic, and committed, accountable and responsible. They not only understand their assignment but also look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes. Productivity is high.

Gallup’s study also reports characteristics associated with engaged employees:

  1. They are more optimistic about the economy.
  2. They describe their life as thriving.
  3. They have more positive daily interaction.

Sound good?

The path to engagement

Here are four mile markers adapted from Gallup’s research. Where are you on the journey?

  1. Just Starting: So, what’s in it for me? Feeling secure.
  2. Moving Forward: How do I make my contribution? Feeling valued.
  3. Gaining Speed: How am I connected, is it a good fit? Feeling accepted.
  4. Got Momentum: Where is the opportunity for my development? Are my ideas being considered? Feeling confident.

Going the extra mile is a good thing. Life is better for everyone when you do more than just show up.

Here’s to your Next Level,

Steve

Improve engagement, performance, and productivity by developing self-managed teams and leaders. Check out the support offered with Next Generation Leaders team-based coaching.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons LicenseEd Yourdon via Compfight

Where did the unhappy people go? – Part 2

How many times have you said, “I can’t wait until…” or “I’ll be happy when I …?”

309/365 happy happy joy joy

Something has zapped the happiness of our workforce. According to the 2011 version of The Conference Board Job Satisfaction Survey only 47.2 percent of the respondents reported “satisfaction.” The first year for the survey (1987) a 61.1 percent satisfaction rate was recorded … yes, 61 percent!

The chicken or the egg?

So, which comes first happiness or success? Is it that …

  • People who work hard will be successful and successful people are happy people? Or,
  • People who are happy become more successful?

What do you think?

The advantage of happiness

Shawn Achor, in The Happiness Advantage, reveals the following:

Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers.

It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at the best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. (p. 15)

Fifty-six percent? Sounds good to me. So what makes the difference?

The curiosity of youth

Optimistic people experience life as an adventure. They face the day with joy, gratitude, appreciation, and … curiosity.

Curiosity is inquisitive thinking. What if…? How could we make it better? What could we do differently? Notice the thinking encouraged by these open-ended questions. They brim with untapped possibilities and potential. Life is to be explored.

After reading, “What if “they” fire the unhappy people?” Jeffrey commented from his Story:

I was blessed to spend a week at camp with 7-9 year old boys and just returned late last night. I saw wonder and curiosity in most boys and I saw unfathomable happiness in these boys. I also saw a dark cloud around some boys who rejected new adventures and were in the rut of being “fed” their entertainment at home.

What characterizes your life?

Are you feeding yourself “wonder and curiosity” or “easy entertainment?” The unhappy campers were in their comfort zone.

Which path are you taking?

What could happen in your Story if you are more optimistic … more curious?

Here’s to your Next Level,

Steve

PS: Enjoy this brief video (2:09) featuring Shan Achor answering the question: “What is the Happiness Advantage?”  If you prefer more content (12:29), here is Shawn Achor’s at TEDxBloomington.


Photo Credit: Katie Harris via Compfight