Sharpening Your Tools: Six Reasons Why Mental Fitness Matters in the Workplace

by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE  "To survive, a man needs food, water, and a sharp mind." Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and World War II veteran and POW This isn't a just another blog about how to hone your mental acuity so you can boost your workplace productivity. There are plenty of those out there, and I've done one or two myself. No, this article is about the why, not the how. You may think the why is obvious, but is it? Most people only have a nebulous idea that mental fitness is a good thing—and, of course, they're correct. But it's important to know why it's a good thing in detail, because this makes its value easier to pin down and focus on. There are always the basic arguments for keeping your mind sharp. It may help you live longer and avoid Alzheimer's and other forms … [Read more...]

Managing Expectations: Five Ways to Ensure Co-workers Follow Through

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”—Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II Not so long ago, it seemed most Americans had dropped the word "accountability" from their vocabularies—or perhaps had never learned it. When things went awry, it was never the fault of those responsible, because they refused to be held responsible. Even politicians would admit only that "mistakes were made", hiding behind the passive voice instead of admitting their errors. I feel we've mostly gotten beyond this style of double-think, as the Millennials and post-Millennials — those so vilified by the previous generations of workers before they took over the economy — have jettisoned old, failed ideals and taken responsibility for all aspects of their own fates. The … [Read more...]

Just Doing the Work Isn’t Enough: Four Ways Creativity Matters to Productivity

Whenever you have no blueprint to tell you in detail what to do, you must work artfully. – Rob Austin and Lee Devin, authors of Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artist Work Though most workers let it slip their minds—if they ever think about it at all—Creativity and Productivity have more in common than the six letters both words end with. While the bottom line in the workplace is almost always profit, and you ­can ­achieve productivity without creativity in some cases, your final products are worth far more when you blend creativity with productivity as you work. It goes without saying that in some fields of endeavor, creativity and productivity inextricably intertwine. But even in the most business-oriented venture, creativity should form part of the recipe (← … [Read more...]

Learning New Tricks: Five Productive Practices Millennials Instinctively Grasp

Millennials don't just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it. – Ian Somerhalder, American actor and entrepreneur. In recent years, I've heard managers gripe that Millennials are lazy, needy, entitled narcissists, non-team players with no sense of loyalty. From what I’ve observed in my client organizations, in my personal interactions, and with my own three Millennial children, none of these labels are true. Millennials do indeed have a sense of loyalty—to the causes and the people they care about. Businesses look out for themselves first—why shouldn’t people? More people should have this outlook! You can't expect loyalty when you offer none. The truth in some of the other claims lies in practices Millennials instinctively grasp because of their … [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 … [Read more...]

Three Myths to Ignore About Millennial Colleagues: Stop Blinding Yourself with Sound Bites

"Millennials don't just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it." – Ian Somerhalder, Actor and entrepreneur. You’ve probably heard some negative press about Millennials, the current generation taking the workforce by storm. These young people, born between 1980 and 2000, are hitting the ground running straight from college and business school, and they will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025. Critics of the Millennial Generation call them disloyal, overly ambitious, entitled, and even lazy. Nonsense (←Click to Tweet). While of course there are always individual bad apples, I've found none of those labels to be true as a rule. All three of my children are Millennials. I also love working with Millennials in my client organizations when given the … [Read more...]

Five Reasons to Take Massive Action: Making Busyness Your Business

Five Reasons to Take Massive Action: Making Busyness Your Business

"Do not wait to strike until the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking."—William Buell Sprague, 19th Century American clergyman. One theme I've emphasized repeatedly in my writings is that "busy" doesn't necessarily mean "productive." Just because you're staying busy doesn't mean you're accomplishing anything important. Checking 30 tiny tasks off your to-do list may not prove nearly as significant (or as profitable) as completing one high-priority project. To boost your productivity, work hard and constantly on the high-priority tasks that matter the most. ( Multilevel marketers are fond of the term "massive action." I find this a handy synonym for good, productive work, though some observers disparage the term, assuming it refers only to staying busy, rather than staying busy with … [Read more...]

Business Culture

business culture

[TRANSCRIPT] If you have a culture of tardiness, it’s easy to spot. If a meeting is supposed to start at 2:00, it actually begins at 2:15. This culture of tardiness results in people showing up at 2:15 for a 2:00 meeting, because that behavior has been reinforced and rewarded with no penalties, usually by the leadership. And don’t just brush it off by telling me, “Oh, well that’s just our culture.” It’s rude and doesn’t respect others’ time. If you just waive it off, you’re using it as an excuse to enable unprofessional behaviors. You must work to change the culture over time. Six months to a year from now, you can have an “on time” culture if you call attention to it, create some protocols, and instill discipline in yourself and others who don’t follow the rules. Culture changes based on … [Read more...]

Maximizing Your Results

maximizing your results laura stack

[TRANSCRIPT]  Why should you care about being productive? Why do you want to be efficient, organized, use your email correctly, manage your time, set boundaries, say no, and focus on value? It all comes down to achieving maximum results in the minimum amount of time. If you can be more efficient at work and save 60 minutes a day by using the strategies we discussed today, you can get out of the office on time or at least a little earlier and go home to the people that you love. That is what it is all about. It’s not about saving time so you can cram more in. Productivity is about love—loving your job and family with equal passion and not sacrificing one for the other. … [Read more...]

Change Should Be the Middle Name of Every Business

Top productivity speaker Laura Stack on Change

[TRANSCRIPT] Change should actually be the middle name of every business. In his latest book, Playing To Win, A.G.’s Lafley talks about the five things that every leader should do to execute strategy and get the company to win. And, ultimately, all five come down to change. The companies that don’t change will go the way of the dinosaurs. No one really agrees on what happened to the dinosaurs; however everyone agrees they are dead. And it has something to do with their inability to change. Think about companies like Motorola, Kodak, Palm, Saab, Atari, Myspace, and Borders. What do they have in common? They are either in steep decline or demise because of their inability to stay relevant, to be flexible, and to change. At some level, even though it’s not always fun, we should be glad and … [Read more...]