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Archive for May, 2016


Handle Problems Head-on

Most of us would rather avoid problems than handle them, but as a manager and leader, handling problems effectively is a skill you need to develop. Often, we jump to a solution without thoroughly analyzing the problem. Before you can attempt to problem solve, you need information. Here are some questions to answer before you focus on possible solutions.Problem Opportunity

  • What do you think the problem is? Take some time to describe your viewpoint of the situation.
  • Who’s affected? Is it unique to your team or department or are areas outside your responsibility involved? Everyone involved in the problem needs to be part of its resolution.
  • Is it transitory or situational? Some problems will resolve themselves with time; you only need to monitor them.
  • What’s the source of the problem? Is it a system or process? Is a person or group causing it?
  • What is contributing to the problem? Are there factors or people who are making the problem worse?
  • What can you do about it? Are there actions you can take to address the problem?
  • Who else needs to be involved in the solution? Sometimes, a problem involves several people with different functions and in different areas. In these cases, it is important to identify everyone who has a part in the solution.

Taking time to research the problem and answer these questions will put you in a better position to identify and resolve the problem.


Is Your Computer Desktop a Mess?

Most of us juggle electronic documents daily, creating files and folders, saving documentation, and sending and receiving electronic information. More and more, our work is becoming paperless! How well you handle electronic documents, including e-mail, has a huge affect on how positively productive you are. Here are some tips.messy desktop

  • Treat your desktop and e-mail in-box just like a huge filing cabinet. Set up folders just as you would for paper documents. Consider categories such as Personnel, Administrative, Vendors, Contracts, Proposals, Customers, and so on.
  • When you finish with a document, file it in the appropriate folder instead of letting it remain on your desktop.
  • Set up a “To Read” folder for documents that don’t require a response or action other than reading. You can open and read these when time permits, and you have removed from your desktop.
  • Create a follow-up system for electronic documents pending additional information. You can also attach them to a date on your calendar if you use Outlook.

What about all those completed electronic documents floating around on your desktop now? Create a folder labeled “Pre-[today’s date] and move them into this folder. Taking just fifteen minutes each day to clear the documents from this folder will eventually empty it. See my blog post Quick Steps to Get Organized for more information.


Coaching Employees to Performance Excellence

In my leadership program, I encourage managers to coach their employees to SOAR. The acronym stands for:Soar

  • S = State the specific behavior you are going to address. Be objective and factual and avoid turning your interpretations into facts.
  • O = Outline what you are feeling about the situation, the behavior, or its impact and help the employee understand the effect of the behavior.
  • A = Address the new, replacement behavior you want and your expectations for change. Focus on the preferred action and be clear and specific about your expectations, so there are no misunderstandings.
  • R = Reaffirm understanding and end on a positive note. Make sure the employee understands what is expected by asking for affirmation. If there is any hesitation on the employee’s part, restate your expectations for the new behavior.

Helping each team member to improve and showing them how to enhance their skills will strengthen your entire team and make everyone more positively productive. Instead of dreading performance discussions, turn them into opportunities to help your employees SOAR to greatness!

Our Lead4Results program gives you tools to take on a bigger leadership role. You can find more information at Lead4Results.


Your Habits Can Make or Break Productivity

Are your work habits productive or do they diminish your productivity? Take this quick quiz to find out.

Do you agree or disagree with the statement?shutterstock_115513723

  1. It’s important to take time each day for routine tasks like filing.
  2. E-mail should be checked as soon as it arrives in the in-box.
  3. Leave e-mails in the in-box if you are waiting for information to finish them.
  4. Assignments from your manager are your number one priority.
  5. If you are stuck on a task, it’s best to keep working on it until you make progress.

Best Answers:

  1. Agree. Taking time each day to stay on top of routine tasks keeps work flowing and avoids backlogs. It’s better to spend fifteen minutes a day cleaning up your desktop than having to devote an entire day to organize a mess.
  2. Disagree. Unless one of your top job duties is answering e-mail when it arrives, don’t do it. E-mail is an interruption, and it can take up to 20 minutes to regain your focus. Set aside time each day to open and respond to e-mail. (Need help with e-mail? See my program Writing and Managing E-mail.)
  3. Disagree. If you can’t complete an e-mail, don’t leave it in your in-box since it becomes clutter. Instead, set up a follow-up folder and put pending e-mails in this folder.
  4. Disagree. You’re probably wondering why I disagree with this statement. Not everything your manager gives you is a high priority. Always ask when he or she wants it done and evaluate that with your other priorities. If you believe something is more important, speak up and explain why you would like more time. Most often, your manager will agree with a later deadline.
  5. Disagree. You lose focus after 60 – 90 minutes, and if you push past this, your productivity drops. However, if you stop and take a break, you will come back refreshed and will have regained your focus. It will be easier to break through what’s stopping you than if you had kept working on it without the break.

Do your habits support productivity? If not, take steps to change them to more productive ones. See my blog post Five Work Habits to Make You Positively Productive for more information.


Getting What You Need from Others

Imagine how much more work we could accomplish if we didn’t have to rely on others to give us the information we need. When people don’t respond to our requests or provide the data we need to do our jobs, it’s hard to stay positively productive. Here are some tips to get what you need from others.shutterstock_85747939

  • When making requests, give the person a reason for the request. For example, “Can you send the payroll data earlier on Friday? I have to leave by one o’clock for a dental appointment.” It’s easier for them to prioritize their work to meet your request when they understand the context of the request.
  • If you find yourself in a crunch because you always receive the information you need at the last minute, send a quick reminder about the schedule and deadlines for routine tasks a few days ahead of the deadline.
  • Never give people the actual deadline. Ask for what you need a day or two ahead of when you really need it.
  • Whenever possible, have a Plan B. Find out if there are alternative ways of getting the information you need.

If this situation happens frequently, be assertive and talk to your coworker about the missed deadlines and explain the effect it has on your priorities and deadlines. Maybe there’s a good reason you are unaware of for the constant delays, and you can find a solution that works for both of you.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you may not be able to solve the problem on your own. You may have to elevate it to your manager or your coworker’s manager. See my blog post How to Manage Lone Wolves for more information.