Tag Archives: ownership

This One Thing is Ruining Your Productivity

If you’re like most leaders, you spend your days rushing around dealing with emergencies, challenges, meetings and emails. Your days seem like a blur, and you struggle to articulate what you accomplished in your 10+ hours at the office. This may be the norm for most leaders, but it doesn’t have to be.

One of the biggest challenges leaders face at work are interruptions. Whether it’s phone calls and texts, emails pinging all day, or employees dropping in for “a quick question”, these interruptions take a serious toll on your productivity. Experts say the typical office worker wastes 40 to 60 percent of their day on interruptions.

And even if your interruptions don’t involve people, there are a plethora of distractions that impede getting real work done. As an entrepreneur, my office is in my house. There are no people there during the work day, but there are dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, and papers to be filed. Even looking at these distractions hinders my focus and concentration. When I have a big project or an article to write (like this one) that requires me to focus, I often go to a coffee shop so I can get in the zone and not get distracted by non-urgent things pulling at my attention. Ironically, the buzz of the coffee shop also helps my concentration and focus. I get more done in two hours there than I do all day in my office.

I believe your office is one of the worst places to work, because everyone knows where to find you!

Below are four strategies for reducing interruptions so you can get real work done.

Close your door. In the age of the “open door policy,” closing your door may seem bold. But let me assure you, you cannot be productive with your door open all day. Most organizations have taken the open door policy to the extreme, thinking that having your door open all day sends the message to your employees that you are a great leader. Employees want leaders who are approachable and supportive. They don’t need you to be available every second of the day. Frankly, most employees would welcome you to close your door once in a while so they can focus on their work without their leader watching every move. I’m not suggesting you close your door all day, every day. But blocking out two hours a day to close your door and focus will increase your productivity dramatically.

One of my clients created signs for their team members that says “Brilliance at Work”. When an employee needs some quiet time to focus, they put this sign on their door or cubicle to signal that they are in the zone, so don’t interrupt.

Silence your electronics. It’s not a novel idea (or is it?), yet so few leaders practice it. Part of what drains productivity is the time it takes to recover after an interruption. Even that email notification that you glance at for a few seconds breaks your concentration. Studies show it can take up to 25 minutes to the return to the original task after an interruption. It’s a wonder how leaders get anything done at the office. Multi-tasking has been proven to not be effective and actually hurt productivity, so the best way to get real work done is to sequester yourself and turn off your electronic devices. Even if you do this once a day for an hour, you will see a dramatic increase in your productivity.

Start your meetings by articulating the purpose. How many meetings do you attend each day that are a waste of time? Usually it’s because you are trying to do too many things in one meeting. A best practice is to identify the purpose of that specific meeting, and announce it at the beginning of the meeting so everyone is on the same page. This keeps the meeting focused and on track. An example might be: “The goal of this meeting is to review the three proposals we received and decide which company we will partner with”. That’s much different than just starting the meeting and going off on several tangents that just wastes time.

You can cut out useless follow up meetings by making the first meeting productive in the first place. Less meetings equals more time for real work!

Reduce upward delegation. Many of the interruptions leaders face is from employees. While at times you need to provide guidance and support to your staff members, many interruptions are avoidable. Some employees “upward delegate” to their leaders—they look to their manager to make a decision for them. A way to reduce these interruptions is to coach your employee through the challenge. If an employee approaches you to ask how to handle a situation or project, ask her one of these questions:

  • What do you think?
  • What are your options?
  • What might your next step be?

These questions put the ownership back on the employee and require her to think about how to approach the situation herself. If you continue to coach employees around tasks they can handle themselves, you’ll start to see a reduction in the interruptions as they learn to think for themselves.

Effective leadership requires that you get results. To get results, you need time to focus on real work, not just the typical office “emergencies”. To be a successful leader, you have to take charge of your productivity, because no one else will.

I’d love to hear from you. What are some ways you reduce interruptions so you can get real work done?

5 Ways to Earn a Promotion or Raise

I was recently facilitating a leadership program and a participant expressed her frustration that she hadn’t been promoted. Lately, her supervisor had assigned her some extra work, and she felt she should be recognized and compensated for the additional effort. She went to her boss to advocate for a promotion, and was surprised when her efforts were unsuccessful and her manager was annoyed by the request.

There may be times when asking for a promotion is necessary. If you have consistently used the strategies I share below and you are viewed as a high performer, then perhaps it’s time to ask for a promotion or seek other opportunities. But a better approach is to strategically position yourself for a promotion or raise.

Advocating for a raise or promotion (even if you deserve it) usually doesn’t work because your manager may feel backed into a corner. She may not feel you are prepared for a new role, and now she needs to communicate that to you. Even if she does feel you deserve a promotion, now she may feel pressured to act on it.  Either way, it puts your manager in a position of having something else on her plate to deal with.

When you ask for a promotion or raise just because you’ve taken on some additional work, it may come across as entitled or self-focused. The perception is that you care more about your own interests than the needs of the company.

The best approach is to take full ownership of your professional development and prove yourself before you get the promotion.

Below are five strategies for earning the promotion or raise you want:

Take 100% responsibility. Many people believe it’s their managers responsibility to develop them for future growth opportunities. While great leaders do invest time in developing their employees, you should take responsibility for your own development. Delegating your development to your manager is an indication that you won’t take full ownership of a new role. Managers are looking for self-starters who are confident and capable of getting results. Now is the time to prove you possess these traits. Are there new skills you need to learn before you take on a new role? Sign up for a course. Do you need to learn more about the financial side of the business to expand your organizational breadth? Ask someone in finance to mentor you. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. Take ownership of your career.

Share your professional goals. Have you shared your professional goals with your manager? Your boss can’t support you if she doesn’t know what your personal and professional goals are. If you are interested in a leadership role, share that with your manager and ask her what you would need to do to achieve that goal. Your manager is a great resource for communicating specific actions you need to take to position yourself for a new role.

Earlier in my career, I started working for a credit union as the assistant manager of the call center. A year later, I realized I wanted to work in leadership and human resources. I approached the human resources vice president and told her I was interested in moving into her department. Although there weren’t any positions available at the time, six months later when a position did become available, I was chosen over another internal candidate because I had shared my goals with the VP and had enrolled in an HR class on my own time. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you. Ask for what you want.

Go above and beyond. Don’t wait for a promotion to take on extra work. Be of service before you get the promotion. Ask for additional responsibilities and stretch projects that will prepare you for future roles. This illustrates that you are a hard worker who is willing to support your boss and the organization, and that you are an action-oriented, motivated employee who wants to help your boss succeed.

I believe one quality that helped me to earn four promotions in four years, was supporting my boss any way possible. If she talked about a project she wanted to implement or something we needed to get done in the department, I would step in and take care of it. I took things off her plate and followed through. Go the extra mile to help your manager look good. Become an employee who is easy to delegate to and who welcomes new responsibilities.

Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a promotion is to ask for feedback on your current performance. Don’t wait until your annual evaluation. At least quarterly, ask your manager to rate your performance. A great tool is the feedback scale. Ask your boss:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate my current performance?

If he says a ’10’, ask, “What did I do to get such a high score?” (this gives you feedback on what to continue).

If he rates you lower than a 10, ask, “What would make it a 10?” (this gives you feedback on what to start or stop doing).

Also ask what knowledge, skills, or abilities are important to be successful in the position you aspire to, and ask your manager to rate you on each of those factors. This may initially feel uncomfortable, but the way to get promoted is to get as much information as you can to improve your skills and performance.

Be a solution provider, not a problem finder. Don’t go to your boss and point out the problems in the department or the organization. Take ownership of problems and come to your manager with solutions. Even if you don’t know the answer to a problem, think through how you might approach it before going to your boss. Managers don’t need more on their plate. They are looking for employees who will take ownership of their role and bring solutions instead of problems.

Employees are rarely promoted for meeting expectations in their position. It takes some extra effort to show your dedication to the organization and the value you bring. If you take 100% responsibility for your development, you dramatically increase your chances of getting that raise or promotion you have come to deserve.

Now I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been promoted in your career, what did you do to earn the promotion? What advice do you have for someone who wants to move up in their company?

Share your comments below.

How to Get More of What You Want in Life

I recently had the opportunity to attend a week-long conference with Jack Canfield, the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. The event was focused on helping people break through to higher levels of success.

The first principle of success Jack introduced was “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.” Most of us have been conditioned to blame something or someone outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like. But the truth is, there is only one person who is responsible for the quality of life you live: you.

When Jack first introduced this success principle, my immediate thought was that I didn’t have room for improvement. I take responsibility for my life. I don’t blame others for my outcomes. But as we got deeper into the topic, I realized there are places where excuses linger and I don’t take full responsibility.

Most of us have people or institutions that we blame for negative circumstances in our life.

Below are some common examples.

We Blame:

Example:

Government

I can’t save more money because I pay so much in taxes

Parents

 

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, so I didn’t have the opportunities other people had
Boss My boss doesn’t coach or develop me, so I’m stuck in my job
Husband/Wife/Partner My husband doesn’t like healthy food, so I can’t eat healthier
Kids My kids take up so much of my energy, that I don’t have time to see my friends
Weather I couldn’t work out this morning, it was too cold outside
Employees I can’t delegate because my employees can’t handle more work
Lack of time I don’t have time to take a class/travel/call my mother
Lack of money I don’t have enough money to go back to school

 

The problem with blaming is that we give up our power to change our outcomes. We give up our choice. But it’s not the external circumstances that hold us back–it’s our own limited thinking.

Ultimately, the only thing we can control is our response to events. We can’t change the event itself. Psychotherapist Dr. Robert Resnick created a formula to illustrate this:

E +R = O
(Event + Response = Outcome)

Every outcome in life is a result of how you responded to an event. You can’t change the family you grew up in, but you can change your response to the situation and ultimately change your outcome. A past event is in the past–it’s not changeable. We can only impact future outcomes by changing our response to events that show up in our life.

After Jack introduced the typical excuses people make in their lives, I realized that I haven’t always taken 100% responsibility for my life. For example, I was recently complaining to a colleague that as my business grows, there isn’t enough time to focus on marketing my business online and also work with my current clients. I went on to complain that I also don’t love the marketing side of business, but I’m too busy to search for someone who could help me with it. Subconsciously I was making excuses (lack of time to learn how to market online) for not taking charge of the outcome (gaining more visibility online).

Since returning from the workshop, I have decided to take 100% responsibility for this aspect of my business. I am reading a book on effective marketing and watching videos to learn how to implement some strategies. Even though it’s uncomfortable to be stretching myself to learn this aspect of business, I feel empowered that I am taking charge of my results. I’ve decided if it’s really important, I will find the time to do it, and not complain.

How about you: Is there an aspect of your life that you need to take more responsibility for?

I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Why you should never vent to your boss

Several months ago I was facilitating a workshop on communication, and the topic of venting came up. One manager shared that she consistently vents to her boss about challenges in her position, like interpersonal issues with employees or coworkers. She felt since she has a good relationship with her vice president, that it seemed natural to vent to her when she was having challenges. “I need someone to vent my frustrations to so I can feel better. I use her as an outlet,” she said.

Venting can be good in some situations and help a person feel better by talking things out or working through emotions. But you should never vent to your boss. Even if you have a great relationship with your boss, venting can be risky to your career. By definition, venting means “to express one’s thoughts or feelings, especially forcefully”. There is a big difference between venting and expressing your thoughts carefully.

If you have a great relationship with your boss, then occasionally sharing challenges and frustrations may be appropriate and natural. Yet consistently using your manager as an outlet to express aggravations only adds to your boss’s problems. She may start to view you as not being able to effectively handle challenges in your role, and it may affect how she views your performance. Whether your boss is the CEO or a mid level manager, she has a lot on her plate and would probably welcome not being involved in every challenging situation.

When faced with a challenging or frustrating situation, ask yourself these questions:

• What part of this situation can I control?
• What are two or three ways I could resolve this situation?
• How could I effectively approach this person to get the best result? (if you’re dealing with an interpersonal conflict)
• Will I handle this situation more effectively if I take a day to cool down?
• Is this something my boss needs to be involved in, or is it something I can handle on my own?

After asking yourself these questions, if you feel it’s appropriate to involve your boss, then approach it constructively by carefully framing the challenge you are facing and sharing the possible solutions you are considering. If you are seeking guidance, let your boss know that you are open to coaching around the challenge and need some advice or a different perspective.

Most leaders would welcome not being involved in every challenge and gladly allow their employees to resolve their own issues.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What strategies have you used to deal with challenges or frustrations at work?