Five Reasons to Take Massive Action: Making Busyness Your Business

by Laura Stack

“Do not wait to strike until the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”—William Buell Sprague, 19th Century American clergyman.

Five Reasons to Take Massive Action: Making Busyness Your Business

One theme I’ve emphasized repeatedly in my writings is that “busy” doesn’t necessarily mean “productive.” Just because you’re staying busy doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing anything important. Checking 30 tiny tasks off your to-do list may not prove nearly as significant (or as profitable) as completing one high-priority project.

To boost your productivity, work hard and constantly on the high-priority tasks that matter the most.  Multilevel marketers are fond of the term “massive action.” I find this a handy synonym for good, productive work, though some observers disparage the term, assuming it refers only to staying busy, rather than staying busy with intent. I see this as an over-simplification based on false assumptions.

The naysayers seem to assume you take massive action without planning ahead. That’s like assuming a traveler will just take off on a long trip without planning the route, putting gas in the car, and checking the oil and tire pressure. While some people really are this spontaneous, smart travelers always take a few moments to prepare before they start driving. Action should take place only after you’ve decided what target to hit and how. You do have to take action, though; sitting around and expecting the universe to reward you for happy thoughts won’t work.

Of course, you still have daily “housekeeping” tasks that must be done, including handling email and attending meetings, especially if you can’t delegate everything else at this point in your career. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take massive action on what’s most important once you get the small tasks out of the way or even in between.

Here are five reasons to take massive action in your work life:

1. To forestall the paralysis of analysis. Despite the old saying, knowledge isn’t power until it’s ignited with action. Sit and think too long, and you’ll never complete anything. Once you decide to do something and have enough ducks in a row, just do it. Handle the details on the fly. Even if they seem a bit sketchy when you begin, you can flesh them out as you go. The final result may not be perfect, but at least it will be done. If necessary, you can fix it later.

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Improved Communication: 3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Team’s Productivity

by Laura Stack

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” –Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American father of management theory.

One of the things separating us from the animals is our ability to communicate easily and clearly. If fact, communication has helped us greatly widen that gap in the millennia since the first meaningful words left a human throat.Improving-Communication-carrier-pigeon

We’ve even adapted to speech biologically, with a special bone (the hyoid) that exists mostly just to support the tongue. If a clear communication method had never come about, we might never have invented writing, and our culture would have stalled in the Neolithic—if not earlier.

Every day, communication methods continue to improve, in ways both cultural and technological.  In this blog, I’ll suggest three basic ways to improve your ability to get your point across with increasing precision.

1. Hone Your Team Communications Skills

I can’t overstate the importance of open communication with your team. Unless you work for a corporation where client confidentiality requires compartmentalization, keep all team goals, imperatives, initiatives, and strategic alignments as transparent as possible. This helps your teammates find reasons to own their jobs and increase their engagement and discretionary effort. Learning which communication methods work best for each team member; using simple, clear language; listening to what others have to say; creating and maintaining a receptive atmosphere; and avoiding repetition will all save time and ensure productivity.

Encourage all these concepts among your team members, as well; and needless to say, act as a role model. Along the way, focus tightly on what you’re trying to say, say what you mean—and never let your body language undermine your verbal message. If you have a nervous habit or tic someone might construe as negative body language, get it under control. Continue reading

Four Training Tips: Maintaining Your Team’s Competitive Edge

by Laura Stack

computer-libraryRegular training for your employees is integral to productivity and profitability, meaning it’s something you should never take for granted. Among other things, training:

1. Improves Confidence and, Therefore, Performance. When people know they’ve been equipped to do their jobs properly, it boosts their spirits and reassures them they can achieve levels of competency and productivity they haven’t realized in the past. Further, when employees understand why their work matters and how to do it, they’re more likely to hit the mark or go above and beyond.

2. Saves the Company Money. Well-trained employees make fewer errors and require less direct supervision. Furthermore, they spend less time thinking about problem solving, because they already know what to do. Consistent training also decreases employee turnover—a big drain on corporate costs.

3. Earns the Company Money.
While money saved is equivalent to money earned, directly fattening the bottom line makes people sit up and take notice. A few years ago, Nations Hotel Company invested heavily in coaching and saw an ROI of 221 percent.

4. Increases Employee Productivity. Motorola long since realized that every dollar invested in training can yield as much as a 30% gain in productivity within three years. That let the company cut costs by $3 billion and increase profits by 47 percent in 2000 alone. According to another report—”The 2001 Global Training and Certification Study” by testing firms CompTIA and Prometric—as little as a 2% increase in productivity can result in a 100% increase in training ROI.

Researchers have consistently observed this effect over the years since. For example, Dillon Consulting, an inter¬national consulting firm, quadrupled its profits by 2009, after instituting a Project Management Training Program four years previously. Similarly, in 2013, BSkyB, a pay TV service in the UK and Ireland offering broadband and telephone services, reported a significant ROI after delivering 850,000 hours of training to its customer service representatives over a twelve-month period.

Big-Time Payoff

Good, consistent training more than pays for itself in terms of employee confidence, performance, productivity, reduced turnover, and dollars earned on the bottom line. Rather than view it as a necessary evil, treat it as a positive expense—just as you would any initiative that promises to increase profits and benefit everyone all the way down the line.

Stand-Up Guys: The Virtues of Standing Meetings

By Laura Stack

Stand-Up Guys: The Virtues of Standing Meetings by Laura StackIn the white-collar world, sitting down all day is both a blessing and a curse. Sitting makes it a lot easier to focus our intellects, since we’re basically in a resting but erect position; this also allows us to work interrupted for longer periods of time. But there can be side effects; too little physical exercise (as opposed to the mental exercise we enjoy daily) worsens the natural tendency toward “middle-aged spread” and makes us more sedentary. This results in less energy, slowing our productivity. Sitting too much can also interfere with or damage the circulatory process in our legs.

This is doubtless the reason why stand-up desks have become common (I love mine from Ikea). But who wants to stand all day? At some point, you tire of standing, your feet and ankles hurt, and you still have to stretch your legs frequently. Ultimately, a mixture of standing and sitting throughout the course of the day may prove most advantageous, though the jury remains out on this issue.

Be that as it may, some things you can do standing definitely boost your productivity. One is the stand-up meeting. Attendees ignore chairs, huddle together almost like football players, and talk as they would in a normal sitting meeting. Studies show standing meetings average 33% shorter than sitting meetings on the same subjects, proceed more efficiently, and usually end early or on time. And here’s the kicker: they burn 50% more calories, and actually have other positive health effects, including increased alertness. No wonder speakers and performers are always much more likely to stand than sit, above and beyond the need to be seen by everyone!

It’s no surprise that stand-up meetings run shorter than sit-down ones. After all, who really wants to stand in one place for an hour in even the most comfortable heels or loafers? There’s a good reason the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body, right? If nothing else, physical discomfort forces us to confront and deal with our concerns more directly in a stand-up meeting.

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Respectful Creativity: Encouraging Different Viewpoints on Your Team

by Laura Stack

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill, American self-improvement writer and speaker

Respectful Creativity: Encouraging Different Viewpoints on Your Team Effective teams are most often led by leaders who expect innovation and therefore encourage diverse viewpoints. This is no secret, despite the fact that—as cynics will surely point out—we rarely practice the concept adequately, and I would agree. However, we also let pettiness, bureaucracy, groupthink, disengagement, laziness, and other failings hinder our creativity and slow us down. Business as usual runs down and crushes flexible creativity.

When I think of respectful creativity, I think of Steve Jobs and Apple. Steve Jobs was no saint; he had his flaws, but that just makes his story all the more amazing. The Apple Computers that reinvented home computing with the Macintosh in ’84 couldn’t have done so without a corporate atmosphere that both encouraged and nurtured creativity. When his own Board of Directors ousted him, the creativity seemed to stop.

Meanwhile, Jobs turned his creative genius to NeXT Computers and Pixar, until NeXT actually merged with Apple later and Jobs took over operations again. Was it a coincidence that game-changing products like the iMac, iPod, and iPad debuted in the years after his return? Not likely.

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5 Steps to Achieve Peak Productivity

by SUCCESS Magazine

As psychologist Abraham Maslow explored the idea of human motivation, he pondered the concept of what really motivated people. Through his research in 1943, he identified primary needs people must satisfy before moving forward. This became known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a five-level pyramid that illustrates the pattern of motivation. (You can see what it looks like below.)

To get from one level to the next, one has to master the basics first. Productivity can work in much the same way, according to Tamara Myles, a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and author of The Secret to Peak Productivity (AMACOM, February 2014).

Myles recognizes that people are constantly bombarded with information, and multitasking causes stress and is usually counterproductive. She wants people to step back and to simplify—to feel in control.

“Productivity is not about being able to do more, to get through your entire to-do list, but instead to be focused and able to get through the most important items, the things that are going to move your company or career forward,” she says.

Inspired by Maslow’s work, Myles created the Peak Productivity Pyramid—an approach to a more productive life.

“[The system makes it] so easy to see the entire roadmap, to identify where you are and where you are headed,” Myles says. “It is, after all, much easier to get where you are going if you have directions, if you have a map.”

Like Maslow’s, this pyramid has five levels, and each tier supports the next. Here are Myles’ key pieces of advice for each productivity level, starting at the base:

1. Physical organization: Myles suggests employing the “Three To’s” of sorting: To Toss, To Do, To Keep.

“Too often people get bogged down trying to sort and file at the same time. By eliminating everything that can be tossed, identifying everything to do and everything else to be kept (filed), eliminating clutter becomes a manageable task,” she says.

2. Electronic organization: Here, she introduces the ABCs of email processing: Access, Batch, Check, Delete, Execute, File.

“Keeping your inbox clear at regular but specific intervals should give you hours of additional time each week, decrease your stress from worrying about forgetting something, and increase your overall effectiveness at handling what is most important in a timely manner,” Myles writes.

3. Time management: Myles approaches time management from the perspective of choice management—and with the following three P’s: Plan, Prioritize, Perform.

In her book, she writes, “We can’t manage time. Time happens. We can manage our choices in relation to the time that we have, what we choose to do with our time.”

4. Activity-goal alignment: Here, you must make sure you’re working on the tasks that best support your goals.

“Living a life with purpose means living each day thinking about the desired outcome. To do that, you need to take a step back from the chaos of everyday life and see the bigger picture. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Myles writes.

5. Possibility: Once you have your goals—and the rest of the pyramid—in order, the realm of possibility becomes available to you.

According to Myles, “Possibility means striving to be all a person can be while looking at all aspects of one’s life, exploring the possibility of achieving goals that might seem impossible.”

Thankfully, productivity doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process.

“Focus on one area at a time and make small improvements, build new habits. The more you start making positive changes, the more excited you will become to continue improving. It’s an upward spiral.”

It’s up to you to take control of your time. Will you make that choice today?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

From the base—containing the most essential needs—upward, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs looks something like this:

• Level 1: Physiological, or what we need to survive. Examples: air, food, drink, shelter, sex and sleep

• Level 2: Safety. Examples: personal and financial security, health and well-being

• Level 3: Love and belonging, or relationships. Examples: work, family and partner

• Level 4: Esteem. Examples: self-esteem and others’ respect

• Level 5: Self-actualization, or fulfilling our greatest potential

High Performer or Average Worker? How Can You Quickly Tell?

by Laura Stack

“The best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities—they flat out trust their skills.” — John Eliot, American author of Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance.

Adding a new person to your workplace team is always a gamble. Usually you can’t tell, just by looking, who will consistently deliver top-notch performance that makes the entire team shine…and who will just show up, do an average job, and fade into the woodwork.

To clarify, “average” does not mean “bad.” Average people define the norm and provide the benchmarks by which we recognize high performance. They do their jobs adequately when properly directed, and you can depend on them in most things. But you build your team aroundhigh performers—the “quantum leapers”—who achieve up to ten times greater impact and results than the average worker. Slow and steady may win the race, but sometimes you need to hitch yourself to a star to make real progress. How can you see this star quality?

Good on Paper. A candidate’s “paper trail” offers clues about their performance ability. Did they graduate college summa cum laude with a double major? Good—that suggests an overachiever. If they’ve quickly risen through the ranks at previous jobs and have a stellar performance record, then you may have a winner on your hands. But you can’t always rule out a personality or attitude change since that last glowing performance review.

The Yoda Attitude. Yoda, the little green Jedi master, once told Luke Skywalker: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Look for this attitude during your face-time with the candidate. High performers confront workplace challenges head-on, applying their experience and creativity to craft tailored solutions that get the job done. So ask your candidate what they would do in certain hypothetical situations, noting how well and how quickly they can construct a reasonable solution.

Sharp, Well-Defined Goals. A high performer has no problem citing his or her goals, both short- and long-term. They can present those goals neatly and quickly, with a solid understanding of the steps required to get there. They understand how to translate goals into action.

Ambition. High performers push themselves to get ahead. These high-energy self-starters radiate confidence, need no one else to motivate them, and maintain a clear sense of direction. They “keep on keeping on” until they get what they want and hit the targets.

Excellent Time Management Skills. High performance burnout can be a big problem. Ambition, solid goals, and a can-do attitude matter very little if a worker can’t juggle time with the best of them. To do you proud for years to come, high performers understand the basics of time management well enough to create a work/life balance that maximizes their personal productivity without exhausting themselves. Working long and working productively aren’t the same thing, so you’ll have to dig deep to see if the person possesses this skill set.

The Bottom Line

You’ve probably experienced the occasional pleasant surprise when someone you’ve written off as average suddenly rises to the top of the performance ladder. Similarly, you may have suffered disappointment at the hands of a “sure thing.” Ultimately, performance matters, not appearance, so take care not to mistake style for substance. Search for the five characteristics outlined above before you assume you have a firecracker on your hands. “Masters of Disguise” who depend on their winning personalities to get them onboard usually can’t hide their weaknesses well enough to evade careful scrutiny. True high performers exhibit a fearless, ambitious, action-oriented—and above all else—results-oriented approach that no one can easily fake.