Tag Archives: work engagement

Stop chasing productivity

Stop chasing productivity

Most of us chase productivity like a crack addict after his next hit. We’re compelled to buy books, attend workshops and listen to podcasts so we can become more productive. But why? That’s not a silly question. Asking it may stop you from chasing productivity like a dog chasing his tail.

What’s wrong with doing more with less?

Nothing. The unarguable obviousness of this is why we keep sending troops onto the productivity battlefield and accept the costs of the workplace stress it creates—burnout, high turnover, lost creativity and poor leadership—like society sends soldiers off to needless wars and accepts the costs of returning war vets with post-traumatic stress disorder

Productivity gains is good strategy for machines not humans

The problem is we think pursuing productivity gains is an effective strategy to job security and even career advancement.

It’s not.

Career advancement will depend on your leadership skills and your success at getting other people and teams to be more productive. Unless you’re clear on why you are chasing productivity gains and how you’re going to use them, all you’re going to get by your personal productivity increases is tired.

Your productivity gain will quickly become the new expected normal, and you’ll soon have to find ways to exceed that as well.

We don’t run machines at 100%

We try to compete with machines that never normally operate near to 100% of their capacity, by using productivity gains to routinely run at 110% of ours.

Engines are never routinely run at full capacity because doing so would cause an early breakdown of the machinery, and reduce their lifetime productivity. Why then do we ask our bodies to?

Our belief about work

Our beliefs about work is responsible for the relentless pressure we place on ourselves and each other to grow, compete and stay on top. Nothing is ever good enough because we all believe it’s necessary to compete, to win, to even survive. If you’re not producing more and more, with less and less they’ll just get someone younger who can, and for less pay. So you work longer and longer to stay in the same place. This creates tremendous pressure and paranoia in people who only want to do meaningful work that provides enough to take care of their families, and allows them to enjoy life.

Is that too much to ask?

It’s not. It’s a choice we’ve been trained not to make.

Keeping up with the machine

We’ve been trying to keep up with machines ever since they were just a capitalist tease at industrialization’s dawn. As I said in Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal, the possibility of 24-7 always on, standard quality, no vacations/sick days/maternity leaves/law-suits/strikes/training has always been a capitalist’s wet dream, and now with robotics and AI, that fantasy is slowly coming off their Fortune magazine centerfolds into their factories and workplaces.

Productivity won’t save you

If your job does not involve large doses of creativity, leadership or customer/client relationships it will die on the vine, and you may not even make it to retirement. You may be shielded by unions, or some peculiar low competitive environment, but your kids won’t be. Productivity gains won’t save you. Retraining won’t future proof you either—things are moving way too fast now.

they’ll always want more

Psychology might explanation why chasing productivity is a fruitless strategy. It’s called the hedonic treadmill and it describes the human tendency to quickly get used to things or events that increase our happiness and return us to a sort of preset level of happiness. We, and our bosses, appreciate the new benefit greatly at first, but it quickly becomes expected as the new normal. You must now find some way to improve upon your last improvement to gain that extra boost of appreciation, or to make you stand out to your bosses.

It’s like that old Janet Jackson song “what have you done for me lately.”

What should you do?

Abandon productivity?

Of course not. But don’t chase productivity for its own sake; use productivity gains to create space to develop the capacities more likely to help you keep your job and move up—your capacities to create, innovate, lead, sell and build relationships.

bring something else to the workplace

Don’t be tricked into playing the productivity game—even if you’re good at it—because you will eventually lose. Bring what productivity cannot: Your creativity, enthusiasm and authenticity; and don’t forget this last.

Do not underestimate your power of YOU.

Despite any of your real shortcomings we all crave people who are unabashedly themselves. Donald Trump is proof that authenticity may be the best vehicle to success and career advancement.  Be you and help make your colleagues, bosses and customers look forward to working with you.

Photo by Lil Shepherd

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Saying workers are not fully engaged at work may be today’s politically correct way for managers to complain that their workers are not giving 100% at work. Well maybe that’s an unreasonable expectation. You wouldn’t expect an athlete to maintain her top speed for very long, and no engineer would think it’s a good ideaContinue Reading

Why it’s so hard to improve work engagement

Why it’s so hard to improve work engagement

Work engagement numbers haven’t changed much since 2011. Gallup’s State of the American workplace update has the percentage of disengaged workers in 2015 as 68% down from 71% in 2011. Not stellar progress given the focus Gallup and others have given the problem. More importantly though, I think the idea that 68% of the AmericanContinue Reading

Why work-life balance is silly

Why work-life balance is silly

Work life balance is the holy grail of modern existence.  Amazon’s 15,000+ results for the term shows how desperate we are to find the solution to one of the greatest problems of modern life: work is necessary to live, but we spend so much time working that we have precious time left to live. If workContinue Reading

The purpose of Employee Engagement

The purpose of Employee Engagement

Whenever I think Employee Engagement (EE) has already become another buzz-phrase in the business world, someone asks me what it is.  I say engagement describes the degree to which people care about the work they do.  Engaged people care, dis-engaged people don’t.  That simple. It’s no surprise that businesses are increasingly turning to EE becauseContinue Reading

What’s on your distraction buffet?

What’s on your distraction buffet?

You probably have your favourite distractors—the time wasters that you find yourself engaging with when you know you should be doing something else. In “Your Distraction Buffet” I mentioned that sometimes your distractors appear to be work or work related and in fact are not.  You spend time on them justifying that time by thinkingContinue Reading

Your Distraction Buffet

Your Distraction Buffet

Ever spend a day being really busy, doing lots of stuff, yet at day’s end a friend asking “Productive day?,” leaves you staring into the question like a deer into headlights. “What the hell did I get done today?” Decimate my daily to-do list?  Complete a project? Wrote a chapter?  Finished that presentation?  No? GoodContinue Reading

Look for passion first

Look for passion first

Trying to ignite passion in people who don’t have it is like getting a child to eat his vegetables by yelling “It’s good for you, dammit.”  You get tired and the vegetables only get eaten when you’re micro-managing chews. More effective to hire for passion first Similarly, in a work environment, managers feel just asContinue Reading

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happy good, unhappy bad.  Not too many people will challenge that. But being not happy doesn’t mean you’re unhappy. There are other non-happy emotional states that reward and fulfil the spirit. People who love their jobs are often focused, aggressive, challenged, curious, anxious, attentive, reflective, perturbed, inspired, stressed, thoughtful, vigilant and zealous.  Distinctly not happy. WhyContinue Reading

Do you do important work?

Do you do important work?

There was a scene in “The Imitation Game” when the protagonist  —as baddies started to destroy his work—exclaimed, “You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here.” And as they continued wreaking havoc around him it was clear they didn’t.   Poor sap. But it made me think of the main reasonContinue Reading

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are the marines of business. Figuratively speaking, they take the beachhead, and incur the heaviest casualties. Entrepreneurs have the “no guts, no glory” swag necessary to risk their money, time and reputation on a dream, and because so many fail, we think that only the naturally gifted could do what it takes to reapContinue Reading

Ten signs of a bad boss

Ten signs of a bad boss

Many bad bosses are nice people, but they all create unnecessary cost in high staff turnover and inefficiency.  Motivation enough to get rid of them. But from a purely human perspective, bad bosses give work a bad name.  They fuel negative work conversations and provide ‘evidence’ that work cannot be enjoyable and productive. Bad bossesContinue Reading

The S.T.U.P.I.D. test

The S.T.U.P.I.D. test

We’ve all heard of the SMART goal acronym.   Tom Deierlein just wrote a great article on SMART goals and it’s wise to see if a goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specific before taking it on. But what about the stuff that we might be doing now? Well here’s a STUPID acronym youContinue Reading

Freedom at Work

Freedom at Work

How’d you like to take as much vacation as you like, whenever you like, and not have to worry about anybody at work counting the days you’ve taken? Well my hero Richard Branson announced on Wednesday that this is the new vacation policy.  It’s in fact a “no vacation policy” policy. What’s the catch?  HeContinue Reading

The opposite of work is ….?

The opposite of work is ….?

If you said ‘play’ you’d be in the majority. And you’d be wrong. Think of it.   The opposite of anything is another thing completely devoid of every quality of the first thing. When I ask this question in my work engagement training sessions, I ask people what comes to mind when they think ofContinue Reading

How work is like diet and exercise

How work is like diet and exercise

Just like the food you eat could be bad for you, the work you do could be also. In fact, the way most people relate to diet and exercise is the way they relate to work. They’d prefer not to do it. Food disconnected from nutrition Long ago native Peoples had no concept of diet.Continue Reading

The key to wanting to go to work every day

The key to wanting to go to work every day

Why is it that so many workers seem to exist as cogs in a system; unsmiling robots mechanically going through the motions, rigidly enforcing the established process. The answer is that these workers are not emotionally vested in their jobs.  They are emotionally detached from what they do and engage in their work as physical labour.Continue Reading

Everybody wants to feel like they matter

Everybody wants to feel like they matter

Everybody wants to feel like they matter, that they are valued by other people.  Probably no other need is so overlooked as this. Hunger, shelter and sex call for attention in ways that are much easier to address.  These are probably the most instinctive human needs and knowing how to solve them seem also instinctive.Continue Reading

Which commitments do you keep?

Which commitments do you keep?

Most people break or avoid commitments, yet for even the worst commitment breakers there are some people to whom they keep their commitments.  Perhaps it’s to a spouse, a best friend, or a boss, but to other people they don’t. To whom do you keep your commitments? If you reflect on the commitments you keep,Continue Reading

How a dream job is like a dream relationship

There’s a helluva difference between the idea of a romantic relationship and the reality of it, and there’s a helluva difference between the idea of your dream job, career, business and the reality of achieving/living it. They go through similar stages.Continue Reading

The opposite of play is …. ?

If you thought ‘Work’  Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Wrong! But you’re in crowded company, because many people give that same answer. According to Steve Keil, the opposite of play, is depression.  I agree. Play is a basic need of all human beings, a need that ranks up there with eating, sleeping and sex. Yet most people reflexively answerContinue Reading

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

My sister told me about Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address where Jobs told three stories about his life that bring powerful perspecitve to education, work and life.  The speech is embedded below and here’s my take on those three stories. 1. Education – don’t be a sheep about it I think most people knowContinue Reading

What would it take to get you to bite off a lamb’s testicles?

Now there’s a question you need to ponder over.  Not like biting off lamb testicles was on your radar screen, or that you knew that people get paid to do that, but sure enough as Mike Rowe learned, there are people that do this as part of their overall practice of sheep ranching. What doesContinue Reading

“That’s not what I asked you to do.”

Have you ever been on the receiving end of that one? No? How about “That’s not what we agreed.” Well it’s no fun to be the one transmitting the same message either, especially to your web designer, mechanic, or plastic surgeon. There’s no simple or single answer to why these breakdowns in people’s promises andContinue Reading

Are you ambitious?

Are you ambitious?

Many moons ago a senior director at my old company sat with me talking about my career and said, “Peter your problem is you have no ambition.” That felt like a slap across the face because at the time there was no one working harder than I was.  Prior to coming to the head officeContinue Reading

“Can’t you see I’m eating?”

Here’s a reportedly true story that both asserts the state of the work ethic in Trinidad and demonstrates the deft use of a sense of humor in a maddening situation. A woman – let’s call her Rachel – went into a public service office on her lunch hour to take care of a pressing matter.Continue Reading

The one thing to get when you have a boss

The one thing to get when you have a boss

As we drove along the winding road to Maracas beach in Trinidad, my friend Scott said, “You know, I’ve come to realize that there’s only one thing you really need to get when you have a boss.” “Really?” I replied; my sense of intrigue and wonder stimulated because Scott is one of the most insightfulContinue Reading

Do you acknowledge people for “just” doing their jobs?

Do you acknowledge people for “just” doing their jobs?

Do you think you should acknowledge people for just doing their jobs; for just doing what they’re supposed to? Many people would say, “No, of course not!  They’re doing the absolute minimum required and it’s only service or results over and above the norm that should be acknowledged or rewarded.” If you think this way, pleaseContinue Reading

Security – Good luck with that

The other day I heard someone equate security with stagnation.   Hmmmmm.  Hats off to an inquiring mind, and if not an original idea, at least an uncommon one. Security – a form of stagnation.  Could there be something there?   Most people seem to be on a quest for security if I read allContinue Reading

Work. What does the word bring up for you?

This is important. Our quick fix culture is all about getting it all now. We the people hate work. Free is the biggest eye-catcher in the marketing lexicon. We want it and we don’t want to pay for it or do anything to earn it. Yet we all know that you can’t get something withoutContinue Reading

How much work is it to live your life as a practice?

Yesterday I wrote about my concern that living your life as a practice will occur for many people as a lot of work. And they would have a point. When I think about what’s involved it covers the following: Inventing a story or vision of your life. And oh, by the way, your life hasContinue Reading

Overwhelm

So my friend who wants to try out living his life as a practice tells me that he’s willing to give this a go as long as my requests don’t add any more “to-do’s” to his list. How cute. He wants to get the benefit of living his life as a practice as long asContinue Reading