5 Steps to Maximize Your Productivity

Do you know that you get 80% of your results from just 20% of your time and effort and consequently 80% of your time is virtually wasted on non-productive activities? Once you realize this, it’s easy to take advantage and either reduce the hours you work or significantly improve your productivity.

The 80-20 rule was first discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto a hundred years ago.  The rule means that in any area of our lives, literally 80 percent of our fruits are derived from only 20 percent of doing “what matters”. In other words, there is only a very small portion of all that we do each day, regardless of the situation, that brings us the “higher return”. Using this knowledge is incredibly powerful in combating the “not enough hours in the day” mentality of today’s society.

How can you benefit from being aware of this principle? Implementing a strategy based on the 80-20 rule can result in greater wealth and greater leisure time. Just imagine how productive you will be if 80% of your time could be spent on productive activities. The bottom line is that the things that matters most should never be at the mercy of activities that matter least.

Start maximizing your productivity with these 5 steps:

  1. Keep a work log for at least a week. Write down all of your activities and the time spent doing them.  Yes, this may be time consuming initially but it is essential that you get a true picture of your working week.
  2. Analyze your activities.  Separate your activities into high priority – those that produce a return or where only you have the skills to do the work – and low priority – activities others can do where the activity can be delegated to support staff. You will almost certainly find that you are spending most of your time on low-priority activities rather than activities directly providing a return. In almost all businesses, these non-productive activities tend to absorb time at a far greater rate than they should.
  3. Delegate non-productive activities.  Once you can identify the low priority activities, delegate as many as possible to support staff (providing training where required). If necessary, employ an additional member of staff to take responsibilities – the cost will be more than offset by your improved productivity. There may be a number of low priority activities you are tempted to keep. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable don’t be tempted and don’t get involved in non productive activities or your productivity will fall.
  4. Calculate the time required for any remaining low priority activities. Once you have delegated all that you can, your next step is to calculate how much time you should be spending on the remaining low priority activities to make maximum use of your productive time. Don’t work disproportionately hard on these low priority activities and set aside specific time each day or week to complete them.
  5. Prioritize your remaining activities. Once you’ve cleared out the activities that don’t bring you any return, it’s time to turn your attention to the activities in your life that are bringing the most reward. Prioritize your activities and concentrate most of your time just on a few high-priority activities.

The objective throughout is to maximize your results from the areas of high return and to delegate those activities that have a low return. Spending a disproportionate amount of time on non-productive activities is a major source of stress for many businessmen. Delegating these activities will therefore have the added benefit of reducing the stress you are under; it’s all about doing less work for greater return.

For more success in life, whether that’s more money, more time with your family or just making time for golf, you should start implementing the 80-20 rule immediately. It will help your career as well as your personal life and, as a bonus, following the 80-20 rule day in and day out can make you very wealthy over the long term.

Are you currently making the most of your time? What do you find to be the “time draining” activities in your daily activities?  Do you think the 80-20 rule can help you?

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

More than anyone else, the boss creates the conditions that directly determine people’s ability to work well. ~ Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership

Ever wonder why those with fewer obvious skills climb the professional ladder while some of the most brilliant, well-educated people aren’t promoted? Chalk it up to emotional intelligence (EI).

When the concept first emerged in 1995, EI helped explain why people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs more than two-thirds of the time. I see this in the work I do coaching executives. Some of the brightest seem to be lacking when it comes to emotions.

In the United States, experts had assumed that high IQ was key to high performance. Decades of research now point to EI as the critical factor that separates star performers from the rest of the pack.

People have been talking about EI (also called EQ) ever since psychologist Daniel Goleman published the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Everyone agrees that emotional savvy is vital, but we’ve generally been unable to harness its power.

Many of us lack a full understanding of our emotions, let alone others’. We fail to appreciate how feelings fundamentally influence our everyday lives and careers.

Goleman has brought out another book, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, which helps explain more. It turns out the emotions are an intricate part of decision making. We don’t realize how much of an influence they have over every day planning and interacting. People with injuries in the emotional center of the brain retain their intelligence or IQ, but are unable to function well when they lack emotional connectivity.

Research by the TalentSmart consulting firm indicates that only 36% of people tested can accurately identify their emotions as they happen. Two-thirds of people are typically controlled by their emotions but remain unskilled at using them beneficially.

Lack of emotional intelligence is a prime reason people engage a coach.

Energy and Creative Flow

Having a purpose provides context for all of one’s efforts, and it’s a chief criterion for “flow”—the energy state that occurs when one’s mind, body and entire being are committed to the task at hand. Flow turns mundane work into completely absorbing experiences, allowing us to push the limits of skills and talents.

Flow and commitment also create healthier, happier employees, while driving innovative thinking. To tap into full engagement, leaders must clearly identify and articulate what truly matters to the company:

  • Why are we in business?
  • What difference do we want to make in the world?
  • What’s our most important purpose?

On some level, everyone wants to live a purposeful life, yet we are distracted by societal pressures to achieve wealth and status. There are indications, however, that this is changing. Just as GNP fails to reflect the well-being and satisfaction of a country’s citizens, a person’s net worth actually has little to do with personal fulfillment.

It is difficult to impossible to truly inspire the creators of customer happiness — the employees — with the ethic of profit maximization…It is my experience that employees can get very excited and inspired by a business that has an important business purpose. ~ John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

Leadership starts on a personal level and permeates one’s function in a company, community and society. While countless books address the importance of finding personal purpose, how does it play out within an organizational context? How do you link your personal purpose and values to those of your company?

It may seem that parts of your job are mundane and insignificant, you do not see your contribution to the greater purpose. Perhaps your organization hasn’t articulated their purpose, vision and values clearly enough. I see this happen frequently in the organizations where I’m called on to contribute workshops, work with teams and coaching.

What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.

Do You Find Your Work Fulfilling?

In a company without purpose, people have only a vague idea of why they are do what do. There’s always activity and busyness, but it’s often frenetic, disorganized and focused solely on short-term goals or finances. There is often a lack of direction and commitment without purpose or ‘we are doing this for the sake of what?’.

Top executives erroneously look to the competition when making decisions, rather than making up their own minds about what really matters. Their lack of clarity leads to poor business decisions, failed product launches and disengaged employees.

“Across organizations, nearly every survey suggests that the vast majority of employees don’t feel fully engaged at work, valued for their contributions, or freed and trusted to do what they do best,” reports Tony Schwartz in a recent  HBR.org blog post. “Instead, they feel weighed down by multiple demands and distractions, and they often don’t derive much meaning or satisfaction from their work. That’s a tragedy for millions of people and a huge lost opportunity for organizations.”

Absence of Full Engagement

Simply put, satisfied and engaged employees perform better. In a Towers Watson study of roughly 90,000 employees across 18 countries, companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share. Companies whose employees had the lowest level of engagement had a 32% decline in operating income and an 11% drop in earnings.

People take pleasure in being engaged in meaningful work. Humans, by nature, are a passionate species, and most of us seek out inspiring experiences. Companies that recognize this and actively cultivate and communicate a worthwhile corporate purpose become employers of choice.

A major Gallup Organization research study identified 12 critical elements for creating highly engaged employees. About half deal with employees’ sense of belonging. One of the key criteria is captured in the following statement: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”

After basic needs are fulfilled, an employee searches for meaning in a job. People seek a higher purpose, something in which to believe, to contribute to the greater good. If, in your role as a leader, you aren’t articulating what you care about and how you plan to make a difference, then you probably aren’t inspiring full engagement.

In the work I do, this is a major concern for people: they either aren’t sure what it is that their own true purpose is, and/or their not sure what their organization’s is. Coaching is designed to help people find the connection between job requirements and fulfillment and meaning.

If you aren’t clear, ask your coach for help in finding answers. And if you need help in finding the right coach, let me know.

Why Are You Here? Connecting to What Truly Matters

Knowing why you’re here, and who you want to be, isn’t a part-time job. The challenge is to live out what you stand for, intentionally, in every moment. ~ Tony Schwartz, author

Purpose and values are more than touchy-feely concepts touted by motivational speakers. They  have been identified as key drivers of high-performing organizations.

  • In Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras reveal that purpose- and values-driven organizations outperformed the general market and comparison companies by 15:1 and 6:1, respectively.
  • In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett found that firms with shared-values–based cultures enjoyed 400% higher revenues, 700% greater job growth, 1,200% higher stock prices and significantly faster profit performance, as compared to companies in similar industries.
  • In Firms of Endearment, marketing professor Rajendra Sisodia and his coauthors explain how companies that put employees’ and customers’ needs ahead of shareholders’ desires outperform conventional competitors in stock-market performance by 8:1.

Leaders who have a clearly articulated purpose and are driven to make a difference can inspire people to overcome insurmountable odds, writes Roy M. Spence Jr. in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For.

“Life is short, so live it out doing something that you care about,” he writes. “Try to make a difference the best way you can. There’s an enormous satisfaction in seeing the cultural transformation that happens when an organization is turned on to purpose.”

This author makes some very good points backed up with real examples of some of the most effective companies in the world. In the work I do with people in organizations, so often I find that there’s confusion over what’s really important.

While a well-designed strategy and its effective implementation are required for business success, neither inspires followers to sustained engagement. Purpose speaks to people’s hearts and helps them contribute their best when the chips are down.

Don’t ever take a job— join a crusade! Find a cause that you can believe in and give yourself to it completely. ~ Colleen Barrett, president emerita of Southwest Airlines

It’s up to leaders to find that spark that can light up the hearts and minds of employees at all levels. And, it’s also up to each of us to find that inner purpose that’s the guiding light for our energy. Coaching can help find it if you haven’t already identified and articulated it for yourself.

5 More Strategies for Successful Goals

I’m following up on the great strategies Heidi Grant Halvorson writes about in her book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Most people don’t take goal setting seriously and never get beyond just thinking about them, rather than writing, planning and implementing.

In my last post I explained the first four strategies for effective goal setting [link to previous post]:

  1. Be specific (for both goals and obstacles)
  2. Seize the moment
  3. Accurately gauge the distance
  4. Be a realistic optimist

Here are the next five goal-setting strategies that successful people use:

 

  1. Focus on Getting Better, Rather Than Being Good. When faced with a new and difficult project, budget the time needed to get a handle on it. It’s OK to make mistakes. Take advantage of others’ expertise and ask for help. Don’t compare yourself to others — only to your past performance. Are you improving? 
  2. Have Grit. Grit is the willingness to commit to long-term goals and endure in spite of difficulties. Improvement is alwayspossible. Successful professionals understand that their abilities are far from fixed. They believe they can improve through practice. 
  3. Strengthen Your Willpower Muscle. Willpower is depleted with use. Rest helps you recover quickly and remain positive. Reinforce your willpower muscle with small tasks: Take the stairs, make your bed, and show up on time. 
  4. Don’t Tempt Fate. If you hang around a barber shop, you’ll eventually get a haircut. Stick with the winners. Avoid thinking you can cheat “just a little.” 
  5. Focus on What You Will Do — Not on What You Won’t Do. Many goals involve not doing something. Framing them in this way strengthens self-sabotaging impulses. Substitute if/then planning: “If I feel the urge to ________, then I will_______ instead.”

I think one of the smartest suggestions is using “if/then” scenario planning. When you’re prepared in advance for obstacles and setbacks, you jump right back in with your plan B.

What do you think about these strategies? Which of them are you already using? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

4 Strategies for Successful Goals

I’m following up on successful goal setting tips from the book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson. These nine strategies are based on decades of research on the key factors that influence performance. They are relatively straightforward and easy to apply, but the trick is to avoid skipping them because they seem “obvious.”

Few people set goals, use goals effectively or take them seriously. In fact, only 1% of today’s professionals actually write down, track and review their goals, according to author Dan Zadra in 5: Where Will You Be in 5 Years from Today? Here are the first four strategies from Halvorson’s book:

  1. 1.      Be Specific. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated. Outline what you must do on a daily basis to realize your desired results. Which actions must you take to be a better manager/spouse/parent/friend or perhaps eat more healthfully? What will success look like when you’re there?

Thousands of studies show that specificity is one of the most critical, yet overlooked, steps for reaching any goal. Also be specific about the obstacles in your way and how you will respond to them.

  1. Seize the Moment. Predetermine when and where you’ll take action to avoid the traps of distractions and other competing commitments. The best tactic is “if/then” planning: If X happens, I will do Y.

    Studies show this approach works because it uses the brain’s language: contingencies. The brain excels at remembering and using “if/then” language. You can execute your plan without consciously thinking about it because you’ve decided in advance how to proceed.

  2. 3.      Accurately Gauge the Distance. Decide how often you’ll evaluate your progress. Determine where you’ll gather information: Can you self-assess, or will you need others’ feedback? Create reminders to perform your assessments. To stay motivated, remind yourself of the tasks that remain for goal completion.

  3. Be a Realistic Optimist. If you’re full of self-doubt, recall some of the goals you’ve achieved in the past and what it took to pull them off. Visualize how you’ll deal with looming challenges. What’s your Plan B? Use if/then planning.

What Successful People Do Differently

Why do some people succeed and others flounder? Over the years, in my experience coaching various people, I’ve often asked myself that question.

How do successful people set the stage for the ‘what’s next’, next promotion, best results, or stellar performance? One might wonder does it take:

Research shows that measures of innate ability (like IQ) poorly predict who succeeds or stumbles. A recent book by Columbia Business School Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson summarizes Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.

“Being successful is not about winning the DNA lottery; it’s about reaching goals,” she writes. “It’s about making smart choices, using the right strategies and taking action.”

Decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their personal and professional goals because of what they do not because of who they are. Luckily, everything they do can be learned, practiced and mastered.

All About the Goals

Implementation of effective strategies and persistence ultimately determine who’s more likely to succeed. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Your ability to set specific goals, see and seize opportunities and take action primes the accomplishment pump.

Success comes to those who believe they can succeed, but it also requires a specific plan that won’t be abandoned, even during tough times. Winners also know that success may not come easily, but they remain focused on progress, monitor milestones and recognize what still needs to be done. They don’t let up.

True Grit

High performers have grit. They know obstacles are inevitable, a part of the process and find a way around them. They develop their abilities by finding solutions to setbacks. They build willpower by using it like a muscle—anticipating when they’re vulnerable, avoiding temptations, and preparing contingency plans and coping strategies.

They focus on what they will do, rather than what they won’t do — a tactic that fosters positive energy. They know success depends on adapting to challenges and persisting, even when they’re ready to wave the white flag.

Now, you may think that some people are born lucky and naturally have what it takes, but I say no, not everyone. I’ve seen enough people come into coaching and leave with positive outcomes to know you can learn to successfully complete goals, with the help of coaching.

If you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing. Let me know if I can help.

Personal Proficiency

Leaders are learners, and their classroom is everywhere. We learn from our mistakes, successes, books, coworkers, bosses, friends and life itself.

Leaders know what matters to them. They inspire loyalty and goodwill in others because they act with integrity and trust. They can be bold and courageous, while tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty and crises.

You are not solely defined by what you do or know. In fact, there’s a lot you don’t know about yourself because everyone has limited vision and blind spots. We err in thinking. We jump to conclusions. We have poor communication habits that could definitely improve.

Personal proficiency takes time, vigilance and help from others. If you’re not working with a mentor or executive coach, you’re missing out on one of the most effective ways to build proficiency. I would love to help, contact me today.

Leadership Theories Review

Leadership has evolved from the military models of centuries ago to contemporary theories of scientific management, situational leadership, servant leadership and other widely discussed styles.

Based on the key questions journalists ask to uncover a story: who, what, when, where, why and how, here is a review of some traditional leadership theories.

1. Who is a leader? The image of a tall man in a dark suit, impeccably groomed, comes to mind. He is authoritative, with a firm handshake, warm smile and steady gaze. For a long time, leaders were sought for their physical traits: height, gender, heritage, education and speaking style. This approach proved to be based on false assumptions, but such prejudices still exist in the C-suites. Today, it’s called executive presence. The criteria have changed (somewhat), but people are still influenced by looks.

2. How do leaders act? According to Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis and Annie McKee, authors of Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, there are six distinct leadership styles:

  • Directive: Immediate compliance. Giving orders, or telling someone what to do.
  • Visionary: Providing long-term direction and vision for employees. Inspiring action through personal and professional vision.
  • Affiliative: Creating harmony among employees and between the manager and employees. Fostering a harmonious environment.
  • Participative: Building commitment among employees and generating new ideas. Collaborating to achieve a goal.
  • Pace-setting: Accomplishing tasks to high standards of excellence. Setting high standards that challenge the team to keep up.
  • Coaching: Long-term professional development of employees. Determining how to help people address their strengths and challenges. Creating a development plan to help them achieve their potential.

In general, these styles define a leader by how he or she behaves. Do you “take charge” or “take care”? Leaders exhibit a preferred style, but the effective ones can be both soft and hard; they’re flexible in switching between managing tasks and caring about people.

3. When and where do leaders focus on the person or task? This question relates to situational leadership. The appropriate leadership style depends on understanding situational context and specifics.

4. What do leaders know and do? What are the key leadership competencies? What core body of knowledge, skills and values define successful leaders? In this leadership model, the focus is on both the situation and the business strategy.

5. Why does leadership matter? Some leadership theorists have shifted away from competencies to focus on results. Leadership is about getting the right results in the right way. Leaders need to achieve a balanced scorecard of employee, customer, investor and organizational results to provide sustainable results.

Did you identify your leadership style? If you need help identifying and understanding your style, please contact me.  In my next blog post, I conclude this series with insights on Personal Proficiency.