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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

90 Ideas: Ryan Grabill

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Productivity is overrated. We live in a society obsessed with productivity. Time is money. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. The truth is the U.S. has a lot to learn from cultures around the world that aren’t as focused on time and productivity but rather on relationships. Turns out, success in most areas of life is more about relationships than productivity. Sure, the tasks must be finished. But don’t forget your most important asset: the people with whom you serve.

Prioritize rest. We are the most anxious, depressed, medicated, distracted and joyless adults in history. A recent study out of Stanford University showed that productivity drops after 50 hours a week. At 55 hours, it falls off a cliff – so much that those who work 70 hours produce nothing more with the extra time. Wow. The good news? Make a change in your life, and it’ll have a ripple effect. Take a day off. Shut off your phone. Go for a walk. Read a novel. Your overall productivity will go up!

Weigh carefully what you say in front of your team. Your team is not the audience for venting frustrations you may have with your supervisor, organization or business leadership. Every team reflects its leader. Do an assessment: If your team is immersed in negativity, take a hard look at what you say in front of them. The good news: Change your attitude, and it will change the attitude of your entire team.

You are likely a micromanager. A recent study by Trinity Solutions found that 79% of respondents had experienced micromanagement during their careers at some point, and 70% of these people had considered quitting their job because of it. Ultimately, more than 30% of them did quit! Here is some hard truth: You are not benefiting your team by staying involved in every single thing happening or correcting and changing everything that comes across your desk. Loosen your grip. It’s OK; no, it is necessary. Otherwise, the health and productivity of the team will slowly die or completely stagnate.

Know the details of team functions, at least three levels down.
You know that small startup company, Apple? Well, when they were exactly that, Steve Jobs decided to make the company big and successful. They hired great leaders from a diverse spectrum of industries to lead the teams at Apple. And guess what? It absolutely failed. Turns out, great leaders who don’t know what their teams do can only be so effective. Take the time to learn what exactly your team does. Knowing the weeds helps you stay out of the weeds and, instead, empower.

Cross-departmental collaboration is key. Having trouble with internal collaboration? You aren’t alone. Your team and other departments likely speak two different “languages.” Be innovative. Be creative. Choose humility. Learn what your team can do to better serve other departments. Encourage other teams and point out their strengths. No matter what, don’t allow your team to form an us-versus-them mentality. Disunity will kill an organization.

Watch for things you’ve never seen before. Curiosity is key. Watch and listen always; then, speak when necessary. No matter how much you know, you still have a lot to learn. Be approachable at all times. Listen to your team members and watch for things: What can you see now that you didn’t notice last week? What patterns do you see in client feedback? Team member complaints? How comfortable do people seem when they walk into your office? These observations are crucial. Sometimes, you just need a plan, not necessarily the plan.

Confront your own insecurities. Leadership is hard and often exposes personal flaws. Here’s the key: Don’t internalize them; learn from them. Don’t be afraid of criticism, being wrong or failing – even in front of your whole team. You are human. And you can’t afford to do be overly sensitive to being wrong or not being the smartest person in the room. Guess what? You aren’t. Empower your team. They will respect you if you have a healthy view of yourself and leverage it.

Don’t take the credit. Unless you work completely alone, the success of your team and your collective work is shared. If your team is crushing it, people will notice. When they do, and praise comes your way, don’t miss the opportunity to pass it on to those who put work into that project. For the team I serve on, most great ideas don’t come from me. If we were reliant on me, we’d be in a rough spot. It’s crucial that I work to make that known. Try it out – it will be a game changer.

Strategically invest in new team members. “You’ll figure it out” is not an effective onboarding strategy. Start by thinking through their role: What will the day-to-day look like? Are you giving them the tools to execute? Then, the big picture: What does it look like for this role to interface with other departments? What factors that aren’t on paper about your organization or industry does a new team member need to know in order to be successful? Next: Put it all on paper. Build it and make it better with each new team member.


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