Tag Archives: Organizational Productivity

Are You Managing, Leading or Doing Both?

See SawCareer development is a series of phases.  The first step is to learn to manage you.  This means learning to take control of your time, make good decisions and improve your communication skills.  The next phase is where you start to move into managing others.  In this phase you will start to take responsibility for building effective teams and managing multiple priorities for you and your team.  Then you move into leading others.  This is where you start to move beyond just managing tasks and responsibilities to setting a vision for others to follow.  As you advance towards this phase it is important to take the time to develop your leadership skills.

Peter Drucker says it best “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  Yet you don’t completely drop managing as you start leading.  You still have to be in control of your behavior and you may still need to direct the actions of others.  Becoming a leader doesn’t mean you stop managing it means you add new responsibilities to your plate.

Too often managing is treated as an ugly behavior that adds little value to people or organizations.  This is maligning a much needed function in business.  All activities have quality levels that must be maintained and customer demand to meet.  Someone must keep an eye on the details of getting things done on time and on budget.  This is the role of a manager.  The title for this person maybe supervisor, project manager, manager, director or some other option.  Yet the role is critical to the success of the organization.

Leading and managing don’t have to be mutually exclusive and probably shouldn’t be treated separately.  Leaders need to set the direction and the vision for what people will be doing.  Part of that includes setting expectations for what success looks like for the team.  These are guidelines the managers and people can use to determine what needs to be done and when.  Leaders who ignore the importance of those parameters will leave their team struggling to meet the leader’s vision.

Managing people without paying attention to the needs of the team is a dictatorship.  To successfully manage it is important to take the time to understand the people on the team, what motivates them, enable them to see the purpose of what they are doing and help them achieve their goals.  This will drive engagement, improve quality and productivity, all things good managers want to achieve.  These are a result of leading the team more than just managing results.

Take the time to pay attention to the people and the business results improve.  If leaders focus solely on making the people happy it can lead to a decline in business results.  When you have more than one person working on something there will be complexity and complications that must be dealt with to ensure productivity.  This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a function of human nature.  The trick is to balance an engaging and inspiring workplace with one that produces to customer expectations.  This means businesses need managers and leaders, and in particular people who can wear both hats at the same time.

How do you balance the goals of the organization with the needs of the people?  Do you find it difficult to lead people and manage results?


Filed under Leadership, Personal Development

How to Improve Your Chances of Success

This short video from Arianna Huffington addresses the small, simple idea that will fuel our ability to make better decisions and get more done.

Arianna Huffington How to Succeed Get More Sleep from Ted Talks

Do you get enough sleep to prepare you for the day ahead?  Studies show that this is a key to being more effective and productive in your life.

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Quote for Oct 23rd

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
Paul J. Meyer

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Defining Personal Productivity

I’ve been thinkning about how best to define personal productivity.  The traditional definition of productivity is output/input which looks at how much is produced compared to the resources needed.  This can be useful in a manufacturing setting if used properly but it falls short for personal productivity.  In these terms it’s more about quantity for the least effort which emphasizes doing things and doesn’t always look at what you are doing. 

Another way to define productivity is value/resources which is a better definition for personal productivity.  I’ve even seen this where time is used instead of resources.  I like the idea of resources instead of just time.  So how can you use this for defining your personal productivity?

Let’s look at value first.  Value can be defined by what you do, how well you do it and how much you produce of it. 

                Value = WHAT x QUALITY x QUANTITY

So to improve the value of what you do it is important to make sure you get all three pieces right.  Look at whether or not you are doing what is needed at that time.  This means focusing on the important items not the busy work.  You need to do the item well – high quality work.  Producing anything that requires being redone, or falls short of providing everything your customer (internal or external) needs will decrease the value of your work.  Next quantity is doing the amount needed at that time.  Too much or too little is wasted effort and reduces value. 

The trick to the value side of the equation is to make sure you know what needs to be done, when it is due, and understanding the expectations of the customer.  If you are producing a report for someone else, what do they need to see, how should it be formatted and when do they need it?  Giving them more than they need or giving it to them late makes extra work on their end and the value of your work has been diminished in their eyes.

Now let’s look at resources.  This is defined by time, people, and cost to produce your results.

                Resources = TIME x PEOPLE x COST

The easy one to focus on in this equation is time.  How much of my time does it take to get something done?  This can be measured fairly easily so it is easy to track.  Pay attention to the time it takes you to get things right.  When looking at your personal productivity remember to look at the input of other people.  How many people do you need to support your activities?  Are there ways to get information from fewer people?  Or can a system generate the information with a bit of programming instead of having someone go data mining?  Stop and look at the impact you have on others both from a task and time perspective to help reduce the resources you need to get your work done.  Lastly look at costs.  This can be more abstract at times to evaluate.  Are you utilizing the higher paid people around you or are there younger employees who could learn to do what you need?  This can pay you back by freeing your more expensive peer’s time for higher value activities and allows new employees growth opportunities.  Shifting work from one employee to another may not reduce the time but it may reduce the cost. 

  • Caution: When you move work from one person to another that you are aware of what’s already on the new person’s plate and that you are freeing up the other person to do tasks where they add more value. 

Obviously not everyone can reassign work within an office, however even if you are not a boss you can provide suggestions on how to improve productivity.

If you can increase the value of what you do while controlling the needed resources your personal productivity goes up as does your worth to the organization.  You will be seen as someone who contributes to the bottom line.  When you keep looking for new ways to improve things you will be seen as highly valuable team member.

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Cheer the Team onto Increased Productivity

In a world where we have so much to work can all be a grind with little or no relief for the team.  This will wreck your team’s productivity, engagement and quality of work.  The harder the push is to get things done, the more important it is to step back once in a while and relax.  As a team leader part of your role is to be a cheerleader who encourages the team.  Short, fun team times can really help re-energize everyone and make it easier to get through all the stuff ahead.  It also will help each person feel appreciated and that their sacrifices are recognized.

So with all the deadlines looming, how do you find the time to stop and smell the roses?  It can be very easy and cost effective to make a little fun time for the team.  Keep in mind it should be voluntary to attend and if everyone is working long hours stay away from making time after work hours.  Another disclaimer, make sure what you choose is in line with your companies culture.  So here are a few suggestions to help de-stress and have a little fun:

  1. Buy lunch for the team and keep work out of the room for 30 minutes.  Get pizza and salads delivered, spring for soda and water.  Lead the conversation about funny things that have happened to you.  Keep the stories appropriate and free from HR land mines.  Laughing at yourself will help the team relax and learn more about you.
  2. Have breakfast brought in before a team meeting.  Enjoy some coffee, donuts / bagels, and fresh fruit along with some light conversation about non-project topics.  Taking 15 minutes to get everyone fueled up will help get things going later.  Make sure you manage the time without seeming to rush the coffee break.
  3. Have an afternoon break where everyone gets 15 minutes or so to have a snack and unwind before the end of the day push.
  4. Celebrate office birthdays once a month.  Gather everyone in a conference room mid-afternoon and enjoy a short break and some cake.  Recognize everyone who has a birthday that month. 
  5. Take 15 minutes or less each week to recognize the progress that has been made so far.  Make it an upbeat pep talk that focuses on how far you’ve come and that you will get through the tough days.

Most people are willing to work harder than they expected to if they feel appreciated.  When we slave away and all we hear is that there is more to be done there is little motivation to keep at it.  Have a little fun once in a while, recognize the hard work and provide pep talks to keep spirits up.  You will find that your mindset improves as does your teams.

What things have you done to keep your team energized during the tough times?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Teamwork Quote


The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
Vince Lombardi

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Treating Employees Fairly

One of the trigger events for the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party which was a protest against unfair treatment.  While this is an interesting history lesson about the role of government, it can also serve as a lesson for leadership in the modern workplace.

Studies show that employees leave bosses more often than they leave companies.  Even in this depressed economy bad management is a key trigger in people quitting their job.  The reasons bosses have such a large impact boils down to how people are treated.    People want a say in the decisions that impact their workload and careers, they want to be treated fairly, be given challenging work, and rewarded for their efforts. 

As a leader the challenge is how to treat employees fairly.  Fair is not equal.  Treating people fairly means that you have to provide opportunities and responsibilities that match each person’s level of ability.  You cannot treat each person exactly the same as their abilities are not exactly the same.  Understanding the abilities and the goals of each member will help you determine what will help your team grow as individuals and grow as a team.

Another fairness issue is tied to integrity.  Make sure that you keep the promises you make to your team.  If you say you will give someone an assignment or time off, whatever it is then you have to be able to follow through.  When you fail to deliver for one person and do deliver for another then people will question if you are playing favorites.  This will undermine any and all attempts to treat people fairly as your actions will be suspect.  Choose your promises very carefully.  This is a time when it can be better to under promise and over deliver.

To achieve fairness in treatment, it is critical that you spend time talking with your employees.  Regular one-on-one meetings to understand your employees concerns and issues will help you find the appropriate level of challenge and independence for each person.  Being interested in each employee, regardless of how well you relate, will give insight into what makes your team tick, and genuine interest will build your credibility. 

For centuries people have rebelled against unfair treatment by people in positions of authority.  Recognizing the need to be fair in your treatment of those around you will prevent a rebellion on your team.  When everyone feels involved, empowered and valued performance goes up along with job satisfaction.

Good luck and Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.

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Work- Life Balance

I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently about the age old issue of work-life balance and the gender issues.  I find this really interesting as my experience is that work-life balance impacts everyone, not just women. 

The reality of working is that without some form of balance between hard work and relaxation, performance suffers.  Focusing too heavily of work creates stress which can be very productive in the short haul, however over time it becomes destructive.  If work is something that doesn’t matter then there is no urgency and this leads to lack luster performance.  Balance between intense focus and downtime leads to optimum performance.  That balance is uniquely personal.

As most time management programs say it’s critical to identify what is most important to you.  This means both at work and in your personal life.  When you understand what’s important you can determine the time to allocate to each of these things. 

The key to creating maximum performance is to pay attention to the needs of the individual while keeping an eye on the organization’s goals.  This means each team member must balance personal and organizational goals and needs.  Creating a culture that values this balance will allow everyone to achieve their best.  To do this encourage people to stay true to what matters, respect the entire individual’s needs, stay focused on the goals and flexible on methods for achieving the goals.

The article on this issue that really struck home for me was “Having it All” Is Not a Women’s Issue, in the HBR Blog.  Stew Freidman illustrates the proven value of creating a culture that allows for improved performance while honoring the individual’s needs for balance.  This is a proven recipe for success.  Hopefully, the new discussions on this topic will help more companies embrace the potential created by balancing the needs of both the individual and the organization.

How have you created balance in your professional / personal life?


Filed under Leadership, Time Management

Quote for June 26th

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

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Quote for June 19th

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.
Peter Drucker

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