Is Your Need for Speed Holding You Back?

Getting stuff done is great, right? Checking those little boxes feels super productive, and super validating. You’re happy because you’re cooking through your To Do list, and your boss will be really happy because surprise! You’re done already!

Except that you could be making more work for everybody on the team.

The myth of productivity

Many of us have been trained to think that it’s the volume and pace of our work that matters most. But in the frantic frenzy to finish first, we can miss a lot of things along the way.

I once worked with an intern who was a very stellar person. I liked her immensely. But she was super competitive and fixated on completing her work as quickly as possible. Popping her head into someone’s office to say, “I’m done! Got anything else for me?” was her favorite thing to do. Impressing people with her speed and productivity was how she demonstrated her value.

The thing is, she was so busy flying through her task list that she was skimping on processes and details. More often than not, the jobs she considered done needed to be fixed or redone. But because she would speed through those processes as well, she was often asked to do or fix things multiple times. 

At this point, staff members would often get frustrated and take their tasks back. Over time, it became apparent this was more efficient than continuing to:

  • explain the assignments over and over
  • issue warnings about the consequences of mistakes
  • coach her on how to slow down and work more deliberately

Eventually, most of us stopped giving her anything of substance because it was easier and less risky to simply keep doing those things ourselves. I discovered I could take her for coffee instead of giving her work— and still save time in the long run!

As a result, she became the queen of mundane tasks: envelope stuffing, mail runs, office storage organization. She completed these things quickly, and with a great attitude. But at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure everyone would have liked to see her to get more out of her internship experience.

Unfortunately, her focus on speed and multitasking kept her from gaining more advanced skills and experience. And it kept us from using her to her full potential. 

Slow down to improve results

Our society places a huge value on working quickly, doing multiple things as once, and being constantly accessible. But all of these things can actually cause your work to suffer.

If your team operates at a frenetic pace all the time, you could be holding your business back. People will become frustrated, mistakes will increase, and accidents will be more likely to happen. More importantly, goals that could be achieved through thoughtful intention, detailed planning, and diligent follow-through will remain unmet. And that’s no good for anybody.

So how do we retrain our brains (and our teams!) to work more carefully, thoughtfully, and efficiently?

Start single-tasking

There are lots of articles and studies about the myth of multi-tasking.

  • Research has shown that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than focusing on one task at a time — more for complex tasks.
  • One study revealed that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were actually worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details.
  • Still not convinced? Try this little exercise.

Get in the habit of focusing on a single task. Schedule time on your calendar or even set a timer if you need to. Commit to working on one thing in that time period and one thing only.

Ask questions

Is your mind starting to work on an assignment even before the person explaining it to you is finished? This is your first mistake. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Make sure you fully understand the project, the process, and the purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during the process. Clarity is your friend. Taking five minutes to discuss details as you go can save you tons of time in the long run. Many speedy employees have had to go back and rework things they thought were “finished” because they either jumped in too fast or didn’t slow down long enough to get the facts.

Prioritize

Yes, you have a million things to do. So does everybody else. But working in a scattershot manner won’t help you get the right things done at the right time. For that, you need a plan.

Work with your team to determine which items are the most important and the most time sensitive. Rank your daily or weekly tasks so that you know which ones to funnel your time, efforts, and energy into. Choose one thing that you will get done, no matter what. If you find yourself getting sidetracked or distracted, refocus on your priority item of the moment.

Reduce distractions

Even with the best intentions, we all get distracted. But some of us are better than others at letting those distractions in— or keeping them out. Are you constantly checking your phone, texts, and email? If so, you’re using up valuable time and brain space switching back and forth between your inputs and outputs.

Questions, phone calls, and emails take a huge toll on your focus.

  • According to one research study, it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to task after an in-person interruption, 15 minutes for a phone call interruption, and 64 seconds after an email interruption.
  • The same study found that workers were dealing with email interruptions about every five minutes.
  • This means we are wasting one out of every six minutes per day on email interruptions alone— not including phone calls and in-person questions!

Want to focus on a task? Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn off your email alerts. Hide your Slack. The world won’t end if you’re offline for 15 or 20 minutes. And you’re much more likely to make real progress.

Quick vs. Quality

If you’re having brain surgery, do you want it to go quickly? Or do you want it to go well?

There’s a big difference here. And I think we can all agree which one sounds more appealing. 

 

Photo by Earl Walker  

Why You Need to Invest in Professional Development

You know you it’s important. You know you should do it. But it can be expensive. And time consuming. Plus, you’re just so busy! And you’ve got a business to run. All of these things may be true, but so is this simple fact:

If you don’t take the time to improve and grow, your business won’t either.

And while you may be able to survive a serious development drought on a personal level, your organization can’t. If it doesn’t wither and die, it will quickly become overshadowed and hidden by the growth happening all around it.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. No industry, market, or sector stands still. Laws, regulations, technology, consumer needs and expectations are constantly changing, with or without you. You can choose to keep up, stay stagnant, or fall behind. You can also choose to get ahead and be looked to as someone who is leading the change instead of fearing or ignoring it.

Sounds good, right?

You’re darn right it does. Because the difficulties that come with change are nothing compared to the stress of being left behind.

When you’re leading the charge, you get to determine what it looks like and how it gets executed. You also get to collaborate with other like-minded leaders who are trying to accomplish the same things, which increases your confidence, your influence, and your effectiveness exponentially.

But you have to be strategic

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of professional development opportunities out there. A quick scroll through your in-box will easily prove this to be true. Everyone’s got an angle. Everyone wants you to sign up for their service, adopt their platform, or attend their seminar. Unfortunately, many of these so-called opportunities are, in fact, a waste of time and money.

There are four ways to approach these opportunities:

1.) Be a whale

It can be tempting to want to take in everything that comes your way. If a little personal development is good, then a lot must be even better, right? Not so much. Whales have a very efficient filtering system that allows them to keep what is useful and discard the rest— before they spend a bunch of time trying to digest it. Unless you’ve got a fleet of people with lots of time on their hands, you don’t have that luxury. Biting off more than you can chew will only give you indigestion.

2.) Be an ostrich

You know these folks. The ones who are always putting their heads in the sand. To be fair to our real, live ostrich friends, they actually have good reason for doing this. They’re nesting. But you’re a business person, not a giant bird. Putting your head in the sand will only keep you in the dark. And focusing too much on your cozy little nest will only ensure that you stay squarely in your comfort zone. Which isn’t going to move you forward.

3.) Be a deer

You want to improve yourself, your business, and your chances of success, but you’re overwhelmed by the fear, the circumstances, and the sheer number of options. Instead of propelling yourself forward, you stay frozen and immobile, unable to make a decision. “Deer are crepuscular,” says David C. Yancy, a deer biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. When a headlight beam strikes eyes that are fully dilated to capture as much light as possible, deer cannot see at all, and they freeze until the eyes can adjust. “They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.” We all know how this story ends.

4.) Be a falcon

“The Peregrine falcon is not your average avian predator. When hunting, this remarkable bird will fly to great heights, then dive bomb its prey abruptly at speeds of up to 242 mph,” says the Smithsonian Channel. Um. Yeah. This bird is your new idol. First, he finds a solid perch where he can take a good look at the bigger picture. What’s happening in the landscape before him? What opportunities does he see? What obstacles are in his way? What exactly does he want to go after? Then, once he sets his sights on his goal, he’s 100% focus. We’re talking all in. At 242 miles per hour, he can’t afford to be distracted, or go after things he doesn’t need.

Which one do you want to be?

The falcon, right? (Please say it’s the falcon).

If you’re a whale, at least there’s hope. But if you’re an ostrich or a deer, you need to change your ways. Like, yesterday.

Take a look at where you currently are, and where you want to be. What kinds of skills and tools do you need to get from point A to point B? Evaluate your business, your clients, and your market. What strategies are working for you? What strategies are falling flat? Where do your strengths lie? Where do you struggle?

Once you’ve uncovered areas for improvement, don’t jump onboard with the first thing (or everything!) that comes your way.

Do your research. Look into different groups, events, and options. Seek out industry people and companies you admire and look at the kinds of things they’re doing. See what organizations and associations they belong to, what events they’re attending, who they’re connected with, and what books they’re reading. Ask around, get advice, and choose carefully. Your time and resources are a precious commodity, and you need to make them count.

It’s like your mom used to say, “You are who you hang out with.” Make sure you’re seeking professional development from organizations and colleagues you admire, respect, and trust.

Once you’ve figured out what you need and how you want to go about getting it, you can begin to shift your mindset and start thinking about professional development as a critical investment you can’t afford NOT to make.

After all, if you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

 

Photo by  Radachynskyi Serhii

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Why You’re Late and What it Says About You

In business, there’s no such thing as fashionably late.

Yes, things may happen from time to time that keep you from being prompt. Things like miscommunications, location mix-ups, and traffic accidents. But if you’ve slipped into a pattern of making punctuality the exception and not the rule, it’s time to change your ways.

Oh, come on. Everyone is late sometimes.

Yes. This is true. And occasional tardiness is usually forgiven, especially when there are extenuating circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to show up wherever, whenever.

People know the difference between someone who arrives late every once in a while and someone who can’t seem to get anywhere on time. Like, ever.

And do you know why? Because over and over again, you’ve shown them which kind of person you are. And they have no choice but to believe you.

Cue the resentment

Being chronically late is a big trust destroyer. And resentment builder. And morale buster. None of which are good for business.

When you don’t show up on time, you’re essentially defaulting on an agreement. For whatever reason, you decided it wasn’t important to hold up your end of the bargain.

What this says to people is, “My time is more important than your time.” And “My needs are more important than your needs.” Or, even worse, “I’m more important than you are.”

This stings. Especially when everyone else made it a priority to honor the arrangement. It also creates anger and resentment among your team.

Once you’ve established yourself as that person who doesn’t care enough to honor your commitments, people will start treating you that way. They’ll accept that you can’t be counted on, and adjust their behaviors accordingly. No one will be surprised or say anything when you’re late, because that’s just you delivering on your promise of being unreliable.

To a chronically late person, this reaction might seem pretty great at first. But don’t mistake these coping mechanisms for approval.

Here’s what you don’t see

Eyes will roll when your name gets mentioned. Colleagues will count on you not coming through, and brace themselves to pick up the slack. Over time, you’ll get invited to fewer and fewer things, leaving you with fewer and fewer opportunities to demonstrate your lack of respect for the team.

You’ll also receive fewer opportunities to deliver value, solve problems, and show your worth.

In essence, you’ve just become your own worst enemy. And it’s going to hold you back.

But there is hope

Lateness is not innate. You weren’t born with it. It’s a routine that was established over time. All you have to do is kick the habit. But first, you have to look at why you’re always late.

Here are three common causes of chronic tardiness:

1.) Optimism

It won’t take that long to get there! I can squeeze these two more things in before I go! Parking is never a problem! I have time to stop and get coffee! Everyone on the team loves me! They won’t mind if I’m 5 minutes late!

If this is you, congratulations! You’ve got that positive thinking thing down. But there’s a fine line between being optimistic and being delusional.

If you find yourself constantly running late despite your great attitude and your best intentions, there is a disconnect between your vision and your reality.

If accurate time estimation is your issue, try this trick: Ask yourself how long you think it will take you to do something: finish a work task, get from point A to point B, grab a coffee. Then time yourself. Don’t rush through the process. Proceed as you normally would. Take a look at your actual time. Were you right or were you wrong? Compare the results and adjust your expectations accordingly. And always, always give yourself a 10 – 15 minute buffer in case something doesn’t go according to plan.

If you truly believe people don’t care if you’re late, time isn’t the only thing you’re not grasping. 

2.) Yes-ism

Sometimes, it’s the sweetest, nicest people who are chronically late. Ironically, these are the very same people who would never want to let anyone down.

The problem is that by saying yes to everything, you’ve set yourself up for failure.

In your resistance to saying no, you’ve overscheduled yourself to the point where you can’t possibly be on time. Or maybe you were going to be on time but then said yes to one more thing that made you late. Or perhaps you let your last commitment keep you longer than it should have because you just couldn’t bring yourself to cut someone off, refuse that last cup of coffee, or leave an event that was running over on time.

Unfortunately, this emphasis on saying yes is making some very nice people seem like very big jerks. And that’s unfortunate for everyone.

Kicking this habit starts with learning to set boundaries— and sticking to them.

Try working with a therapist, coach, or snuggling up with a boundary building self-help book like Where to Draw the LineJust make sure you put it down in time to get to your next appointment.

3.) Pessimism

No one’s going to be there on time. Everyone always shows up late. If I get there early, I might have to talk to people and/or sit around awkwardly. This meeting is stupid anyway.

Pessimists often like to refer to themselves as realists. And if this is your reality, it’s no wonder you’re not motivated to arrive on time. But reality is really just perception, and perhaps yours is a bit skewed. How many times have you been dragged into something kicking and screaming only to admit afterwards that it wasn’t that terrible. Maybe it was even fun?

Yes, we’ve all been to our fair share of bad meetings, but getting there late doesn’t make them any better. In fact, this kind of behavior can actually raise the levels of tension and conflict in the group. In other words, you may be creating or magnifying your perceived reality by showing up late. Plus, you’re also creating a negative perception of yourself in others by appearing to be impolite, self-centered, and unreliable.

If you really want to be a realist, start using your power of observation to watch how your behavior affects your reality. Notice how things go when you show up on time or early instead of at the last minute or late. See how people react to you, and how it changes the course of the session.

If you’re feeling really inspired, try noting how things go if you show up early, and with coffee and doughnuts. Now that’s a reality we can all appreciate.

 

Photo by fsstock

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook

Do You Need Executive Coaching?

It’s universally accepted that athletes need coaches. Depending on the nature of the game and the size of the team, there could be one single coach or an entire fleet of them. But at the end of the day, we expect those coaches to call the shots and to bring out the best in each player.

In business organizations, it’s the leadership team that acts as the coaching staff. They’re the ones who are expected to make the big decisions and mentor staff and employees as they work toward their shared goals.

But who coaches the coaches? How do they know they’re doing what’s best for the organization?

Many times, it’s the owners who take on the role of making sure the coaches are bringing about the results they want to see. Unfortunately, both in sports and in business, they often do this by simply firing coaches who aren’t producing enough wins. Sometimes, this is done hastily and without consideration for the various obstacles the coach is trying to overcome.

Owners and shareholders can get so focused on winning that they don’t care about helping their organizational coaches improve. They just send them on their way, assuming that the next person coming in will perform better.

Eventually, these coaches get picked up by other organizations to come in and save their programs. But because they have been tossed around without any real coaching themselves, they aren’t necessarily any wiser or better equipped for the job.

Being fired doesn’t necessarily create stronger leaders, but it can definitely create more fearful leaders. These leaders operate knowing they are in danger of losing their jobs for any failure at any time. It’s almost impossible to effectively mentor your team when you’re primarily focused on your own survival.

Time for a game plan

It seems like basic logic. If your employees benefit from having coaches, then your leadership team should, too. But when should you bring one in? And how do you know which one to choose?

Here are some tips to help you determine a.) if your organization needs executive coaching and b.) how to find a coach that’s a good fit.

You may need executive or leadership coaching if:

  • You want to support your top performers
  • Your industry or business model has shifted
  • Key roles and responsibilities are changing hands
  • Individuals or teams are no longer performing to standard
  • Team members are dissatisfied with current culture and leadership styles
  • A leader wants to develop core strength areas or improve areas of weakness
  • Your company lacks effective policy, processes, teamwork, or communication
  • There is active tension and conflict within the leadership team or the organization

A word of warning

Just because your organization needs executive coaching and you’re willing to consider it doesn’t mean it’s going to work. A couple of key things have to happen in order for it to be successful.

  • Your leadership needs to be coachable. If owners and leaders perceive coaching as a hostile act of criticism, they aren’t going to get anything out of it. And neither will the organization. You might as well throw your money out the window.
  • You need to be committed. If you don’t dedicate the time and resources necessary to allow the process to work properly, you’ll end up with a lot of intention and no results. Building a great team requires a significant amount of time, work, and practice. And yes, good coaches cost money. If you’re going in on coaching, you’ve got to go all in.

Finding a good coaching match

Coaches come in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors. And they specialize in a variety of skills and industries. If you don’t hire the right one, you won’t get the right advice. Or the best outcomes.

Here are a few things to consider in your search:

Experience: You want your executive coach to have experience being in a leadership role. Even better if he or she has worked in or is very familiar with your specific industry. Keep in mind that years of coaching experience isn’t necessarily the best indicator of fit or success. Depending on your industry and needs, someone coming in fresh from the field can be very effective. Just because someone is new to the consulting gig doesn’t mean they can’t offer valuable information. Whether they’ve been doing it for 30 years or just getting started, the most important thing is to find someone who is the right fit for you and your team.

Results: Ask for examples of specialty areas and key problems the coach has been asked to help with or address. Does the coach have ways to measure and track progress? Cover results, outcomes and learning lessons. If they have other clients, ask for references. Any good executive coach will be able to provide you with at least a couple of relevant people to talk to.

Approach: Does the coaching style align with your leadership style and company culture? How are organizational goals determined and what does working toward them look like? What processes will the coach take you through? Ask how long an engagement typically lasts and what the sessions will look/feel/be like. Choose a coach with a philosophy and style that will be well received by your team.

Victory is yours for the taking

Many teams are quite averse to bringing in consultants, especially at the executive or ownership levels. But if no one is coaching your top leaders, how can they possibly be at their best? Or bring it out in others?

Think of your leaders as the professional team that they are. Invest in their growth and development so they can do the same for your organization.

 

Photo by trendobjects 

5 Pillars of Employee-Related Expenses eBook