The Value of Constancy

Information overload affects all of us, all the time. Not a day goes by where you don’t have at least a fleeting thought about how you’re going to get everything done.

The good news is that you’re not alone. The bad news is that you still have to get everything done. As a leader, you’re torn in even more directions, in part because of the expectations and demands of your employees.

One way to approach this is to decide that every day you will do two or three things consistently, regardless of what else is on the day’s agenda. For example, you might review your goals and deadlines daily to make sure that the important things are top of mind.

Next, you may identify your top three priorities every morning and schedule enough time to complete them.

Is Your Office Always Open?

Spring is here and grumblings related to work/life balance are spewing out of employees like pollen out of blooming trees. After all, who wouldn’t want to leave the office at a decent hour to enjoy a beautiful spring evening?

This week I heard a mouthful from Stella, a professional staff member who is upset when she has to work more than 40 hours a week. After all, she explained to me, she has a wedding to plan and wants to start a family.

Really? You’d think that someone at this level wouldn’t say something like this to a consultant in the first 90 seconds of a get-to-know-you staff evaluation meeting. What concerned me more, however, is the impact she is having on her co-workers. And Stella’s managers expect more from her, but don’t clearly communicate those expectations.

Meeting Madness

Do you have too many meetings in a typical week? It happens often and you can suffer from “meeting madness” as a result. This is an affliction caused by too many meetings that aren’t focused, take too long, and accomplish a tenth of what you expect.

If you’re tired of the madness, here are some practical tips to create some sanity.

Start and end on time. This may seem obvious, but it’s often breached because people are late. That isn’t fair to those who are on time, especially if it means that you’ll run late. Stay true to the end time even if you aren’t finished. It will help build the discipline to begin and end on time in the future.

Do People Really Matter?

I had an advisory conversation with a young graduate student, Vanessa (not her real name), about her career aspirations. She’s an intelligent person who knows what she wants, and frankly, has little interest in the opinion of others as she establishes and achieves her professional goals.

Her behavioral style is direct to the point of bluntness, factual with little feeling, and ambitious with inconsequential concern for others. Vanessa could benefit from enhancing her emotional intelligence, especially given the brusqueness of her communication style.

Vanessa feels that none of this is important. If she gets a job where her drive for results is rewarded, how she goes about it doesn’t matter. She views revealing her personality on the job as a liability to avoid. Just the facts, ma’am.

Roles and Responsibilities

Do your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities? If you gave them a job description once upon a time, now it may be a historical document. If you haven’t given them anything, it’s likely that their understanding of the job is vague.

I recommend identifying some combination of roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators (KPIs). When you articulate these factors (and your expectations), you’re much more likely to see a higher level of performance and productivity.

Here are some scenarios that clients have shared with me recently. They are great examples of what can happen when you’re not specific.

– Partners in a professional practice tasked a small group of senior people to up their leadership game by raising the morale of the staff. With the best of intentions, this group unexpectedly elicited a complaint session that unleashed an angry mob of employees.

Go Team!

Have you ever held a team meeting with a stated, “official” purpose but really had an ulterior motive? Most leaders do this at least once during their careers, and more often than not, this tactic is rarely successful.

Your employees are smart enough to know when the official reason isn’t the real reason, but may not always figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. When that happens, everything ranging from gossip to distrust emerges.

And then, you’ve lost them.

Reframe With Humor

What would we do without humor? A daily dose of humor diffuses stress, anxiety, and other nasty things that cause our bodies and minds to go off kilter.

I look for the humor in everyday, routine activities and generally find that when I share something amusing, people appreciate it. Think about it: when people laugh together, they are aligned at that very moment. It’s a tiny break from the humdrum of the day that can spark everything from fresh perspective to hope to optimism.

Laughter does indeed have proven physiological benefits. It boosts the immune system. It decreases stress hormones, including cortisol. I even learned about laughter yoga from my friend, Margie. It’s a form of yoga which involves prolonged voluntary laughter, which in effect creates the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of laughter.

Big Value from Small Ideas

Do your employees offer ideas for improving the way their jobs are done? Are they even comfortable with the idea of making suggestions?

Your organizational culture influences how your employees will actually participate. If you welcome input, you’ll receive it. If you say you welcome it, but poke holes in their ideas, people will retreat to their cubicles. If you say you welcome it and do nothing with the ideas, they won’t take you seriously.

But if you welcome input and actually do something with it, you’ll awaken much more from your staff.

Your people have many good ideas that they don’t even realize could be valuable to their co-workers. As a leader, your willingness to solicit and try out these ideas could be a game changer.

Mixed Signals

Performance appraisals present interesting challenges for leaders. Many times you procrastinate because you’re either really busy with other priorities or you just want to avoid doing the reviews.

Hint: you’re always busy. You need to make the time.

Employees want to know how they’re doing. They want your feedback (even though they may disagree with it). They want a formal opportunity to express their views.

When employees are doing well, it’s easy to reinforce and encourage them. If they’re doing poorly, presumably you’re already dealing with it (as poor performance needs to be nipped in the bud – never wait for the performance review).

Clarifying Expectations

How many times do you have conversations when you think everyone is in agreement, only to find out later that people interpreted the discussion differently?

Alas, this happens all the time. It can happen in a conversation between two people, let alone in conversations with a larger group. It’s a good idea to identify where possible misperceptions occur so that you can clarify any confusion ahead of time.

Clarification is usually needed when some gray area exists. The challenge is that you might think something is black and white when the other person is thinking gray.

For example, you may tell someone that a project is due on Thursday. You may expect the completed work by Thursday morning, when the employee thinks that the deadline is close of business on Thursday (or even worse, Thursday evening).