Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (R) Leave the Office Earlier
a news"E"letter from The Productivity Pro - Laura Stack
Number 146: July 2011

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In This Issue:
Message from Laura
Feature Article: How Leaders Can Get More Done Through Others: How Micromanagement Can Kill Productivity and Creativity
Book Laura
Productivity Resources
Educational Resources
Time Tips and Traps
Letters to the Editor
Laura's Blog
The Multimedia Minute
Hot Links
Words of Wisdom
Laura in the NEWS
Where in the World is Laura?
Subscription and Contact Information
Reprint Information

Book Laura

Book Laura

Have Laura speak to your company, conference or organization! How do you know if Laura would be perfect for your next event, meeting, or training? View the "Laura Stack Is Perfect For This Group" fact sheet.

Productivity Resources

Buy SuperCompetent Amazon.comTo be successful in the business world and reach your full potential in life, it's not enough to be simply competent. Our modern, super-competitive world is full of opportunities for the go-getter, but to take advantage of them, it's essential to become "SuperCompetent." The SuperCompetent person is one that companies fight to get, fight to keep, nurture as team players, and see as future leaders in their business growth. Available now from and at better bookstores everywhere.

Buy The Exhaustion Cure at Amazon.comThe Exhaustion Cure. A holistic approach to increasing your get-up and go, from the productivity expert whose previous books showed people how to Find More Time and Leave the Office Earlier. Available now from

Buy Find More Time at Amazon.comFind More TimeYou can't add more hours to the day, but Laura will help you make the most of the time you have and get things done. Available now from

Leave the Office Earlier, Leave the Office EarlierLaura shows you how you CAN get more done than you ever thought possible and still get home to your real life sooner.Available now from

More of The Productivity Pro's Resources

Featured Educational Resource from The Productivity Pro®

NEW COURSE! 4 one-hour video lectures, 1 workbook, 1 MP3, 2 eBooks. “Staying on Top of the Inbox: Control, Organize, and Communicate Efficiently with Email.” Normally $130 retail. Use coupon UDEMY1 to get it for $29!  Click here to register.

Words of Wisdom
"If you don't trust your employees or their judgment, and you are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility, you are cheating yourself of the talent you are paying for." -- Dr. Paul Adams, American entrepreneur and author (Fail Proof Your Business: Beat the Odds and Be Successful).

"When you give people the trust and the flexibility to get the job done, they will usually end up putting even more hours in than they ever would have thought to do if you were micromanaging them." -- Steve Harper, American business author (The Ripple Effect).

"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." -- Robert A. Heinlein, American science fiction author

Laura's Blog

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Recent posts:
During Which Period of the Day Do You Feel Most Productive?

What’s Your Personal ROI?

Hot Links

5 Tips to Boost Employee Productivity

How Flexibility Can Boost Employee Productivity

Training Is Key to Employee Job Satisfaction, Productivity

Getting Rid of the Busy Work so You Can Get to Work

Where in the World
is Laura?

These are all private client engagements with Laura Stack. At this time, Laura does not offer open enrollment seminars to the general public. If you're interested in bringing Laura to your organization to present a training seminar for your employees on the day prior or the day after one of these engagements below, please contact John Stack for special "piggyback" pricing.

July 2011

25::Denver, CO

27-29::Anaheim, CA

July 30::Anaheim, CA


August 2011

2-3::Anaheim, CA

9::Denver, CO

10::Denver, CO

13::Bethesda, MD

16::Redmond, WA

17::Greenwood Village, CO

20::Smyrna, GA

23-25::Indianapolis, IN

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29::Denver, CO


September 2011

10::Ann Arbor, MI

14::Quebec, Canada

17::Pittsburgh, PA

18::Columbus, OH

19::Louisville, KY

26::Denver, CO

27::Denver, CO

28::Golden, CO

29-30::Chicago, IL


October 2011

5-9::Coventry, United Kingdom

10::Clinton Township, MI

12::Colorado Springs, CO

13-14::Hartford, CT

18::Bakersfield, CA

22-23::Denver, CO

24::Denver, CO


November 2011

5::Somerset, NJ

11::Dallas, TX

12::Houston, TX

18-20::Phoenix, AZ

21::Denver, CO

26-29::Toronto, Canada


December 2011

5-7::Key Biscayne, FL

15::Denver, CO

16::Denver, CO

17-18::Denver, CO


January 2012

7::San Francisco, CA

10-11::Orlando, FL

12::Palm Springs, CA

18::Salt Lake City, UT


February 2012

3-5::Dallas, TX


March 2012

9::Cleveland, OH

12::Grapevine, TX

14::Grapevine, TX

20-27::Paris, France

28-30::Ghent, Belgium


Visit Laura's Calendar On-line for her complete availability.


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Feature Article:

How Leaders Can Get More Done Through Others: How Micromanagement Can Kill Productivity and Creativity


If you want to destroy worker initiative, blast a hole in productivity, and scribble the bottom line with red ink, there's no better way to do it than by micromanaging your employees. Keeping workers on tight leashes and constantly interrupting them ruins their ability to find thoughtful, profitable ways to do their jobs, and it wastes your valuable time as well.

True organizational productivity requires engaged, informed personnel willing and eager to work toward the organization's mission and vision. And it all starts with a simple concept that's amazingly hard for some people to implement: trust.

Learn to Trust

This can be a tough sell, especially if you've built your organization from the ground up. It's your baby; you know all its quirks, and it can be hard to trust even small parts of it to other people, since you can't be absolutely certain that they won't let it come to harm somehow. But consider this: if you're so distrustful of your employees, then why did you hire them in the first place?

Trust is the diametric opposite of micromanaging, which is based on a lack of trust that others can do their jobs. Your trust for the people who work for you should underlie every decision you make as a manager. Instead of automatically distrusting them, it's to your advantage to assume that they can do the jobs they've been hired to do, assuming the proper training and opportunity.

This may require some serious reworking of your default attitude, but make it your ultimate goal to be able to stand back and give them the benefit of the doubt, as long as they have the experience and can prove their competence. If they can't, that's when you can justifiably ride them and, as necessary, replace them.

You do need to keep an eye on everyone, but only as part of the big picture. Otherwise, give people the freedom and flexibility to get their jobs done. Meanwhile, you can be doing all those high-value things that you get paid the big bucks for, instead of trying to do everyone else's work.

Delegate That Task!

Micromanagers tend to live by the old adage, "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself." But the savvy leader quickly learns that you can't get it all done right by trying to do everything singlehandedly. If you allow yourself to become a slave of your team's day-to-day operations, your own productivity will flag along with everyone else's.

As a manager, your core responsibilities should be things like marketing, growing the business, overseeing (but not minutely controlling) other people's efforts, dealing with your superiors, and, in general, doing whatever brings in the most profits for the organization. Your sights should always be set higher than the mundane, which means that you must delegate or outsource anything that fails to meet your high-profit standards. It just doesn't make economic sense to run around taking care of little things, or handling crises that should be assigned to lower-paid employees.

If you get paid $50 an hour, you should never do anything that earns the company less than that. Even if you have to take steps to fix something a subordinate is doing wrong, whether that involves training or replacing them, in most cases it's still cheaper than doing the job yourself.

Besides: if you waste time on other people's jobs, you'll have to work extra hard to get your job done. Oh, no doubt you're willing to put in the extra time, and that's laudable; but eventually you're going to wear yourself out and start slipping, decreasing your own productivity and making yourself less valuable to the company.

When it comes down to the bottom line, you simply have to push every responsibility you can down to the lowest possible level. Focus on your critical few tasks, handing off everything you realistically can to other people. Again, this comes down to rejecting the temptation of micromanaging and setting your default attitude to "trust."

In this case, let me amend that to "trust, but verify." Just because you hand a task to someone else doesn't mean that you can forget all about it. That's abdication, and it's something you can't afford—because even when you delegate a task, you're still responsible for it. You still have to make sure that it's getting done consistently and on a timely basis. So occasionally, you'll have to check in with your delegate to learn the score and, as necessary, make adjustments. Just don't hang over them like a Sword of Damocles.

Keep an Eye on the Big Picture

By definition, a manager's role is to provide direction for his or her subordinates, which means that you do have to get into the nitty-gritty of problem solving sometimes. This is fine, to a limited extent; but again, don't try to do it all, even when you can. One of the biggest downsides of micromanaging, above and beyond the issues of trust and overwork, is that it requires you to focus too tightly on the details of organizational function. To paraphrase the old saying, you see the trees, but not the forest...and it's your job to keep an eye on the forest as a whole, not just this oak or that sycamore.

A laser-sharp focus is ideal when you're trying to get your own tasks done. It's not so great when you're putting someone else's tasks under the microscope, while forgetting that they're a small part of something much bigger that needs to be taken care of in its entirety. Close oversight must be the exception, never the rule. Otherwise you are, again, hamstringing your productivity, making yourself less useful all the way around. There's another old saying for this kind of thing: pennywise and pound-foolish. When you get right down to it, focusing too tightly on the little pictures while ignoring the big one is like throwing away money.

The higher you climb, the more often you have to stop and take a look at the big picture. You need to thoughtfully determine what really drives the value and results you're looking to achieve, and assign most of your attention to those items. What things have the biggest impacts on the company? What makes these things important? What can you do to make them better? That's what you should ask yourself. If necessary, find a business mentor who can help you widen your focus, based on their own experiences, or educate yourself on how others have done so in the past. There are plenty of books on the subject.

It's been said that the devil is in the details, and perhaps that's so; but if you hire people that you can trust to do their jobs, then by and large the details will take care of themselves. You need to pull back from the individual pixels and look at how it all comes together to make a profit for your organization. Worry about your corporate or organizational strategy first. Put good people in place, get all those other big-picture ducks in a row, and the little things will fall into line with a minimum of fuss.

Encourage Employee Engagement

What would you rather have: a bright-eyed, engaged employee who "owns" her job, knowing that she has a say in how things are done and is therefore invested in the company's success...or a disengaged drone who keeps his head down, does the minimum necessary to scrape by, and cares only for his paycheck? That's an easy enough choice, right? Sadly, though, the second type of employee is at least as common as the first, and they're separated by a wide "mediocre middle" consisting of the partially-engaged and unengaged.

The relationship between employee engagement and productivity isn't precisely one-to-one, but as a rule workers with a high level of engagement are willing to try harder, so they tend to be more productive than people who work only to put food on the table. Engaged workers enjoy and appreciate what they're doing. This makes them willing to go the extra mile, which in turn makes them invaluable.

The equation is simple: more productive workers means higher profits, and engaged employees are more likely to be productive than their unengaged or actively disengaged coworkers. They also tend to be safer, more customer-focused, and less likely to jump ship. To put it another way, employee engagement has a high return on investment...whereas disengaged employees represent a financial drain. Gallup estimates that employee disengagement costs American businesses as much as $300 billion a year in lost productivity.

To engage employees, you must empower them. Let them take initiative in their work, and let them know that they're allowed to. This requires something of a hands-off attitude, though again, abdication is never a good idea. Communication must be your watchword here. It may very well be the most important factor in encouraging employee engagement, and it must be bidirectional. Make your vision and intentions clear to your employees, and allow them to provide feedback on most matters. You may not agree with them, and nothing may come of their suggestions, but it's the opportunity to contribute that matters—and you might just find that they have a great deal of wisdom to communicate, if you'll listen.

As part of your communication effort, you'll need to help each employee understand their place in the company, and how they're contributing when they do their jobs well. Explain both the what and the why, and ask them if they understand their roles and have any ideas about how they can improve the associated systems and processes. This is another place where your understanding of the big picture is crucial; and as they say, when you teach someone something, you're also teaching yourself.

Provide Critical Training

Speaking of teaching, you need to be willing to provide the education and training that your employees require in order to do their jobs effectively. Proper training takes some of the strain off you, and makes micromanaging unnecessary. On the employee side of the equation, good training can:

• Develop critical knowledge and skills.
• Increase awareness of company policies and operations.
• Demonstrate the company's mission and vision, and the employee's place in the corporate structure.
• Encourage engagement.
• Improve motivation and confidence.
• Re-emphasize the need for quality and excellence.
• Promote efficiency.
• Decrease the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
• Reduce turnover.

All this, taken together, can't help but increase productivity. A good training program can also buff the company's public image, help the company stay competitive, and attract more and better job candidates.

The Final Analysis

As is so often the case, the factors I've discussed in this article interrelate in ways that are hard to separate, and can be difficult to quantify. But what it all comes down to is that you must be willing to tear yourself away from the minutiae of your team's daily operations, take a deep breath, and step back. Be flexible. Trust your people. Encourage their participation in the company's success. In short, give them an opportunity to grow and flourish, without being stifled by your constant hovering. Allow them to be creative and productive on their own terms.

Stepping back also gives you a better view of the overall big picture. This allows you to more easily guide your organization in the direction that you and the company want it to go. It's rather like being the captain of a ship: where you really need to be is up on the bridge, overseeing everything, steering your vessel through the straits and avoiding all the reefs and other perils that you can more easily see from your elevated position.

If you spend too much time down on the deck nitpicking a sailor's performance—or worse, hauling the lines and clearing the deck yourself—then you're eventually going to hit something and wreck the ship. And if that happens, you'll have no one to blame but yourself.

Make it a productive day! (TM)

(C) Copyright 2011 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.



Time Tips and Traps
To be featured in this section of our newsletter and get a free eBook with our thanks, send your productivity tip or trick to [email protected] with "Tips and Tricks contribution" in the subject line.

Getting Employees to Trust You

The willingness to develop trust in your employees is crucial if you expect to use your workforce more productively. But that trust goes both ways: to be at their productive best, your employees also need to trust in you and your integrity. They need to know that they can count on you at every turn to do what's best for them, so they can do what's best for the company.

It's only good economics. Your organization works best when you can craft a coherent team, where everyone can depend on everyone else from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom.

You're not there to be their friend, but your employees do need to know that you're there for them: that you have their backs if something goes wrong, and that you're willing to help them achieve their goals and get the training they need in order to do their jobs right. To achieve that, your personal integrity needs to be as tight and unassailable as possible. Be as honest with them as you can, and don't make promises you can't keep. Walk the talk. You need to be above reproach, so that your people can move forward with pride. If you don't lead by example, you'll fail by the numbers.

In addition, be consistent with how you handle both situations and individuals. Tell your employees immediately when they've done well, and if they do something poorly, don't gloss over their failures. Otherwise, they'll never be able to tell when you seriously think they've excelled...and no matter how much they like you, they won't be able to trust you. Never play favorites, either; if someone knows that they'll never be as well-appreciated as the boss's pet, no matter how hard or productively they work, then why should they ever trust you...or work hard, for that matter?

You have to be a true leader in all senses of the term, and do everything you can to help your employees succeed under your leadership. "Tough but fair" may be a cliché, but it's what you need to be if you want your employees to trust you.

Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (r)

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GOT PRODUCTIVITY? Mark your calendars and come to THE PRODUCTIVITY PRO® ACADEMY! You asked for it! TWO FULL days with me, LIVE, in Denver, on October 22 and 23, at the beautiful Marriott Denver South at Park Meadows for a productivity boot camp. Learn how worklife has shifted and what it takes to truly be productive today. The hotel has a workout room, full-service restaurant, great bar, concierge room with breakfast for Gold/Platinum level members, and a Starbucks! I was able to secure an amazing $84 room rate! Limited to 100 people only. Your $699 investment includes a one-year membership in our NEW productivity community, which includes a monthly productivity webinar, a weekly productivity training video, and twice-monthly expert calls with one of Laura’s well-known speaking colleagues. Registration opens soon!

SPECIAL EARLY-BIRD PRICING. To secure your spot before registration opens to the public, send an email by July 15 for a special $599 rate.


Monthly Microsoft Outlook webinar: July 25, 2011

Time: Watch the recording at your convenience or “live” at 10:00AM Pacific / 11:00AM Mountain / 12:00PM Central /1:00PM Eastern

Topic: Module 7: Time Savers and Efficiency Boosters:-Automatic Email Notification, Creating Rules, Rules Wizard, New Item Shortcut, Send/Receive Times, Create Templates for Common Responses, Outlook Template for Letters, AutoSearches, Quickly Jump Around within Outlook, Keyboard Shortcuts, Take a Poll and Tally Results, Specify Which Address Book Opens First, Find Messages with Lightning Speed, Add Groups and Shortcuts in the Folder List, Create a New Toolbar with Favorite Buttons, Add Your Own Menu with Your Favorite Commands.

Cost is $39 and includes a workbook with screen shots and detailed step-by-step instructions and recording. For more information and to register click here.

Monthly Productivity Webinar:

July 25, 2011.


Time: Watch the recording at your convenience or “live” at 12:00PM Pacific / 1:00PM Mountain / 2:00PM Central /3:00PM Eastern

Topic: How Leaders Can Get More Done Through Others: How Micromanagement Can Kill Productivity and Creativity. If you want to destroy worker initiative, blast a hole in productivity, and scribble the bottom line with red ink, there's no better way to do it than by micromanaging your employees. Not only does it waste your time, keeping your employees on a tight leash and constantly interrupting them ruins their ability to find thoughtful, profitable ways to do their jobs. If you're so distrustful of your employees that feel you have to keep an eye on them at all times, why did you hire them in the first place? The true leader quickly learns that the only way to get things done right is not to try to do everything yourself: true organization-wide productivity requires an engaged, informed workforce willing and eager to work toward the organization's mission and vision. In this webinar, I'll advise you on why and how you need to:
• Settle back and trust your employees to do their jobs, while you do yours.
• Delegate when and as necessary.
• Take care of the big-picture items, while letting others handle the details.
• Encourage employee engagement at all levels.
• Provide the training necessary for your employees to do the best job possible.

Cost is $29 and includes the recording. For more information and to register click here.


The Productivity Minute

Recent videos from Laura:

No Nosing in on Family Time

Laura's Demonstration VideoView Laura's Demonstration Video

Letters to the Editor

"Laura Stack gave us several new ideas that we were able to implement immediately within our organization, including scheduling techniques, email management, and meeting protocols. I received emails from participants following her presentation, reporting the early wins they were having with her methods. Comments from attendees included:

• Great examples to show real life application.
• Shared actionable ideas that are immediately applicable.
• She covered a great range of topics related to productivity.
• Great self-assessment opportunities as we went along.
• She was funny and had great examples.
• She knew where people usually go wrong and warned us away from those issues.
• New ideas to think/rethink about the current way I do things.
• Create a “take-away” list for easy steps to get started.

The survey she conducted prior to the training ensured the content was relevant for the audience. I would highly recommend her presentation to leaders looking to boost employee productivity within their teams."

Roger Blythe, VP, Business Analysis

Laura in the News!
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12 Ideas for Overcoming the Pressure to be Super Productive
Reprint Information
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© 2011 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who is dedicated to building high-performance SuperCompetent cultures by creating Maximum Results in Minimum Time® through increased productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today's workplaces. Her books include SuperCompetent (Wiley, 2010); The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books, 2008); Find More Time (2006); and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.