This is the final essay in a series of five posts on maximizing professional and personal productivity.
Since rolling out my “4 step” productivity plan, I have seen the need to include an added step that focuses on leadership. After all, if we are going to get more from our people, we need to use our leadership position to motivate others, create a healthy work environment, and engage others in meaningful work.
The five components of this final step (Step 5, and I do mean final this time) are:
- Build workplace passion
- Manage stress
- Understand and leverage your leadership style
- Set them up for success
- Lead from the values up
Productivity begins with engagement and passion. Disengaged, dispassionate workplaces are much less productive.
- According to Gallup’s State of the Local Workplace, 85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work, resulting in $7 trillion in lost productivity.
- This White Paper by Deloitte University Press suggests that up to 87.7 percent of America’s workforce does not contribute their full potential because they don’t have passion for their work.
The following strategies can be helpful for leaders who want to instill more passion into their workplace:
- Start early and look often – Look for passionate people during the interview process. Identify passionate employees and finds ways to promote them.
- Break down barriers – Sometimes the biggest obstacles to passion are barriers that prevent people from “making it happen.” By encouraging people to work cross-functionally, you tap into their connecting disposition and keep them from feeling confined.
- Craft the job around their interests – Team leaders ought to focus on identifying their keepers and then adjust job descriptions and requirements around them. Encourage your people to work on projects they are interested in instead of (or in addition to) those they are assigned to.
- Build their capacity and efficacy – Offer training and educational opportunities to help your people grow and become more confident in their work. Nothing drives passion like a deep sense of ability and aptitude.
- Put passion all around them – Hire great managers and team members who are engaged and passionate about helping others discover their talents. Passion breeds passion.
Building passion is also a great way to manage and reduce workplace stress. Stress is a serious drain on productivity and has a direct effect on worker health and absenteeism. Stress-related illnesses cost businesses an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year in lost productivity, as reported in Stress in the Workplace. A study by Health Advocate found that one million workers miss work each day due to stress. This absenteeism costs employers an estimated $600 per worker each year. 12% of employees have called in sick because of job stress. This is not surprising because most people respond to increased stress with added caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking, and prescription medications.
Leaders can reduce stress by helping their people better manage it. Understand that leaders don’t create stress for others. Instead, they create conditions that, taken together with whatever is going on in people’s personal lives, can increase stress levels and decrease productivity and job satisfaction.
A leader’s role, then, is to help their people by educating them about the importance of self-care (see Step 4). They should encourage people to eat properly, take regular breaks and get enough sleep. People also need to have their minds and souls nourished with such things as time management training, meditation, prayer, and a list of personal and team values to motivate them and help them make correct, healthy decisions. Leaders can also help by pitching in, enabling people to delegate, accepting excellent, even if imperfect, work, and giving people opportunities to vent and offer constructive feedback to improve processes and systems.
Of course, leaders cannot force their people to take better care of themselves, but the very fact that they offer options and serve as a resource for stress reduction can itself be helpful. After all, who gets the blame for work-related stress if not the boss?
In addition to the strategies listed above, leaders should consider the following tactics to manage their own increased stress levels:
- Record and review your leadership goals – Clarity of purpose and action is a solid defense against leadership stress.
- Be selective in your work – This was discussed in Step 1. Don’t engage in tasks and efforts that are unproductive or produce limited benefits.
- Learn to delegate – Clear your plate of all the “other” things so you can do the “right” work. We detailed this in Step 2.
- Seek to control only the controllable – Focus on the things you can control such as your efforts and the way you choose to react to problems.
- Remain positive – Stress is part of leadership so don’t let it poison your work mindset or, more importantly, your self-perception.
- Get social support – Leaders often lack social support at work. To combat this, consider joining a peer board, a mastermind group, or a leadership development group that will provide trustworthy, confidential, and ongoing social support.
- Re-group on a task – When a task is stressful, look for ways to better organize and streamline what needs to be done. Take time to clearly define roles and clarify expectations.
- Increase your determination – A lot of the stress that we feel starts in our head. Commit to working through challenges rather than allowing them to gain the upper hand.
- Consider your impact – As much as you are struggling with your burden, keep in mind that you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be there for them.
Another way that we can lead ourselves and others to increased productivity is to understand how to leverage your leadership style. Leaders who understand their type preferences can more easily identify their strengths and potential weaknesses, develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and understand the impact of their behaviors on others. They also better understand what about their style motivates others and what might demotivate them.
For example, some people (who we’ll call “blues”) are more emotional and value relationships much more than their personality “opposites” (“greens”) who most value logic and their ability to maintain control over their emotions.
Consider what happens when a “blue” leader is replaced by a “green” one. The former was empathetic and often willing to give people multiple chances. The latter is more logical and analytical, typically seeking to remedy problems and optimize performance while giving little attention to human feelings. In most cases, the new leader will be viewed as distanced and disinterested, valuing processes over people, unless they consciously make an effort to motivate their “blues” with connection and empathy.
The fourth component of this productivity-through-leadership step is to set your people up for success, by putting them in a position to get more done. Here are some examples:
- Allow people to work remotely – 86% of employees say they’re most productive when they work alone from home, as cited by Fundera. 77% of employees report greater productivity while working off-site, according to the Remote Collaborative Worker Survey by CoSo Cloud. 64% of global business leaders said flexible working had a positive impact on productivity, Condeco reports. Telecommuters are 14% more productive than their office-bound colleagues according to a study released by Stanford University. Research found that working from home increases job performance and productivity while also decreasing the number of sick days taken.
- Plan your workspaces for maximal productivity – An Exeter University study states that open office layouts create a 32% drop in overall well-being and a 15% reduction in productivity.
Lastly, be sure to lead from values. Values are the core components of a person’s deepest beliefs, the concepts that they hold most dear and that drive decision making, or at least should. When a leader takes the time to identify her deepest values, she is likelier to make satisfying choices and remain consistent in her actions and choices. Moreover, if she is effective in articulating her values, then others will understand her reasoning and, more often than not, be more inclined to support her leadership.
Of course, the ideal way to lead is to do so from the rear forward, rather than to drag others along from the front. The more that the “followers” feel a sense of ownership of and connection with the underlying values and related decision making, the more inclined they will be to support the effort and contribute towards its success.
In review, we discussed the need to plan, share, do, sustain and lead if we want to be productive for the long haul. Each step, if properly and consistently completed, will do wonders to enhance your own performance as well as that of your team.
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Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and President of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call 212.470.6139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon and on the book site, BecomingtheNewBoss.com. Download his free eBook for understaffed leaders at ImpactfulCoaching.com/EPIC.