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  • Prioritize Productivity

Often times I will have a conversation with an executive and almost without exception they will bring up how they are working to make their team more efficient. How they seek to hire leaders who are scrum masters. They require Lean Six Sigma proficiency and certification of their senior and executive level candidates. These are amazing competencies and certifications to learn, have, and know but when it comes to strategy and strategic execution, nothing trumps productivity. Especially in today’s world, when so many organizations are hungry and clawing for growth, senior and executives leaders must bring a productivity mindset to the business, the people they lead, and place accountability around this value. .

Company leadership is usually very eager to share the detail with me about how people have reduced waste in various areas of the business through scrum and six sigma training. But when I ask how they have train and prioritize learning around productivity, inquire about what tools they have in place, ask questions around how they measure this, and how they hold each and every person in the company accountable for delivering results – I don’t get much of an answer.

As leaders, one of the most important things we can do for the people we are lucky enough to support on a consistent basis is to inspire them to be the absolute best version of themselves. Leading our people and empowering them to deliver greatness is a skill that we need to exercise, routinely. I have been – in recent weeks – on a wild tear about productivity and top performers. I absolutely believe that every single person inside an organization should deliver results that are comparable and aligned with their most productive colleagues. Understanding that that doesn’t happen with any consistency, at this point, I believe that the top performers, the most productive people should be robustly, vividly, and loudly celebrated and rewarded.


Most People Want To Deliver Greatness But Organizational Processes Hold Them Back: Research indicates that the average company loses more than 20% of its productive capacity – that is more than a day per week – to something called “organizational drag”.  Organizational drag is defined by the structures and processes that exhaust valuable time and prevent people from getting things done. Simply put, organizational drag makes a company less productive. And since productivity is directly linked to profitability, organizational drag can have a seriously negative effect on a company’s bottom line. Organizational drag impedes productivity, quality of work, and employee morale. It prevents companies from achieving their optimal levels of performance. Leaders that prioritize productivity work hard to eliminate organizational drag when they encounter and identify it. They simplify their team processes and policies and align their operations with the true source(s) of value in their business. They fight bureaucracy | red tape and create ways of working that allow employees to focus their time on delivering greatness for colleagues and customers.

The Company Has Highly Talented People Who Drive Most Of The Results But They Are In Roles That Limit Their Effectiveness: Regardless of industry or size of company, most leaders talk about their process to capture the best talent in the market. Which is fabulous. However, when I dig deeper into this, there is a profound lack of strategy around safeguarding that talent once they are onboard. On average, only about 10-15% of a company’s workforce is actually high-talent and high-productivity. These are people with exceptional performance and the potential to have an elevated effect on the company’s initiatives and results

Most companies choose to keep their best performers in their current role because what would happen if we moved them to an elevated role? How would a new person replicate their results? In making this selfish decision we chip away at the engagement and energy of our best people who want [and deserve] to grow and be recognized for their performance with more opportunity.

Most People Have Discretionary Effort To Give To Their Work, But Lack The Inspiration To Do So: Discretionary Effort has been a very steady part of my dialogs for about the last eight months or so.  Discretionary Effort is defined as the elevated level of effort people could give if they wanted to, above and beyond the minimum required. You don’t have to be a leader for very long to recognize that there is huge disparity in how individuals behave, perform, and/or contribute in the workplace. Organizations that truly succeed at being great [however they define that for themselves], do so by achieving high standards and holding the individuals on their team accountable for behavior, performance, and contribution. This starts directly with hiring the right people for the organization’s mission and values and placing people in the right roles to find success. Then, supporting their career journey with coaching and challenges that grow and drive their development and conveyable marketability.

Most people have the capacity to bring more to their job, but choose not to invest the additional ingenuity and creativity that they could because the organizational leadership hasn’t proven worthy of it. Inspired and motivated people will deliver added effort to their work every day. According to HBR, they are 125% more productive than an employee who is merely satisfied. In other words, one inspired employee can produce as much as 2.25 satisfied employees.


Be A Leader With Integrity: There is no substitution for authenticity and honesty. People most certainly know when their manager or colleague is a phony baloney. Support them with feedback and candor. Be available to them when they need your support. Be there to guide them but don’t spoon-feed answers to them. Let them grow, stretch, learn from experiences [good and bad] Be their partner on their career journey. Inspiring leaders are those whose action and words align and are calibrated with the organizations vision and values. Be unique, genuine, and real with your people…they will appreciate it.

Create A Culture Of Contribution Through Feedback & Transparency: Great leaders and those that can galvanize their people are those that operate with candor. While many average “managers” are afraid to show any vulnerability, being able to admit or share when you are wrong is critical to building a high-productivity team. When people know that you are willing to hear their feedback, absorb it, and adjust/adapt your leadership style to their needs they will believe that you hold their best interest and happiness in high regard. It will help them understand that your coaching and teaching is all an effort to give them their best shot to be excellent. It will promote a culture of learning, sharing & contribution.

Recognize & Reward Highly Productive People: Most ‘managers” spend far too much time trying to manage poor performing employees and getting problem/toxic employees to be better. Knowing who the best, most productive people are in your workplace and focusing leadership and development energy and efforts on them. Recognize them publicly and privately for their results and commitment. Reward them with things that they will find valuable and memorable. Everyone wants to be recognized at work. Show your employees what behaviors are valued and to beneficial to duplicate. Your B & C players will emerge and want to take part in these moments of recognition to support a culture of contribution.

Empower Them With The Right Tools & Technology: Referring back to organizational drag this is one of the places where we see it occur most. Assessing where people feel their biggest daily drag exists that impedes their “flow” and determining if the function can be eliminated or automated [and then taking action on that] will help people spend their time on things that matter more to their roles and – ultimately – their sense of daily accomplishment.

Promote & Recognize Fearless Behavior: One of my favorite values that I have worked with is “excel & improve“. People who fear mistakes are inclined to always play it safe, follow the status quo, and avoid anything that may get them into trouble. They are unlikely to summon up the intestinal fortitude needed to initiate change or innovate. When you encourage innovation and don’t penalize mistakes, people are significantly more comfortable sharing ideas, trying new things, and offering unique solutions to overcome issues or obstacles. When you work in a culture that creates comfort around excelling you are challenging people to deliver new ideas – to look, learn, and work outside their immediate area(s) of comfort and ensure productive and collaborative behaviors move projects and objectives forward.

Maintain Engagement Around The Organization’s Vision: 70% of of an employee’s level of engagement or excitement about their job and the company they work with is in direct relation to their immediate supervisor. Phenomenal leaders know they have a great responsibility to their team to be available for them and to keep them excited and on-track – this supports everyone being highly-productive to deliver on their responsibility toward the company vision.

Give People Freedom & Autonomy: It is an unfortunate fact that productivity gets squashed much more frequently than it gets celebrated in today’s workplaces. Since organizations don’t hire for productivity [but implement the strategy of hope when it comes to candidates] but for a job description that is a laundry list of to-dos that need to be executed – people that don’t possess a naturally high-affinity to going above and beyond are invited onto the team and mediocrity reigns supreme. The reality is that productivity is undermined each day in organizations that favor and insist upon operational execution, such as checklists, time-wasting meetings, productivity measured by hours worked, and control [again, the dreaded organizational drag]. In today’s workplaces we have creative and driven talent bringing their own ways to work and finding new, efficient, and energetic ways to execute their responsibilities and construct their day or week that no longer fits into a predictable or parochial traditional working relationship. Give them the space and trust to create their best way to work. Celebrate them when they deliver on their productivity. Encourage others to take initiative through recognizing people who challenge the status-quo and crush it, consistently.

Hire The Best People: Invite people that can articulate how they go above and beyond. Communicate your standards plainly and clearly during all phases of communication with the candidate(s). Ensure there is a high level of cohesion between their values and the organizations.  Hold them accountable to delivering on their commitment. Hold yourself accountable for delivering on your promises and commitments to them, as their leader. Weed them out if they fail to deliver once you have given them the training, development, and support to be excellent.