Improve Performance and Productivity with Feedback

How Critical Feedback Enhances Employee Performance

If you want to improve workplace productivity, you might consider revamping your organization’s approach to giving critical feedback.

Research suggests that companies can experience productivity declines in the double digits when difficult conversations are avoided.

Improved performance along with the opportunity for the development of great employees and future leaders can backfire if feedback is offered in the wrong way and can lead to defensiveness and resentment.

An extremely important element of professional development and employee performance is getting critical well thought out and timely feedback and understanding how to receive and act on it.

A Culture of Trust and Safety

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, said that she identifies scalable employees when she sees “Someone who takes critiquing. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

She adds in a recent interview with HBR on her new book Option B-

“You need the discipline of setting really ambitious goals, making it safe for people to debrief and own failure and get feedback; and be willing to learn and correct.”

Therefor, it is important for employees to be open and appreciative when receiving comments on performance and to recognize that accepting constructive criticism on the job is a critical factor for getting promoted. Not only does listening to feedback help a person improve his or her abilities, it also demonstrates the character traits and attitudes that management like to see in future leaders.

Business leaders can do a lot to create a culture around in the moment critiquing.   They can consider ways to provide training in how to give and receive feedback in constructive, positive ways. The business culture should enable everyone to see that this model of communication is designed to promote growth and development, decrease workplace stress, and improve productivity and not an opportunity to put down or demean employees.

Building a positive culture of feedback can significantly reduce workplace stress as employees know where they stand regularly with regard to performance.

Delivery Frequency

One way to develop a positive culture around giving and receiving feedback is to avoid lumping it into annual performance reviews. The formality and weight of annual reviews can make them very stressful; it is often better to deliver it with more frequency, in the moment and preferably within a shortened time frame.

Hearing critiques or praise about work practices that occurred a year ago can be frustrating. And employees lose many opportunities to change and grow.

Finally, a healthy feedback culture can be developed when onboarding new hires. While sharing about the organizations culture, management can inform new hires that the company supports growth and learning by giving constructive feedback on a regular basis. This diminishes the negative stigma related to it and further embeds a culture of learning into the organization.

Healthy organizations encourage trust and strong communication. This results in improved overall performance and less time wasted.

 

For more information on this topic, please email me at stephanie@coachinglib.com

How to Increase Your Productivity and Make More Money

We spend so much of our time responding to emails and texts throughout our day that we sometimes wonder where our time has gone.  To make matters worse, because we are checking our emails upwards of 86 times a day, we don’t have enough focused time to concentrate and prioritize.  As a result, we end up having to work nights and weekends.  This not only has a negative impact on our work/life balance but has an especially devastating effect on our work and if you are in professional services – your billable hour.

I coach with attorney’s and consultants all the time and they are frustrated with the fact that they are not meeting their billable hours daily and as a result, are constantly playing catch-up.  The way to overcome this common frustration is to be very deliberate about your schedule, block time and keep to the same format weekly.

Here is my 3-step process for time blocking.  It starts with breaking down your daily activities and tasks into 3 categories.  Administrative, Revenue Generating and Personal.

  • Administrative (everything that is not billable work like expenses, reports, research)
  • Revenue Generating (any activity that will increase your revenue or prevent revenue loss-includes networking and business development)
  • Personal (exactly as it appears, dentist apt., dr. apts etc)
     

To get started, make a list of all of your weekly tasks and then color-code them according to Administrative, Revenue Generating and Personal.

Once they are color-coded, look at your calendar carefully and begin by reflecting on what times in the day you have your best energy. If you are wired and energized in the morning then it’s not a good time to do administrative work.  Use your energy to do any revenue generating work or work that requires focus.   If you find that after lunch you are less energized then use that time for Administrative or Personal Tasks.

It’s a good idea to block your chunks into hours.  My preference is 2-hour blocks, that way you can get the most done.  I recently worked with an attorney and here is how we broke down her schedule:

 

Sample of a Monday:

6:30am-8:00am- Work out – shower, change, get to work (personal)

8:00am-8:30am – Check Email (admin)

8:30am-11:00am- Revenue Generating Work – focused work

11:30-1:00pm- Marketing and Business Development Lunch (Revenue Generating))

1:00-1:30- Check and respond to emails (administrative)

1:30-3:00 – Court appearance, Client Calls (Revenue Generating)

3:00-5:00-Follow up on emails and tie loose ends (Administrative work)

 

In this example my client blocked time to focus on herself with exercise, contract work and business development.  It also makes it easier when she has to schedule calls and make court appearances to always try and do it in the afternoon when she has less focused energy.

The general idea is to create a framework for your schedule and try and work within those boundaries.  It’s not always possible to have everything go according to plan but when you have a good understanding on how to block your schedule you won’t have to worry about finding time to bill and finding time for yourself.

 

Stephanie Wachman, is an executive coach, author, and productivity expert.  She is the founder of Life In Balance, LLC.  Her book OWN your Time is available on Amazon.

www.stephaniewachman.com, stephanie@coachinglib.com

 

A recent study found that we check our smartphones up to 86 times per day, and for some of us, every six minutes.

The Center for Creative Leadership conducted a study in 2014 and found that checking our devices that frequently increases our workweek to about 72 hours. In other words, we are also distracting ourselves with non-essential activities.

In fact, the habits we have formed around technology are costing us income and time. Techno-distractions add a high number of unproductive hours to our schedules. Technology does, in fact, improve efficiency; but it’s also is the root cause for lower productivity.

Let’s not just blame technology. Many aspects of life, and our own thinking patterns, can clutter our minds with things that make it harder to concentrate: family and personal obligations, work demands, business travel, etc.

So, what is mental clutter? It is anything that gets in the way of a clear and focused thought process.

Have you ever noticed that when you get overwhelmed or over-stimulated that you can’t think straight? This occurs because our body starts to produce more adrenalin and cortisol-the hormones and neurotransmitters that our body releases to cope with stress.

As a business professional, you might notice that when you have “too much on your mind” your ability to think straight, strategize, or problem-solve is diminished. I’ve heard my clients say, “My head gets cloudy.”  As the body releases stress hormones, our amygdala, or our reptilian/instinctive brain, takes over. We default to basic responses, such as fight, flight, freeze or appease. That’s why we often procrastinate (freeze) when we’re overwhelmed by a big project. It’s why we stop responding to email (flight) when we have too many demands on our time.

There are ways around this. Being aware of when your brain gets highjacked by stress hormones is a natural place to start.  Mental clutter can cause high levels of stress, disorganization and confusion about what to do next. When mental clutter causes increased stress, there are a few ways to decrease the overstimulation.

 

1) Physical

Take care of your health.  Exercise, sleep and good eating habits release more of the feel-good hormones into your body, such as dopamine and serotonin. These hormones will help improve your focus and thinking.

 

2) Old Stories

We are the stories we tell ourselves. Usually we tell ourselves negative things, such as how we messed something up or how horrible we are. Judith Glaser, a cultural anthropologist, refers to this as our movies. We are great storytellers and so we can create epic movies about how we just don’t measure up.

The good news is that you can work on telling yourself a new and positive story. Or you can toss the negative movie in the trash. Doing so will free up your brain to focus on what is important, positive and relevant. You will live in the moment rather than in the past or in the future.

 

3) Discipline

We all have obligations with email, social media and business. It takes discipline to focus on one thing

at a time. In fact, our brains operate much better when we don’t try and multitask. Focusing on your email in blocks of time will free you up to focus on a larger project later. Being disciplined to only check your social media at certain times, will help you maintain focus and ultimately relieve stress.

 

4) One Step at a Time

I also recommend that you make a list of what is cluttering your mind each day or week. Then work on one of those items at a time. Think of your mind as if it were your desk. If your desk is too cluttered, tidy one part of the desk every day until it is clean and organized. This will alleviate self-inflicted stress and help you to develop new habits and behaviors.

Developing self-awareness about your habits and behaviors takes time, so give yourself the time you need to work on it. This exercise is not about being hard on yourself; it’s an opportunity to see how you can grow and change and ultimately find some mental freedom.

 

If you’d like to learn more about reducing stress and mental clutter, I encourage you to read my book Own Your Time, which can be purchased on Amazon.

 

If you are a business owner, chances are, you have done everything by yourself for many years. However, it gets to the point when you become so preoccupied doing everything yourself, that you lose sight of how to achieve or plan for even greater goals because you’ve simply run out of capacity.

Further, your daily tasks take you away from your unique talents, areas of work which you naturally excel at and are passionate about. These areas are typically the ones that you used at the beginning of your career. If you can get back to what you are most passionate about then you will naturally tap into the area of your vision that will financially grow your business.

When I delegate, nothing gets done right. Why is that?
Prepare to delegate. This should be taken seriously and not as an afterthought.

  • If you don’t take the time to explain the task and think it’s easier to just do it yourself, then you will always have too much work on your plate. Take the time upfront to explain what needs to get done and in the end you will free your time up. Research shows that employees become disengaged and unmotivated when managers don’t delegate effectively.
  • Understand that employees will make mistakes.
  • If you are a perfectionist. Be aware that you need to manage yourself first. It is rare that another person will do a task exactly the same way as you, but focus on the outcome and not always the process.

Does it take more time to delegate than to do it myself?
If you delegate and the work is not done correctly, ask yourself what kind of communicator you are. A great delegator has to be a great communicator and you need to know what to delegate.

  • Delegate the tasks you have to do all the time. If you understand them well and know what the outcome is, then it will be easy to communicate that to your employee.
  • Delegate a less-than-essential task that requires skills you don’t currently have. Learning new skills takes time, if your employee has the right skills to complete a task, then hand it over for them to do.
  • Delegate tasks that don’t have immediate deadlines. Researching materials for blogs, newsletters, interesting report that pertains to your business are all good examples.
  • Delegate a task to an employee who has shown a particular interest in it. If you have an employee that has a degree in a certain area or an expertise from past work experience, then give them an opportunity to show you their stuff (as long as it pertains to your business).
  • Delegate a task to an employee who needs to develop a skill in that area. If you have an employee who has lots of potential and want to grow in his/her career but is weak in an area, then delegate tasks that could help them to develop a new skill that will benefit them. (i.e. running a meeting, calling on customers, etc)

What is a delegation agenda and how will it help my business?
A weekly meeting on the same day each week where you go over the prior week’s delegation tasks and you get and give feedback from your employee. Use a delegation worksheet (below) and create a binder to put it in, so you can track weekly progress.

  • Write an agenda of all the tasks you want accomplished.
  • Set deadlines that you both agree upon for accomplishing tasks.
  • Explain what you want done, how you want it done and when you want it done.
  • If they need authority, give it to them and let the other employees know that he/she is responsible for the project and needs their cooperation.
  • If they need a budget to do a task, give them spending authority and all the other tools they may need to finish the job.

How do I get honest feedback from my employee(s) that they understand and can do what I am asking of them?
Weekly meetings, these meetings provide the time for your employee to work with you one-on-one to get questions answered and to receive positive feedback as to what is going well and what needs to be improved upon.

Delegation is about improving your work/life balance and developing employees. This is truly a win/win situation if done right.

Working long hours and allowing interruptions all day long can reduce productivity. Need to be more productive? Just say “NO”

Time management takes discipline, control and repetition. Sadly, the odds are overwhelmingly against us and we will likely fail several times in our attempts to master it. But this is a good thing! Why? Because you have to fail first at something before you can master it.

The recent  Wall Street Journal article, “For Some Executives, Doing Less Means Getting More Done“, has determined after much research that the key to unlocking your greatest productivity is to just say “no” – say “NO” to interruptions, “NO” allowing your email to distract you all day, “NO” to working on tasks that could be delegated. The article also states that by doing necessary tasks without allowing for interruptions can increase your productivity and reduce your stress because you don’t have to constantly be switching thought patterns around. Research has shown that every interruption can cost us 25 minutes in lost productivity. For example, if you are working on a project and need to focus, answering a call and focusing your attention on the call and then attempting to refocus on your work will likely take 25 minutes out of your day.

8 Tips to Be More Productive

1. Work in offline mode in Outlook®, when you are working on specific tasks until they are accomplished, turn off email notification.

2. Check your email every two hours. Schedule the times in your day when you will check and respond to email (try, 9am – 11am – 2pm – 4pm).

3. Close your browser. Keep web browsers closed when you are working on completing a project.

4. Silence your phone. You will have more than enough opportunities for phone time if you schedule it into your calendar. It’s ok to leave it on for emergencies, but if it’s just to chat with someone it’s probably going to be a huge time waster.

5. Shut the door. If you work in a busy office environment, you may want to consider shutting your door when you need to get work done. Don’t let others manage your day. Practice the fine art of saying NO to interruptions. As you train yourself to be more disciplined you must also train those around you. There used to be an aphorism that everyone who has an office should have an “open door policy” meaning, ostensibly that they were “approachable.” Everyone should be as approachable as possible in the workplace – provided, however, that this approachability does not subjugate the office holder to having other people control their day. Close your door. You will not be a negative influence; you will be someone who gets things done and telegraphs to others in the workplace the need to do so.

6. Understand your time saboteurs. What are they and how can you address them.

7. Wear noise cancelling headphones or put on headphones with low soft music to keep yourself from being distracted from outside noise.

8. Say “NO” to doing work that can be delegated. This will save you tons of time in the long run even if it seems daunting at first.

These 8 steps will help you stay focused and save time. If you want to be more productive at work, reduce your work hours.

 

 

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