Are You Seeing Your Offerings Through Your Customer’s Eyes?

Are You Seeing Your Offerings Through Your Customer’s Eyes? by Laura Stack #productivity

Three weeks ago, I was working with 25 sales leaders of a large financial services corporation. We were discussing workflow and how to create an effective task management system. Seeing that they were all furiously taking notes, I told them they could instead download a free eBook I’d put together with screenshots and step-by-step instructions on how to use Microsoft Outlook Tasks correctly (text the word PRODUCTIVITY to 41411). They excitedly pulled out their phones and followed the instructions. So far so good. About two minutes later, a man furrows his brows in confusion, looks over at his neighbor’s cell phone, and starts whispering to her. At the break, I wander over to see what the problem is. He shows me his cell phone. He successfully opted in and confirmed the autoresponder. Che … [Read more...]

Missing in Action: Coordinating with a Boss Always Out of the Office

Missing in Action: Coordinating with a Boss Always Out of the Office by Laura Stack

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." – John C. Maxwell, American author and speaker. Most managers do a decent job of wrangling their teams, maintaining training schedules, keeping track of projects, and providing the overall guidance their teammates require in order to complete their assigned projects—and typically, they do it in person, from the same location as their team. But in any large organization, you'll find the occasional leader who, through no fault of their own, isn't often around. (<--Click to Tweet.) Sometimes they just don't work in the same office as the rest of the team, or can't come in often for various reasons. This may include leaders who work from home, who have to travel constantly for work, who prefer a hands-off attitude, or who … [Read more...]

Ask or Act? The Different Levels of Initiative

Ask or Act? The Different Levels of Initiative by Laura Stack #productivity

“When you believe in what you're doing and use your imagination and initiative, you can make a difference.”—Samuel Dash, American law professor and chief council of the Senate Watergate Hearings in 1974. For decades—in article after article, book after book—business and motivational writers have urged you to take more initiative in your work. They tell you it’s the only real way to become 100% committed to your organization and “own” your job. High engagement ensures high productivity, as long as you make sure you maintain a healthy work/life balance. I think most business leaders genuinely believe this. But we must be doing something wrong, because time and time again, pollsters point out that fewer than 35% of white collar employees are fully engaged, with another 50% not engaged an … [Read more...]

Written Work Commitments: Stroke of Genius, or Total Timewaster?

"People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine." -- Brian Tracy Most of us work in “at-will” jobs, meaning our companies can terminate us whenever they want, without warning; then again, we can leave whenever we want. Contractual obligations bind neither side. With the exception of high-level execs who insist on them to protect their interests, contracts aren't often seen in the workplace nowadays. But maybe they should be, in a looser, less-binding sense than traditionally used. As a leader, have you ever considered the concept of written work commitments for each of your team members, so you can evaluate how you’re all progressing every quarter? This isn't a traditional contract that would need to be revie … [Read more...]

Get Back On the Horse: Recovering After a Bad Decision

Get Back On the Horse: Recovering After a Bad Decision by Laura Stack

"Sometimes you make choices, and sometimes choices make you." -- American writer Gayle Forman. No matter where you stand in the company hierarchy, no matter how well you've done your due diligence, and no matter how careful you are before committing yourself to a course of action, sometimes you're going to crash and burn. Bad decisions are inevitable, and they're rarely obvious except in retrospect. I’ve taken speaking engagements that, looking back, I shouldn’t have agreed to accept. It was a bad decision, and I wish I hadn’t done it. But I learned a lot through the process. Sure, you can minimize the occurrence and impact of mistakes, but short of hiding in your office and refusing to make any decisions at all, you'll never be able to avoid them. Your leaders expect you to make decis … [Read more...]

Three Synergistic Partnerships

Three Synergistic Partnerships by Laura Stack #productivity

Sometimes, separate components can come together to form something far more valuable than the sum of its parts: a new chemical, a cake, a family, a business, a partnership. We call this "synergy." It's like the miracle of compound interest, if you think about it: one plus one equals way more than two. We've recognized the value of synergy throughout history, but it was only in the twentieth century that the great Buckminster Fuller created a term for it. We often see synergy in teamwork situations, where individuals lend their strengths to a collaborative framework in such a way that the contributions slot together perfectly, growing into a greater whole that expands beyond their limits. Ideally, this is what we're all reaching for as we build and shape our teams. When conditions are … [Read more...]

Clearing the Errors: Fixing Six Common Mistakes in the Corporate Environment

Clearing the Errors: Fixing Six Common Mistakes in the Corporate Environment by Laura Stack #productivity

"The first mistake in public business is the going into it." -- Benjamin Franklin, American politician, publisher, and inventor. Despite Ben Franklin's tongue-in-cheek observation, as quoted above, we Americans insist on "going into public business." The tendency arises naturally from our capitalistic system, where we can make good lives for ourselves if we work hard and follow a few logical rules. But as organizations grow and age, institutionalized mistakes creep into the workflow. Some seem obvious with a little self-analysis, some less so. In this article, I'll take a look at half a dozen that you, as a leader, should keep an eye out for. 1. Lack of a clear mission and vision. If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Formulate simple, clear-cut … [Read more...]

Shaping Your Destiny: Aligning Your Mission With Your Organization’s

Shaping Your Destiny: Aligning Your Mission With Your Organization's

"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer and Philosopher. Independence has always been a part of the American character, from frontiersmen hacking farms out of the wilderness to modern-day entrepreneurs hacking niches out of the marketplace. As a nation, we're well aware of this; after all, this is the Land of Opportunity, where rags-to-riches stories are a dime a dozen. As the statesman William Jennings Bryan once pointed out, "Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved." Bryan is a case in point, a man born to relatively modest means who graduated as valedictorian of his college in 1881, then went on to serve as Secretary of … [Read more...]

Encourage Change Hardiness

Encourage Change Hardiness by Laura Stack #productivity

The only constant in business is change. One way or another, waves of transformation constantly flow through most organizations as they fight to get or stay ahead in the competitive global marketplace. So keep these pointers in mind while dealing with change: 1. Don't make changes for change's sake alone. We've all experienced the “new broom sweeps clean” effect, suffering as a fresh leader came onto the scene and changed everything just because he or she could—regardless of how well the existing system functioned. Whenever this happens, chaos reigns and productivity plummets, and sometimes it never recovers. 2. Accept change as inevitable. Many changes are desirable, so greet change as a friend; go with the flow, and view it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Conservatism has its p … [Read more...]

The Execution Continuum: Your Means of Spinning Victory from Chaos

The Execution Continuum: Your Means of Spinning Victory from Chaos by Laura Stack #productivity

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."—Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the U.K. "Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment." -- Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, American authors of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. As with so many other things, business has borrowed the concepts of "strategy" and “tactics” from military and games theory, where the two are typically regarded as discrete if interrelated topics. When business still moved at human speed, we could afford to consider them separately. In the Electronics Era, we no longer can. We need to perceive tactics and strategy as what they truly are: points on an Execution Continuum, along with several other critical ele … [Read more...]