Looking Back on What Worked and What Didn’t: Conducting a Project Post Mortem

Looking Back on What Worked and What Didn't: Conducting a Project Post Mortem by Laura Stack #productivity

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result."—Attributed to Albert Einstein, German-American physicist. If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term "post mortem" is a medical examiner or the novel by Patricia Cornwell, then you're in good company. But the term is useful for more than describing autopsies; it also has a long history of use as a business term, at least when applied to recently finished projects. The idea here is to examine the entire venture, from beginning to end, and identify two categories of actions: things you and your team did right, and things you did wrong. That said, don't treat a project post mortem as a blame game. Use the process as a teachable moment so you can move forward confidently, having l … [Read more...]

Filling Big Shoes: Living Up To and Surpassing Your Predecessor’s Reputation

Filling Big Shoes: Living Up To and Surpassing Your Predecessor's Reputation by Laura Stack

"I've got big shoes to fill. This is my chance to do something. I have to seize the moment."— Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States.   In just about every field of endeavor, you start out at or near the bottom (depending on the extent and quality of your education), and have to work your way up from there. According to the Peter Principal, you also rise to your highest level of incompetence; this takes quite a while for the best of us. When you're promoted into a new position, you'll most likely fill the gap left by someone who's either lost their job due to incompetence, or who was competent enough to win a rung slightly higher up. It doesn't really matter which; you still want to wow your superiors with your sheer ability and high performance levels. But on o … [Read more...]

Leader as Visionary: 4 Ways to Bring Your Vision to Life

Leader as Visionary: 4 Ways to Bring Your Vision to Life by Laura Stack #productivity

Clear communication is important in all directions, upward and laterally as well as downward. You'll have to learn to ar­gue effectively and productively with others at or above your responsibility level—because no matter how good-natured people are, if you bring any two together, they'll eventually find something to disagree about. Here's how you can argue your point productively, so ev­eryone can move quickly through the dispute phase and get back to work. 1. Get All Your Ducks in a Row. Prepare your argu­ments and have your facts straight. Run your thoughts by neutral people and ask them to shoot holes in your argument. You may find your position fails when other factors are brought up, or your view simply has less merit than someone else's. If this proves to be the case, admit you … [Read more...]

Running a Tight Ship: 4 Ways to Maximize Efficiency

Running a Tight Ship - Laura with the Captain's Hat by Laura Stack #productivity

Maximizing personal and team productivity requires notable efficiency. Make sure these practices get your attention: 1. Leverage Technology. Embrace and encourage new trends, devices, and software as they appear. Let your workers use their own devices for business purposes if they want. Why not take advantage of a productivity source you don't have to pay for? Meanwhile, provide instant "anywhere" access to workplace information. Let team members work from alternate locations with Wi-Fi when it's practical. When a member of my office manager's family is ill, it's easy to let her work from home for the day, so she can still be productive. With Wi-Fi, Evernote, and all the snazzy apps we have access to, workers can tap into work information no matter where they are. Give them a secure, … [Read more...]

Four Training Tips: Maintaining Your Team’s Competitive Edge

Four Training Tips: Maintaining Your Team's Competitive Edge by Laura Stack #productivity

Regular training for your employees is integral to productivity and profitability, meaning it's something you should never take for granted. Among other things, training: 1. Improves Confidence and, Therefore, Performance. When people know they've been equipped to do their jobs properly, it boosts their spirits and reassures them they can achieve levels of competency and productivity they haven't realized in the past. Further, when employees understand why their work matters and how to do it, they're more likely to hit the mark or go above and beyond. 2. Saves the Company Money. Well-trained employees make fewer errors and require less direct supervision. Furthermore, they spend less time thinking about problem solving, because they already know what to do. Consistent training also … [Read more...]

The Information Flood: 5 Lifelines to Save Leaders

The Information Flood: 5 Lifelines to Save Leaders

The only way to overcome "infobesity" is to triage merci­lessly, reducing the amount you take in forever. Keep these tips in mind as you work toward stemming the info-tide. Limit Your Exposure to External Information at Work. Instead of checking social media during your lunch and breaks, actually take those breaks. Eat, talk to people, go for a walk—just get away from your desk. You have enough work-related information to deal with. If you check the news, don't let links and ads to drag you off in unproductive directions. Check Your Email As Little As Possible. Focus on email several discrete times a day, rather than keep­ing your inbox open and constantly monitoring it. I process email five to seven times a day, getting the inbox down to zero (using Outlook's "Move to Tasks" fun … [Read more...]

Whip Your Meetings Into Shape: 4 Tips for Maximizing Leadership Productivity

Whip Your Meetings Into Shape: 4 Tips for Maximizing Leadership Productivity

As you can likely attest, most business meetings waste pro­ductive time and last far longer than they should. But until we learn to communicate telepathically, meetings will remain a necessary evil—not only as a means of exchanging ideas and information, but also as a way of building relation­ships with others. That doesn't mean you have to like them, but you can cer­tainly make them more tolerable by applying these tips: Decide If the Meeting Is Even Necessary. Can you handle the issue with a few emails or a conference call? If so, do it. Why call a full meeting if you don't need one? Start On Time. If people don't arrive on time, tough. Start when you agreed to, and don't start over just because individuals arrive late. Latecomers can check the minutes later to find out what you … [Read more...]

The Carrot and the Stick: Choosing the Right Motivators

The Right Motivation by Laura Stack

Forget offering bored employees the same old brass rings to grab for. Make them want to go for the gold. I don't necessarily mean financial motivation, though that may help. What they really need is purpose: a chance to excel at something that matters. Here's how to help them avoid boredom: Keep the Communication Lines Open. Touch base regularly with your top employees, allowing them open access to you. Stay alert for signs of boredom. Ask them what they're working on that excites them—or what would excite them if nothing currently does. Offer Them Tasks With a Real Chance of Failure. You likely have blue-sky projects that could be extremely profitable if done well. They're challenging enough that most people can't achieve success, so hand these to your bright but bored. The i … [Read more...]

Taking Your Team from Good to Superior

Taking Your Team from Good to Superior by Laura Stack #productivity

Why do merely good companies still outnumber the superior ones by a factor of hundreds to one? The problem isn't the concept of moving from good to great to superior; it's the implementation. Leadership frequently fails because we can't see our greatest flaws. It's not just a matter of not seeing the forest for the trees; too often, we can't see our flaws because we aren't humble enough to accept a forest exists at all. So I recommend the following four practices: 1. Set Aside Your Ego. You are not your company, your division, or your team. You lead and represent them, and therefore have an obligation to provide vision and guidance in all things. So when you make a decision, don't assume that because it works for you, it works for everyone. Step up to the plate, lead by example, and … [Read more...]

Promises for the Future: 5 Ways to Set Goals as a Team

Promises for the Future: 5 Ways to Set Goals as a Team by Laura Stack #productivity

Teamwide goal setting is crucial if you expect to maximize and maintain your productivity. Your team members must always be clear about what your goals are, and how you'll get there; that should be a given. But realize that some of your team members will have a better understanding of goal-setting than others, so it's up to you to make sure they all stay on the same wavelength. Start With Individual Team Members. You'll find it easier to establish team goals if individual members also have personal goals to reach for. Chris might want to make $150,000 annually by the time he's thirty-five, while Jane may prefer to move up the management ladder toward CFO. As you learn your team members' personal and professional development goals, help them find ways to weave those goals into the … [Read more...]