March 7, 2017

Time: The Blood Out of Turnips Problem 

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks taught me about Einstein time. Hendricks shares that with Einstein time, time comes from within us, so we can make as much of it as we want.  That’s very different from the Newtonian time model in which time is fixed and we are all struggling against it.Squeeze time

This is a huge shift in thinking for most people.  But I can attest to you that if you bring this into your consciousness, it works.  When I am rushing around, sure that I am going to be late for an appointment, I think about Einstein time, and remind myself aloud that there is plenty of time and that I will arrive on time. And I do!

Time Management Tips for Managers

Does that mean I can just goof off until the last minute, and then magically be where I want when I want? No. It does mean that if we are smart with our time, we will have enough of it.  Let’s face it, we all do so many things that are truly time-wasters.  Here are three. See if any of these hit home for you:

  1. Relying on mental notes. Failing to commit things to some sort of formal calendar or “to do” system can ultimately create confusion and even chaos. Trying to hold everything in your head bogs down your clarity, accuracy, and efficiency.
  2. Conducting frantic searches for mislaid items. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like when I do get in a hurry, my car keys disappear or that one thing I really have to have to do the job gets up and plays hide and seek. There’s a lot to be said for “a place for everything,” but also for taking a deep breath and causing yourself to focus.
  3. Insisting on perfection. This can be a killer. There comes a point in productivity where “good enough is good enough.” When we go beyond that in search of absolute perfection, we give up time that could be used on the next task or project.

What time-wasters could you do without to make yourself more productive?

January 4, 2017

Resolutions, No; Goals, You Betcha

Let’s start with some definitions from Oxford Dictionaries online:

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not do something.Set goals, not limits

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

When we think about these two words, “resolution” feels very in-the-moment to me. Making a resolution means we decide something; we resolve to do it. “Goal,” on the other hand, has forward motion. It gives us something to aim toward, especially if we set goals that are SMART.

Just in case you aren’t aware, the SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I am particularly fond of the time-bound aspect because I am very deadline-driven and I tend to be a concrete thinker. Time-bound includes specific dates for completion, periods of performance, and/or frequency of performance.

Being Time-bound

For example, my goal to create this newsletter is time-bound in that I want to issue it twice each month (frequency), on the first and third Tuesday (date). Do I hit those dates every time? Well, almost. But if I didn’t set time parameters that help me achieve the goal, issuing my newsletter could be very hit-and-miss. If I only resolve (decide) to create a newsletter this year, I am not attaching anything to that decision to move it forward.

So that’s why I like goals instead of resolutions, for the most part.

How about you?  Did you choose resolutions or goals for your team or your organization this year?

December 14, 2016

Holiday Productivity Tips!

During the month of December, many people slow down in their business life and ramp up in their personal life. Taking the energy of the season and using it in both arenas can give you a head start for the new year!

Here are some tips to have a more productive holiday season:

  • Keep moving forward – you will be ahead of the game come 2017 if you keep moving ahead while most stop moving during this time of the year.
  • Network! – this is the best time of the year – there are more social events than ever.  Start conversations, learn from others and share your passions.
  • Capture the energy of the season.  Don’t get bogged down in the “to do’s”.  Bustle in your personal and business life!
  • Reflect – on the good and the bad.  We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes, BUT we often forget about our successes.  CELEBRATE them!
  • Use the “bonus week”.  This is the week between Christmas and New Years. Love this week because it is usually quiet around the office and you can get so much done.

Here’s to a very PRODUCTIVE holiday season!

June 20, 2016

Why Are You Measuring Performance?

“What do you think of performance appraisals?” I get that question a lot. My answer is: “It depends.”

The “it depends” response comes from a deeper question about what companies really want to achieve with these evaluations.  Are you just checking a box for legal reasons? Do the results of the annual appraisal become the basis for compensation? Or, are you actually seeking to help employees perform at their highest level?

Performance management cycle graphic

If the performance evaluation is one part of an overall performance management system, it can be valuable. But if the annual performance appraisal is the only discussion of performance during the year, that is bad news all the way around.

The Value of Goals

Imagine for a moment that your bucket list includes a trip to France.  To achieve that, you write it on the bucket list and wait for it to happen, right?  Of course not.  You figure out what you have to do to take that trip, from having enough money, to creating time and space in your life, to covering all of your responsibilities while you are gone. You likely set some goals for achieving those things, and then monitor your progress toward each of those goals, adjusting things as you go to ensure you actually make that trip. Just saying you want to take the trip will not ensure you a tour of the Louvre.

So how is asking employees to perform well any different? Can you just say, “Here’s what I want you to do in the next year, and by the way, do it really well?”

Where Feedback Fits In

Well, maybe with a few high performers, that would work. But I promise you that strategy will cause even your highest performers to disengage. The SHRM Foundation’s 2016 report, Creating a More Human Workplace Where Employees and Business Thrive, encourages providing positive feedback to employees: “Good feedback builds feelings of thriving because it helps people know where they stand in terms of their skills, competencies and performance.”

Employees need goals to strive against. Those goals need to be monitored continuously, with regular feedback from supervisors (coaching) that may include course correction based on progress, on organizational changes, or even on individual situations that arise. It should also include recognition of a job well done and ongoing incentives that individually motivate the person.  Finally, the process should include formal evaluation against individual goals and performance requirements.

So what does your performance management system look like? Is it a strong tool for engaging employees and building ROI, or are you just checking a box?

June 15, 2016

Accountability: Yours and Theirs

If you are a regular reader, you know that I talk about the five traits of great managers from Gallup’s State of the American Manager. One of those traits is promoting accountability.Traits of great managers

So that we are clear, defines being accountability as “the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.” In other words, if you are accountable for something, or someone, you better know what is going on with the thing or person at all times, just in case the boss asks.

Accountability Culture

Lifehack offers a S.I.M.P.L.E. formula for creating a culture of accountability:

  • Set expectations
  • Invite commitment
  • Measure progress
  • Provide feedback (supportive and corrective)
  • Link to consequences
  • Evaluate effectiveness

Get Your Team on Board

If you lead teams, LeadershipWatch offers four tips for getting your team to embrace accountability:

  1. Focus on creating a shared purpose
  2. Be open and specific about expected results
  3. Pay special attention to team behavior when things go wrong
  4. Set the right example up front

These are excellent tips to follow if you are working to become a great manager, or if you want to create a team of great managers for your company.

December 16, 2015

Be a Great Manager: Accountability Matters

President Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” It’s a very quotable saying, isn’t it?  But in too many organizations, that “buck” gets passed around and passed around and never finds a real stopping place.  Traits of great managers

For Truman, it was about the fact that presidents have to make the final decisions and are the ones who must accept the ultimate responsibility for them. But how does this work in organizations, especially large ones?  Imagine every decision waiting until the CEO or top executive could address it.

That is why it is critical for managers to be willing to be accountable, and to empower and expect employees to be accountable. In State of the American Manager, Gallup explains that high-talent managers “… assume responsibility for their teams’ successes and create the structure and processes to help their teams deliver on expectations.”  Meanwhile, limited-talent managers “fail to organize the workflow of teams, making it more difficult to meet performance expectations.”

This description applies to all managers, from top-level executives to frontline managers and team leaders. Those who role model accountability by accepting responsibility for decisions and outcomes are likely to have teams willing to perform and produce.

If you are unsure whether managers in your organization are holding themselves (and their teams) accountable, periodically take a 360 look at each manager, allowing peers, subordinates, and their managers to evaluate performance. This sort of evaluation will bring into focus any weaknesses and also highlight strengths. It will showcase your great managers.

October 30, 2015

Periodic realignment saves cars and workforces

You know what it’s like. You take your hands off the steering wheel and the car begins to drift off course. Drat … out of alignment.cartoon car needing repair

You can fix the problem right away and get back on a straight course. Or you can ignore the problem, putting the fix off until the time is right, until you have more time to address it. If you do that, the car continues to shift out of alignment and becomes even harder to keep on a straight course. Eventually, you’re going to at least need new tires.

It’s easy to spot when employees begin to go out of alignment:

  • You see your employee turnover increase, especially in key staff.
  • HR says your employees are having more workplace accidents.
  • Managers are complaining that it is difficult to maintain productivity levels.
  • Customers are voicing concerns, becoming less satisfied with your service or product.

Any one of these should be an immediate signal that you have a problem. And each of these hits your bottom line directly.

If you put off addressing the problem, you run the risk of adding another problem, and then another, because employee dissatisfaction spreads easily. And the results of that dissatisfaction can hit you hard.

Here are five things you can do at the first sign of trouble:

  1. Directly ask your staff about their issues (allowing anonymous feedback is your best bet for getting to the root of the problem).
  2. Respond to your employees’ input. Be prepared to share the information you’ve gathered and what you are going to do about it.
  3. Hold the leadership team and managers accountable for making the changes that you have identified that will address the issues. Make it part of their performance objectives.
  4. Be proactive going forward. Engage employees more frequently about performance and their role in the company. Annual performance discussions simply are not enough.
  5. Ensure that you conduct meaningful exit interviews. Hold managers, HR, and the leadership team responsible for spotting issues and trends identified in those interviews.

Ok, so it isn’t quite as easy as popping into Pep Boys for a realignment. However, companies that understand the value of aligned and engaged employees will make the effort to keep them that way.

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