Shooting Yourself in the Foot: Five Ways Internal Competition Kills Productivity

"How can we trust one another if we're competing in a dog-eat-dog culture? Instead of trust, fear prevails." —Evan Rosen, executive director of The Culture of Collaboration Institute. In military and police organizations, the professionals involved are well aware that if they're not extremely careful, their actions can be lethal to co-workers. Navy SEALS call it "blue-on-blue," but it's better known as "friendly fire." This occurs when personnel find themselves accidentally under fire from their own side. Most police or service people with combat experience have stories of tragedies or near-tragedies that occurred during the aptly-named "fog of war." Sadly, friendly fire can kill you just as dead as enemy fire. Friendly fire is common in the workplace, too. While it may not prove … [Read more...]

Easy Come, Painful Go: Four Wrongheaded Productivity Fads We’re Better Off Without

“Never underestimate the human capacity for self-delusion.” – Roger Cohen, American journalist and author. Business fads come and go just as surely as fads in music and fashion, and I've seen too many organizations unwittingly hurt themselves with the latest flavor-of-the-year. The smart ones reverse gears as soon as they start hemorrhaging profits; however, it can take years for some to change course, even when they see the writing on the wall. In this article, I review a representative sample of such fads, some of which you've probably experienced yourself. You may even be a fan. But here's the thing: no matter how shiny something looks, all that really matters in business is productivity and profit. Ultimately you must determine if earning colored belts or making sure every document … [Read more...]

The Rising Tide: Six Ways Helping Your Teammates Increases Personal Productivity

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” – John F. Kennedy. 35th President of the United States. Does a rising tide really lift all boats, as JFK once famously claimed? Politicians like to say so, at least in reference to their favored brand of economics. But cynics have pointed out many exceptions to the "rising tide" meme—you could be stuck in the mud; your boat could be full of holes or overloaded with idiots; you don't have a boat; or someone torpedoes your boat. Whatever your economics, there are always some people who can't keep their heads above water in a particular "rising tide" economy. That said, in the workaday world where people interact in good faith, a "rising tide" of social cooperation does lift all boats. In combination with talent, training, and hard work, helping your … [Read more...]

Fine-Grained Planning: Five Steps Toward Developing Quarterly, Monthly and Weekly Goals

“Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” –Warren Buffett, American businessman and investor. “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, English philologist and novelist, in The Hobbit. To paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower, while plans might prove useless once the rubber hits the road, planning is indispensable. All but the most oblivious of companies, organizations, and businesspeople make long-term planning an essential part of their infrastructure; those who don't go the way of the dodo. It's a harsh type of natural selection that constantly hones productivity and its pleasing by-product, profit. In pursuit of both, over the years "long-term" has been repeatedly redefined as … [Read more...]

Managing Your Manager: Four Ways to Create a Productive Relationship

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” –David Brinkley, American journalist Just because you may lack the title of "manager," that doesn't mean you don't manage other people at work. You manage co-workers sideways, in the sense that you help them when you can and ask for help when necessary. You also "manage up," managing your own manager's expectations for you, as well as getting him or her to do what you want and need. Managing up and sideways helps you maintain smooth, productive relationships with others. It’s not about "sucking up" or flattery. Effectively managing up means you know your leaders well enough to anticipate their needs and support their mission. Here are four ideas on how to do it well: Communicate … [Read more...]

The Work/Life Conundrum: 7 Ways to Keep Personal Issues from Damaging Your Productivity

“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.” –Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, in Man's Search for Meaning. Emotion affects and informs everything human beings do. As such, you may find it difficult, at times, to separate work from the rest of your life. Some people can do it as easily as flicking a switch, but it's rare for anyone to remain completely productive in the workplace while facing difficulties elsewhere. So here are seven ways to help you maintain high workplace performance, even when you’re experiencing issues in your personal life. If your organization has an EAP, take advantage of it. Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) exist specifically to … [Read more...]

Everyone’s Favorite Helper: Six Ways to Maximize the Productive Effects of Caffeine

“Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.” –Alphonse Allais, French writer and humorist. While not all office workers drink coffee, the clear majority imbibe some form of caffeine; and woe betide anyone who breaks the office coffee pot. If you don’t drink caffeine in the morning, you're one of the few and the proud. I salute you—as long as you don't get between me and my Keurig. Tongue out of cheek, caffeine—most often in the form of coffee, tea, or soda—is actually a useful tool for boosting alertness and productivity. It doesn't just perk you up; it also enhances your motor skills, improves cognitive performance, decreases mental fatigue, increases the efficiency of your daily energy expenditure, and more. While you can overdo it and end up with a caffeine … [Read more...]

Practicing Hygge at Work: Five Ways to Boost Productivity Through Greater Comfort

“Just living isn't enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” –Hans Christian Anderson, Danish fairytale writer. The Danes have an interesting approach to work and productivity they refer to as "hygge" (pronounced "hoogah"). Hygge refers primarily to emotional and physical comfort—the kind of coziness that lets you achieve more from a place of contentment. While the rest of the world promotes getting out of one's comfort zone to get ahead, the Danes embrace comfort as one more way to increase individual productivity. Hygge doesn’t mean being complacent—it means having good wellbeing. Think about it: most of us spend more time working than we do sleeping. Something as minor as a bad chair can make you uncomfortable, and we all know we work better … [Read more...]

Maintaining Your Balance: Five Survival Tips When Your Job’s Mission and Vision Shift

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” –Japanese proverb. If you've spent any amount of time in the world, you know the only true constant is change. Everything evolves, from the NFL, to your favorite TV show, to your family, and to your circle of friends. Even your job will change, no matter whether you hop from place to place or remain in one position your entire career. Once upon a time, you didn't have to worry much about the bedrock of your job changing, particularly the mission and vision underlying much of what you do. But as society and technology evolved from roughly 1980 until today, tremors and earthquakes have rocked and even shattered that bedrock, so your footing is rarely solid and assured. This has proven true even in monolithic … [Read more...]

Leading from the Middle: Four Ways “Average” Can Still Be Highly Productive

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller, American business magnate. Average gets a bad rap among productivity gurus. No one really wants to admit that most people are by definition, well, average. They are the middle-of-the-pack, hardworking employees who do the majority of the work in the corporate environment. Many are happy with their positions, happy with their pay, happy with the level of effort they must put in to maintain their jobs. They're the backbone of business. We need people who come to work, do their jobs, and go home. If you're a reader of my blog, you know I'm not a huge fan of average—mostly because, as Rockefeller points out in the above quote, "average" people can learn to perform … [Read more...]