5 December 2017

The Steep Learning Curve of the New Manager

various citrusWhen Joanna jumped into a supervisory role for the first time, she treated her direct reports in a way that would have been perfect if all her direct reports were exactly like her. One of them was, so Joanna’s managerial style was a great fit for this person and they did really well together. But with the 4 others on her team?  Not so much.

You’re more successful as a manager if you target your management style to the person you’re managing. Or at least understand that not everyone’s like you.

For example, some people like to have lots of check-ins with their manager along the way when working on a long-term project.  But for other people, frequent required check-ins can feel like they’re being micromanaged.  So . . . ask your direct reports how they like to be managed.  Do they like to have regular check-ins on long term projects?  If they do, then do it.  If they don’t, then don’t.  Or if they don’t, but you do, tell them up front that you need regular updates (and be specific: how often, and what level of detail). Tell them it might feel to them like being micromanaged but that’s not really what’s going on. Explain why you need it in terms that assure them that you trust in their work, but you need to be able to give your manager detailed project updates (or whatever it is).

Some people thrive on understanding how their job fits into the bigger picture of the organization’s work.  When someone understands that their data needs to be submitted in time for the visit from the Federal Compliance Officer or the Bank will be fined a lot of money — that can motivate someone to get their data submitted on time.  But for another person, the only thing that makes a difference is being told that their pattern of consistently turning in their data late or not at all will lead directly to their being fired — to be told in no uncertain terms that that behavior is a deal breaker.  YOU might never have needed to hear that as an employee.  You might have understood what was at stake from the get-go.  Or you would have understood it when you found out about the Compliance Officer’s visit.  So to you as a manager, telling them that keeping their job depends on their getting their data in on time might seem unnecessarily harsh and threatening.  But for some people it has to be that clear for them to get the message.

There are many, many ways the people you manage can be different from you.

You have to manage the actual team you have, which may include people very, very different from you.  In fact, with more organizations working with global teams, teams with members spanning 4 generations, teams with people with different native languages, and teams diverse in other ways, it’s inevitable that most people moving into greater levels of leadership will manage diverse teams.

Those of you readers who have managed well, how did you get to know the people you supervise?  Were there any great questions you’ve asked them along the way that helped you manage them better?

Here are some questions that can be helpful for the manager to ask the employee (letting them know you will consider everything they tell you, but that you are not promising to do what they ask.)

  • How do you like to be managed?
  • What’s the best way to give you constructive feedback?
  • If I’m concerned about some aspect of your performance, how should I bring it up with you?
  • How are you generally with deadlines and how can I support you in meeting deadlines?
  • What’s happening with the X project, and what kind of support do you need to meet the deadline?

Becoming an effective manager is a learning process, not a skillset to master once and have for a lifetime, like riding a bike. Allow yourself to be helped in your learning process by asking your direct reports what works for them. You’ll learn more about who you’re working with, and that’s always useful.

*Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

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11 January 2017

Being Amy Adams

Productivity at work

Photo by Juskteez Vu

If you haven’t already seen the movie “Arrival,” with Amy Adams, go see it. It’s a fantastic and wonderful adventure story. And a gorgeous metaphor for what emerging leaders and other challenged professionals go through all the time.

The Amy Adams character, a top-notch linguist, is tapped for a huge, mind-boggling job that catapults her into a realm of personal growth and challenge like no other. In short, aliens have arrived on earth from outer space, and she is heading up the team to figure out how to communicate with them. Though we know she is the best person for the job, we see the immense personal challenge of it. She experiences profound fear. There is opposition to her approach that she has to push back against.  She has self doubt. She is isolated. She has experiences unlike anything she’s ever known, and she struggles to understand them. The work requires her to expand and grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, in a way that . . . as the audience struggles to keep up, we understand . . . challenges her capacity: can I wrap my mind around this? Can I stretch my mental abilities to grasp what’s going on here? Am I reading this right?

Even as other key characters read the situation differently and threaten to violently shut down her work, she has to muster the strength, courage, and confidence to persevere, hold her own, and stay focused on the work.

This is a brilliant and highly entertaining dramatization of what my clients often experience.  My clients are highly capable women and men whose jobs consistently require that they stretch out of their comfort zones, learn new skills, navigate something utterly new to them, while dealing with all manner of feedback, opposition, and setbacks. In a way, this is just how work IS for many people. In “Arrival,” it the project was a time-limited.  In real life, it’s ongoing, and therefore very challenging to sustain.

Does this kind of job sound familiar to you?  Could you use some support in finding ways to make things more sustainable for you? Here are a few strategies that can make a difference:

  1. Acknowledge and appreciate yourself for your heroism in doing this work. I don’t care if you’re designing shoes or eradicating TB, if your work fits the description above, it’s crucial that you appreciate the heroic effort you are putting in.
  2. Make sure you take really really good care of yourself, whatever that means to you, whatever you can mange.
  3. Make sure you’re working as efficiently as possible.  If you’re squandering hours every week due to your own inefficiency, own it and eliminate those leaks of your time, focus, and energy.  Optimize how you work so you can leave work behind sometimes and replenish yourself.
  4. Get more help. Delegate more effectively at work. Get more help outside of work. Have no idea how/where to get help?  Do a single coaching session with me about this!  There are always ways to get help somewhere in your life

This is not an exhaustive list.  It’s a scatter of ideas.  If you want to do some serious, focused work on how these issues play out in your work, contact me for an initial consult at no charge.  Over the course of 3 or 6 months, you can learn how to manage your work in a way that’s more sustainable for you.  You don’t want to burn out.

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2 November 2016

Productivity Series: Take Credit for Small Steps

Taking incremental steps towards acknowledging your goals

The Productivity Series:
This is the second in a series of posts about productivity strategies for you to consider. I chose these particular tips because implementing them has made a strong positive difference for many of my clients and for me.    

Take Credit for Small Steps

Do you take credit for the small steps you take toward your goals? Or do you blow them off as being too little to matter?

Taking credit for incremental steps along the way toward a goal is an essential element in reaching your biggest goals. Here’s why, in the words of psychologist Robert Alter, from his powerful book, How Long Til My Soul Gets it Right:

“The journey of change is like a steep stairway with many steps — each one of them difficult to take — and your legs need strength and spring to climb from one to the other. The strength and spring for the next step come, in part, from the inward acknowledgement, appreciation, congratulation, and celebration you give yourself for the step you just climbed. If after climbing to one step you shrug, smirk, wave it off, or blow it off, not permitting yourself to bask in the light of your own self-praise, it is harder to take the next step.

My clients often have great resistance to taking credit for their small steps. When it comes to self-acknowledgement, they have kept themselves on a starvation diet for years, until now. Is this true for you too?

But have you ever worked for a manager who never, ever said anything like “Thank you” or “Good work”? How motivating was that for you?

Truly, when you begin to regularly take credit for the small steps along the way, something shifts and opens. Some part of you begins to get nourished, finally. And with that nourishment comes the energy and endurance to go the distance you need to go in order to reach your biggest life-goals.

The “taking credit” I’m talking about here is a private, intimate matter. I’m not suggesting that you take out a full page ad in the New York Times that says, “I led a good meeting!” But I am encouraging you to take a full moment when you’re alone in your car or your office, make real contact with yourself, and say, “I led a good meeting. I thought through how I wanted to facilitate it, I had some good ideas, and I structured the meeting accordingly. I anticipated some of the complicated things that came up, I was prepared for them, and I handled them well enough. Overall, the meeting was successful. Good work!”  Once you’re in the self-acknowledgement habit, you can mentally say this to yourself in about 3 nanoseconds.

Developing a habit of acknowledging incremental successes can have as much positive impact on your success as anything else you do.  And it doesn’t cost you anything in terms of time, energy, or money!  You just have to remember to do it.

I acknowledge you for finding and reading this post. See? It starts right here.

To carry it forward now, try this exercise:
1. Think of ten small steps you took today
2. As you identify each one, say a silent “good work,” “well done,” or “thank you” to yourself.
If it feels foolish to say those things to yourself, remember this not about stroking your needy ego or building your flagging self-esteem, but rather it’s about keeping you motivated and energized for the hard work in front of you.

 

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5 October 2016

Productivity Series: Manage Your Inner Workaholic

workaholic

The Productivity Series:
This is the first of several newsletters about productivity strategies. I chose these strategies to highlight because they have made a particularly strong positive difference for many of my clients and for me.

Manage Your Inner Workaholic

Does your job or business sometimes feel like a case study about over-commitment? Was your previous job or business like this as well? Do you dream of someday having a manageable workload? Do you imagine that if you worked for yourself you wouldn’t be working such crazy hours?  If you already work for yourself, do you imagine getting out of your business?

Consider for a moment the possibility that it is you who keeps recreating impossible work situations for yourself. Consider the possibility that again and again, you re-create the habitual pattern AND that there may be other choices you could make at any given moment, choices that would increase your productivity.

For many of us with a native tendency to overwork, overdo, and over-commit (my native land), we will continue to recreate the scenario for ourselves until we own our own part in it and stop doing it. It’s not about the work. It’s about how we DO the work, our relationship to the work, and what else we do or don’t have going on in our lives.

I’m not saying there aren’t workaholic organizations.There are. And I’m not saying we aren’t a workaholic culture. We are.

But I’m also saying that if you want to step out of this cycle, you’ll have to address and take responsibility for your own part in the pattern. I have seen people leave intense jobs in organizations in order to create a saner life by working for themselves, only to find themselves eventually working the same crazy hours, under the same level of stress and angst that they had in the job they fled. You can be a workaholic anywhere, even in your own home office. In fact, when you have a home office, you don’t ever have to leave work!

Sometimes the task at hand is to figure out what standard is appropriate to the task. Often, the twin brother of the Inner Workaholic is the Perfectionist, who insists that everything we produce must be absolutely stellar. But one of the hallmarks of very effective people is that they know when to go the distance to produce an A+ outcome, and when it’s a responsible decision to simply go for a B+ result.

I regularly have this conversation with clients and with myself. When do I say, “Enough for today!” even when the tasks aren’t finished? When do I say “This draft is good enough!”? And when do I say, “Hang in. Another couple of [minutes, hours, days] on this will make a big difference!”?

I think the answer is unique to each of us, depending as it does on where we are in our lives, what’s going on in our work, and many other factors. In my work with clients I have learned that it is never just one thing that needs to be examined, and there is rarely a simple answer — if it were simple, it would have been figured out long before the person called me in to help. But I have seen people make big changes that endure, even while continuing to do the same work.

Here’s a possible next step: Take this short survey:

1. Do the people in your life consider you a workaholic?

2. Do you think you work too much, regularly?

3. Do you often feel depleted by your work or resentful that it takes up so much of your life?

4. Are there things that are very important to you that you never get to because of your work?

5. Do you have a lot of perfectionist tendencies??

Did you answer yes to one or more of these questions? If so, you would be wise to look into this more closely.  If you want to explore what a coaching approach to this might offer you, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.

Did you answer no to at least 4 questions? If so, then congratulations!  You’re doing well on the workaholic scale.

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10 June 2016

Productivity Tips: Persist Beyond “Failures”

Productivity by persistance

Strength of a maple tree - persistance

 

What does a Maple tree have in common with Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless, transparent vacuum cleaner that is the best-selling vacuum cleaner (by revenue) in the US?

Neither of them ever gives up.

When I am weeding in my garden and I pull up only half a Maple seedling, I often wonder whether the remaining root has an infinite capacity for sending up shoots, or whether (I always hope) this was the last one, and the plant will now despair, give up, and die.

I am no botanist, but I think I know that the plant has an inexhaustible number of tries in it (like the Terminator). It will not give up until the season shuts it down. And then it will quietly wait til the following spring, and start all over again.  Without a moment of despair.

How much we humans have to learn from weeds! When we make an attempt and don’t immediately succeed, we often give up. Sometimes we stay with it for a while and then we give up. But there are occasional exceptions among us, like inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson, who persevered through 5,126 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner that didn’t work, and then created his 5,127th prototype, which is now the most successful vacuum cleaner ever. “But it took him 15 years and nearly his entire savings to develop his bagless, transparent creation” (Fast Company, May, 2007).

Of course not all of us have the resources or the imagination to hang in for that long, and for many of us it wouldn’t be such a great investment.  BUT — we would all be well served to hang in a little longer than we currently do. When I decide to revise a workshos one more time — I’m always glad I did.  What about you? What are you about to settle for that really might benefit from one more re-work?

Many of us interpret our “failures” as referenda on our worthiness or intelligence. We respond to the simple information (“this isn’t working”) with a huge emotional response of (take your pick:) frustration, irritation, anger, shame, embarrassment, etc.

This response can take us out of the game so entirely that we never make another attempt.  Or it can paralyze us for a while, requiring a period of recovery before we can get back into the game again. Please note it’s the emotional response that slows us down or takes us out of the game entirely, not the simple outcome of the effort, which was, simply, “that didn’t work.”

TRY THIS OUT over the next month:

  1. Pay attention to your “failures” and setbacks, large and small.
  2. Notice whether you have an emotional response to them and if so
    — Identify the emotion
    Observe the impact of this emotion on your actions — does it stop you or slow you down?
  3. When you observe yourself heading into an emotional reaction, tell yourself you have a choice in this moment, and choose NOT to go into the stopping or slowing down pattern.
  4. And now go back to your project.  Observe what happens when you stay in action a little longer than usual.

I’ve coached some spectacularly successful people over the years, and this is one thing I’ve learned from them: they don’t give up and they don’t shut down. When they experience disappointment (let’s say they didn’t get the $5m federal grant, they didn’t make their sales numbers, the company is not going public this year, etc.), they feel it and then they move on, very quickly. They have better things to do than to let anything take them out of the game. And so do all of us.

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16 February 2016

Stay Motivated by Acknowledging Yourself

Did you know that acknowledging yourself for current and recent work can keep you motivated?  Appreciating your own good work is an important segment of the achievement cycle.  

WomanWalkingUpLongStairway

The achievement cycle has 4 parts:

1) Identify a goal

2) Work toward the goal (this usually takes the most time)

3) Reach the goal

4) Acknowledge, celebrate, and/or recover (we typically skip over this part)

Upon completing step 4, you can start over with another goal. All four steps are essential. We’re trained and conditioned to do the first three, but not the fourth, yet the final step is absolutely critical. It’s not until you adequately celebrate and/or recover from one cycle that you are really ready to start the next one with full energy.

I’m not suggesting that you spend a week in Maui every time you write a good proposal.  Or that you take out a full page ad in the NY Times announcing that you finished your project on time and under budget. But I am saying that you’ll need to really fulfill Step 4 before you are truly available for your next project.

I first wrote about this in 2006, right after submitting my application for my Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential, which had been a major accomplishment and a huge amount of work.  Here’s what I wrote then: “When I met my deadline last month, I expected to take the weekend off and return to work-as-usual on Monday. In fact, I did return to working with clients with the pleasure and enthusiasm I always feel for it. But for other parts of my work, such as marketing, website development, and writing, which are harder and less enjoyable kinds of work for me, I had no energy whatsoever: no enthusiasm, no interest, no willingness, no nothing!” Has this ever happened to you?

Since I regularly teach the achievement cycle to clients, I checked to see if I had adequately worked Step 4. I had taken a weekend off and considered that adequate recovery time. I had shared with my closest people that I had sent off the application and considered that adequate acknowledgement. I certainly had a lighter heart.

But when I experienced being highly unmotivated that Monday morning, I was puzzled. And irritated. I wanted my MoJo back! “What more do you need?” I asked myself. “What is the big deal?” Sound familiar?  I eventually figured it out. I had only paid lip service to Step 4. I had not gotten to the heart of the matter, which was a much more full, frank, and intimately detailed self-acknowledgment. Taking credit for “doing a lot of work” and essentially giving myself a high five just wasn’t cutting it.

At the risk of boring you to tears, here are some examples of the intimate level of acknowledgement that made a difference for me. Notice how granular these items are, as compared to “Job well done! Congrats!” Here are some of the things I needed to self-acknowledge for:

  • I worked longer hours than usual, over most of the last 6 weeks, often late into the night, many nights, past where I normally say “enough” and go to bed. At those moments when I really wanted to stop, I hung in and pushed farther and longer. It was much more work than I expected but I just stayed on it.
  • I stretched way out of my comfort zone, asking past clients and other coaches for their permission and help, respectively. I repeatedly stretched in this way, slowly gathering the permissions and recommendations I needed.
  • I brought forth a bigger vision of myself as someone worthy of this advanced credential. When my doubts and fears came up, I stood my ground and held on to this bigger vision.
  • I stayed focused on and committed to this project until it was finished, often saying no to other things that were hard to say no to.  But that’s what it took — a lot of saying no to other things in order to keep saying yes to this project until it was finished.

The fuller acknowledgement I was able to give myself over the next few days made the difference for me. Only then was I able to fully get back to work.

It’s not that these feats were in any way extraordinary. They weren’t. But my inner worker bee (drone, believer, marathon runner, pioneer, warrior) needed to be witnessed and appreciated for the many ways she delivered.  Have you ever worked for a relentless boss who never said thank you?  And never even noticed the many ways you went the extra mile?  How motivating was that?  So be your own perfect boss: notice and appreciate all the ways you stretched and delivered for this project.

If you sometimes feel under-energized or under-motivated for projects you are truly committed to, you may be habitually falling short on Step 4 of the achievement cycle. Doing Step 4 increases your productivity because it restores your motivation. The following steps can help:

  1. NOTICE when you complete a project or reach a milestone. Many people ignore the completion threshold and move seamlessly, even unconsciously right on to the next task. This is a mistake! Train yourself to NOTICE completions.
  2. Take a moment to recognize the completion. Breathe.
  3. Start the process of mentally acknowledging the ways you delivered, particularly the most solitary and challenging ways.
  4. Keep adding to this list (mental, written, whatever works) until all your effort feels recognized. It may take a few days.
  5. Don’t share these self-acknowledgements with anyone. Like tender shoots, they are easily trampled by others with a different sensibility. Protect these “thank-you’s” by keeping them to yourself or sharing them only with people who really understand and support where you’re coming from and why you’re doing this.

Your efforts do not need to be heroic or world-class to deserve your recognition. In fact, your most humble efforts may be the ones most in need of acknowledgement. Be ready for your next big goal by completing the Achievement Cycle for your last big goal.

My most recent big goal was the renovation of my website.  (If you haven’t visited my website in a while, please stop in!) I can see now that I haven’t adequately acknowledged my role in that work. I commit to remembering what it required of me, and appreciating myself for doing that —  this week.

Do you need to be acknowledged for a job well done?  Can I help you with that?

What’s your experience with this dynamic?  Leave a comment here.

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22 January 2016

Decision Fatigue & Other Late-In-the-Day Maladies

Image of woman experiencing decision fatigue, filing her nails

I.  Decision Fatigue

Late in your workday, do you ever find yourself unable to make decisions, even simple ones? You may be suffering from decision fatigue, defined by Wikipedia as “. . . the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.”

In a fascinating story in Fast Company Magazine about the strategies successful people use to get a lot done, Barack Obama is quoted: “The act of making a decision erodes your ability to make later decisions.”  One of the ways he avoids unnecessary decision fatigue is by eliminating unnecessary or trivial decisions.  He says, “‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” And to state the obvious, many of these “other decisions” are complex and difficult, with enormous impact on a great many people. He doesn’t want to use up his daily, finite amount of decision-making prowess on his clothing choices or whether to have the frittata or the tuna roll-up for lunch.  He’d rather keep that prowess available for the dicey and sensitive international diplomacy crisis that just developed.  Good plan, wouldn’t you agree?

What a strong argument for simplifying our lives!  Here are 2 (very) simple types of changes that can reduce your decision-making load:

  • Have the same breakfast every day for a week at a time; on Sunday decide on the breakfast for the week to come.
  • Schedule repeating tasks into your calendar and follow the schedule. Instead of winging it every month about when you’ll work on the monthly report, establish a routine: start working on the report the first Monday of the month and finish it by the Friday of that week. Keep your agreement to do this.  No more, “When am I going to do that report?”

How can you simplify or routinize your life so that you have fewer decisions to make on a regular basis and have a shot at less decision fatigue?  Most of us have so much change going on at all times — it can feel like a retro anomaly to have some regularly scheduled routines — but they can be a great support to your effectiveness and a relief to your overworked mind.

Here’s an article containing more of Barack Obama’s productivity habits.

II. Other Late-in-the-Day Maladies

No matter how simplified your life is, and no matter how strong your boundaries around unnecessary decision-making are, there will still be times when you feel like you are not doing your best work — you’re not thinking clearly, you’re going around and around the hamster wheel about something, you have to read every email 3 times before you actually pay attention to what you’re reading, you are unfocused, scattered.  Sound familiar? We all go there sometimes.  Here are some ideas for what you can do when you’re in that space and need to be productive;

  • Here is a link to a video demo of a breathing technique that can both clear and energize the mind. You can try a shortened version of what’s demonstrated in the video.
  • More short breathing techniques can be found at Amy Weintraub’s website; she is a great resource of breathing techniques to quiet anxiety or to energize a sluggish or depressed head.
  • Enjoy a handful of almonds and raisins, or some other snack of fruit and protein. A little protein and a little healthy sugar can revive a flagging worker bee. Try to actually taste and enjoy the snack, rather than just scarfing it down unconsciously.  Briefly tapping into your senses can be a nourishing relief from hours spent in your head.
  • Get outside and WALK, or in some other way get into your body. It can be grounding and energizing. Albert Einstein is said to have mused, No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” When you are buzzing around in your head and getting nowhere, get out of your head by leaving behind your task-list obsessed, get-it-done mindset by getting into your body. and breathing and moving.  Even 20 minutes can make a difference.  Have you ever solved a knotty work problem when you weren’t thinking about it?  It’s because you’re using a different part of your brain and can hear the quieter signals from other parts of you brain.
  • Sometimes a couple of cleansing breaths can clear the mind and bring you present and change your energy.
  • Then there’s caffeine.  But not all of us can (or should) continue consuming the volume of caffeine we did in our 20s.  Not to frighten you, but I’m down to 1/2 cup of coffee a day or my night’s sleep is disturbed.
  • Keep a list of low-level tasks that you are capable of doing even when your brain is fried. Sometimes nothing will get us energized and clear, so we can at least use the time to get something done.  My list: clean up my electronic desk and my physical desk, schedule appointments by phone or email, make calls I need to make to customer service or tech support.

Whatever works for you, work it!  YOU are the only one who can take responsibility for your efficiency. What helps you avoid decision fatigue?  What helps you get focused again once you are spacey and scattered?  Please share your ideas in a comment!

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7 October 2015

Delegation Skills: 6 Tips For Success

I frequently work with clients who need to upgrade their skills as delegators. No one is born with delegation skills — we all have a learning curve. Effective delegation is complex, and different people need help with different aspects of it. In my 20+ years coaching professionals, I’ve found that the following 6 tips are the ones most frequently and sorely needed.

  1. It’s OK to feel a little guilt when delegating . . . but don’t let it stop you.  Delegating work that doesn’t have to be done by you frees you up to do the work that can only be done by you. Chances are, that’s what you’re getting paid to do.
  2. Delegating work to someone else often provides an opportunity for that person to develop their skills, be successful in a new way, be visible to others, grow their capacity by shouldering more of the work, or to benefit from it in other ways. As one client said, “you’re not just passing off the crap.”
    My favorite illustration of this dynamic comes from coaching a surgeon at a teaching hospital who “protected” her administrative assistant from the messy and time-consuming task of scheduling the new interns coming on board at regular intervals. By doing it herself, the surgeon was unnecessarily tying herself up with administrative work that wasn’t part of her job. I convinced her to let the admin do the scheduling which was, after all, part of the admin’s job. My client was surprised by the outcome. The admin LOVED the task. She enjoyed the real challenge of the scheduling itself, but most of all, as a young, single, social person, she greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet all the new surgical interns in advance. It gave her some visibility with a whole new segment of the hospital workforce.  At her review that year she rated that task as a highlight of her job. So much for “protection”!  (See highlight number 1, above.)
  3. Delegating on the home front can alleviate stress at work and improve your work performance. If you use some of your off hours to recharge your batteries (relax, see people you like, get some exercise, spend time in nature, etc), you’re better off when you get back to work because you’re ready to hit the ground running again. If your non-work time is really just another arena where you relentlessly work yourself at top capacity . . . eventually you’re going to be running on empty in both arenas. Get help on the personal front wherever you can. For example, hire an accountant do to your taxes if possible. Yes, you’re smart and can figure it out. But what’s it costing you in time? Use those (many!) hours to recharge. Plus, a good accountant often pays for himself or herself by saving you that amount of money on your tax bill.
  4. Know when and where a B+ job is good enough.  Sometimes what’s hard about delegating is not being in control of the task, and not having it done to your standard. But often, it’s worth more to you to have it done than to have it done your particular way.
  5. Let go of assuming you have to do it all yourself.  It’s one of the biggest transitions that hardworking people have to make as they advance in their work. Early on in their careers, being able to do whatever it takes was a core part of their success strategy. They did have to do it all themselves. But no longer. It’s a deep habit to change, but you can change it. When you start to feel overwhelmed, instead of turning up the volume on your treadmill . . . get some help. And start with the tasks you most don’t want to do. Those tasks are great candidates for delegating.
  6. Don’t blame yourself for not being perfect at this. No one is. And certainly no one is perfect at delegating in their early years as managers and leaders. Lots of people have issues with delegating. There’s a learning curve for everyone and it continues as you move into higher levels of doing your work.  Get used to being in learning mode.

Enhancing your own individual delegation skills can boost your effectiveness. Similarly, tuning up delegation skills in your organization can expand your group’s productivity — you’ll all look good.

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23 September 2014

3 MORE Tips to Boost Your Productivity at Work

For many of us, the pace and volume at work skyrocket in September.  It can be a rude awakening after a somewhat relaxed August, and the consequences of not being completely on top of your game can be intense.  My most recent post offered 3 Tips to Boost Your Productivity at Work, and this post outlines 3 more great ones.  Grab one and run with it!

1. You have less time than you think you do and the items on your to-do list all take longer than you expect them to.  I’m sorry, but it’s true. The good news is: you’re in charge of how you spend your time.  You don’t HAVE TO wordsmith that email into perfection.  You don’t HAVE TO read every email you’re cc’d on.  (You might even consider getting yourself removed from some of those long cc lists – think about it.)

Keep in mind the YES-NO Rule: by saying YES to spending time on any activity, you are effectively saying NO to something else, since you don’t have infinitely expandable time.  Just be sure you know what you’re saying no to when you say yes.  Tightening up your time budget can do wonders for your output.  Try it.  You might like it.

2. Reduce your spinning time! Notice when/how you spin your wheels and accomplish nothing.  Does this happen when you should be working on a daunting task?  Do you spin when there’s a decision to be made?  Do you spin while waiting for other people to return your call, answer your question, give you their part of the project, etc?  Really take a close look at your spinning pattern. Once you know what it is, you can address it.

I tend to spin at times I have allocated to low-level, money-related tasks that have some anxiety charge to them, like doing my bookkeeping (always charged for me, even after 20 years of working for myself), calling customer service to work out a billing discrepancy,  running my clients’ monthly credit card charges.  I’ve tried out having an assistant do these tasks but the tasks seem to always require a judgment call that I need to make, so it’s most efficient for me to do them.  Once I saw my pattern I’ve been able to reduce my spin time – as soon as I catch myself spinning, I tell myself, “Don’t spin, get it done!”  It sounds simplistic, but really, it works.  Check it out.

3. Become a better delegator.  Being a great delegator involves many skills, every one of which is learnable.  Are you regularly disappointed by the job your team members deliver?  You may need to upgrade your follow-up skills.  Do your direct reports drive you crazy with their questions?  You may want to support your team to be more powerful and able to figure it out on their own.  Picking up even one new skill or refining an old one can make you a more effective delegator.  So find a book, take a self-study course, work with a coach – and become more effective in this key arena.

One of the responses I often hear from clients when I raise this subject is, “There’s really no one I can delegate this to — everyone at work is swamped and buried.”  If that’s true for you, , consider what you can delegate on the home front.  What’s on your home list that is nothing but an obligation?  THAT’s a prime target for delegating (or ditching).  Getting help on the domestic front can free up some time for you to re-charge your batteries.  Farming out the yard work, the laundry, the food-shopping, etc can provide a huge boost to your all-around productivity by giving you a break.  Or letting you get something else done in its place.  It doesn’t have to be a forever commitment.  But in a crunch month it can be a huge boost to have someone else do even ONE THING that you would otherwise do yourself.  The “someone else” could be the supermarket that provides the already-cut-up fruit for the soccer team’s snack, or the prepared food for your mid-week dinner.

Do you have a productivity tip to share?  Please leave a comment here.

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9 September 2014

3 Tips To Boost Your Productivity At Work

September often brings a sudden increase in everyone’s workload — both on the home front and at work. It’s easy to get over-stimulated and scattered.  Here are three productivity tips that can make a difference for you in September.

1.  Be selfish without being a jerk. There are 2 distinct parts to this:

  • Being very selfish is an internal skillset. It involves being clear with yourself about what your priorities are and staying alert to what does and doesn’t support those priorities. As ideas arise in your mind, and as other people’s ideas come at you (all the time), selfishness requires that part of you assesses whether an idea is good for you (ie moves your priorities forward) or not. If it‘s good for you, you’ll want to go for it.  If it’s not good for you, you’ll want to resist it.
  • Not being a jerk is an external skillset. It pertains to how you navigate in the world outside yourself:  how you speak to and relate to other people, and how your behavior impacts others.  It’s the difference between essentially saying it’s my way or the highway or  how can we best get all these priorities addressed.

2.  Don’t get distracted by office drama. There’s usually plenty of drama going on at work, whether it’s your boss going off on some kind of rampage or you trying to figure out if your counterpart at the other location is gunning for your job. Yes it’s important to notice what’s going on around you, but stay focused on your work. Get it done and go home. Enjoy some no-drama zones in your life.

3.  Do your hardest work at your best time of day. If your most productive time of day is the morning, don’t leave the hardest things on your to-do list til “later.” Nail them as early as you possibly can. Some morning people get into the office extra early when they have particularly daunting tasks so they can get things done before most of their colleagues arrive. If you’re an afternoon/evening person, you may want to do what one of my clients does – when she has a particularly difficult or bulky assignment, she plans ahead and stays late at work to work it. Once her office quiets down as people leave, she cranks it, often getting into “flow,” which makes the task more enjoyable.

  • The inverse is also true: Avoid saddling yourself with tasks at a time of day when you are least equipped to do those particular tasks. Case in point from one of my daughters who describes her state after a 12-hour shift as an registered nurse on a high acuity medical/surgical floor: “By that point in the day I still have energy to get stuff done at home, but almost zero executive function.” So no decisions, nothing mentally hard, nothing complicated. If you’re one of the many people who has  decision fatigue by the end of the day — don’t make important decisions at that time. If you’re a slow starter who isn’t really up and running until late morning — after you’ve had several cups of coffee and have been at work for an hour or more . . . don’t write that difficult, dicey email until you’re more fully engaged!

These productivity tips can provide some great traction. Does one of them particularly speak to you? I encourage you to apply it and see how it goes. 

Stay tuned for 3 MORE Tips to Boost Your Productivity at Work, coming later this month.

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