Four Long Term Productivity Strategies: The Positive Side of Performance Improvement

"Don't lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations."—Ralph Marston, American writer and motivational speaker. Mention the term "performance improvement" to another office worker, especially if you're in management or human resources, and they're likely to fall silent or turn pale. No matter how it's presented, most workers associate performance improvement with the "performance improvement plan," a common method of putting workers on probation and collecting evidence against them before they're terminated. Fair or not, the concept of performance improvement has become connected with that sort of sting. But let’s think about it another way! Ambitious, progressive workers who are truly engaged with their work are always eag … [Read more...]

Five Hints You Could Be an Underperformer… Even When No One Says Anything

“Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?”—William Shakespeare, British playwright After years of loyalty to an employer, you may assume you’re doing good work even when no one takes the time to say it. Possibly you’ve hit a level of stability after struggling for a while, and conclude you must be doing fine, since no one has claimed otherwise. Or you may just feel complacent after achieving laurels and back-pats for doing good work in the past, to the point where you shift into automatic and count on routines to keep you on the right path. Just because no one brings it up, however, doesn’t mean you’re not under-performing. Some managers just assume you know what you’re doing and say nothing. Others may not want to say anything for fear of embarrassing you … [Read more...]

Stress is Only Bad If It’s Bad: Five Instances When Stress Is Good for You

"Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one." Hans Selye, Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist. Stress gets a bad rap it doesn't always deserve. Like millions of us, you're probably wary of any stress, especially when trying to juggle a reasonable work/life balance. But stress doesn't get you in the end: what does is strain, the unrelieved result of too much negative stress. According to mental health researchers, stress isn't always bad for you. They divide it into good and bad categories: eustress and distress, respectively. And you can even convert distress into eustress sometimes. Let's see how stress can sometimes help you. 1. When it triggers positive action. Low levels of stress—or even brief high levels of stress—can spur you into bursts of … [Read more...]

Tapping Into Your SUPERPRODUCTIVITY! Five Rocket Boosters for Success

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."—Francis of Assisi, Catholic saint Have you ever been faced with a large task, whereupon you dismissed everything else from your mind, put your head down, and got to work? How often have you "come to" later, only to find your task is done or near-done—and hours have passed almost without you noticing? I suspect it's happened to you more than once. It tends to happen fairly regularly to those of us engaged with our jobs and genuinely interested in doing well. It's kind of like highway hypnosis, except that instead of just going on autopilot, your mind and body have melded in such a way that you tap into what I call "super-productivity." Here are five ways to enter…The Super-Productivity … [Read more...]

Easy Integration: Getting New Team Members Up and Running Quickly

  "Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they're doing it because they care about the team."–Patrick Lencioni, American business author. Whether functioning as a team leader or a member, at some point in your career, you'll help integrate new people into your work group. (← click to tweet) Boom cycles, personnel turnover and team expansion are common times. Team members get promoted, start their own new teams, or move on to other jobs, while newbies come aboard. While this process can be disruptive to everyone on the team, it's also unavoidable. As with every business challenge, you can find ways handle this issue with a minimum of fuss, and even re-frame it as an opportunity. If nothing else, integrating new people into your team shows upper management your … [Read more...]

Standing Out Above the Crowd: How to Toot Your Own Horn

"Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement." – Anthony J. D'Angelo, self-improvement author and speaker. When I was young and first heard the term "human resources," it took me a while to figure out what it meant. I wasn't used to thinking of people and their experiences, educations, and abilities as "resources," in the same sense that energy, materials, and supplies are resources. But looking at the equation from a hard-nosed business perspective, that's exactly what people are. In fact, personnel represent the most important part of any business equation, though we sometimes lose sight of this fact. As with all resources, smart businesses want to maximize the return on the investment they've made in you; this is why you're occasionally sent to training courses, q … [Read more...]

Subconscious Productivity: Four Ways Your Brain Can Make You More Productive

"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will someday become a reality." – Earl Nightingale, American motivational writer, speaker, and author. It's well established that, like an iceberg, only a small percentage of a person's mind is "above the water," active and aware, at any particular time. I'm not going to spout the over-used claim that you use only 10% of your brain on average; the majority of your brain is, in fact, used to control automatic and autonomous functions like breathing and heartbeat, as well as to process the flood of incoming sensory information you deal with constantly. Besides, this is the mind I'm talking about here, as apart from the brain: the consciousness that the electrochemical reactions inside in your head somehow g … [Read more...]

Managing UP: Four Things Never to Do

"One who controls others is masterful, but one who has mastered himself is mightier still." – Lao-Tzu, Ancient Chinese philosopher. I'm a firm believer in managing up, the process of striving to learn and meet your manager's needs without he or she even having to ask. Despite what it may sound like, managing up isn't about control; it's about anticipation and deliberate action designed to benefit both parties in the relationship. Your leaders need to know that you are always on top of the key items and that you properly communicate your progress without overwhelming them. A wise leader doesn't resent direct reports managing up, because he or she knows that it helps everyone. Remember the TV show M.A.S.H.? Company Clerk Radar O'Reilly not only knew when the choppers were coming, he a … [Read more...]

Four Paths to Lean Office Productivity: Can the Just-In-Time Concept Work for You?

"The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize." — Shigeo Shingo, Japanese industrial engineer. Ever since Toyota invented lean manufacturing, much has been made of its application to all professions, including “desk” jobs. The lean philosophy boils down to this: cut anything in the work process that fails to add value to the end-user. The end-user may be a consumer, one's supervisor, or the group in the organizational structure to which you deliver your final product. Side note: Speaking of things that don't add value to the end user, check out this short clip of how I learned the hard way that my newsletters weren't hitting home, and what I did to fix it: Video - Eliminating Low Value Business Activities A central tenet of lean is "Just In Time" or "JIT" produ … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Avoid Complacency: NEVER Hit Pause on Your Career

"Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive."—Andrew Grove, Hungarian-American businessman and engineer. After finally accomplishing a tough task or achieving a long-term goal, it's human nature to want to sit back and take a breather. “I deserve a little down time,” you might think. The Romans called it "resting on your laurels," because back then a laurel-leaf crown was a common reward for winning an athletic or political contest. The problem? You might feel satisfied because you’ve gotten where you want to be or hit your numbers and rest on your laurels too long. When you’ve achieved a massive goal, I think it’s indeed cause for a celebration. However, getting through a long day of meetings isn’t cause for a mindless day the following. When rest … [Read more...]