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4 TEDs on Increasing Work Productivity

When learning a foreign language, it’s definitely beneficial to vary techniques and shock the brain so that it becomes more alert and is more apt retain information such as new vocabulary. In this vein, listening to native speakers is one of the best ways to learn. The learner can hear how the language is used in a variety of situations as well as intonation and pronunciation. This technique works best when the learner has interest in the topic being discussed; otherwise, the learner loses interest and stops listening. TED Talks are a great place to find interesting topics. TED means Technology, Entertainment and Design, but the talks now cover just about any topic you can think of. One great thing about the videos is that you can choose subtitles (English, please!) or follow along with the interactive transcript if you want. These are helpful tools for understanding an unknown word. I recently perused the website and found a few videos of varying length on the topic of increasing office productivity that I would like to share.

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How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

David Grady shares with us his ideas on How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings in his talk where he uses the analogy of office furniture theft to explain how and why the listener can and should bring order back to their daily work schedules by avoiding unnecessary meetings. After watching, you can learn how to avoid MAS, too!

Why work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried details three suggestions on how to improve productivity in the workplace in his talk on Why work doesn’t happen at work. In it, he explores where people feel more productive and what causes involuntary distractions at the workplace. He compares work to sleep phases where you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get work done. What is the longest you can go at work without getting interrupted by managers or meetings?

Got a meeting? Take a walk

In her short talk, Nilofer Merchant advises the listener Got a meeting? Take a walk. Not only is this idea good for the health, it also allows you to get out of the office and see things a bit differently. As she says, fresh air drives fresh thinking!

As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify

Sometimes work gets unnecessarily a bit too complicated. Yves Morieux has thought about this and came up with six ways towards streamlining in his talk As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify. He looks to answer the questions why productivity is so disappointing, why there is so little engagement at work and what this has to do with the increasing complexities faced by businesses today. His answers just might surprise you!

If you found these talks interesting, I suggest you explore other TED talks on a topic that intrigues you. There are many compelling talks available, and the more engaged you are with the topic, the more likely you are to retain any new vocabulary you pick up whilst listening. Not only that, but you can also use the talks to train your ear for understanding foreign accents such as Yves’ wonderful French accent. Let us know what interesting talks you discover!

Powerful Communication – The Power of the Purpose Pyramid

listening skills target trainingThe purpose pyramid is one of the simplest and yet effective communication models for introducing a presentation, opening a meeting or organizing your thoughts that there is. It is so simple, in fact, that no one seems to take credit for it though you will find it in the work of many communications gurus. The four questions in the pyramid aren’t special by themselves, but together they offer a powerful way to connect what you want to do with the goals and needs of your organization, no matter what business you are in or function you perform. Why? + What? + How? + Who? = Alignment. The Purpose Pyramid makes it easy for you to structure your communication – in any situation.

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Why?

Why is where you share or remind your team about the deeper meaning and purpose of the organization. This is the reason that energizes you and your colleagues as well as your customers. What’s your why? Your purpose is best when it brings the energy of your team together and they can all see themselves in it. It should also attract internal and external customers to your work.

A band plays music, by definition – but wouldn’t you rather see a band whose purpose is to give you high energy and a memorable musical experience?

At a more nuts and bolts level, you can also apply the why to day-to-day interactions and situations. An example could be to state the purpose (why) of a meeting on the agenda for everyone to see. If there is a question about being on track, the team can refer to the mutually agreed purpose of the team.

What?

What refers to the tasks you and your team need to get done to contribute to making your purpose a reality. At their best these tasks are things you can track and observe easily so all can know when it is accomplished. For example, to have better meetings is not a clear task. Having everyone contribute to the meeting is a clear task. The SMART principle is a great model to use, just remember they should in some way contribute to achieving your purpose.

An example could be to make task identification a two-step process. Instead of automatically identifying who should complete a task at the same time as identifying the task, outline just the tasks first. Going through the how before identifying who will help team members to know what they are committing to.

How?

How is where you turn to your method, approach or process, How will you get your tasks accomplished? For example, sticking with the “better meetings” example, if my task is to have everyone contribute to a meeting, I could tell the team members I expect them to contribute and hope for the best or I could use a polling technique in the meeting to give each attendee the space to speak uninterrupted.

If a task is complex, the “how” could be a process or procedure that helps to complete the task effectively and efficiently. If you have standard operating procedures in place, this is the time to stress their use.

An example could be to identify the resources and process necessary to complete a task before asking who will do it. Leaders get a chance to offer support to the team and may encourage team members to accept a stretch task because they know how they will be supported.

Who?

Who refers to the individual and collective commitments or expectations that match your team to the tasks at hand. In most meetings the who stage tells how well we’ve done the other stages. If team members recognize and connect with their purpose, the necessity of a task and the process and resources to get it done, it’s a lot easier to agree to do them. With the clarity you’ve built earlier, it is easier for you to ask for what you want while committing to do what is necessary to support your team. A great question at the end of a meeting is “what have we agreed to do?” to check agreements without sounding like a task master.

Browse our blog for more tips and tricks

And/or let me know of any other useful communication tools that always work for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

8 great books for busy managers you may have missed in 2015

It seems as though 2016 has only just started, but it’s February already! We know you’re really busy, so we thought we’d help out by reviewing 8 of the best management books from 2015 for you. If any of the summaries grab you, why not read the whole book?

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1001 Meetings phrases is a useful toolkit of phrases for the most typical meeting situations you find yourself in…

 

Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (13 Aug 2015)

Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone

Did you know that actually the right team size is usually one fewer that most managers think they need? And that “chemistry” doesn’t equate to team success? Can you spot the right moment when one team needs to be dissolved to create another very different team? And are your teams really leveraging multicultural values as a strength?

Written for today’s managers, Team Genius reviews and explains the latest scientific research into how teams behave and perform and uses simple case studies and examples to bring it to life in a way that any manager can relate to.. It shows that much of the accepted wisdom about teams just doesn’t hold true – and then goes on to outline “new truths” and how to achieve them.

Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed (1 Sept 2015)

George Everly Jr, Douglas Strouse and Dennis McCormack

If you get turned off when you see the author is a “great business school professor”, “world-famous CEO” or “top management thinker” then this might be the book for you. Everly, Jr.is an expert in disaster mental health, and McCommack is a former Army psychologist and was one of the first original Navy Seals.

Drawing heavily on the psychology employed by US Navy Seals plus other examples from all walks of life, this book focuses on how we can each build our resilience and be “stronger” when everything seems to be falling apart. More importantly the book outlines how we need to practice building up our resilience (psychological body armor) before we actually need it. The five key factors the book explores are

  • Active optimism
  • Decisive action
  • Moral compass
  • Relentless tenacity
  • Interpersonal support

Each area is outlined in detail with case studies and research. A quick warning though – being written by 3 psychologists, it’s not an airport quick-read.

Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers (9 Oct 2015)

Elizabeth D. Samet (editor)

When you think about it, it’s amazing that this book hasn’t been complied sooner – management and leadership books aren’t a 20th century creation. General fiction, biographies, great literature etc have reflected core management and leadership questions for centuries.

This anthology draws our attention to 102 stunningly diverse extracts from fiction, speeches, anthropology, letters, songs, and even the odd occasional poem! The extracts from Machiavelli, Macbeth, Ghandi, Didion, Ovid, Melville, Mandela, Lao Tzu, Orwell plus many many more all invites us to step back and think about leadership. Excellent reading for just before you take the dog for a long walk.

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent (7 Oct 2015)

Bruce Tulgan 

“They just don′t know how to behave professionally.”, “They know how to text but they don′t know how to write a memo.”, “They don′t know how to think, learn, or communicate without checking a device.”

Today′s new young workforce (also known as Millenials or generation Z,) has so much to offer – new technical skills, new ideas, new perspectives, new energy. All great stuff- but Tulgan also argues that research shows that employers across industries feel that too many Milennials have weak soft skills. As a few of the many case studies outline “they only want to do what they want to do” and ”his technical knowledge far surpassed anyone else in the firm … but his communication made him seem so immature”.

Renowned expert on the Millennial workforce Bruce Tulgan offers concrete solutions to help managers and HRD professionals alike teach the missing basics of professionalism, critical thinking, and followership. The book includes 92 step–by–step “lesson plans” designed for managers to use, and these include “take home” exercises, one-on-one discussion frameworks and training room activities.

In a nutshell, I can’t imagine a more complete or practical book than this.

Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts (21 Sept 2015)

Ernest Gundling and Christi Caldwell 

Leading a global organization is no longer just a big businesses challenge.  Even small company owners can be leading a virtual team that includes people from all over the world – and just yesterday we spoke with a HR manager with 60 employees in 11 countries and 23 cities.

This books aims to guide you through this new business environment. It features stories from people in critical roles around the world, advice based on practical experience, and shares new research which outlines the distinctive challenges of leading in a virtual and multicultural environment … and cultural awareness isn’t enough! Happily the book also includes strategies, tools and tips for working across cultures, leading virtual teams, running a matrix team, integrating an acquisition and developing the agility needed to innovate in such an environment. Personally I found it aimed more at larger mature organizations, but still worth a read … and we integrate many of the elements into our Working in Virtual teams training.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead (2 April 2015)

Laszlo Bock

Despite receiving 1,5000,000 job applicants every year, Google spends twice as much on recruiting as comparable companies. Why? Because top performers are usually doing very well where they are and not looking to move. So Google works to identify these performers and cultivate their interest. But while Google spends considerably more on recruitment than most companies it also spends considerably less on training, believing top performers need less training.

Laszlo Bock, Head of People Operations, joined Google when it had just 6000 “googlers”, and in this book he shares the different recruiting and talent management practices Google use and have used. Although sometimes bordering on self-congratulation, the book is very much-action oriented with each chapter outlining a clear to do – Become a founder, Don’t trust your gut, Why everyone hates performance management and what we decided to do about it, Pay unfairly.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be (19 May 2015)

Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

Have you ever wondered why you become so irritated around a specific colleague? Or questioned why your communication skills fall apart when presenting to a certain team? Goldsmith is an executive coach, and in this book he examines the triggers that can derail us – and how we can become the person we want to be and stay on track.

Perhaps common sense, but our reactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They are usually the result of triggers in our environment—whether this be specific person, situation or environment. .But how do we actually change ourselves? Knowing what to do doesn’t mean we actually do it, right? This book outlines how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives, and actually change to become the person we want to be, Drawing on executive coaching experience the authors use a simple “silver bullet” approach – daily self-monitoring, using active questions which focus on the our effort (and not the outcomes).

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (20 Jan 2015)

Herminia Ibarra

Do you wish you actually had the time and the space to be the manager and leader you know how to be? Introducing the idea of “outsights”, Herminia Ibarra, -an expert on professional leadership and development at INSEAD — shows how managers and executives at all levels can make an impact by making small but crucial changes in their jobs, their networks, and themselves. She argues that managers and leaders need to act first then to think – and to use the “outsights” resulting from the experience as a basis for meaningful individual growth and enabling of people and organizations. Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG. summed it up nicely as “transforming by doing”

The book is full of engaging self-assessments and plenty of practical advice so you can actually build a plan of action. It can be a bit heavy going but stick with it.

The elements of effective teams

In order to be effective your team needs a number of key elements to be present. Elements such as clarity of purpose, shared awareness of roles and constructive communication. These elements are not difficult to achieve but they do take focus and effort. Take a moment and ask yourself two simple questions – How many teams are you currently part of?  And how effective are these teams?  The first question is easy, but the second? Working in teams is so common for many of us that we just don’t take the time to reflect on how effectively we are actually performing – and so we miss an opportunity to develop ourselves, our team and our impact on our organization’s goals. Researchers have shown over and over again, that these elements are essential for effective teams. Businesses which recognize their importance and work at maintaining them, are rewarded with teams that consistently perform and achieve their targets. Ignoring them leads to unachieved goals, wasted potential and demotivated staff.

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What does an effective team look like?

Here’s a simple tool we use when running workshops with existing teams. Some of these questions are hopefully familiar, but too often we see goal-oriented teams typically neglect the softer aspects explored by questions 8-10. Select one team of which you are currently a member.  Now ask yourself the following questions, rating on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being low and 5 being high:

  1. Do we have a clearly defined purpose?
  2. Are our roles and responsibilities well-defined, understood and followed?
  3. Do we have the tools and resources we need to achieve our objectives?
  4. Do we listen to each other?
  5. Do we all actively participate in problem solving?
  6. Do we work constructively through conflict?
  7. Does our team leader approve of our work, providing relevant and specific feedback on whether we are meeting expectations?
  8. Do we work and learn together?
  9. Do we take time out to assess our progress?
  10. Would we work together on another team?

Your score

Effective teams should be expecting to score 40+.  Outstanding teams score 45+.  What did you score? And what are you going to do now? Why not check out Target Training’s seminar on building effective teams?  Click here for more information.

The 3–6–9 of great leadership (according to TED …and me)

As a kid, my parents told me I watched too much TV. They would not be pleased to know that hasn’t changed very much, but at least nowadays I try to watch things that might actually inspire me. That’s where TED [www.ted.com] comes in. TED talks can be a great source of inspiration. They can be short, or long. They can be energetic or dry. And they are full of information on nearly any topic.

The “3-6-9 of great leadership”

As an intercultural trainer, business English teacher, project manager and former actor, I think a lot about what motivates people, especially at work. Three short TED talks that I have watched over and over really get to the heart of what makes a great leader. I call them the “3-6-9 of great leadership.” These three talks summarise in (more or less) 3 minutes, 6 minutes and 9 minutes what I think is the essence of great leadership. For now, I’m not going into why these and other well-structured talks and presentations work as well as they do. Let’s just take in their messages.

Derek Sivers

How to start a movement

The first TED talk, by entrepreneur Derek Sivers, explains to us in three minutes “How to Start a Movement.” Using a light-hearted video of a group of rather spontaneous dancers, he demonstrates how to lead and how to create a situation in which people want to follow. He also surprises us by highlighting who the real leader is. It’s not who you might think.

Drew Dudley

Everyday leadership

If you work in a team or an office, how often do your simple, unremarkable actions influence others? In the second talk, leadership educator Drew Dudley asks us in six minutes whether people can be leaders even if they don’t have that title. In this quick-paced, very personal story, he shows us how we can often be leaders without even knowing it.

Roselinde Torres

What it takes to be a great leader

In the final talk, the longest of the three at just over nine minutes, leadership expert Roselinde Torres details qualities of a great leader. She has spent 25 years researching leadership and her fascinating talk boils it down to the need to ask three simple questions:

  • Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?
  • What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?
  • Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Spoiler alert!

All three talks repeat one particular theme: While some principles of leadership may remain, true leaders are characterised by doing something different. But not just for the sake of being different. They have a goal.

  • Derek Sivers’s ‘leader’ is the first person who has the courage to follow the person you think is the leader. As the first ‘follower’ he gives others the permission to join in.
  • Drew Dudley’s ‘leader’ appears to go about his daily business fearlessly and effortlessly. In the process, he unknowingly inspires someone to go about her work as fearlessly as she can.
  • Roselinde Torres reminds that great leaders take action; they do not walk with their heads down, trying not to be noticed. They dare to be different.

Is leadership for managers only, then? Definitely not. These three talks remind us that learning to be an effective leader can help you chair a meeting, or create a presentation that people remember. Among many other things.

… so what are your thoughts?

Preparing for a performance appraisal interview

Performance reviews, appraisal interviews, annual reviews – whatever you call them it all boils down to the same thing. Extra work. I used to hate preparing for appraisal interviews with members of my team. Now I really enjoy them. Why? I’ve changed my approach. Rewind 10 years or so: I’d make the appointment, forget about it until I saw it on my schedule for the next day, have a quick think, dig out a few pertinent facts, come up with a few random goals, and off I went.

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4rs

 

What’s changed then? I want to keep my employees in the company. And performance appraisal interviews are important in making sure this happens. So, I use my “5 Keeps” approach:

“If you’re reading this, apologies to those individuals who had to live with how I used to prepare for performance appraisals. I’m probably part of the reason you hate performance appraisal interviews.”

Keep it objective

I’ve finally understood that appraisal interviews don’t work if you see them as an event that happens once a year. How can they? We’re all human and we don’t remember things. We inevitably end up reviewing what the employee did most recently. If that was good, great. If something wasn’t so good, then the employee gets a poor review for the whole period, which is not really fair, is it? Emotions play a role here. It helps to find a way of standing back from what is happening at the time of the interview and look at the whole year objectively.

Keep notes

This may sound a little geeky, but to help with the appraisal interview, I keep a little notebook for each member of my team. I make notes of the little things, feedback from clients, team members, from other members of the management staff. Anything that could be of interest really. This means I don’t have to spend time gathering information before the interview. I have the specific examples I need in front of me. All I need to do at the preparation stage of the appraisal interview then is grab my little book. I schedule time for preparation before the meeting. I align my notes with the appraisal interview form and the self-evaluation form from the employee, and I’m all set for the interview.

Keep the conversation open all year

The thing about my notes is that there is nothing secret in there. Everything has already been shared. When I get good (or bad) feedback from a client, I tell them about it when it happens. When they do something really well, I tell them. When they underperform, I tell them.

Keep it developmental

Too often the focus can be on the operational details. Sure, that’s important for the business, but you can talk about that during the year. The key question is: how can I use this opportunity to make sure that this person is not doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way this time next year? I want to make sure the focus is on development. I want to make sure goals we set together are motivating and are going to help the person grow. If they grow, we grow.

Keep it fun

Fun? Really? Yes, appraisal interviews are a great opportunity to talk to your employee about them. Do you have much time during the year to really learn about them? Probably not as much as you’d like. Here you’ve got allocated time to hear about how they feel – make the most of it, be encouraging, and enjoy it!

More on performance appraisal interviews

This post is the first of a 4-part series on performance appraisal interviews. Make sure to come back if you’re interested to read more about:

  • Starting a performance appraisal interview
  • Giving opinions and explaining reasons in a performance appraisal interview
  • Summarizing a performance appraisal interview

 

Leadership: A practical exercise for managers

Do you ever stop and ask yourself the simple question: “What are my responsibilities as a manager?”

Sounds obvious, right? But how often do you really give yourself a chance to reflect on your performance as a leader?

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The John Adair Action-centered leadership model

Over the years there have been countless models developed on this theme, and millions of books sold (and some of them even read! ).  Although it’s not the very latest of models, John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model is a simple and effective starting point when reflecting on your personal impact as a manager.  According to the model, the heart of your responsibilities as a manager are:

Leadership circles

  • to achieve the task
  • to develop your employees
  • to build an effective team

When you are performing at your best you are able to do all 3 of these things, and find the right balance. This balance means you and your team get the results you need and everyone benefits. This balance also makes your life easier, as synergies quickly build e.g. by achieving the task the team grows and individuals have a chance to develop. Likewise a strong team sharing ideas and supporting each other in difficult situations, naturally enables individuals to develop and therefore you achieve the task.

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PUSH & PULL

Learn more about the two basic approaches to influencing others

influencing

 

A simple reflective exercise for managers

This is a simple and practical exercise to help you reflect on your performance and focus your actions.  You’ll need an uninterrupted 10 minutes, pen and paper.

Step 1

As a manager you are responsible for achieving your department’s task, building the team and developing individuals.

  • Take a moment and think about how well you are performing in these three areas.
  • Now take a pen and draw the three circles in proportion to how satisfied you are with your performance in each area. (and not how much time you spend on each area).  For example, if you feel that you are doing a good job of achieving the task, but your employees aren’t really developing and there’s very little team building then you might have something like the example below:

LeadershipStep 2

Now look at your circles and consider these 3 questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with your situation?
  2. Can you identify  3 concrete actions you can take to improve your performance?
  3. What has been preventing you from doing this and how are you going to overcome this?

Step 3

Identify one concrete step you can take in the next days – and do it.

More on action-centered leadership

This activity is used in our Practical Toolbox for Managers seminar, and something I try and do every few months myself. Clients and participants have consistently found this activity hugely useful.  A little focus and some “time out” from the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day challenges can go a long way. Take a look at these links for more information:

 

Giving feedback using the DESC model

Giving feedback effectively will have a real impact on your business

Everybody understands that performance feedback should be constructive, focused and to the point. Effective feedback can resolve conflicts, overcome problems and improve individual and team morale. It doesn’t really need mentioning that ineffective feedback often accomplishes the opposite. Or that if you are skilled at giving effective feedback, your team will be more motivated, which leads to better performance.

While feedback should focus on behavior, performance feedback is still a personal conversation between people about people. Emotions always play a part in interpersonal communication. Effective feedback is as much about bringing the right message(s) across as it is about how your message is interpreted.

No matter how skilled the feedback giver is, if the receiver isn’t interested in hearing or taking the feedback, nothing will get through.http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2014/03/05/douglas-stone-the-importance-of-feedback-in-business-communications/

The more difficult the feedback, the more the giver needs to consider the the emotional impact of the feedback. Giving positive feedback is easy.
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DESC is simple and it works

In our skills-based Leadership training, we use the simple 4-step model DESC for structuring feedback. Participants in our “Practical Toolbox for Managers” seminars often highlight DESC as one of the most valuable tools they are taking away. This model is designed to help you to get your message clear and it can even take the stress out of the feedback conversation for those of us that weren’t born with effective feedback-giving skills.

DESCRIPTION

Give an objective and concrete description of what you have observed using “I” statements.

EFFECT

Explain the effect or impact it had on your business, the team or its members. If the effect was an emotion, name it. Your body language and tone of voice will already be showing your elation or frustration – putting them out in the open can help you move things forward.

SOLUTION

Build the solution through a directive (“What I would like you to do next time is …”) or a participative approach (“What do you think we can do to avoid this next time?”).

CONCLUSION

Build a “contract of commitment”. Check your understanding of what has been agreed, and get commitment for the future.

Further Leadership resources: