The Secret to Amping Up Your Productivity

A few years ago, when I was working in an office setting, I wrote a blog post about amping up productivity.  In hindsight, it’s not bad. But, having grown a little and experienced several different types of work environments since then, I’d tweak my suggestions a bit.  Back then, in the corporate workplace, I was noticing that every person I talked with said they were busy.  People were busy on projects, busy on phone calls, busy answering email and busy in meetings.  I gave this advice:

  • Successful leaders delegate.  Early in my career, a boss told me that in order to be promoted AND be successful I would need to delegate to my team.  Delegation is not just a way to pass along those work tasks we do not want to do.  Delegation is a way to  give tasks to the employee most adept at doing them and to whom it makes sense in the grand scheme of their work.  Delegation can be a way to teach staff who are developing their skills.
  • Focus on a message.  I once heard a speaker tell an audience to write the most important, immediate goal on a Post It note and display it on your computer monitor, or somewhere visible on your desk.  I’ve tried this and it really works.  Any time I got sidetracked in “busy work”, I would see that small reminder and it focused my attention.
  • Push back on false deadlines.  Numerous times a day people come at you with requests to do something.  Everyone has a deadline.  Most people say “yes”, then complain to colleagues that they are too buried to do the task.  When someone asks you to do something for them, negotiate your own deadline.  Speak up if you need to tell them how you prioritize the task compared to other things you have on your plate.  You’ll be surprised how many people build in cushion when they ask someone to help them.
  • Know that not all valuable work happens in front of your computer. This sounds crazy in today’s world, but it’s critical in order to have blocks of time where you can focus on a project.  If you are in front of the screen, you are tempted to answer email.  Find a conference room, chair on another floor, or space outside to get away for 30 minutes or an hour each day to focus .  Another option is to turn off the computer and hit “send calls” and remain in your office.

Now, for many people, these four tips are still valid.  Working smarter, and being productive, doesn’t happen by drinking a special potion.  I wish it was that easy!  What I missed in my earlier post is that we CHOOSE to be busy.  We choose to overload on tasks and to accept work that is not value added to the organization.  Today, in 2017, I would change the focus of how to actually be more productive at work.  It’s by actually choosing to do less work, thinking more, and finding creative ways to do it. 

The real action is not in the small tasks that we take to be more productive.  In fact, it’s really a question of whether each of us WANTS to be more productive.  Maybe we don’t.  The action is in the decision of whether we believe in our company enough to want to be engaged in the successful outcomes.  If we do, then taking steps to higher productivity become second nature.  If we don’t, then we’re making that choice of disengagement.

What do you choose?

 

Older Workers are Becoming Invisible

quote-Jeanette-Winterson-whats-invisible-to-us-is-also-crucial-90396My twelve year old son loves to play the game Would You Rather with me.  Have you played?  You basically ask the person to choose between two things and sometimes, they give a reason.  For example, he recently asked me, “Mom, would you rather be invisible, or have the ability to teleport?”  As you can see, this is a question that may cause a gut reaction, but when you start thinking about it, you begin to come up with many reasons why one choice may be better than the other.  For the record, I chose the ability to be invisible.  The truth is, I may have that ability sooner than I think.

A few days ago, I read a friend’s comment on Facebook.  He was at a client location that was filled with beautiful, young people and as they all walked by, he felt old.  For the record, this friend is in his forties, like me.  Another friend commented that once you reach a certain age, you basically become invisible.  I admit, I never really thought about that before.  While I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that a person in their forties is “old”, I have thought about older workers, namely from my parents’ generation, that are starting to feel left out or ignored in the workplace.

Have you ever felt this way?  Are you old enough that this is happening, or starting to happen?

Maybe the problem is we’re all so focused on the younger generation and making them happy that we are forgetting that much of our organizational knowledge is walking around unnoticed.  In fact, if left unnoticed, are the organizations missing out on ways to actually improve our bottom line?  It seems like this “invisible generation”, formerly know as the Silent and Boomer generations, are actually starting to get a little notice again.

Take for example the movie The InternThe plot has a “senior”, played by Robert DeNiro, who becomes the intern for a young, vibrant CEO, played by Anne Hathaway.  For several months, she not only ignores him, she doesn’t even give him a second thought.  She can’t see the value that is sitting right before her eyes.  I don’t want to spoil the movie, but the point is that older workers are often passed by when we’re in need of support, good ideas, or differing opinions on how to handle something.  It’s such a shame.

All this talk of older workers becoming invisible leaves me with more questions than answers, for now.

Do you have someone older in your life that could provide a different, fresh perspective in your work?

If you are the older person, do you reach out to colleagues who are just starting out or who are earlier in their career to offer advice and counsel that is judgement-free?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have an older mentor in your life, what is the best piece of advice he or she has given?

If you work in an organization or on a team that has little diversity in age, what are you going to do to reach out to a colleague of another age?

How can the idea of capturing the value of more “senior” advice be applied in the workforce today?

In order for organizations to be successful in the future, they are going to need to be able to capture all the knowledge of their older workers.  By taking active steps to ensure that these employees do not feel invisible, you’ll not only be capturing that information, you’ll be ensuring that those employees feel valued and engaged for the remainder of their employment.

 

 

Working Human: Happiness, Satisfaction and Engagement in the Workplace

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.40.13 PMWhere do you stand when it comes to thinking about the impact of happiness in the workplace?  Do you fall in the camp that believes that employers can make employees happy?  If so, what specific actions can they take to make the employee happier?  If not, do you think that employees are the only ones who can make themselves happy?  That leads to examining the idea that maybe it’s not about happiness at all.  What if it’s more about satisfaction or engagement?

These are the types of questions that HR practitioners and other business leaders are wrestling with in the workplace every day.  Enter the Globoforce WorkHuman conference to help us have a better understanding of the impacts of happiness, recognition, and giving thanks to our workforce.  I’m here in lovely Oralndo, Florida to participate in the 2nd annual WorkHuman event.  I have to tell you that as an invited guest, I would still tell you if I didn’t believe in the event.  In fact, I wouldn’t come.  This is one of those events where I can find lots to learn and many new business people to engage in discussion with on some fairly challenging topics.

We kicked off today with several general sessions that covered many of the questions in my opening paragraph.  Derek Irvine shared some statistics about companies who approach work from incorporating a more human experience.  According to Derek, “Companies that have succeeded with environment saw a 31% increase in productivity and their employees take 10x less sick leave.”  In addition, he challenged the audience members not to underestimate the power of a simple “thanks”, as that act can have a positive impact on engagement and discretionary effort.

The next session focused more on happiness and how it can impact our employees.  Harvard professor Shawn Achor shared research about the potential for person / employee to impact people around them.  Let me start by telling you that Shawn’s energy and passion for his topic is contagious.  I am always a little cynical, but he really spoke to the optimist buried inside me.  His research is showing that true happiness is not coming just by equating it with success because our brains are constantly redefining success.  He said that happiness comes when you are moving toward your potential and by helping others reach theirs.  It made me wonder if people can truly be happy if they aren’t moving toward potential? Can there be a stopping point?  I’m wondering if the phase of life you’re in can have an impact on this.  So many good questions arising from these sessions.

Obviously, events like this really make you think beyond the every day approach to work.  Stay tuned for more information from WorkHuman and be sure to weigh in with a comment if you have any ideas or opinions on happiness, engagement, impact or any ideas from the post.

 

Gen X Used to Feel Entitled Too- Did You?

generation-xSo, you think the Millennials invented the idea of feeling entitled?  Well, it’s not true.  No, other generations of young people have felt entitled.  I felt that way too.  Yes, Gen X has our share of dreamers and employees that were so eager to take on new challenges.  The difference I’m seeing is that when I was early in my career, I had older and wiser bosses who knew just when and how to put me in my place.  There wasn’t concern about hurting feelings with direct feedback.  They just did it.  They lived it.  I never once felt coddled.

I remember being twenty-seven years old and feeling like I knew it all.  I thought I knew better than my boss and I really believed I could “see the big picture”.  I just knew he was holding me back.  After all, I had a M.A. in HR Management and a few years of experience.  Why couldn’t he SEE how ready I was for a promotion?

Well, for starters, I didn’t put in enough time.  In my exempt role, I thought work could be left at the door when I headed for home.  Second, I didn’t do anything proactive to continue my learning in the human resources field.  No webinars.  No articles.  Nothing.  Third, I focused on administrative tasks.  I wasn’t stretching myself to think of the impact of my tasks.  Fourth, I had no idea what my boss really did.  To me, it looked like he was on the phone and in meetings.  How hard was that?

I remember the day I told my dad this boss was holding me back.  He gave me some great advice that I still embrace today:

  • Shadow your boss.  Find out what he really does and how he reached that position.  Watch for skills he uses to connect with people in the company and if he is successful, model those.
  • Come to work early and work late.  Learning how to do more than administrative tasks takes time and practice.  Back then, this meant many hours in the office.  Today, using technology, it’s easy to work early in the morning or late at night from the comfort of your home.
  • Keep educating yourself.  Always.  It’s not your company’s responsibility to do it all for you.
  • Volunteer to take on more challenging work without expecting money or title. Those will come in time.

Somehow, I made it to a more mature state of mind.  I like to think I grew up.  Not sure that it had anything at all to do with my generation, it was just more of a life lesson.

How did you progress through your career?  Did you experience any similar feelings?  What generation are you part of?

I’d love to hear all these answers (and more), so please jump over to my short, pulse survey on Generations and Leadership.  It takes 1- 3 minutes to complete and I really appreciate the feedback!

 

Over 40? Don’t Work More Than 25 Hours a Week

clockHave you heard about the recent study released by the University of Melbourne’s Neuroscience Institute?  In their Applied Economic and Social Research study, they looked at the optimal number of hours a week an employee should work.  Their findings were surprising, to say the least.  Research showed that for every hour you work up to 25 hours a week, your cognitive function steadily increases.  Any hours worked above that threshold sees a decline in cognitive function.  They also say that workers over 40 who work more than 25 hours a week have a harder time recovering from any loss in cognitive function.

If this is true, you can only start imagining the implications.  When you think about the employees that are the decision makers in an organization, it is typically people over 40 years old who work more than 40 hours per week.  In fact, many work 50- 60+ hours a week.  What does it mean when you have your leaders losing cognitive function, yet making major strategic decisions?  Is this something we should worry about?  Additionally, when you think of the traditional 8 hour workday, there are many employees that waste several hours a day at work, so are they already working 25 hours per week?

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think this study will make anything change overnight.  However, it does give food for thought as we look to ways of working smarter and more collaboratively.  Some questions that come to mind:

  • Would providing a more collaborative workplace be able to support employees working fewer hours?
  • Are there certain times of day where decision-making is optimal?  If so, could concentrating work hours around those times lead to being able to work fewer hours?
  • Are there process changes that can be made to better support employees working PT hours?
  • If workplace changes were made, would employees even agree to work fewer hours?  Would this mean less pay, or more productivity in fewer hours?
  • What are the cost savings associated with more PT workers?
  • Do these findings better support the claim that by 2020, as many as 40%- 50% of jobs will be held by contingent workers?

Like many research studies, there are more questions than answers.  The next thing we know, researchers will be telling us to drink at work.  Oh wait, they already have.  At any rate, it’s fun to think about all the implications.  What do you think?  Would working fewer hours be good for you?  For your organization?  I welcome you to tell me what you think in the comments.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Avoid Job Burnout

pg-job-burnout-signs-05-fullBlogging is interesting because sometimes you research and report, other times you give pure opinion.  Today is an opinion day, and it’s a fine line between doing that and becoming “preachy”.  The truth is that there have been times when I’ve been nearing job burnout during my career.  Face it, we all have those times.  It’s important to think about ways to head that off instead of waiting for things to get to that point.

One of the most stressful, and best, moves I’ve made has been working for myself.  I have to generate all the sales and then deliver to my clients.  That alone is enough to keep me up at night.  The strange thing is that as soon as I started working for myself in a position that fully aligned with my values, I began sleeping through the night again.  That had not been the case before.  I wondered what was different, because the workload and stress certainly was not less.

I came up with several things I had changed to make my working experience better for me.  I find these work, and I hope they work for you.

5 Keys to Avoiding Job Burnout

  1. Focus on your health- First and foremost, I learned that all the bad habits I had working for other people carried over to working for myself.  For example, I realized I am not good about taking breaks to eat lunch or a snack.  I’m bad about making time to exercise or even move around much during the day.  The first real change I made was to adopt a clean eating strategy.  This is not about weight loss or being on a diet.  It’s about telling myself every day that I mean something.  I’m important.  I don’t know why this has been such a revelation, but I feel that dedicating that extra time to cooking good food for myself instead of skipping meals has had so many benefits.  For a great guide to start eating clean, check out the Clean Eating online magazine.  There are some great meal plans to get you started.  Surprisingly, you’ll start to feel exponentially better within a week.
  2. Prioritize and purge-  We’ve all heard, ad nauseam, that we need to prioritize our workload.  Well, when you work for yourself, you are suddenly plunged into not having enough hours in the day.  Literally.  So, the only option was not only to prioritize my work, but to purge anything that didn’t align with those goals.  Looking back over the last 11 months I’ve been my own boss, I can see how beneficial this has been.  The main result is that I really feel less stressed.
  3. Reward yourself-  Sitting back and seeing all the companies that give employee recognition makes me smile.  For example, Globoforce is doing great things to bridge that gap for companies and employees.  I buy into this whole idea of making work “More Human” and as I’ve followed Globoforce and their efforts in this arena, it really makes sense.  The difference for me is that now, I’m the only person who can choose to recognize me.  At first, it seemed a little half-baked, but as I’ve started doing this, it really works.  I don’t have a regular schedule, and some weeks are more hectic than others.  I’m finding that even running out for a frozen yogurt in the middle of the workday is a nice way to treat myself.  The real difference is that now I am mindful that I’m rewarding myself.  Whatever the psychology, it works.  So….how are you going to treat yourself today?
  4. Make friends at work-  For years, working in HR, you learn that HR is no one’s friend.  Sure, I have managed to make a few over the years, but for the most part, working in HR you have to be a lone wolf.  Now that it’s just me at work, you’d think I have no hope.  Quite the opposite.  I’ve made a point to partner with industry colleagues who not only are smarter than me in many areas of HCM, I can rely on them to have my back.  What an awesome feeling!  For example, in this past year, I joined forces with some HCM colleagues in forming the HR Federation.  By having a trusted group of people, it’s amazing what it does for your psyche and your productivity.  Point being… get a friend!
  5. Take a retreat-  This is another tip I never bought into in my corporate life.  I boldly took my first retreat this past January and I cannot even tell you how many great things have come from taking this time.  Much like a reward for myself, I felt that as a working Mom, it would be selfish for me to go away alone.  I also travel for work, so taking a separate trip seemed unfair to my family.  I WAS WRONG!  I spent a long weekend at the beach by myself.  I didn’t keep the TV on.  I walked a lot.  I thought a lot.  I enjoyed eating alone and just observing the world.  The beauty of this was that I not only had time to be quiet and uninterrupted, I was able to make some major business and personal decisions because I finally made time to listen to myself.  For more about the benefits of a personal retreat, check out this HR Happy Hour episode I recorded with Laurie Ruettimann.  She also took a retreat this year and shares some great learning from her journey.

All these actions lead to a more human work experience for YOU.  Take a moment today and think about what you can do for yourself.  In addition, consider joining me at Globoforce’s WorkHuman event May 9- 11 in Orlando.  We’ll learn and practice even more ways of focusing on how to humanize the work experience.  Use discount code WH16TM300.

Are You the Grit of the Company?

gritI was listening to NPR this morning, as I do every morning after dropping my kids at school.  Normally, they are doing the market report when I’m in the car, but today, my timing was off and the show hosts were discussing how difficult it can be to predict the future of organizations with a former Intel futurist.  As he described the role and how he handled it, at one point he referred to himself as the “grit” inside the organization that often had to tell other leaders what no one else would say.

I started thinking about how I behave inside organizations and ultimately, how you behave too.  There are many times I’ve found myself being the grit in organizations.  Grit, or being abrasive, is thought of as a negative.  I don’t think it has to be a negative label though, it’s quite the opposite.  Being seen as the grit should mean you’re a go-to person who will be honest and tell leadership where the gaps in thinking may be.  In fact, it goes beyond that to being able to tell leaders which paths they should not be taking.

The key to being the “grit” in a positive way is finesse.  One thing I’ve learned over the last twenty of my career is that being disruptive may be fun, but it does not make for the ability to bring change on a consistent basis.  Since many people still enjoy working for one employer for a long period of time, understanding how to be influential without being completely abrasive is an art.  Those are the leaders that actually drive change in organizations.  I found a fascinating article on Forbes that details the 5 Characteristics of Grit.  I encourage you to check it out to see which characteristics you have.  Things like resilience,  endurance, excellence, conscientiousness, and courage are all important in determining the level of grit you have.

So now that we’ve determined that grit can be a positive in the workplace, how can you tell if you’re style of grit is disruptive vs. influential?  

DISRUPTIVE OR INFLUENTIAL?

  • Do the C-Suite execs avoid you because you are constantly telling them to do things differently?  Disruptive
  • Are you the first person the executives call when they have an issue?  Influential
  • Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to “sell” the same idea to every executive and can’t get anyone on board? Disruptive
  • Do you curse or swear a lot at work for no real reason? Disruptive
  • Do people eventually come around to your ideas, even if they need a little time to digest the idea before embracing it?  Influential
  • Are you honest?  Influential
  • Brutally honest at all costs?  Disruptive

Like most people, I want to change the world.  I’m sure you do too.  And while there are a few “disruptors” who make a name for themselves and get positive change in spite of their approach, most people prefer to be influenced.  I learned early on that being influential is not about your job title.  It’s all in your style and the way you bring other people over to your way of thinking.  It’s also about being open to new ideas….even if it means discarding your own ideas.

So, which are you? I’d love to hear from you…

3 Great Resources for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and I’m proud to say that now, more than ever, organizations and leaders are making a real difference in how women are welcomed for their ideas, innovation and passion in their industries.  We’ve come a long way in bringing women into leadership roles from when I joined the workforce in the 1990’s.  While not perfect just yet, the number of women leaders is on the rise and the way that schools are recruiting women into traditionally male-dominated professions is increasing.  This means that as leaders and whole organizations, we need to encourage our daughters to study and enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

According to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, “Supporting women STEM students and researchers is not only an essential part of America’s strategy to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world; it is also important to women themselves. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men. And STEM careers offer women the opportunity to engage in some of the most exciting realms of discovery and technological innovation. Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is an important step towards realizing greater economic success and equality for women across the board.”

It has been eye-opening to see some of the resources shared online via social media.  One of the first, and most impressive, celebrations of women was the Infor video I’m sharing here today.  Led by Pam Murphy, COO of Infor, the video highlights real women in HR technology and the women who inspire them.

There are still so many women who are not getting into the technology field, so it makes me happy to see that Infor encourages women in tech.  By recognizing, developing and helping these women shine in a male-dominated field, Infor guides the way on how other organizations can do better.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.19.17 PMAnother resource I’d like to highlight today is my friend, Lois Melbourne.  Lois is currently the Chief Story Officer of My Future Story.  With a background as a CEO in a HR technology company, Lois is on a mission to bring education around STEM careers to more children.  She is doing this through a series of books and an app (coming soon!).  I encourage you to check out the first book here.  I know she is already inspiring my junior high aged children to think more about STEM careers.

The last resource I’ll share is an article on the Huffington Post site.  They offer up the opportunity to learn more about 11 new books written by women.  I encourage you to check them out.

What are you or your organization doing to help promote International Women’s Day?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!