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Archive for September, 2013

26
Sep

How to Be Available for a Virtual Team

Many employees work from home part or all of the time, are on the road traveling for work, or work in field offices. But even if you work in the same office as your employees, you are probably gone a lot with meetings and obligations that take you outside the office. An absent manager can be either a benefit or for a team.shutterstock_85747939

It’s good if both manager and staff know how much authority they have to act alone, the manager trusts them to make decisions, and gives them autonomy. This can help develop their leadership skills. On the other hand, in a less supportive environment, having an absent manager is a mine field. Employees feel disempowered and fear making a decision since there could be repercussions if it is wrong. Problems don’t get solved, communication is non-existent, projects are delayed, and morale is poor.

So what can you do if you are an absent manager to help your employees succeed in your absence? Here are some tips:

  • Find ways of being available virtually. Use text messaging for quick questions and responses, check email often, and set up dedicated e-mail inboxes for staff questions only.
  • Hold virtual meetings. Use technology to meet virtually with your team at least bi-weekly to reinforce their activities and be available for “face-to-face” discussion.
  • Show up in person. That’s right. Schedule set times to meet in person in the office with your team. No communication is more effective than in-person communication.
  • Make sure employees know what is expected. Creating clear performance plans and job descriptions are good tools for keeping employees on track when you are not around.
  • Provide training and resources. Make sure employees have the tools and skills they need to work independently.

The bottom line is creating an environment of trust and empowerment where employees are accountable for producing results.

19
Sep

How to Gain an Hour a Week

shutterstock_134787386What would you do with an extra hour each week? More work? Relax? Read a book? Hang out with friends? Most people think finding an extra hour in their busy schedules is impossible—but it’s not.

One hour is 60 minutes. Divided by five days in the workweek is 12 minutes per day. You can gain an hour a week by being more positively productive and effective for just 12 minutes a day.

Here’s how you find those 12 minutes:

  • Focus on a single activity in 30-minute spurts of concentrated time.  See last week’s blog Focus Produces Results. When you improve your ability to focus, you will be more productive, accomplish tasks faster, and gain time.
  • Be more efficient. Bundle like activities into pockets of time. Set aside specified times during the day to do all the photocopying, return phone calls, read and respond to e-mail, and any other repetitive task. When you focus on a single type of activity for a period of time, you create momentum and perform the task faster and more efficiently.
  • Reign in “water cooler” chat. While networking with fellow employees is important, do it wisely and don’t let it eat up your day. Remember, your goal is to find one extra hour in the week. Don’t give that up for 10 minutes of meaningless chatter about last night’s game.

When you pay attention to how you use your time and actively search for ways to be more productive and effective, you will quickly discover that it is easy to find an extra hour each week. In fact, you may discover even more time! For more tips, see my blog post Avoiding Productivity Pitfalls

 

 

12
Sep

Focus Produces Results

William James, father of American psychoanalytic theory, was once asked how long can the mind hold a single thought. He replied, about four seconds.

Four seconds.shutterstock_82054228

That means that every minute, your attention is wandering 15 times!

The ability to focus is a critical factor in being positively productive and getting things done.  Focus can be learned, and here are some tips to help you reign in that wild mind and harness it for greater productivity.

  • Get enough sleep. It’s hard to focus when your brain is tired.
  • Take breaks every 60 – 90 minutes. Get away from what you are doing. You will return to the task refreshed and have more focus than if you force yourself to push forward without letting up.
  • Stop multi-tasking. Doing more than one activity at a time actually makes you less productive since your focus is fractured.
  • Manage interruptions. Don’t break focus to answer the phone, check e-mail, or visit with people. As I teach in my GO Program, when you are interrupted, it can take up to 20 minutes for your focus to return to what it was before the interruption. Ask if the interruption is worth a lost 20 minutes.
  • Practice focusing. Set an alert for 30 minutes and commit to remaining focused on the task at hand for that entire time. You will be amazed at how much you accomplish with a period of solid concentration.

Focus takes practice. Use these tools and improve your ability to be positively productive.

Next week in the blog, discover how you can use focus to find an extra hour each week!

5
Sep

How to Clear the Air after a Conflict

Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. People bring different preferences, expectations, and styles to the office. No matter how strong your team is, there will be times when people face off on opposite sides of a situation.shutterstock_48944713

When people are under deadline to produce results, tensions can mount, tempers flare, and things may be said in ways that offend. Even after everyone apologizes, there can be “hard feelings”—resentments that prevent people from moving forward productively.

Here are some tools to help clear the air after a conflict:

  • Be objective. Put yourself in the other person’s position and honestly acknowledge how you are contributing to continued tension.
  • Meet with the other person. Choose a neutral place outside the office. Depending on your previous relationship with him or her, go for coffee, meet at a park bench, have lunch. Do something that creates a more relaxed environment.
  • Be honest and forthcoming. Explain how you feel and your desire to mend the relationship.
  • Focus on specifics. Ask the other person for specifics about their perception of the situation and your behavior. Their perception is their reality. It may not be yours. Remember, neither of you are right—or wrong! Whatever the person’s response, stay calm and cool. Your goal is to mend the relationship, not start the conflict over again. See my blog post How to Stay Calm with Upset Employees.

These tips can go a long way toward clearing the air after a conflict. Allow for some time to pass, and if you still feel that the relationship needs work, consider asking a neutral third party to step in.