Total Transparency: Making an Open Book of Your Worklife

Total Transparency: Making an Open Book of Your Worklife by Laura Stack #productivity

"Even the oldest trees aren't ashamed to stand naked." -- Marty Rubin, American author. How transparent is your organization? Does every person in every department have a working knowledge of the organization's goals, mission and vision, and core values? Perhaps your organization even practices a more radical transparency, where any employee can check the monthly numbers, read board meeting minutes, and review proposed policy changes. Some companies also provide access to their capital structure and strategy, stress collaborative decision-making—and even make everyone's salary a matter of public record. This type of corporate-level transparency seems to result in a happier, more productive workforce overall—a lesson to take to heart if you happen to be a manager yourself. People are … [Read more...]

Rest Your Way to Success: The Value of Productive Relaxation

Rest Your Way to Success: The Value of Productive Relaxation by Laura Stack #productivity

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." -- Chinese proverb. When I first read that the average American worker left 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012—three more than the year before!—I was shocked, but not surprised. Even in the waning days of the Great Recession, workers were still overstretched. They worried about taking all the time they were owed, lest they be replaced with hungrier workers while gone. Even today, half of us expect to work during vacations, and a third of us eat at our desks. It might be nice to return to the old days, when office life seemed easier, but I doubt that will happen. The business world is normalizing at a new level, one based on agility, speed, flexibility, and on-the-spot execution. This means that things will never be … [Read more...]

Keeping It to Yourself: Five Things a Wise Manager Never Delegates

Keeping It to Yourself: Five Things a Wise Manager Never Delegates by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out.” -- Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States. As a leader, you know you must delegate many of the tasks for which you’re ultimately responsible, if you’re to be successful in meeting your goals. You know you can’t do it all yourself. Typically, under-delegation is more common than over-delegation, and most leaders should give more away. That said, there are some things leaders should never delegate. Some tasks obviously shouldn’t be delegated, such as the combination for the safe containing the bank's gold bullion, or the passwords to critical organizational computer files; however, sometimes it’s less clear-cut, and … [Read more...]

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office: Engaging Others with Good Humor at Work by Laura Stack

Engaging Others with Good Humor at Work “Right now, this is a job. If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.” -- Jim Halpert, character on the TV series The Office. Clearly, work is no laughing matter. It's where you spend a good third of your life, focused on the things that really matter so you can out-produce your competitors and flood the bottom line with black ink. Some people forget that work is just a part of life—you’re not supposed to live to work—and they become consumed by it. Yes, you should enjoy your work and even be just as passionate about it as your personal life, but don’t take it so seriously! Some people need to lighten up a bit to avoid a coronary (you know who you are). Humor Has … [Read more...]

Four Must-Have Travel Apps

Four Must-Have Travel Apps by Laura Stack #productivity

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it." -- George A. Moore, Irish writer. Unlike some of my colleagues, I've always believed in using travel time to get ahead on my business work. That way, when I get home I don't have to play catch-up; instead, I can spend more time with my friends and family. I'd rather rest from the rat race in my own living room. In my constant search for ways to save time while working, I've investigated or tested dozens of mobile apps that help me complete my work more easily. Most do a good job, but some stand out more than others. Here are four superbly helpful and productive travel apps I urge you to try if you haven't already. (Now that the Wi-Fi is available on some flights, they're more useful than … [Read more...]

That Little Extra Something: Harnessing Your Personal Creativity at Work

That Little Extra Something: Harnessing Your Personal Creativity at Work by Laura Stack

"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." -- Kurt Vonnegut, American author. If it hadn't been for drive-thru banking, fast food would be a lot less convenient. Years ago, a McDonald's vice president was visiting the drive-thru window at his local bank when he thought, "Why couldn't this work for our restaurants?" The rest is history. McDonald's integrated the drive-thru idea into its new stores, and now lots of restaurants use drive-thru windows, including Starbucks. If a store doesn't have a drive-thru window and you're in a hurry to get a burger or a mocha latte, you probably won't even stop there. This represents just one example of the value of unleashing your personal creativity on a work problem. It costs you nothing extra, … [Read more...]

The ABCs of Motivating Your Team

The ABCs of Motivating Your Team by Laura Stack #productivity #leadership

"New Employee Incentive Plan: Work or get fired." -- Hand-lettered sign seen behind the counter of a rustic country store. According to a recent story in Inc. magazine, Brian Halligan, CEO of software marketing firm Hubspot, has a singular way of handling go-getter employees who present him with great ideas with the potential to improve the company's bottom line. He fires them. The punchline? He fires them from their “day jobs.” He then appoints them as the CEOs of their own change initiatives, something like little start-up companies within the company. Halligan refers to this as his Mini-CEO Program, and he does it to both decentralize the company and empower team players. You can bet it motivates the heck out of his employees to do their very best for him, so they'll have a shot … [Read more...]

Butting Heads: How to Argue Productively

Butting Heads: How to Argue Productively by Laura Stack

It’s been said that every person brings joy to others: some when they enter a room and some when they leave it. The latter disagrees just to be disagreeable. But no matter how good natured people are, if you bring any two human beings together, they'll find something to disagree about eventually. The strong personalities inherent in any business endeavor can result in people butting heads at all levels. You might find yourself at odds with a team member, another leader, or with your own superior. When you find yourself at loggerheads with someone for any reason, you’ll want to find the most efficient way to resolve the issue quickly, so you can move forward with the business at hand. Needless to say, I'm not talking about small opinion issues that don't matter in the long run, like what … [Read more...]

Gearing Up For Success: Preparing for a Quantum Leap in Productivity

Gearing Up For Success: Preparing for a Quantum Leap in Productivity by Laura Stack #productivity

"Doing is a quantum leap from imagining." -- Barbara Sher, American speaker, author and goal achievement guru. In physics, the term "quantum leap" refers to an electron's sudden jump to a higher energy state without, apparently, passing through the intervening distance. At subatomic scales, things happen that would never happen in our “big” world. Yet, it’s still such a fascinating and attractive notion that people have taken to using the term “quantum leap” when referring to spectacular feats. While it doesn't quite mesh—quantum effects can't really manifest at human scales—it does serve as a useful shorthand for sudden improvement in performance or productivity. But unlike an electron's quantum leap, the productive equivalent leaves clues as to how it happened. Let’s look under … [Read more...]

Sharing For Success: Smashing Data Silos and Breaking Up Fiefdoms

Sharing For Success: Smashing Data Silos and Breaking Up Fiefdoms by Laura Stack #productivity

"Data are becoming the new raw material of business." -- Craig Mundie, Head of Research and Strategy at Microsoft. Given the importance of information technology (IT) in the modern business environment, IT terms have inevitably leaked into the common parlance of today's office. For example, "data silos" occur when incompatible systems lack an interface through which they can share data. Databases become isolated from each other, and it becomes increasingly difficult to collect all the data needed to make effective decisions. Often this becomes institutionalized. Groups within the organization consider themselves isolated entities, with no need or desire to work together. Some even compete for limited resources. Ultimately, productivity stagnates due to lack of cooperation, … [Read more...]