Being productive doesn’t mean getting everything done. I know it sounds a little like organizational heresy but you need to admit the truth (at least to yourself): You can’t get everything done.The more you try the less you really end up accomplishing. True productivity means working on the right tasks. Identifying the right task in the moment when the phone is ringing, your email notification is blowing up and your boss is standing in your doorway asking if you’ve finished that report yet, can be very difficult to do. That’s why so many of us spend so much of our time engaged in activities that don’t really add the value that we might like. We’re busy, we’re getting things done, but we aren’t accomplishing the things that will make a difference. Sometimes it can feel as if we are a race horse with blinders on, coming out of the starting gate in the morning, running full-out around the track throughout the day, only to end up back at the starting line when we finish.
Do you make rational, logical decisions? Most of us think we do. You might want to reconsider your opinion.
Let me give you two names: Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump. We are in the home stretch of a Presidential election campaign here in the US. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out but I do think each of the candidates has demonstrated a basic fallacy of human thinking. That is, while we like to think of ourselves as logical, rational creatures, we aren’t.
Management is about getting things done through and with others. When things aren’t getting done the way that they should, it can be a real challenge to turn the situation around. And there is usually a pretty steep price to pay in the process.
My Gym went out of business on Friday. I know, I know, too bad for me right? Well, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m trying to explain something important about expectations. The owners put a notice up early Friday morning explaining that they would be closing the doors for good at 5 pm. It didn’t really bother me all that much, because it didn’t really surprise me. I knew that they were having financial difficulties and that the deal they had in place to sell the facility to a prospective buyer had fallen through. So I was kind of expecting it to happen. No harm, no foul. I joined another gym the next day. Sunday morning I woke up at 730 am ready to try out the new facility. It turns out they don’t open on Sunday until 11 am. WAIT! WHAT? HOLD ON! THAT’S RIDICULOUS! I was an unhappy camper! I had some pretty choice words to say about the new Gym to my wife. And that was despite the fact that it was my own fault. I never bothered to look at the Sunday hours before I joined.
Think about the best relationships you’ve ever had. What made them so great?
Good communication? Genuine affection and caring? Maybe you supported and helped one another? All of those qualities are related to the key ingredient in any successful relationship: Trust.
Trust is the fuel of great relationships. Without trust, the relationship isn’t going anywhere.
The story goes that when Steve Jobs was trying to entice John Sculley to leave Pepsi-Cola and join Apple he used a powerful communication tool. He asked Sculley, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?” Given that comparison, Sculley of course, moved to Apple. Steve Jobs was a Master Communicator. He was adept at going beyond the facts to inspire, engage and influence.
Steve Jobs once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” Like him or not, the man knew where his priorities were and was able to devote his energy and attention into making his aspirations a reality. Isn’t that 80% of the battle? Knowing what’s important to you, personally, and then focusing your effort there and not being diverted.
I’ve been spending a bit of my time the last few years helping people to identify who they aspire to be in their lives, so that they can focus their energy and effort on the things that really matter to them. The process usually involves helping them to identify their key stakeholders and to operationalize exactly what it is they want their lives to be – how they aspire to live out their hopes and dreams and values.
A common issue I’ve heard from many of the people I’ve worked with is just how challenging it can be to stay focused when other people – colleagues, friends, family – attempt to involve you in their issues.
If you are a manager, or someone who has to get things done through and with others – the motivation of the people you work with probably matters to you. I work with managers every week, in seminars and in coaching relationships, and employee motivation seems to be a source of pain for many of them. They talk about having to work with team members who:
- Come late / Leave early
- Do as little as possible
- Miss deadlines
- Spend time complaining or gossiping
- Show a lack of ownership or initiative
- Show a lack of accountability
- Spend their time surfing social media
Those types of problems are what I call Type 1 Motivational Challenges: The employee actively demonstrates a lack of motivation
I’m trying to change the language that I use. It’s been an uphill process. All right, maybe you need a little of the backstory. A few months ago a colleague and I had a difference of opinion (notice I didn’t say disagreement?) about a business project. Somehow during that conversation she shared with me that I sounded disgruntled. It was like a slap in the face and my immediate reaction (internally) was denial. I’m not feeling disgruntled. Why would she say that? This is more about her than about me. When the sting started to fade I was able to consider the comment a little more constructively. What did I do that might cause her to see me that way? I came to a realization that the language (words) I often use and the focus of my casual conversation (problems, challenges and personal disasters) might be contributing.
I was reading an article – interview really – in the March HBR about Charisma and it got me thinking. The interview was with William von Hippel who, along with his colleagues, published the results of their study on thinking speed and Charisma. Their research seems to indicate that people who think quickly are perceived as more charismatic, independent of their IQ or other personality traits.
Well crap! That’s not what I want to hear. I am many things, but quick thinking? I think not. I’m great at Trivial Pursuit or even “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, but nobody in my family wants me on their team for Celebrity Name Game or Pictionary. Does that mean that my dream of being charismatic – or at least more charismatic – is doomed to failure? People with higher levels of Charisma get noticed and listened to. They’re more influential. I’d like that, wouldn’t you?