Toward More Productive Leadership: Seven Tips for Motivating Your Team

Toward More Productive Leadership: Seven Tips for Motivating Your Team by Laura Stack #productivity

"When people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritize their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life." -- Stephen Covey, American educator and keynote speaker. You can spend months defining your team's core values, articulating your Mission and Vision, and fashioning a flexible, up-to-the-minute strategy—but your whole tower will crumble if your team members don't feel motivated enough to execute rapidly and consistently. If their collective attitude boils down to "Who cares?" then you've lost the game before you've even begun. If that's true, then who's at fault? Well, you can blame your team if you like. You can … [Read more...]

Operational Efficiency: Energizing Accountability at the Leadership Level

Operational Efficiency: Energizing Accountability at the Leadership Level by Laura Stack #productivity

In the wake of the Enron scandal a dozen years ago, I saw a cartoon by Wiley Miller that nicely summed up the situation. The one-panel drawing showed an angry-looking man bursting through a door labeled "Accountability Department"—and finding no one there, because the office's sole occupant was hiding under his desk. In the post-Enron era, it sometime seems like accountability doesn't mean much anymore, especially when we see high-level executives duck responsibility for their mistakes or laziness with a wave of their C-Suite Golden Tickets. But these represent exceptions to the rule, not standard procedure. Accountability does still matter. Rampant Self-Honesty If you've made it to a leadership role, then you didn't get there by accident. Your superiors elevated you to the … [Read more...]

Creating an Environment of Accountability: As You Sow, So Shall You Reap

Creating an Environment of Accountability: As You Sow, So Shall You Reap buy Laura Stack #productivity

"A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody." -- Thomas Paine, American Founding Father. "Corporations are like protean bacteria; you hit them with accountability and they mutate and change their names." -- Doug Anderson, American writer. Have you ever asked your spouse or a friend the rhetorical question, "Whatever happened to accountability?" When both business and government seem determined to rescue the worst wrongdoers from the consequences of their actions at our expense, many of us are left asking this very question. Remember the AIG banking fiasco of 2008? Did the perpetrators suffer for their greed? AIG posted a fourth-quarter loss of $62 billion—the largest in history—and received a huge government bailout check as a prize. … [Read more...]

Teamwork Accountability Tips

Teamwork Accountability Tips by Laura Stack #productivity

When you're part of a team, each member affects your productivity and schedule. When others fail to get answers to you, you may be late producing the final product. When you rely on coworkers to review a document before proceeding, a month can go by before you have everyone's input. As leader, it's in your best interest to prod your team to get things done more efficiently, so you can produce better results in less time with fewer frustrations. One way to increase everyone's response time is to arrange a meeting with your team at the beginning of each project, so you can plan it through to the end. Lay out milestones, discuss each member's responsibilities, and set firm deadlines. Outline what you need from each person and when, and have them do the same for you. Do your best to be … [Read more...]

Getting Started: Translating Ideas Into Action

Getting Started: Translating Ideas Into Action by Laura Stack #productivity

"Human beings must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it." -- Albert Einstein, German/American physicist. "Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not." Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers. When it comes to productivity and success, execution trumps all. No matter how well you've designed your mission/vision statement or planned out your strategy, nothing happens if you don't get it done. Ultimately, I think mystery writer Agatha Christie said it best: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." Christie took her own advice to heart, writing 72 books, 15 short story collections, and a long-running play, The Mousetrap. She's still the best-selling novelist of all time, four decades after her death. And she accomplished all this while indulging her … [Read more...]

The Positive Negative: When “Don’t” is the Right Strategic Choice

The Positive Negative: When "Don't" is the Right Strategic Choice by Laura Stack #productivity

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." — Napoleon Bonaparte, legendary French general and emperor. "You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction." -- Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist. The thesis of my upcoming book, Execution IS the Strategy (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, March 2014), is simple: business moves so fast today that you must empower front-line workers to take strategy into their own hands, moving ahead with what works and executing in the moment to maximize organizational success. We can no longer leave strategy to executive teams that plan 3-5 years ahead, because multiyear plans go stale before the toner dries on the printouts. Think about it: Do you remember what … [Read more...]

The Teamwork Triangle: Building a Reliable Workplace Team

The Teamwork Triangle: Building a Reliable Workplace Team by Laura Stack #productivity

"Teamwork is the quintessential contradiction of a society grounded in individual achievement." — Marvin Weisbord, American organizational development expert. "Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare." -- Patrick Lencioni, American author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Many productivity experts focus on individual productivity, even though few of us actually work completely alone. With rare exceptions, each of us fills a slot in a team focused on specific tasks and projects. Team productivity is as crucial as personal productivity, if not more so; but it can be difficult to maintain, since a workplace team can only be as strong as its weakest link. Accordingly, it's your … [Read more...]

Accept the Credit When It’s Due—and the Blame, Too

Accept the Credit When It’s Due—and the Blame, Too. Moving from the “Employee” to the “Employer” Mindset by Laura Stack #productivity

Accept the Credit When It’s Due—and the Blame, Too. Moving from the “Employee” to the “Employer” Mindset Accountable people follow through on their promises, and they don’t blame others if unforeseen circumstances trip them up. They honor Harry S. Truman's favorite expression: "The buck stops here." To what extent do you refuse to blame other people or external factors when things don’t go right? Accepting personal responsibility is challenging, even for otherwise competent professionals. Case in point: before every speaking engagement, I send my client a ten-question email survey to forward to 15-20 random audience members (the responses help me tailor my comments to the group and make sure I'm addressing the correct issues). One of the questions is, "What is the number one thing you … [Read more...]

The Evils of Micromanaging, and How to Overcome Them

The Evils of Micromanaging, and How to Overcome Them by Laura Stack #productivity

For those of you who manage others, let’s begin with a quiz to do a quick check of your micromanagement tendencies. Please read through these questions carefully and answer them honestly, yes or no. What’s true of you most of the time? Do you often find yourself standing over subordinates’ shoulders, directing their work? Do you regularly redo your employees' work, even as a form of instruction? Do you second-guess employees on a daily basis? Do you require sign-off on every task, no matter how minor? Are you convinced of the truth of the old saying, "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself"? Do you work 12+ a day, trying to put out brushfires and rechecking everything you're responsible for? Do you have a hard time focusing on the big picture? If … [Read more...]

Embracing Chaos: The Reality of Modern Leadership

Embracing Chaos: The Reality of Modern Leadership by Laura Stack #productivity

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people." -- Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader "Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people." -- John D. Rockefeller, American industrialist. everything changes. That's the ironic paradox at the heart of our profession—and at some level, it's become essential to the continued growth and development of American business. Change stirs things up, cross-fertilizing ideas and aerating the waters of creativity. We may enjoy equilibrium—and humans certainly find it more comfortable not to have to scramble—but inactivity soon sours into stagnation. You can't rest on your laurels, because some hungry young company will always be pushing the envelope and trying to steal … [Read more...]