Archive for the ‘ Productivity ’ Category
The way we manage our business has changed; we must be leaner, cut back on our spending and demand more for less! It’s a rally cry from many companies in this new era of saving money whilst still having high expectations of ourselves, our direct reports and our peers.
Shouldn’t we be able to cut spending whilst increasing output? What effect does this have on the quality of our work and our motivation?
The Law of Diminishing Returns Disclaimer: this blog post does contain economic principles! But please don’t glaze over, it’s really very fascinating. Diminishing returns is the point at which adding more gives us less. In economic terms it usually refers to the point where adding more resources (workers, raw materials etc.) no longer produces the same output.
The output begins to decrease per additional ‘unit’ produced. For example, a business produces pencils – at the pencil factory we would expect that the more pencils produced the more money we make. Right? Wrong…we actually make less money per pencil until we finally make a loss.
To make more pencils we need to employ more people and more people = more costs. This is in terms of productivity (recruiting lower skillsets, tardiness) and the addition of extra costs (benefits, wages) This can be illustrated by a U-curve.
So why is this important?
The U-curve I believe also applies to our workload and our goals and has a direct effect on an employee’s engagement and motivation in the workplace. As a leader the more you demand (or the greater your expectations) will provide a better ‘return’ over the short-term.
For example, if you increase your goals from 1 to 3 you will be stretched, your output is greater and your motivation increases. Your workload is likely to be manageable.
When an optimum level (the top of the U) is reached, say at 5 goals, adding any more will start to give you less in return over the long-term and could lead to a poorer quality of output, goals not being met and sub-optimal levels of motivation. You are overcommitted and your workload becomes unmanageable.
Why Small Class Sizes Don’t Improve Education – Evidence for the U-Curve
I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book ‘David and Goliath’ where he uses an inverted U-curve to describe the point at which what we do is no longer positive.
One of the examples used is around the debate of large class sizes and the quality of education. We assume large class sizes are bad for our children’s education. However, do we also consider how very small class sizes can also have a negative effect on learning? We would assume the children get more attention…
In reality the teachers rarely change their teaching style to one that is appropriate for a smaller class and there are fewer children to contribute their opinion and to add creativity and energy to the group. There’s an optimum group size (the bottom of the U, or in Gladwell’s example the top of the inverted-U).
The clear point is that there’s a tipping point between to much of something or too little that no longer yields a positive return.
In this era of ‘doing more with less’, are we ‘demanding more and getting less’? Whether this is in terms of diminishing returns, higher turnover (due to the pressure placed on colleagues) or sub-optimal motivation potentially leading to a ‘quit and stayed’ attitude.
I am by no means a perfect example of someone who has the balance correct, but my aim for the next 6 months is to review my priorities every month and ask myself questions honest questions linking to these thoughts:
So the question is: where are you on the U-curve?
Lisa is the EMEA Client Services Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies. The Client Services Team specialise in delivery; Project Management, Learning Services (virtual learning and online assessments) and Staffing (trainer allocation).
What is “Passion”? The dictionary says: “a strong and barely controllable emotion”; “a state or outburst of strong emotion”; and “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something”. Passion is the positive emotional state of mind – which drives a willingness to apply discretionary effort; long-term commitment; peak performance; and satisfaction.
The Passionate Leader
Leaders need to love what they do; otherwise, where are they leading their employees? Leaders who display passion can engage the hearts and mind of employees, foster their commitment and determination, and empower their employees to meet meaningful goals.
Passionate leaders create an environment that energizes others; mixing passion with employee involvement, and transparency. Communicating passion every day, and in different ways – a face-to-face engagement, an exciting meeting, or a quick e-mail – allows the leaders’ enthusiasm to shine. If an employee feels trusted and involved, they can share their leaders’ passions and develop their dedication to their organizations.
Leaders with a passion have the power to instill a sense of meaning – they can provide a “bigger picture”, making the work their employees do worthwhile. Passion makes work about more than just a paycheck. People who feel that their work is valued feel empowered to make meaningful changes for their customers.
The Passionate Employee
Employee engagement and employee passion are essential for productivity, profitability, and customer loyalty. An engaged, motivated, and empowered workforce is far more likely to work at optimal levels, and have a higher performance.
In 2006, The Ken Blanchard Companies embarked on a new study to explore the concept of Employee Passion more fully concluding that, for employees to be passionate about their work, they need to have meaningful work – which means they should understand how their work adds value to the organization and creates positive results. They need an organizational culture that encourages collaboration, sharing, interdependence, and team spirit. The work environment needs to be fair – benefits, resources, and workloads are fair and balanced. They should be given the autonomy to choose how tasks are completed; have the information and authority needed to make authoritative decisions – and know the boundaries of this; and be trusted to do their job without micro-management.
Employee passion is reinforced with recognition – which can be verbal, written, or monetary; praise or promotions – for their accomplishments, and the opportunity for growth, where employees are supported in future career planning. Employees also need to feel connected with their leader and their colleagues, which requires honesty and integrity at all levels; and making an effort to build rapport.
Train Your Passion
By asking yourself what drives you to work hard; commit; achieve; and what makes you happy, you can grow your own enthusiasm for your work. Ask yourself:
Passionate leaders spend time with their employees – learning about employee needs and desires, how to communicate with them, and what makes work meaningful to them. Employees with a passionate leader – where this passion is communicated and shared – are more enthusiastic and engaged. Organizations must provide meaningful work, autonomy, and opportunities for growth, encourage collaboration and recognition, and address the concept of fairness in order to maximize Employee Passion. Passion, in turn, creates driven, enthusiastic, committed and hard working employees.
Employees with a positive attitude create success.
Find your passion, grow it, and share it!
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About the author: Jemma Garraghan is an EMEA Project Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies. She can be reached at email@example.com
If you are a millennial or manage millenials you probably perceive collaboration as a key to success.
Managers who believe in top-down leadership are likely to see the negative impact their style has on younger employees. These younger team members have a desire to learn and to know ‘why’ a task should be completed in a certain way. What can ensue is a lack of motivation when their answer is not met with a sufficient explanation.
Collaboration encourages team problem solving, creativity and the support of individuals when they have ‘bought-in’ and been part of the solution. I specifically refer to millenials as they have contributed to this big shift in the way we work and think. However, I am going to be controversial and say,
Is collaboration always positive?
I think we need to take stock of our actions and ask ourselves:
Are we always the most effective leaders if we default to a collaboration mentality?
What happens when we need to make quick decisions for the good of the team and are paralyzed by our fear of not including others?
The Collaboration Pitfall
I first questioned this seemingly ‘best practice’ mentality when I read Jake Breeden’s book ‘Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits That Masquerade as Virtues’.
Jake states that ‘working with others is sometimes a blast, sometimes a must and sometimes a waste’. We can ‘auto-collaborate’; gaining comfort from working in a team and avoiding conflict by reverting to consensus.
If you need to make a quick decision in a manager’s meeting, would you reconvene in order to discuss the matter with the team first? You potentially risk losing your credibility and a decision being made on your behalf in order to move the agenda along.
Being a representative is all about understanding the vision of your team and being able to speak on behalf of the individuals within it – not being able to do so can stifle progress and does not reflect well on your leadership.
I believe this links to time management and could potentially be a cause of overwork and increased stress. I would love to know your thoughts on the matter – so please do share your comments at the bottom of this post.
Get Smarter About Your Time
We are over-committing to the team, always looking to gain consensus and as a result having longer meetings when we could have made an informed decision ourselves.
Using this example of meeting length, ask yourself the following questions before your next team huddle:
If you can’t think of adequate answers to these questions you should cancel the meeting. Collaboration has potentially driven you into ineffectiveness.
Changing Our Collaboration Mindset
This does not mean that collaboration isn’t crucial for the success of individuals, teams and the organisation. It does mean we need to think smarter about when to collaborate.
We need to strike a better balance. Let’s collaborate smarter to gain back our time, make meetings more productive and refocus on getting results.
About the author: Lisa Ellis is the EMEA Client Services Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies, she manages a team of Project Managers, Learning Services (online learning) and Staffing (resource scheduling).
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.
A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.
While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”
During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.
During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.
No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.
Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.
How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.
Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.
We’ve started doing this accountability group around the office and it seems to be working. Recently, the boss man had this idea that if we put up our goals for everyone to see and kept each other in check for a 30-day challenge, the added accountability would help us stay committed to reach our goal. Our goal was to start with 10 pushups at the beginning of the month and increase that number by 1 every day. As a result, we decided to continue this trend, and now we are participating in a daily calorie challenge where we log our meals and maintain a certain caloric intake. As you can see, so far so good and we have included 4 cheat days as good measure. I’ll probably eat a whole bucket of churros on my first cheat day.
Taking this concept past a simple pushup or calorie contest, in my own experience and what much of the research has to say is this:
If you are on the first two teams, look for a trade or try to resolve the problem. None of these options are really that easy, but the latter option is probably the most feasible. Here’s what you need to know about accountability. Don’t be scared of it. If accountability is seen as negative and punitive in the office, do what you can to change that perspective for everyone. Put up a challenge for the various task goals that everyone has and create accountability for one another.
Here’s a distinction that you need to be aware of: there is a critical difference between “holding someone accountable” and “creating accountability” in your team. The first creates a culture of fear and brings potentially significant, negative connotations and impact. The second allows the team to be mutually invested in the success of oneself and others. Decide for yourself what environment you want to create in your office and see what outcomes you get as a result.