Leaders and Executives’ Biggest Productivity Challenges

Here I discuss about how demands on executives — and CEOs in particular — have changed over the years, and how today’s leaders can best navigate their busy days.

What are the most pressing productivity issues executives are facing today, and how can they tackle them?

For executives who aren’t part of the C-suite, I think the two most pressing issues are meetings and email. They consume a ridiculous amount of people’s time, and a lot of it isn’t well spent. But they’re both solvable problems.

On email, my suggestions are pretty simple. First, don’t look at it every minute; look at it every hour or two. Second, try to discipline yourself to read only the subject matter in order to discard 50% to 80% of your emails right away. We all get so much spam. Third, practice what I call “OHIO” — Only Handle It Once, immediately deciding what to do with each email. Concentrate on the emails that are important and answer them right away. And don’t put them into some sort of storage system (unless you ‘built it’!), because by the time you’re ready to finally tackle them, you’ll spend another half an hour trying to find them.

As to meetings, I’ve really always been clear about what makes a good meeting:

  • First, you ought to have the materials and agenda sent out in advance
  • Second, the person who’s presenting the issues should speak for a short amount of time, 10 or 15 minutes, and not consume the whole meeting
  • Third, you need to have a real discussion and debate
  • Fourth, you should end the meeting with clear to-do’s — what are the next steps, who’s going to follow through on them, what are the time frames?
  • Fifth, you should end the meeting at the very latest in 90 minutes, and try for 60 minutes

But there are slightly different issues CEOs and the C-suite are facing, right?

A lot of the critical issues that I see from advising CEOs, and being one myself, stem from how to allocate your time. Read the rest of this entry »

Align Your Time Management with Your Goals

What goals are you aiming for in your work? Does the way that you are spending your time actually correlate to those goals? Without answers to these questions, you won’t know how the many tasks on your list should be prioritized, organized and ultimately accomplished.

List your goals

Ideally, you and your manager should meet at the start of each year to formulate a set of performance goals. From your discussion, you should understand how those goals tie into the company’s aims and mission. You likely also have your own personal career goals. Together, these may look something like, “Improve people-management skills. Manage six new products. Handle contracts for all of the department’s new products. Develop vendor-management skills.”

Revisiting them now, write these goals down — on paper or in a note-taking app if you prefer. You will use these goals in two ways: first, to prioritize your daily work; and second, to gauge your progress (in other words, to benchmark what you’re accomplishing and whether the changes you make as a result of this book are effective for you). By referring back to this list regularly, you’ll be able to identify which tasks are most important for you to tackle so you can plan accordingly.

Track your time

Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to examine how you’re currently spending your time. Are you working on the things you should be doing — the things that will allow you to reach those goals —or are you getting bogged down by unrelated tasks or unexpected crises? Read the rest of this entry »

5 Tips to Reduce Stress – and Improve Life-Work Effectiveness

The pendulum is finally swinging back from the apogee of complete immersion in work as the business ideal. A great hue and cry now strains to contain our out-of-control culture of overwork. We know it reduces productivity, destroys community engagement and produces all manner of stress-related health problems.

The good news is that you can do something about it, for yourself and for your employees. You can be less stressed and more productive by spending less time on and less attention to work — while being more engaged with your family, your community and the things you do for just you. You can take conscious, deliberate action to pursue four-ways wins: practical steps toward making things demonstrably better in all parts of your life — at work, at home, in your community and in your private life.

For many years I’ve been refining a method for producing four-way wins that works because it’s customized for each person who takes up the challenge. I can tell you that, while it’s not easy, it is possible, for I’ve seen success in just about every kind of setting, from retail to manufacturing to human services, and everything in between. If you’re like most harried business professionals, it’s more possible than you now think it might be. Ready to give it a try?

1. Diagnose

Start by taking a minute to explore your personal four-way view — what’s important to you, where you focus your attention (your most precious asset as a leader), and how things are going in each of the four domains of your life. Then begin generating ideas for experiments you can try to better align what matters to you with what you actually do. It’s likely that this will mean attending to a non-work aspect of your life you’ve been neglecting. Read the rest of this entry »

Caring for your People is a Win-Win for All

Dial-An-Angel’s Managing Director, Danielle Robertson, is a passionate believer that Employee Assistance Programmes – particularly in times of personal or domestic crisis – are an increasingly important practice for leaders and managers to offer. They are singularly an essential component for talent management and retention strategies – with a strong human, caring aspect.

Following are some real examples of her and her team’s work in this vital area of looking after your people – and not just the star performers.

Danielle directly outlines here some Case Studies:

Help in a time of crisis

Client’s problem

This national law firm called on DIAL-AN-ANGEL when an employee’s sister was going through breast cancer treatment. The sister had two young children and the employee needed time off to help her sister with the children’s care and domestic support. The law firm offered to organise assistance through DIAL-AN-ANGEL for daytime childcare, domestic assistance and gardening for a six-week period to allow the employee to remain at work during the day. She was then free in the evenings and on weekends to support her sister knowing that very capable Angels had attended to most of the domestic and childcare duties during the week.

DAA solution

Childcare on a daily basis from 8am to 6pm for a six-week period. Domestic cleaning services including ironing, once a week for up to 6 hours. Gardening assistance once a fortnight for two hours to maintain the premises to the standard required by the property owner.

Benefits to the client

The benefit to our client was that the employee could concentrate on her work during the day knowing her sister, niece and nephew were being well cared for while she was at work. The firm were appreciative to have the employee at work as she was across some major projects that could not just be handed to anyone else to complete successfully. The employee’s family felt supported and cared for throughout the whole ordeal. This is a feeling money can’t buy. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership – the buck stops with you

Effective leadership will take many forms – but at its core, it necessarily includes the ability to:

Articulate a vision and overarching strategy

Establish guiding principles

Achieve commitment to goals, plans and actions from beginning to end – with good governance enshrined

Make decisions quickly, efficiently and effectively

Earn the trust of your people, include them in the process, treat them fairly, keep them informed and accountable

Engage people, to positively influence by effective, appropriate and courageous communications

Keep the organisation focussed on the positive outcomes

Display clearly your own brand of charisma or ‘presence’

And above all else, when you look in the mirror each morning, remind yourself:
- the buck stops with you
– holding yourself accountable, personally and professionally, as leader for not only your career, but your organisation

Therefore a definition of Leadership – “To maximise the expectations, the positive hope of the outcomes that come from change – while minimising the fear of change for those involved.”

Why are Australian Companies not investing in their People?

One of the most compelling experiences we are confronted with as members of an Executive and Business Mentoring firm is that companies, generally speaking do not see the need to invest in the leadership and professional development of their people. Why you may ask?

Quite simply this is regarded in C-suite as a cost.

We put it to you in one simple assertion – it is an investment in your organisation’s prosperity into the future – through your people.

We all recognise that in recent times, general business confidence is down – hence numerous developmental programs, to put it bluntly, have been ‘axed’ or indefinitely postponed. We hear it – day in, day out.

So please consider the following.

At a time when companies are looking for every source of competitive advantage, the workforce itself represents the largest reservoir of untapped potential. Roughly speaking, 25% are engaged, 25% are actively disengaged and the other 50% are just doing enough to keep out of trouble. This is costing Australian industry over $30 billion per annum off the bottom line.

So what actions need to be taken to ensure employees are highly engaged? Here are what we believe to be the critical factors Read the rest of this entry »

Retaining Top Talent – an Imperative

“The Renewed Challenge that really should never have gone away”

There is little doubt that financing was a key area for organisational competitive advantage before the global financial crisis (GFC). For directors, the challenges now appear to be around the management of human capital and the fight for talent in organisations. As directors become more in tune with this, it is inevitable that boards will seek human resource information with the same degree of integrity as that expected of financial information. Systems and processes will become vital in establishing data that enables boards to proactively manage human capital – real people!

The US experience after 9/11 and after the GFC-driven downturn provides the “canary” for Australian directors. The thought of a W-shaped global growth pattern and the emergence of potential downturns in Australia only heighten the need for directors to become focussed on retaining top talent.

Recent reports have indicated that nearly 50% of US workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. While the largest group of unhappy workers seems to be the under-25 “Generation Me” crowd, the sheer number of unhappy employees is quite troubling. Amid the signs of improving labour markets and employment rates, this news should be downright disturbing to business owners, directors and managers. Now is the time to prepare to help prevent the loss of talented people who may “jump ship” when the opportunity is right – for them.

Studies have shown that only companies that change their management approach survive for more than 18 months post recession. If you want your company to survive the recovery, it must embrace change and find new approaches that reflect the new business and cultural environment.

As it relates to HR, there are few new approaches to measuring business performance and employee engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Article from news.com.au – 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

“WITH Facebook, email and Tweets it has never been harder to get things done, but if you are a procrastinating executive you could be standing in the way of progress for your entire organisation. “There seems to be an addiction to emails and social media,” says business and executive mentor Paul Smith from Carnegie Management Group. “And that can mean key decisions aren’t being made or communicated to teams.”

Read the full article on The Australian website: 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

Read the full article on The Daily Telegraph website: 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

Read more of this topic in my article Battling your online addiction

Battling your online addiction

How much time do you spend each day responding to email, checking Facebook, sending and reading Tweets, aimlessly surfing your favourite websites and buying things you don’t need? How much time, in other words, do you spend doing stuff online that doesn’t add much value in your life, or in anyone else’s?

Too much, I’m going to guess. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership into the future

It is often stated – and very true – that before you can lead anyone, you must be able to lead yourself.

To know:

    Where you are heading

    Why you are heading in that direction

    How to get there

    And finally, being able to fully realise the exceptional outcomes

    Therefore having a title won’t make you a leader. Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader if they positively influence others. People of influence who multiply their effectiveness don’t rely on “positional power” but on “personal power.” While the position or title they have gives them authority, it is qualities such as integrity, trust, faith in people, the ability to actively listen and respond appropriately, to empower and understand people that sets them apart.

    And most importantly of all – communicate effectively with clear purpose

    Everyone matters. Everyone makes a difference. The greatest insult in life or in business is indifference. We can’t afford the perception that people don’t matter enough for us to engage them. What people “do” could be divided into activity and accomplishment. What percentage of our day is made up of activity, as opposed to accomplishment? The latter largely depends on positive influence.

    When it comes to leadership (as distinct from management), we are all a work in progress. All of us can lead better. None of us ever truly master the art. Each of our lives is a leadership “lab.”  We don’t need an organization or title to lead. What we need is a desire to make a positive difference and an awareness of the opportunities to lead that present themselves every day. This is determined more by who we are – our character, than what we know.

    If each of us chose to lead (by positively influencing) at the right time in the right way what might our company be like? The real test of leadership could be – If you had no title or ability to reward or penalize others, could you still get them to follow you?

    The person who thinks they are leading, but has no one following them, is only going for a walk.

    So take charge of your career – whether you are an owner/director, CEO, GM or family business leader – indeed whatever walk of life.

    Become your own CEO – Chief Energy Officer – and turn your year into a highly successful one and achieve all you have planned for – both personally and professionally.

    The alternative – believe everything we read in the daily press and get mightily depressed!

    Best wishes to all.