We always equate productivity with time. Time is money, right?
But it is not so much the quantity of time that we are so concerned with even though we wish there were more hours in the day. We want more value or quality to the time we have spent. Ensuring that every member of a project team is working to their best potential and are working to their highest productivity is a combination of leadership, environment, ownership and alignment and it all starts with transparency.
If management is transparent, it leads to trust. When team members trust management, they trust themselves and give and earn respect. With respect, team members form alignment. Once all members of the team are aligned, achieving productivity is much more possible.
Here are some tips to achieve ultimate productivity within your team. Each of them is a mindset change and take some time to get going. Once you have them in place, productivity is sure to follow.
Be open about your motives
“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
A lack of transparency in any relationship leads to mistrust and ultimately disrespect. When teammates are not informed about the motives of the team’s leaders, they look for inward strategies that will help themselves. It is a safety mechanism.
On top of it all, when there is no transparency between leadership and team members, gossip forms. Members of the team will waste considerable time trying to find like-minded people to ease their minds on the direction of the team. Gossip, while being a tremendous time waster is also an effective company culture killer.
Don’t manage your team’s time
We all want to be trusted; it is what empowers us to do great things. With trust, comes freedom and in a team, freedom leads to creativity and productivity. When teammates are not trusted, they will waste time stressing over time.
If work times are not an issue, allow team members the freedom to work when they are most productive. We are all different, some of us work better in the morning, others, late a night. Achieving productivity is not a reality if team members are working to conformity; trying to fit round pegs into a square hole always leads to waste.
As a leader, you can always deal with exceptions to the rule. If a team member is not productive while working on their set hours, then it is your opportunity as a leader to address why. Maybe they are not motivated, or interested in the work they do. That will lead to finding the real cause of lost production, and it had nothing to do with time. Creating the rule of working between “work hours” only serves to limit the productivity of everyone instead of addressing the exceptions.
Allow everyone to have a voice
Create a safe space for all teammates to effectively communicate by ensuring everyone in a meeting gets a say. So often, the loudest voice in the room takes up the most air, and thus, those who may have the best idea may not get proper airtime. This communication gap also holds true outside of a meeting. Creating a safe office where people can speak without worry of being reprimanded is key to increased productivity. This safe space does not give people the right to be derogatory, but it does mean they have a right to be heard. Those team members who hold their thoughts are more likely to stew on them and may begin to feel unimportant to the team, thus taking their attention away from their work.
Real innovation and problem-solving can only happen when all team members can express all ideas -no matter how trivial.
Energy, not time, is the enemy
We all think that we are running out of time to get the things done, but it isn’t time that we lack: it is energy. We have a lot of time, in fact we know extactly how much time we have in a day. Matching our workload to that time requires energy. If your team is struggling to meet deadlines or staying focused, it is likely because they are suffering from a lack of energy. In today’s workplace, we must strive for quality over quantity when it comes to our time.
Encouraging a high-energy workplace means having healthy snacks in the breakroom. Shun the carb and sugar-loaded treats. Keep coffee consumption to normal levels and suggest healthy lunch outings. Feeding teammates carb and sugar loaded treats create an environment where minds become foggy with the sugar rush and then crash once it has burned off.
Teams can also encourage exercise by starting every meeting with a simple chair-pose or wall-sit. Not only does this create a habit of healthy movement, but it also increases blood flow to the brain and opens minds to be more receptive during the meeting. Suggest walking meetings or even suggest a pleasant walk around the block when we are stuck or frustrated in the office.
We all know the dangers of bad food and sedimentary lifestyles, so why not be a leader and push for good health! In today’s workplace, we must strive for quality over quantity when it comes to our time. We can never get more time.
Cut down disruptions
Team members need to be in flow to do their best work. Breaking flow is very detrimental to productivity, and it is one of the leading killers of it. According to an article on LifeHacker, it takes at least 25 minutes to get back into the flow of work after being interrupted.
To limit disruptions to workflow, have “do not disturb” signs created that team members can place on their desk when they are working. Respecting these boundaries should be politely enforced. Another is to encourage closed-door policies where unless it is a dire emergency when someone closes their office door, they are not to be disturbed.
Another way to cut down the disruptions at work is to schedule meetings at set times on set days. Our brains love consistency; if we plan meetings between consistent set hours of the day, we can get into the habit of getting into flow around those scheduled times. If for example, all conducted meetings are between 9 am, and 11 am, but afternoons are off limits, this encourages uninterrupted work flow during the afternoons.
Work towards alignment
When everyone on the team is aligned to the same goal, there is no time and energy wasted on swimming backstream. Much like transparency -which is required for alignment- having everyone own a piece of the direction a team is going is the most efficient way to work. It’s not easy to be aligned, especially when a team is large and you have different personalities and egos at stake, but patience and consistency is vital.
As a leader, fostering a culture of rewarding personal mastery instead of personal achievement is one way to grow alignment. When team members are using their mastered skills, they are more inclined to use them towards the betterment of the team. When given rewards for achievement, people tend to work in a silo trying to reach another personal milestone. A team member cannot spend time on personal causes and be entirely productive for the team.
Don’t manage, lead
When managers lead, they allow their team members space and power to resolve problems or head off issues before they become huge. We have all worked on projects where problems accumulated into time-sucking vacuums, which had they been nipped at the start, would have never become an issue. When the manager manages, they are continually putting out fires that ultimately become full-blown infernos.
Productivity and time management are not one in the same. We all know how much time we have in a day, week or month, what we don’t know is what to do with that time. Gain productivity by squeezing every last drop of value out of every second worked. Creating a work environment of creating value where everyone’s time is made meaningful, aligned, healthy and transparent is one in which productivity is the side effect and not necessarily the goal.
How healthy is your work environment?
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Also published on Medium.