20 Signs Your Team Needs Productivity Training

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Let’s be real. Productivity training can get a bad rap. Why?.... Well, let’s see…. 

Maybe productivity training gets misinterpreted as a subtle message that staff aren’t up to par. It’s received as veiled “feedback,” or worse, punishment. Oh, he’s taking that “productivity training”…. 

Maybe it puts staff on the defensive. Who, me? I don’t need productivity training….

Maybe it’s a little galling. Well, we wouldn’t need productivity training if things weren’t run this way…. 

Maybe it seems oddly counter-intuitive. Well, I could be productive if I didn’t have to spend time in a training about being productive.

Or maybe it deserves a bad rap. There’s definitely productivity training out there that’s not, well, productive.  It’s conceptual, out-of-touch perfectionism taught by those buttoned-up trainers who can’t conceive of how you wouldn’t always have a neat desk and your email under complete control. 

As a productivity trainer and coach (who isn’t buttoned-up or out-of-touch), I think there’s another way to look at it. 

Good productivity training should give people the means to greater agency, impact, and freedom.

The side effects of effective productivity training are staff who are:

Less overwhelmed and stressed

Less frustrated and stuck

More clear and agile

More decisive and proactive

More reliable and powerful

More engaged and happy

 

Here are 20 signs that your team might benefit from good, real-world productivity training. And might even thank you for it. 

These productivity symptoms are in escalating order – from initial presenting signs that, left untreated, can progress into more serious and tenacious productivity “disease.”

 

01| Emergency mode by default

With the accelerating pace and daily onslaught of information, many default to whatever grabs attention or the latest “emergency” as a way to prioritize. Over time, this MO degrades motivation, impact, and effectiveness.

02| Endless meetings 

Professionals spend a good portion of their precious workday gathered in conference rooms or on conference calls, yet few consider it time well spent. Meetings often feel like wheel-spinning exercises that don’t advance the work.

03| Email overwhelm 

So much work is shuttled back and forth and back again through email. Yet, few use the tool well. As a result, people are glued to their email and try to fashion it into a to-do list. Problem is: this approach (which may seem brilliant - I mean, that’s where the work is, right?) lays us bare to constant interruption and a big, unruly virtual pile with to-do’s buried inside. And who hasn’t gone down the email rabbit hole in an email trance, spending untold hours without much to show for it?

04| Constantly “on”

I have good news and bad news. The good news is: Technology makes it possible to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime. The bad news is: Technology makes it possible to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime. People need recovery time yet rarely get it. They are “on” 24/7. Reachable. Without recovery time, it’s difficult to focus, make decisions, communicate, and problem solve.

05| Always saying “yes”

It’s admirable to be a “yes,” can-do, person. A team player. The go-to person. But watch out when people only say yes. If “yes” is the unquestioned, default position, if they never say “no” to anything, they will likely succumb to the often crushing burden of overcommitment. Overcommitment eventually catches up and diminishes overall performance.

06| Relentless task switching, interruption, and multitasking 

A study from the University of California Irvine found that professionals are interrupted about every 11 minutes. So? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that the brain isn’t built for that. Task switching takes a cognitive toll.

It takes only about a minute to wipe out short-term memory, which is why people have to retrace their steps to re-remember what they were doing and where they left off. Today’s workplace runs on a heavy dose of interruption and multitasking and that takes a heavy toll on performance.

07| “Dialing it in” and low “engagement” scores on staff surveys

When people are in the emergency mode, when their default work method is to focus on whatever grabs their attention, they start to feel out of control. They get disconnected from their own agency and sense of meaning, which lowers motivation. They start “dialing it in,” going through the motions. They disengage. And that shows up in their performance and, eventually, on the staff survey.

08| Procrastination

When people are “fire-fighting” every day, it’s easy to procrastinate on the bigger, high impact projects. These projects never seem to score the day’s focus because they aren’t, well, on fire. Yet. Just procrastinate long enough and these big-ticket items eventually will burst into flames. But let’s face, that’s no way to live, or work.

09| Compliance, rather than consent

When people start dialing it in, when they’re on auto-pilot, when they disengage, they go into compliance mode. They go along to get along. They may outwardly be agreeable, but their performance is compromised by this sneaky thief - compliance. But compliance is good, right? Not really. Not if you want a culture of responsibility, accountability, and leadership. Not if you want creativity, quality, and innovation.

Mere compliance is a lazy surrender of power - of the power to give consent - to be all in. Compliance often grows under the feet of fear and blame. Consent, on the other hand, is the potent driver of responsible action. It’s the engine of productivity. Compliance may stand in as a poor and costly imposter for consent. You may hobble along with compliance, but you’ll never win the race. You may survive - often at a cost - but you won’t thrive.

10| Slipping deadlines 

When people are running to keep up, overwhelmed by a steady stream of information and change, deadlines start to slip. Of course, it makes sense that timelines change with new information. But if slipping deadlines are the SOP, something is amiss.

11| Signs of stress 

When people are overloaded, when they aren’t productively engaged in their work, you begin to see the signs of stress: an uptick in sick days, moodiness, emotional volatility, exhaustion, poor concentration, workaholism, despondency, health problems, worry, anxiety.

12| Excuses

Want to know if people are productive? Listen to them. Do they speak in the language of accountability or the trendy talk of excuses? Excuses animate the victim mentality. Ironically, people end up becoming the victims of their own excusing habit. They drain their power through their fidelity to excuses.

13| Confusion

With so much input flying so fast, people can lose their bearings. They lose contact with their purpose, goals, meaning, priorities, values, roles, systems, discipline, craft. They operate helter-skelter and succumb to the numbing state of confusion. Sustained confusion becomes a drag factor on performance.

14| Gossip 

Can you hear the whispers of gossip in the halls? Then, you can make an educated guess that people may be disengaged, dissatisfied, or dialing it in. Gossip syphons off the energy of performance. It erodes trust quickly. And without trust, results are stunted.

15| Complaints about unreasonable demands or leaders

If you get wind of complaints about unreasonable demands or leaders, pay attention. It’s often a sign that the turbulence of change, of fire-fighting, of emergency mode is gaining steam and finding a target - and it’s probably not your quarterly goals.

16| Pockets of irritation and resentment

Is there a growing distance between groups of employees? Are people separating into “us” and “them” camps? While you may dismiss this as human nature or no big deal, this can quickly turn into the breeding ground for irritation and resentment, which can infect and impair performance.

17| Conflict that doesn’t get resolved

Conflict can be productive. It can spark new ideas. It can be the bridge to deeper understanding. However, conflict that doesn’t get resolved drains energy and time from productive, collaborative action. When conflict drags on and on, performance suffers.

18| Office politics 

It’s true: where there are people, there are politics. In it’s most benign or even benevolent form, politics is the skillful gathering and wielding of influence. It’s how you gain permission to exercise your power in a community. It’s the rules of engagement. It’s how you self-organize, anoint leaders, share ideas, work together.

However, when office politics rule with an iron fist, when they are the sole determinant of who gets a seat at the table, or who’s idea is heard, or who’s plan is shut out - then, Houston, we’ve got a (productivity) problem. In this type of toxic, hyper-politicized environment, team performance cedes to the self-serving rules of a powerful few. Eventually, this distorted, inbred power weakens results.

19| HR complaints

HR complaints are the urgent care of productivity disease. They are a screaming sign that productivity issues have been ignored and festered. And while you’ll need to triage and stabilize the immediate symptoms first, it’s important to take a holistic approach. What is the root of the HR complaints? What can you do to inoculate against these complaints. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a cycle of throwing time and money at a problem that you’ll never cure.

20| Turnover 

When the signs of productivity distress are ignored, they can eventually lead to turnover. We recognize that constant turnover has a significant financial cost. But there are auxilarly costs that debilitate a team or business. It takes a toll on morale, trust, teamwork, engagement, organizational knowledge, public relations, performance, and productivity.

The good news is these symptoms don’t have to be chronic, or a death sentence. There’s a remedy. In fact, there’s a cure: becoming expert in the mechanics, the techniques of work. 

In today’s highly dynamic and fast-changing environment, you need a solid, reliable method for triaging information, making decisions, directing attention, prioritizing, and taking action.

That’s what good productivity training can deliver: a kind of productivity “wellness” regime that builds a productivity “immune” system - a system that delivers the clarity, agility, control, confidence, impact, and engagement that leads to high-level productivity and healthy, robust performance.


If your team could use some real-world, real-good productivity training, check out productivity training and coaching services here.

In particular, the flagship course, Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment may be just the ticket for your team. This is an in-person course offered in businesses and organizations.

Or, if you want to take the self-paced, online version of the course, you can find out information here: Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.

Overwhelm Your Overwhelm

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One thing I hear a lot from my clients, friends, colleagues (and, truth be told, from myself) is, "I'm overwhelmed." Or variations on that theme like, "I can't keep up," "It's just too much."

It's fashionable, really. Shows you're really in the game, you're a player, right? In fact, some people outright flaunt their frenzy as they flit from thing to thing. 

People defend their overwhelm: I mean, there's...

so much to do, 

so many emails, 

so many commitments, 

so many demands, 

so many interruptions, 

so many inconveniences,

so many frustrations,

so many expectations, 

so much noise, 

so much information, 

so many opinions, 

so many options, 

so much fury,

so many changes,

so many channels....

It takes no special effort to be overwhelmed. No degree, no innate talent, no specialized skill.

What it does take (for all of us) is a willingness to be overwhelmed. A belief that it's inevitable. Or, out of our hands.

And while I get why everyone is overwhelmed and definitely have empathy for it (after all, overwhelm is what often prompts people to seek out my work), I'd like to call it out a bit. I'd like to take it's power down a peg. I'd like to puncture the propaganda for a minute. 

In a sense, overwhelm is the false belief that you have no power. Overwhelm is a denial of agency. A shirking of responsibility. 

Overwhelm is the false belief that you’re not up to the task of your work and your life. It's basically, a lie. 

Now this is not to say that there isn't a good, understandable case for overwhelm. Yet, the only reason the score turns in favor of overwhelm is because we're playing without rules. 

Without rules to the game: overwhelm will likely win. With rules, you play on your terms (which should always be favorable to your "winning" or success, right??! I mean you can rig the game, you know...)... 

What are rules? They are the boundaries you put in place to protect your mind, body, and spirit - to protect your performance and peace of mind. They cure the pain of overwhelm. 

How to chose your rules? Figure out first the game you want to play. What are you after? What is important to you? Rules are the friendly fences you erect to protect what you care about. 

Then, follow the pain, follow the overwhelm and figure out a rule that will protect you from it, keep it away.

Are you overwhelmed by tiredness? Then, maybe a new rule for the time you go to sleep. 

Are you overwhelmed by your inbox? Then, maybe a rule that specifies the timeframe for managing your email. 

Are you overwhelmed by political rhetoric? Then, maybe some rules about the sources and frequency of exposure. 

Are you overwhelmed by all the social events? Then, maybe some rules about what to say yes to and what to say no to. 

The definition of the word "overwhelm" is: "to bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something. To give too much of something to, inundate. To defeat completely. To be too strong for; overpower."

It's interesting (and revealing) that we mostly use the passive form of "overwhelm" - we are the objects of some invisible player doing the overwhelm. And what's also interesting is the dictionary doesn't include a noun form of the word. We've adopted that because "being overwhelmed" has become "a thing," a reactive feeling when someone or something out there is overwhelming us. 

So let's turn things around and take back the power from this overwhelming phantom. Let's overwhelm overwhelm with some good rules. Let's call it out, see it for what it is - and keep it at bay with some basic boundaries. 

What has been overwhelming you? And what rules can protect you and keep you on your productive path?

PS Want to get some good, solid, tested, easy rules for managing your commitments on the daily? Then, I encourage you to check out the self-paced, online course: Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment. This course will help you say goodbye to overwhelm. 



Productive Patterns

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I love patterns. I love connecting dots. I love connections, themes, analogies, synchronicities.

Perhaps it's because I love order, purpose, design. I find it exhilarating. Whether it's true or not, I believe there's inherent purpose - design - in life. And because of that belief, there is for me.

When I teach my Workflow Mastery course or other productivity courses, there's often someone in the room who deplores systems and routines (go figure). They argue quite vociferously that they want to be free, unimpinged by constraints, free to be creative, not boxed in.

Well, I listen with compassion. I do understand the drive for freedom, because I have it in spades. I do understand the love of creativity, because that moves me each day.

However, I have to speak to what I know to be true (once the person has unloaded their concerns).

Turns out, pattern and creativity are friends. In fact, they need each other. Discipline and freedom are best buds. Seriously. The productive paradox.

For this truth, I let Nature teach. Nature is incredibly ordered, scheduled, rhythmic. Look close up at a leaf or a pine cone. Watch the routines of a bird or a fox. Patterns, order, discipline. They are woven into life. They are the stuff of life.

Do these patterns inhibit creativity? Squash innovation? Predict a dull future?

Not at all.

Take a step back and you'll see the infinitely inventive ways that Nature relates, adapts, innovates, expresses. That crazy vine that just can't stop blooming. That unique location for a nest. That over-the-top, relentless beauty of a cherry tree in the Spring. That tumultuous hurricane that draws the seas into its being and travels its own route, regardless of anyone's opinions.

Nature is patterned, yes. It follows rules. And yet, it is free, creative, unbounded.

The productive paradox.

I believe that pattern and system and discipline provide the foundational strength and stamina to be creative, innovative, flexible.

I've seen with clients that when there is no routine, no system, no discipline, they are enslaved by their environment, scooped up by chaos, at the mercy of other people's agendas. Unmoored. Unanchored.

They tell me they're tired of not having an impact. Of going in circles. Of not seeing progress. Of dialing it in.

And so, I speak of the power of patterns. Of the right drop of discipline that can free them to do the great work they are built for.

What patterns, what disciplines free you? I'd love to know….

PS And if getting a little more order and control in the day-to-day sounds interesting to you, you might consider Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.



Why Hedge Your Bets?

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I'm part of a small group of women entrepreneurs participating in a program (led by business mentor and expert Michelle Pippin) aimed at growing our respective businesses. 

Today, I recounted an experience to this group, which led to a double "aha" (something like a double rainbow) that I'm sharing here because it has everything to do with productivity and all that stuff. 

Here's the story:

I'm working on a project in my business. I've written down the results related to the project, and included some aspirational outcomes (wouldn't-it-be-great-if... stuff). 

The other day, I took the aspirational outcomes off my list, because, as I put it, "It was bothering me to include them because it made the reality a little inflated."

In other words, it wasn't depicting the actual facts on the ground.

Well, here's what happened: One of the so-called aspirational outcomes... actually happened. After I took it off my list.

I was reminded again of the power of intention. And I expressed my lesson to the group today like this: "I see that I 'hedge my bets' and often miss on the intentional power to create through envisioning." Simple. Aha! Cool. 

It was interesting that I used the phrase "hedge my bets," and awesome that Michelle didn't miss a beat to zero in on that. She commented that we hedge our bets, so we aren't let down, to protect ourselves from being disappointed. And by hedging our bets, we take away some of the power of intention setting - what these aspirations compel and inspire us to do. 

Holy cow. And BOOM!

 

You see, I've been feeling for some time (like a really long time) that I've installed a beautiful glass ceiling over me. I mean, as ceilings go, it's a really nice one. It provides for me well. 

However, for all its protection, it still feels like a barrier that I can't break through (even though I built it). 

 

And then, there are those words. Hedge. My. Bets.

I saw that my lovely, homey glass ceiling (which lets in lots of light) has been constructed by Hedging My Bets. I created a ceiling to protect me from the risk of:

Disappointment

Vulnerability

The Unknown

Exposure

And so on ...

 

Holy. (Freaking). Cow.

Of course, I had to look a bit more into this phrase that came tripping off the tongue (actually the keyboard). Here's what I found out there in the Interwebs:

"The word hedge means to avoid making a definitive commitment, to avoid committing oneself; to leave a means of retreat open. It comes from the noun hedge, which means a fence made of shrubbery. The hedge that forms a fence offers protection and security, much like hedging a bet. 'Hedge your bets' first appeared in the late-1600s. The first use was by George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, in his play The Rehearsal (1672): 'Now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.'" (www.english.stackexchange.org)

"The verb 'to hedge' derives from the noun hedge, that is, a fence made from a row of bushes or trees. These hedges were normally made from the spiny Hawthorn, which makes an impenetrable hedge when laid. To hedge a piece of land was to limit it in terms of size and that this gave rise to the 'secure, limited risk' meaning." (www.phrases.org.uk)

"The figure of speech 'to hedge one’s bets,' whether it be in relation to a market investment, or a wagering game bet investment, derives—albeit sometimes loosely speaking—as an allusion to 'fencing in,' so as to prevent loss by escape (a form of guarding or protection), as if with hedgerows or similar planting arrangements.

The chief characteristic of a 'hedged' bet/investment is that it requires a (generally profit-reducing) counter-endeavor—a likely-to-be countervailing bet, investment, operation—so that the net gain expectation, if any, is knowingly lowered in order to avoid or minimize net loss." (www.english.stackexchange.org) 

Soooo....

I saw that my own M.O. has woven into it this idea of hedging my bets.

And for all the imagined protection this way of operating has provided, it has required "a generally PROFIT-REDUCING COUNTER-ENDEAVOR - so that the net gain expectation, IF ANY, is KNOWINGLY LOWERED in order to avoid or minimize net loss." (emphasis mine)

Now, for some, maybe hedging a bet here or there would be a good idea! But I see for myself, that it's no way to live, or work. 

So now, being aware of this hedge-betting business, I want to play my cards more fully. You know, play full out.

I'm going to dream and declare and do (even if it bothers me because it seems "inflated" or not "realistic"). And that beautiful glass ceiling may just shatter (in an awesome, sparkling way) with my own exuberance and energy and effort. And who knows what I'll discover just beyond it? Pretty much only way to find out. Right?

I tell you this story to spread the "aha" magic.

What kind of "hedges" have you cultivated and manicured to hedge your "bets"? What dreams do you not write down because you are being realistic?

And how might you play your game beyond those elegant hedges?

Want to join me in dreaming and doing, imagining and intending, aspiring and aiming - free of all that hedging? (You know you do. It will be fun.)
 

 A view of hedges from my run today. #lindsayontherun

A view of hedges from my run today. #lindsayontherun


PS. If you’re a woman who is creating, running, growing a business - and would like to surround yourself with go-for-it women and straight-talk expertise from Michelle, check out the Women Who WOW The Online Alliance for Seriously Driven Women Entrepreneurs

PPS. If you’re into getting productivity findings, tips, etc. that work in the real world, I'll send them to you. Sign up here. Easy Peasy.  OR join the Facebook Group, Productivity Powers. Or both. 

PPPS. (Because, why not?) Want "a method in the madness"? A way to systematically manage all the details of work and life in order to avoid the crazy-busy trap and have the impact you most want? Then check out the self-paced, online course Workflow Mastery: The Disciplines of Accomplishment.