Carve out your best 2-hour time period each day, then get to work

All of us get so busy with to-dos, projects, voice-mails, etc. I receive over 250 emails a day, and there is no way I can get to a level of specificity with each one, let alone the phone calls and voice mails. So how do you orient and prioritize your day to make the most out of the limited time left for the real important, project-line items.

I carve out 2 hours, my best two hours each day, and try very hard to keep this time allocated just for my to-do list. I have found that from 9-11:00am I am running at my best (thinking, energy, alertness), therefore that becomes my carve-out each day. In my daily calendar these two-hour’s are highlighted and I try very hard not to schedule other meetings during this period.

This advice goes very well with our earlier post “Don’t respond to email … yet”, when both of these actions can be implemented each day/week. Try blocking out two hours; let us know your success.

Action: Lets start with one week and then expand to a year.

Starting next week, block out your two hour period for 5 days

  • After the 5 days, reflect back on your week and ask yourself these questions:
  1. How well did I stick to the block-out time
  2. Did I get more accomplished on my important projects
  3. Did you start telling others this was your “no meeting time”
  4. Is it time to expand for the year – all 2013 ?

Reply and let us know how you did during the first week and after.

Don’t Forget the Overlap.

One of the best and most usable graphs I have run across in all the books and reference materials is the graph below. This graph is full of information, so lets pull apart a few areas that will help you know and in the future. Each department, division or company must depend on having the right people in the right place, doing the right tasks, and controlling their area of assignment. In the best companies, people are providing work that corresponds to the future and direction of the company. Front-line staff work on daily tasks that affect a week’s worth of work. CEO’s must look into the future, at least 10-15 years, and decide on the vision and direction of the company. If someone in the line-up is missing, you can see what short or long-term assignments will be missing. The best running companies ensure that great minds are aggressively pursuing daily to multiple year activities and written visions. Progress comes at all levels, so each is extremely important to the overall success.

An important visual on the graph is the small overlap that occurs for each position. Think about your current job and how you learn from the person above, or instruct to the person below. Wisdom, experience, and personal growth, let alone the company flexibility, all extend from this area. As I have said before, it is everyone’s responsibility to teach or mentor. This graph shows the connectivity and importance of doing just that.

1. Review the graph and think of organizations that have or not have people situated to encompass daily thru the long-term. Can you think of gaps in their strategic initiatives?
2. How does your organization line up with the graph? Where are you and what knowledge and thought process will you need to move up?
3. Once you find “you” on the graph, ask yourself if you grow with the overlap to your supervisor/mentor? And, do you develop those below you?

Show Your Stuff

A company vision should be demonstrated throughout for all to acknowledge. If there was a thing called lifeblood in an organization, the vision would be the replication of this, permeating into all areas, levels and divisions, duplicated into written documents, signs, verbal discussions, and most of all performance evaluations.

Instilling vision and direction into the fabric of a company is not easy and could take time. But like all developing initiatives, watching the change over time can be exciting, especially as you hear pieces unfolding in groups or individuals. The question of the day is how can you help stimulate this is your organization.

Aligning your employees into the company vision should not be by default, exception, or thought of as added value. To the company it is your value. We align each staff member to our company vision by yearly connecting each of their goals to a component, and then discussing this each quarter until the year end final evaluation. Incorporate and you will feel the lifeblood moving into staff.

Here are some very simple ways of extending the company vision to all employees. This should be done only after the vision and strategic initiatives are developed, written, and instilled into leadership:
• Put your vision statement or byline at the bottom of all your emails, before your confidentiality statement. Does anyone actual read the confidentiality statements; they may read your vision statement.
• Displayed around the office, how about above your marker board in your conference room.
• Incorporate into your letters, or even better your company letterhead
• Discuss and instill at performance evaluations. This is the one-on-one time to clarify, walk the talk, show the importance and value personally. Remember, staff are watching you.
• End or start company meetings with: “what have we done this week to show…………..”.

You Get What You Feed !

What you care and believe in most is what people will see in you each day. If your questions are centered around customer service as you walk around, then staff will better understand it should be their concern and focus as well. The same will be prevalent if your discussions surround the weekend social events and then you may wonder why there seems to be much socializing instead of the business-at-hand collaboration you hope stimulates discussion.

Let me put it this way, “you get what you feed”. If the top feeds, but the sup/mgr’s don’t believe or instill into their goals, or if the top does not have or constantly pursue a vision, how can anyone else tap this vision or strategic alignment in their daily work. If we are ALL heading down a path together, the path better be clear, focused, and direction oriented. This is simply the company vision and strategic initiatives.

As sup/mgr’s talk to staff each day, is it clear how they fit into the vision and strategic direction of the company? Making clear inferences on the connection between specific work done and the effect on the whole company or division, links the employee directly and brings importance to their role.

Action: Verbally link in “what you believe in” into your daily/weekly discussions. Try picking one vision point and discussing within communication this week, don’t wait.

What’s Stopping You?

What is stopping you from moving ahead or moving up in your career? Let’s do a quick survey to capture the perceived concerns, problems or walls that are complicating your advancement and growth. If there is one word or one short sentence that captures this, please respond in the comments below.

We will see what others are finding problematic as well and base future posts off of the responses.

Starter ideas: lack of specific skills? finding the right contact? not knowing the next step to break out of your current role?

Action: Create a comment below with the one word or sentence that you think is stopping you.

Walking and Linking

One of our roles as managers/supervisors is to know who is doing what and linking them to other employees working on new or similar topics, creating new opportunities to collaborate. Bringing ideas together provides the personal and company growth, creating an entrepreneurial atmosphere, found in many start-up companies today. For these reasons, if you actually know what employees are working on and take interest, then are able to see the skill environment around your company or area, and you are more apt to see areas of collaboration. This is part of your job, mentoring often, with direct and specific feedback, then linking minds together.

Everyone brings different backgrounds, influences, skills and knowledge to their position. By bringing staff together to brainstorm and/or discuss their specific attributes to a project or role, the formation of alliances and collaborations take hold and allow new thoughts to stimulate.

Have small groups meet around staff workstations to discuss a project or topic, let creativity and open thinking be the norm for these sessions. Experiment with different staff members with different groups. After a while, small group meetings will become common and ideas hopefully pervasive.

ToDo – Think of staff members who bringing together could be creative by discussing their work/projects together. While you are meeting with someone at their workstation, ask if they ever discussed their current project with ______. Make it a point to bring them together and open the discussion by having them briefly discuss their specific work. This is a great opportunity to praise work in front of others.

Find at least 3 good things in your staff today – and tell them

Encouragement goes along way. We know that but seldom do we make the time to wander around and meet our staff at their workstation, which is the place they perform their good work. They want us to see, hear, and understand exactly what they are doing, and show pride in their achievements. We are all proud of our projects and specific attributes we bring and complete at work each day, and who do we most want to share this with – our supervisor.

Seeing and believing that managers know and care about the work we do makes all of it worthwhile. With acknowledgement, we will work late, skip lunch, and of course take on more and more. As humans, positive reinforcement is known to be an all-powerful encourager. Douglas McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise” published in 1960 has examined theories on behavior of individuals at work, and formulated “Staff will contribute more to the organization if they are treated as responsible and valued employees”. What we don’t mean, is walking around and expressing gratitude for one’s overall contribution or commitment to the organization. This is way too easy, and only presents as a topical “good job”, and does not get to the core of an employee’s real contribution. Having said that, it is a good start if you are not used to meeting and talking to staff in their work area.

Action: Start by meeting with at least three staff members at their workstations on Monday, ask them what have they accomplished to-date, then find out what they hope to complete by Friday. Take time on Friday to follow-up again. Find the positive items and compliment them on their achievements or progress forward.