Aim for the Stars: Five Steps to Help You Climb the Corporate Ladder

Aim for the Stars: Five Steps to Help You Climb the Corporate Ladder by Laura Stack #productivity

"You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he be willing to climb a little himself." -- Andrew Carnegie, American billionaire and philanthropist. It's basic human nature to want to better yourself, so it's no surprise that the vast majority of workers want to climb the organizational ladder as far as possible during the course of their working careers. The money tends to increase the higher you go, so rank hath its privileges. Many entry- to mid-level workers look toward management as a goal, and those already in management often want to ascend higher. Let's say you're already middle management and have an eye on the distant gleam of the C-Suite. You can improve your odds of getting there if you: 1. Get down to business. If you've aimed for management from the very beginning, this … [Read more...]

The Fast Beating the Slow: The Need for Speed in Modern Business

The Fast Beating the Slow: The Need for Speed in Modern Business by Laura Stack

"If you don't have a goal, you will score zero even if you run with the fastest speed." -- Israelmore Ayivor, African author and blogger. According to some futurists, there may come a time when technology evolves so rapidly we won't be able to keep up with it. At that point, the future will become completely unpredictable. They call this the Singularity—and some believe it's just around the corner. In the business world, change already moves at a breakneck pace. No longer do three- to five-year strategic plans suffice. As I've pointed out in my latest book, Execution IS the Strategy, static plans go stale within months. Indeed, some companies are reviewing strategy quarterly or even monthly. Front-line employees must have the permission and the flexibility to work with any tactics … [Read more...]

A Better Measure of Success: Value Yourself, Value Your Time

A Better Measure of Success: Value Yourself, Value Your Time by Laura Stack

"How did it get so late so soon?" -- Dr. Seuss, American children's author. What is your time worth? How much do you personally value it? We all think about these questions at some point. However, you may never have seriously considered their implications...possibly because you don't really want to know. But to lead effectively, you have no choice but to learn the answers to these questions. Unlike many things associated with business, you can't replace or supplement time. You get what you get and not a second more. That being the case, the value of your time ties directly into your sense of self-worth. As psychiatrist and writer M. Scott Peck once put it, "Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it." Peck was … [Read more...]

Substance vs. Style: Why Reality Trumps Appearance Every Time

Substance vs. Style: Why Reality Trumps Appearance Every Time by Laura Stack #productivity

"Don't settle for style. Succeed in substance." Wynton Marsalis, American jazz trumpeter. Some people believe that how something looks, or the way you do something, matters more than the substance of that object or action. In rare cases, such as fashion, this may be true; but no matter how wonderful it looks, a charming dress still won't last long if it's made of playing cards or chocolate (and yes, there have been both). Nonetheless, perception creates reality in most people's minds. For example, you might think a person with his shoes up on his desk and his eyes closed is wasting company time, as one efficiency expert did when hired by Henry Ford. After just a few hours on the job, he recommended Ford fire the man. Ford told him the "lazy" fellow was in fact his top idea man, who … [Read more...]

Lighting a Fire: How to Deal With a Slacker on Your Team

Lighting a Fire: How to Deal With a Slacker on Your Team by Laura Stack #productivity

"A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he set out, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts and to second-rate friends." -- Cyril Connolly, English writer and literary critic Business is a collaborative enterprise. Very few jobs consist of one person working in glorious isolation. Even solopreneurs rely on others to get things done, because it’s too much work for a single individual, and we don’t have talents in every area. We humans have accomplished almost every big thing we've managed, from digging the Panama Canal to going to the Moon, by working together and building on the achievements of those who've gone before us. Since teamwork rules in the business environment, having someone on a team who doesn’t shoulder their share of the load can clog the … [Read more...]

Shape the Culture

Shape the Culture by Laura Stack #productivity

Employees make hundreds of independent decisions every week without consulting their superiors. What guides them? Organizational culture. It tells them how to respond to workplace situations, from handling unprecedented service requests to whether or not to risk telling the boss a new idea. Many senior managers struggle with this concept, because they find it difficult to define. Culture is like a cloud: You know it’s there, but it’s nearly impossible to grasp. How do you come to a consensus on culture, and then get dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to think and act the way you’ve agreed on? You don’t, really: culture evolves over time. But you can direct its evolution. Keep these things in mind while doing so: 1. Develop an attitude of excellence for your team to follow. … [Read more...]

The Only Thing That Matters: Trading Theory for Action—and Results

The Only Thing That Matters: Trading Theory for Action—and Results by Laura Stack #productivity

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is." -- Yogi Berra, American baseball manager. "Human beings must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it." -- Albert Einstein, German-American physicist. Procrastination. Perfectionism. Waiting for more information. Fear in all its forms. There are dozens of reasons—probably hundreds—for staying safely within your comfort zone rather than stepping out into the dangerous, prickly world of change. Some may even seem logical. After all, you're going to face change whether you like it or not; so why deliberately add even more to the agenda? Well, there's the old "stagnation is death" argument: If you don't change, you can't grow. But maybe you don't care about growing, just … [Read more...]

Congress, Deadlines, and (Lack of) Productivity

Congress, Deadlines, and (Lack of) Productivity by Laura Stack #productivity

I was interviewed today for a piece on Marketplace, the public radio business and economics program, based in the show’s Washington bureau. I got so fired up I decided to write it down and get your take. I was asked about all of the deadlines Congress faces after the Thanksgiving holiday (to come up with a budget, to avoid “sequestration,” to pass a funding bill, and to raise the debt limit, etc.), given that legislators have already missed or extended many previously. I was asked to comment on the Congress’ productivity and what they can learn from a “productivity expert.” Okay, so first they would have to learn how to be productive. What is productivity? A ratio of input to output. This Congress is the most unproductive in history. If you take the number of days congress has been in … [Read more...]

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...]

Continued Progress Requires Constant Reevaluation

Continued Progress Requires Constant Reevaluation by Laura Stack #productivity

Like that children's song, some workplace tasks just never seem to end (“It’s a small world…”). They constantly cycle, and you can't shift your attention away for long, lest something slip out of whack (sorry for getting that song in your head). As exasperating as this may be, it's the reality. Consider, for example, the constant reevaluation of personal and team workflow. Few things are more necessary—or, in the end, more rewarding. The "good enough for government work" argument doesn't cut it in the white-collar world. So it makes sense to reexamine your tasks regularly, always looking for easier, faster ways to do them. Begin by reading widely in your field, so you know about new breakthroughs and theoretical approaches. Once you have a new workflow process up and running, keep a … [Read more...]