Reflections on Life, Leadership, Mindfulness, Change, and other Important Stuff

Category: PSG

Performance Matters: Moving the Needle of Productivity

As we’ve discussed here before, we really only have four options for creating change in our world. We domoreof the things we are doing.  We can do lessof them.  We can do them better or we can do them differently. Sometimes, doing things differently can have a dramatic and immediate impact on our productivity.  But doing things differently, may only require a modest change in our approach to becoming more productive.

Many of us start out days with a simple list of things to do.  And as the day grows, we find ourselves adding to that list until it seems impossible to do them all.  Yet we just continue trying to trudge through those tasks.


But there’s a better way to move the dial of our own productivityand it is one that will feed our sales effectiveness, the productivity of our teams, and make us more effective leaders.  After you’ve made your list of things to do for the day, look over it and decide which two or three items move the needle in terms of gauging your success.  Then make sure do those things first.

Let’s say you’re an account exec with sales goals.  You probably have to write reports, enter data in to a CIF system, and maybe even fill out an expense report. You also have to follow up with clients, reach out to new prospects, and stay abreast of market and product matters. But what moves the needle in terms of reaching is your relationship with people, right? So every day, before you do anything else, identify and block time on your calendar for making those calls, sending those emails and seeing those people.

Once you’ve done so, list who—the most important prospects and clients—you need to talk to and what you want to accomplish before you connect.  Invest a few minutes in this kind of preparation and you will find yourself more effective in those interactions and reaching your goals more consistently.  And don’t let yourself connect with anyone other than those most important prospects and clients.

To make sure you protect this time for interactions–building relationships–with your prospects and clients, ask your team—including your boss—not to interrupt you while you’re on the phone, sending emails and working through this process.  You will be surprised how much they will appreciate your focus and how willingly they will respond if they know you will be undistracted when you do interact with your team once you’ve completed the tasks that move the dial in terms of your sales effectiveness.

Next week, we’ll talk some more about we can capitalize more on how doing things a little differently can lead to big gains in productivity!

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

Performance Matters: The Elixir of Productivity

Just about anyone focused on productivity—their own or a team member’s—is looking for hacks, some shortcuts that will improve performance.  We build efficiency processes, hold meetings, establish sales goals, and set and reset staffing levels all in the hopes of achieving more.  Much of which just grinds the joy out of our work and lives.  But what if there were an almost magical means of doing so?

Many of you have already decided that’s impossible.   But the science is in. And it’s both simple and compelling.  If you want you and your team to be more productive, be happy.

In his 2010 bestseller, The Happiness Advantage, Harvard-trained psychologist Shawn Achor details countless pieces of research indicating productivity and achievement are by-productsof happiness, not the consequence of it. In his book and in his wildly popular Ted-talk, Achor demonstrates how our perspective impacts accomplishment. Among the most compelling items in the book is the Losada Line.

In short, the Losada Line indicates that it takes roughly “three positive comments, experiences or expressions to fend off the effects of one negative one…(raised) to a ratio of six to one and teams do their very best work.”   There’s a boatload of academic research behind this phenomena, and Achor’s work is rife with practical, effective ways to raise your own level of happiness, as well as that of your team.  And while being happy is simple,it isn’t easy.   You have to work at it.

But why not give it a try.  Achor doesn’t suggest we shouldn’t chant empty affirmations. Rather he gives us a means to invest in ourselves and others.  He gives us the research supporting meditation, kindness, anticipation, and many other tools that can actually make us happier and thereby more productive.  Investments take time to generate a return, so why not grab a copy of Achor’s book or watch his Ted-talk with your team.

You’ll be glad you did.

If you’ve found this information useful, encouraging or might see a way we can improve it, please let us know.  And if you thought it was encouraging, forward it to a friend so they can subscribe. If you want to find out more about how Performance Strategies Group helps organizations sharpen their sales skills and processes, builds more self-aware and resilient leaders, or equip more productive teams, find us online at www.performancestrategiesgrouponline.com, or call Principal Consultant, Jim Owens @ 256-426-0305.

Reflections on Life and Leadership: The Call to Rest

Recently, while sipping a cup of coffee and looking across the tranquil waters of Lake Martin recently, near DadevilIe, Alabama, I found myself without a laptop, book or Blackberry to distract me from the renewal of the moment. Once again, I was reminded that in the chaos of life and work how often we find ourselves overwhelmed by its incessant demands. Regardless of whether it is the creeping weariness borne of constant projects, endless deadlines, and family responsibilities or the seemingly sudden, heart pounding, gasping for breathe kind of exhaustion that comes from an impossible “to do list” and 14 hour day, those who would lead, or follow, often find themselves with insufficient reserves of energy and creativity to live and perform well. It is then we realize, as legendary Green Bay Packers’ Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Fatigue can be emotional, physical, or mental. And fatigue in any area can drain us of the ability to perform in the other realms. When we are distracted with the pain and stress of family matters our mental acuity is affected at work. Mental exhaustion from work can affect our physical reserves. If you don’t believe it try going to the gym after a 12-hour day. (Or staying on your diet!) We are such creatures of routine we often fail to recognize how one component is intertwined with the other. Worse, we fail to realize how desperately in need of rest we have become. In a culture that regards rest as laziness we risk our effectiveness, our physical health, and quality of our business and personal relationships as we drive ourselves. To affect change, and remain effective, we must first recognize the impact of the overlapping contributors to our fatigue. When we find ourselves impatient, short tempered, or unable to focus on completing a task, we must recognize them as the warning lights on our dashboard. Something needs attention. To proceed without further examination is to risk calamity. These warning lights tell us it is time to take stock of ourselves. Those are the same things we must watch for in our teams and families if we are to lead well. Just as we must guard against the erosion in our own performance that is caused by the fatigue, as leaders we must guard against it in our teams. It is odd how clearly we recognize it in a grouchy four old who needs as nap and we fail to see it in ourselves. We must invite those trustworthy confidantes around us to intervene on our behalf to suggest it is time to invest in some well-deserved rest.

Rest is more than a nap. Though it is that sometimes. It is more than a few mindless hours in front of the television. Although, that too, may be considered rest. (Especially when it is spent watching Modern Marvels or Swamp People!) For those who would lead, rest must result in renewal. Renewal is more than a vacation. It is the regular and deliberate feeding of our body, mind and spirit with that which has the ability to restore us. It must be part of our day, our week, and our year if we are to avoid the angst and stress that prevails in our culture. Sometimes renewal is a quiet moment sipping a cup of coffee (caffeine free?). Sometimes it is a raucous evening with friends and family filled with music, laughter, and perhaps a single-malt Scotch, glass of wine, and simple food. It may be the solitude of a long walk in remote setting or along the beach. Other times it may be reflection on spiritual writings in which one finds meaning. Whatever the case, we must be deliberate to find that which Steven Covey referred to as self rejuvenation or “sharpening the saw.” The absence of a deliberate strategy leaves one with hope only. And hope is no strategy.

Rest and renewal need not cost large sums of money. It does not require us to buy another thing that ends up owning us. But it does require us to examine ourselves. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult to find rest and renewal. We may be simply fear what we will see and the changes we must commit to make. Then again, this may be the best possible reason to engage in such reflection that becomes the foundation for change that reignites our creativity, energy and our effectiveness as leaders. Whatever the case, as always… Keep the Faith

Reflections on Leadership: Sales Leadership and “Over-Managing”

In today’s economic environment producing an above average ROI is a considerable challenge for leaders, particularly sales leaders.  They are often presented with the responsibility of motivating an emotionally fatigued workforce with achieving goals that may seem utterly unreasonable.  They must challenge team members to higher levels of performance, often times, with diminished resources and higher priced products.  In such times companies both large and small may resort to enforcing an organizational process that requires leaders to “over” manage.  The thereby add to the fatigue of their teams while producing only nominally better results. Genuine leaders, especially sales leaders, must resist the temptation to make everything within the process of equal importance. They must walk the delicate balance of “keeping the main thing the main thing.” The customer, it seems, is the main thing.

Few businesses would contend they are not “customer focused.”   Managers and executives within most organizations make such statements as “the customer is always right” or “we wouldn’t be here without the customer.”  They then proceed to place obstacles between themselves and customers and prospects by making demands of their staff that have precious little to do with the customer.  Salespeople are asked to spend precious energy planning, reporting, meeting, and documenting all of which takes time away from engagement with a customer or prospect.  Technology planning is often built on what IT department budgets or design with little regard for how the technology enhances the client “buying experience.”  Accounting and financial departs create a web of bureaucracy designed to control costs but actually create obstacles for the sales person to interact with the client. There is a place for reporting, meeting, budgeting, and cost management, and especially, risk management.  Yet they must all be done in the context of the customer experience.

Sales people, if they truly are “sales people”, want to sell.  They do not want to be accountants, report writers, or much of anything else.  They want to be in front of a customers and prospects. So in leading sales people, leaders must recognize there are generally only three things the sales person can or should control.   They include:

  • The number of sales calls they make.
  • The things they do on the sales call.
  • The people or companies on whom they call.

Anything that is inconsistent with those three points detracts from their interaction with clients and prospects unless it equips them to:

  • Make more sales calls
  • Be better prepared when they are on the sales call.
  • Get better at getting in front of people or companies.

Sales leaders must avoid the dangers of being outside these constraints.  They must courageously challenge those within the organization who would make demands on the sales team that detracts from this focus.  Sales leadership must play its part in achieving organizational goals, cost management, risk management and regulatory compliance.  But such matters must not be mistaken for sales leadership.  And the opportunity cost associated with every moment the sales force is engaged in such actions is a moment when someone else is calling on your organization’s customer.

Keep the faith.

Reflections on Leadership: What Not to Do

Effective leadership, like good wine, often comes from surprising places. It shows up to produce a memorable vintage when the right combination of warm days, cool nights, and rain meet with optimum harvesting time. It seems almost haphazard, yet when it emerges, it produces positive memories and, properly consumed, makes one feel warm all over. Regrettably, the wrong combination results in either a sharp, acrid, or watery, tasteless sort of thing that is remembered, but only for the disappointment and discouragement it produced. When would-be leaders miss the mark, they can produce the same kind of experience for their clients, peers, community, and employees.

For a moment, and with respect to the April Fool’s Day publication of this discussion, let’s consider Leadership: What Not To Do.

Treat every moment as a teachable moment

Some leaders cannot resist the chance to demonstrate their wisdom and mastery of every conceivable subject. Somehow, they believe their job is to show the way, and their expertise, in every matter. Such hubris, likely bred by insecurity, stifles creativity and diminishes individuals. Such men and women rarely grow other leaders, unless it is to produce their own “star” pupil at whom they can point and say “See. Look what I did.” Like a parent whose child receives a “91” on a math exam, they seem to always be asking, “why not better?” breeding insecurity and frustration in the child. Effective leaders don’t treat every moment as a “teachable” moment.

Fail to acknowledge legitimate critiques

Leaders who fail to listen to the honest and legitimate critiques or their company, personal performance, or effectiveness will soon find themselves like the Emperor with No Clothes. He will wander “naked” into the fray of a challenge, project, or opportunity exposed to unknown risks. Acknowledging honest critiques of process, organizational, or performance shortcomings is not a weakness. Nor is it a sign of disloyalty. Like listening to the results from an annual physical, it allows for corrections that can improve organizational health and performance. If you would lead, learn to listen, acknowledge, and reward constructive candor.

Forget to say please and thank you regularly

Common human kindness and decency are often forgotten in today’s business climate. With high unemployment and the wearisome demands of industry and commerce, it is easy for leaders to take the attitude “Where else can they go to work?” and forget their team members lives are filled with as much uncertainty and stress as their own. Their team members, generally, want to do a good job. They do not need to be thanked for every little thing they do. Nor do they expect a syrupy sweet “please” at every turn. Yet in this day of limited compensation growth and upward mobility, a phone call, and email, or dropping by to say “thank you” and “good job” are powerful motivators. When leaders elaborate on specific performance, rather than just a general reflection, team members find themselves buoyed to continue the battle. Effective leaders make the effort to say please and thank you and in doing so create relationship capital with their teams.

Accept poor performance

Most members of your team know when they are falling short of a goal. The leader’s job is fairly simple. Not easy mind you, but simple. He or she must get the team member to do more or less of something or do it better or differently. The leader’s job is to diagnose the shortcoming properly, treating the cause, not the symptom. He or she must have the courage to challenge the team member to reach the goal without adding to the discouragement probably already present in the individual. Failing to act the says neither the goal, nor the person, really matters. It tells other team members that are achieving the goal their efforts really do not matter so much either. In the end, if coaching, challenging, cajoling, and disciplinary efforts don’t work, leaders must have the courage to part ways with the team member incapable of meeting the goal. Demonstrating that courage builds clarity of purpose in your team.

Take yourself too seriously

The puffed up leader unable to laugh at his own shortcomings or with others on his team is a miserable soul. He is a carrier of despair, and sometimes, “proverbially” heart attacks and ulcers. For his own sake, this leader must learn the difference between taking his responsibilities seriously and taking himself seriously. These leaders brighten a room just be leaving it! In its place, a little talk about the kids, vacation, sports, or other interest with team members keeps the team loose. Anyone who has ever participated in a competitive sport knows the value of staying loose. Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously.

On this April Fool’s day, give a little thought to “what not to do.” And, as always, keep the faith!