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Yearly Archives: 2020

Want to amp up your productivity? Control interruptions

Since the start of this year, the topic of our video series has been Productivity Tools for Leaders.  Today we’re up to strategy #12 and I’d like to talk about what you can do to control interruptions.

It’s imperative that you control interruptions

If you want to control interruptions in your workday, it is very important to take ownership of it.  Because if you sit around waiting for others to stop interrupting you, you’re going to be waiting a very long time!

A ground-breaking study conducted by Gloria Mark in 2005 showed that the average office worker spends only 11 minutes on any given task before s/he is interrupted.  If you think that’s bad, wait, it gets worse!  After someone is interrupted, it takes on average, 25 minutes to return to the initial task.  Do you see the mathematical problem here?  At this rate, you’ll never get anything done.  So it’s up to you to deliberately, thoughtfully, firmly, and respectfully control interruptions.  Now there are lots of things you can do to manage interruptions but in today’s post, I’d like to share two specific ideas. Continue reading

In the post-pandemic workplace, the “new normal” has become the “now normal”

now normal

As the temporary pandemic restrictions start lifting in many areas of the country, it is clear that the world of work is nothing like what it was before.  What we thought was the “new normal” has become the “now normal”, subject to repeated mutations and variations.  As I reflect on numerous conversations with leaders in client organizations, the anticipated changes in the upcoming months as people return to their workplaces fall into three main areas.

  1. People will return to work gradually
  2. There will be increased requests to work remotely
  3. Face-to-face protocols are forever changed
Welcome to the “now normal”

In this morning’s edition of The Globe and Mail, I address these three changes in my regular Leadership Matters column, and also offer up ideas for what it will take to thrive in the “now normal”.

In the post-pandemic workplace, the ‘new’ normal is just the ‘now’ normal

If you’re a paid online subscriber to The Globe, here is a direct link to the column on their site: https://tgam.ca/3eJXdGv

I’d love to hear more about your experiences as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted in your workplace.  What are the plans for your organization?  What has changed/is changing as more workplaces open?  What is working well and what is not?  Please share what you are observing and hearing about, so that we can exchange ideas.  Please add your comment below. 

I write a regular monthly column for The Globe and Mail Report on Business, under the banner of Leadership Matters.  Here are links to some of the more recent ones:

Use technology to block distractions (that come from using technology!)

It’s been three weeks since my last post in our video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders.  In How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”), I put forward what turned out to be a controversial idea.  The idea of designating Internet-free times each day or week to block distractions got a lot of responses from all of you, but interestingly, from both ends of the spectrum.  Some of you told me that the idea was Draconian, but just as many thought it was brilliant!  And it was suggestions from the latter group that lead me to today’s strategy.  Today’s tip to focus and block distractions is to use an app!

To focus and block distractions, use an app!

Yes, I get the irony.  I am proposing that you use technology to block distractions that come from technology!  But if you think about it, it’s actually poetic.  If you are willing to admit that the “squirrel syndrome” is a huge drain on your productivity, then there are apps out there that can help you block distractions … like the Internet.  I’m going to share five of the apps that were brought to my attention.  Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of them as I haven’t had a chance to really use them myself – I only just heard about them recently.  But I did look them up, and it seems like they could be valuable.  Here’s what I learned: Continue reading

A framework for boosting employee well-being (in tough times)

well-beingSajel Bellon is a professor in human and behavioural sciences, a psychotherapist, and the Founder of Mind Armour™ & SOS Psychotherapy. She is also my professional colleague, and I am so pleased that she is guesting on the blog today talking about what it takes to enhance employee well-being.  Given the pandemic that has drastically changed our workplaces, her post today about how to move people “from pain to possibilities” is more than timely, it is essential!

Moving People from Pain to Possibilities, even during a Pandemic

Think about a time when you were so immersed in a task or project and you lost all sense of time, everything else and everyone around you. It all faded into the background. A time where you were enjoying what you were doing so much so that you walked away from the experience feeling energized.

In positive psychology, this concept is referred to as a state of ‘flow’ (Csíkszentmihályi, 1997). Research has shown that being involved in more tasks and activities that allow us to be in states of ‘flow’ or engagement, have lasting positive effects on our well-being and enhance the learning (Buil, Catalán, & Martínez, 2017).

As leaders, managers and supervisors, we can make the conscious effort to incorporate opportunities in our working environments and projects, to create more engagement and experiences of flow. This can prove to be especially beneficial when considering and investing in professional development and training, where we hope to influence change. This is just one of many evidence-based techniques. Continue reading

To cultivate high-performing teams, you need two elements

high-performing teamsEvery leader’s goal is to create high-performing teams.  And in order to do that, we invest significant effort into cultivating and growing strong people who work well together to achieve our department and organization’s objectives.  It is this concept of “cultivating and growing” that got me thinking about the papaya.

My favourite fruit is the papaya.  Succulent, fragrant, and slightly sweet, just one bite instantly transports me to the warm, gentle breezes of the Hawaiian and Caribbean islands.  I am reminded of early morning drives through papaya farms, where you can stop and buy the plump ripe fruit, picked just hours earlier. Oh, I wish I could grow my own papayas.  There is one problem though … I live in Canada!

You see, even though I have the best quality seeds, no matter how hard I try, it is almost impossible to grow papayas in Canada.  Papayas are a tropical crop, which means that they need high levels of humidity for growth, and then a warm and dry climate for ripening.  And they grow best in alluvial soil which is found along deltas and riverbanks.  Alas, while we have several deltas and many riverbanks in Canada, tropical weather is sadly lacking.  The only chance I would have of successfully growing papayas in Canada would be in a greenhouse, where I might be able to replicate the ideal growing conditions.

Bottom line: to successfully grow papayas, I need both the best quality seeds and the right climate.  Which isn’t unlike what it takes to grow high-performing teams.

High-performing teams need two elements

Continue reading

How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”)

If you want to be productive, to get things done, then you need to manage distractions.  And one of the biggest distractions that we all face – the Internet!  Which brings me to today’s strategy in our series on productivity tools for leaders: designate Internet-free times each day or week.

Avoid the “Squirrel syndrome” by designating Internet-free times

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet.  I mean where else can you look up the menu at a restaurant, watch cute cat videos, and unequivocally shut down bar arguments on stupid subjects.  Nowhere else but the Internet!

But once you get on the Net, it’s kind of like going down the rabbit hole.  Continue reading

How to communicate unpopular decisions and changes

Sometimes, as a leader, you have to communicate (and implement) unpopular decisions and changes.  Even worse, you may often find yourself charged with communicating or implementing decisions that you don’t agree with yourself.    Yet workplace change is an endless reality.  Shifting expectations, advancing technology, moving targets, toss in a pandemic for good measure; and change fatigue is not only real, but often debilitatingly painful.  Is it any wonder then that so many of the people you work with resist change?

So as a leader, how can you communicate unpopular decisions and changes that you know will not be liked or accepted while still maintaining trust and your credibility?    The answer is: thoughtfully; deliberately; with honesty and openness.

There are six things you need to focus on

In my latest column for The Globe and Mail that published this morning, I list and explain the six things you must focus on as you craft and deliver a message that you know will be disliked.

How to communicate unpopular decisions and changes

unpopular decisions

If you’re a paid online subscriber to The Globe, here is a direct link to the column on their site: https://tgam.ca/2TYfg3j

So the recent pandemic has created a lot of change in workplaces, and we’re not done yet!  As restrictions lift, many workplaces are making significant changes – staggered working hours, physical distancing, altered procedures, just to name a few – how are you and your people managing?  What are your biggest challenges, and how are you dealing with them?  Please share your experiences, and the solutions you’re trying, so that we can all learn from one another.   Add your comment below. 

I write a regular monthly column for The Globe and Mail Report on Business, under the banner of Leadership Matters.  Here are links to some of the more recent ones:

A leadership lesson from Aesop’s fables

This blog post originally published in September 2009, just a few days after we launched the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog for the very first time. Today, over 10 years later, this story about teamwork and synergy  is as relevant to leaders as it was then.  I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

synergyThere is a classic Aesop’s fable that offers a great lesson to leaders about synergy and teamwork.  A father whose sons were always fighting wanted to show them the value of the synergy that comes from working together.  So he had one of the sons bring him a bundle of sticks.  He gathered his sons around him, and one at a time, he asked each young man to take the bundle of sticks and try to break it.  None succeeded.  He then split open the bundle, and handed each son one or two sticks, asking them once again to try to break them.  This time, the sons did so easily.  “You see boys,” he said.  “Individually, these sticks do not have much strength, but when you combine their individual might, they form something of much greater power.  Separately, you can be broken, but together, you are stronger.” Continue reading

Another idea to overcome procrastination

In my last two video blogs on productivity tools for leaders, I’ve focused on specific ideas to overcome procrastination.  So today, I’d like to give you one more idea on this topic.  If you’ve been putting off tasks on your to-do list because they feel so large that they are overwhelming, or because it’s something you just really don’t want to do, then overcome procrastination by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks.

Tackle unappealing tasks by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks

Research shows that 25-30 minutes feels manageable and attainable to most people.  Half a day, or even an hour may feel intolerable, but we can do anything for 30 minutes.  So schedule difficult or unappealing tasks into 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Continue reading

Overcoming procrastination can be as easy as simply getting started

In my last instalment in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I shared a tip on overcoming procrastination.  Go public got such positive feedback that I decided to share a couple more in our next two videos.  Today’s idea on overcoming procrastination is take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

The Zeigarnik effect, so called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Continue reading