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19
Jun

Stay Positively Productive During Vacation Season

Summer is vacation season when most of your employees have scheduled time off. While vacation season gives staff needed time away from the office to rest and recharge, it creates challenges for managers who must ensure work is done and deadlines are met. The key to success is planning.shutterstock_95647150

Review the Vacation Schedule

  • Meet with employees a week before their scheduled time off.
  • Have them provide a list of tasks that need to be done, any deadlines or deliverables due, or open issues that must be addressed during their absence.
  • Identify and train back-up staff to handle necessary job duties and activities for absent employees.

Establish Procedures

  • Require staff to set up out-of-office responders for email and create rules to forward key emails to assigned staff or to you.
  • Remind employees to change voicemail greetings and provide back-up numbers for customer assistance.
  • Make sure key customers and vendors are personally contacted about an employee’s absence and assure them of continued service quality.
  • Ask employees to provide you with contact information where they can be reached while on vacation.

Consider Your Options

  • Prioritize deliverables and deadlines to ensure you have adequate resources.
  • Consider flexible scheduling, overtime, shift changes, temporary employees, and consultants to cover absent employees. Some employees may prefer to take time off in short spurts rather than entire weeks. Make this an option if your policies allow.
  • Cross-train staff to develop a pool of knowledgeable resources that can fill in for critical activities during vacation time.

Vacation time may not be easy for you as a manager, but it is needed time off. Remember to take your own vacation and prepare for it just as you want your employees to prepare!

11
Jun

Help Your Team Handle Change

Change is frightening for most people who feel vulnerable and uncertain. As a manager and leader, your employees look to you for guidance and direction during times of change. They take their lead from you about how they should think, feel, and behave about the change and its impact on their jobs. Here are some tips to help you lead your team in times of change.shutterstock_98421482

  • Focus on the people issues. As part of effective change management, the “people issues” must be addressed. Acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety that your employees are experiencing, especially if their roles are changing, or they must learn new skills. Explain the reasons for the change and encourage questions. Listen, discuss, and answer.
  • Identify cheerleaders. Early adopters are eager to embrace the change and are enthusiastic about it. These employees may be younger team members, especially Generation X and Millennials, who tend to embrace change more readily than older employees. They are champions for the change and can influence other employees who may be reluctant or resistant.
  • Handle criticism and skepticism head-on. People who are skeptical about change can be hard to convince since they view change as threatening. They can be critical of not just the change, but how it is being implemented. Don’t wave aside their feelings or criticism; be prepared to address it. Focus on the benefits of the change, keep two-way communication open, and make it safe for them to express their reservations about the change. Reinforce any signs of cooperation from them. See my blog post How to Recover from Negative Criticism for more information.

It is natural to expect a decrease in productivity until employees become familiar and comfortable with a change. Give them time to adjust, make training readily available, and reward those who take advantage of opportunities.

5
Jun

Don’t Let Frustration Derail Your Team

Do you ever have days when you feel like tearing your hair out in frustration—those days when nothing gets done, when it takes forever to get something up the chain of command, when your best laid plans are shot down by a change in direction? Sometimes just keeping up with everything you must accomplish seems overwhelming.

As the pace of business approaches light speed, so does frustration. Too much constant frustration can increase stress, decrease motivation and morale, and lead to illness. As a manager and leader, it’s important for you to create an environment that helps your team handle daily frustrations.Stress

  1. Be aware of what is happening. One factor that contributes to worker frustration is a manager who fails to keep their finger on the pulse of the team. Managers often are so focused on the big picture, they ignore the small, daily challenges. Regularly talk with your team members about the obstacles they face and the battles they are fighting to do their jobs. While you may not be able to effect changes to processes or policies, showing empathy and being open to hear what people say can improve morale.
  2. Challenge assumptions. Just because something always has been done a certain way or a procedure has been in place for a long time doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. Start asking yourself, “Is there a better, faster, easier way of doing this?” Encourage your employees to do the same and seriously consider their ideas. The pace of change that gives rise to frustration also opens the door to new opportunities for process improvement.
  3. Create a positive work environment. Effective managers provide the training and tools their employees need to achieve results. This demonstrates your commitment to the growth and development of your team. In turn, this enhances motivation, improves morale, and creates a positively productive workplace. Find ways to praise employees for accomplishments and encourage them to view mistakes as a means of improvement. See my blog post Does Positivity at Work Really Make a Difference? for more information.

Workplace frustration is contagious; don’t let it spread throughout your team. Instead, act and face it head-on to ensure both you and your team deliver the results you need for professional success.

30
May

Be Positive for Greater Productivity

Positive managers demonstrate confidence that their employees can deliver outcomes. This type of encouragement makes it easier for staff to face and handle change, challenges, and difficulties. When people have confidence in themselves, they tend to be more creative, more productive, and have better workplace relationships.Great job

  • Notice small accomplishments that often go unrecognized to show employees that you are paying attention to them and appreciate even small successes. Allow each team member to be a star in some way.
  • Encourage employees to find their own solutions to problems with minimal intervention from you to bolster their confidence and strengthen their skills.
  • Help them reframe disappointments and mistakes into opportunities for learning and growth and motivate them to continue to deliver quality results.

By spreading positivity, recognition, and praise, your employees will be happier at work and will be more positively productive.

21
May

Avoid Productivity Pitfalls

Being successful requires you to produce the results you need, meet deadlines, juggle conflicting priorities, and lead your team. Despite your best efforts, however, sometimes you are sidetracked. Productivity pitfalls are everywhere, and you may not even know you have stepped into one until you find yourself losing productivity. Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for.

  • Not allowing enough time for a task. Most people underestimate the amount of time a task will take. Even routine matters that come up every month can take longer than expected, especially if you need to rely on others for input. A good rule is to take your initial estimate and up it by 50 percent.
  • Allowing distractions and interruptions. These are the twin demons that quickly lower your productivity without you being aware it’s happening. The key is to eliminate them before they happen. Try turning off your phone or email notification part of the day so you have uninterrupted time to focus on high priority activities. Refuse to let yourself be interrupted. Ask people to postpone routine matters and set aside time each day to deal with them.
  • Lack of focusing on priorities. Establishing priorities and knowing your most important activities allows you to be positively productive. Set aside time each week to review what needs to be done and decide which activities are most important. Use your calendar to schedule time to focus on these top priorities in 30- or 60-minute blocks of time.

Being positively productive is easier when you are on the lookout for hidden traps that drain your ability to produce results. See my blog post Your Habits Can Make or Break Productivity for more information.

14
May

Managing Conflict on Your Team

Any time people work together, conflicts are bound to arise. From simple disagreements to outright warfare, team conflict can negatively affect productivity and jeopardize deadlines. When left unaddressed, conflict can erode morale and lead to decreased motivation. Here are some tools to help you keep the lid on team conflict.shutterstock_2927347

  • Communicate clear expectations for the team. While it’s important for each employee to understand what’s expected of them, it’s equally important that they understand what’s expected of the entire team! Make sure your team knows what contribution they are expected to make and how it supports the overall mission of the organization. Help them see the larger picture, so they appreciate their role in achieving a successful result.
  • Create a culture of inclusion. Help the team accept and respect their differences. Make sure everyone feels safe asking questions, sharing opinions, and suggesting changes. Offer training programs that give employees a deeper understanding of how to leverage differences for greater creativity and collaboration. (See my workshop Bridging the Generation Gap for information.)
  • Set and adhere to behavior standards. Require employees to act with civility toward each other and take immediate action in response to violations. According to Doctor P. M. Forni, founder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins, civility is the foundation of effective relationships. Civility means that we treat others with respect, use restraint before speaking and acting to measure the affect we will have on others, and take responsibility for our behavior.

Build a team where conflicts are minimal, and everyone appreciates their role in making the team successful.

7
May

Give Your Brain a Workout

Just as you need to exercise your body to keep it supple and strong, you also need to exercise your brain to keep it sharp. The more active your brain, the better your ability to make decisions, process and remember information, and be creative. Here are three simple tips to keep your brain healthy.Fruit

  1. Learn something new. Take a class, paint a picture, study a language, or take up a musical instrument. Any activity that requires new, mental effort and challenges your brain to think in new ways is good for your cognitive abilities. Start small and work your way up to more complicated efforts. When you start to feel confident in your skill level, it’s time to tackle something more challenging to keep your brain active.
  2. Exercise your body. Your brain needs oxygen to function at peak performance. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, releases beneficial chemicals, and reduces stress. Physical exercise not only keeps your body healthy, it keeps your thinking sharp.
  3. Feed your brain. You’ve heard the adage, “You are what you eat.” It’s especially true for your brain. A diet of soda, fast food, and vending machine snacks diminishes your ability to concentrate and increases your risk for impaired memory and brain function. Fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins ensure that your body and brain are fit.

Improving brain function is not just for older people; anyone can use these tips to keep their brains sharp and memory strong.

1
May

Beat Energy Slumps

Do you find yourself dragging after lunch, barely able to keep your eyes open? What you eat affects your energy. Foods like soda, candy, and carbohydrates lead to sugar spikes with subsequent energy crashes. If you’re tired of being tired after lunch, here are some tips to keep your energy high.shutterstock_92470498

  • Eat lighter lunches. Choose more vegetables, such as salads, and fewer carbohydrates, like pasta and rice. Eating lighter lunches can give you more time for a post-meal walk. A 10-minute stroll around the block will rev up your energy, oxygenate your brain, and help your body digest your lunch more efficiently.
  • Eat slower. Give your body time to digest your food and signal that you’ve had enough. The faster you eat, the more likely you are to over-eat, which leads to post-meal sleepiness.
  • Eat with attention. Have you ever plowed through a plate of food and realized you ate the whole thing and never tasted any of it? You were busy talking, working, reading, planning, watching television, checking email, texting, or just daydreaming while you ate. It’s easy to eat too much if you’re not focused on your meal.
  • Eat more often. Having four to five smaller meals throughout the day is better than three large meals since smaller meals provide a steady flow of nutrients that keep you alert. You can control blood glucose spikes more easily since it’s those spikes and crashes that turn your energy level into a rollercoaster ride.

Other factors also contribute to afternoon sleepiness, such as stress, poor sleeping habits, lack of exercise, and so on. See my blog posts Feeling Burnout?, Is It Stress or Eustress?, and When You’re Just Too Tired to Work for more information on how to be more positively productive.

23
Apr

E-mailing for Results

E-mail is the backbone of business communication, and it causes most of our headaches! Having an in-box jammed full of e-mails that you need to read or have read and need to file can negatively affect your ability to be positively productive. Try these e-mail management tips to be more efficient with e-mail.red-letterbox

  • Control your in-box. Take time to move every completed e-mail out of your in-box. You can easily do this by setting up a file folder labeled “Pre-[today’s date].” Just highlight all completed e-mails and move them into this folder. Take 15 minutes a day to go through them and file or trash them. Eventually, this folder will be empty.
  • Create rules to handle incoming e-mails. To set a rule, identify search terms. When these terms are found, the corresponding e-mails are automatically sent into specific folders that you have set up. For example, you can set a rule so that all e-mails with your manager’s name are sent to a folder with your manager’s name.
  • Write e-mails for easy responses. I recommend using a keyword in the subject line. A keyword is the first one or two words of the subject line, and it tells the recipient what the e-mail is about. For example, Decision Needed, Review by [date], and Approval Needed are all good keywords.

 

Don’t let e-mail derail your ability to be positively productive! For more help with e-mail, see my workshop Writing and Managing E-mail.

16
Apr

Help Your Team Deliver Exceptional Customer Care

Landing new customers often is a lengthy, expensive process, and sometimes we become so focused on bringing in new business, we expend too little effort in keeping the customers we have. Cultivating our current customers and delivering care that goes beyond our competition needs to be a primary focus of your entire team. Here are some skills that will sharpen their customer service delivery.shutterstock_147498467

  • Mindful listening. Mindful listening is the ability to stay present with the customer through the entire conversation. More than just parroting what the customer says, it involves showing empathy and understanding of what the customer is feeling. Require your employees to stop multi-tasking when working with a customer, especially when they are on the phone. Mindful listening requires them to put their complete attention on the customer with an intention of meeting their needs.
  • Good questioning. Open-ended questions generate discussion and add information; closed-ended questions stop conversation. For example, “Does this take care of your issue?” is a closed-ended question with only a yes-or-no answer. On the other hand, “What else do we need to consider or review?” is an open-ended question that keeps the conversation going.
  • Silence. Being silent is hard for many people, yet it is a powerful communication skill to use. Never expect an immediate response to a question; give the person time to respond since some people need more time to process information than others do. Encourage your employees to be quiet and give the customer time to consider their answer.

Encourage your staff to look for ways to make every customer interaction an opportunity to reinforce and deepen the relationship. Mindful listening, good questioning, and being silent are three powerful tools that demonstrate emotional intelligence and show respect for the customer.

Need more customer service tools? Check out my newest workshop Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.