An article in HRMagazine by Michael Brown.
How much of your working week are you spending on things you think you should be doing, and doing them well? Write down your average percentage across a typical week.
I wonder how your answer compares with the average, which I have been researching through my training programmes over 20 years.
The average is a mere 40%. That means most people reckon they spend three days per week doing things they shouldn’t, or doing things they should be doing but doing them badly.
Quite how organisations survive on two days’ productivity per week is beyond me. But I’m a natural optimist, and believe that this figure can change for the better through some simple changes in behaviour and attitude. These three things will boost your career mojo more than any others.
First up, your biggest time waster: useless meetings. Poorly run, often irrelevant to you (but you got invited just in case), unfocused, and lacking ownership and clarity over who is going to do what.
They sap your energy, waste your time and cause frustration and poor morale, but for some reason we don’t do anything about it. Here are three things you can do to change all that:
- Don’t attend meetings which don’t have an agenda. They will probably be the most badly run and unfocussed of all of them. Ask for an agenda, and if you’re told there is no agenda, say you can’t therefore assess whether it’s a good use of your time, and decline it.
- Suggest to the meeting owner that they put a time limit on each item on the agenda, and then have someone call it when you have five minutes left. It’s amazing how this focuses the discussion.
- Start each meeting with a review of the actions from the previous meeting. Once people realise that they are going to be asked to account for themselves it somehow raises their commitment to doing what they say they will.
- Bonus item: finish every meeting with a review of how the meeting went, and how it could be improved next time. Funny how that seems to create a cycle of continuous improvement. It also allows people to give each other feedback; it might be a chance for the introverts (usually about half the people in the meeting) to say whether they felt listened to and included or not.
None of the above involves rocket science. Just plain common sense and a healthy dose of assertiveness.
Second on my list of mojo boosters is building trust with your key stakeholders. Trust levels in society are at an all-time low, and in the workplace this means collaboration becomes rarer and we find ourselves putting energy into covering our own back, defending our own territory and having a scarcity mindset as opposed to one of abundance.
The best way to build trust is to spend time with people. Get to know colleagues informally (away from the office is a good place to do it), and start to share more of the human factor with them.
Over time you start to uncover your shared interests, values and concerns, and can work towards helping each other to achieve them.
Finally, my third suggestion for making more good days at the office: negotiate more for yourself. Far too many people aren’t aware of some of the basic principles of negotiation, and this leaves them vulnerable when others negotiate with them (which is most of the time, as most transactions between two humans involve some element of negotiation). Here are some negotiation principles that lead you to not being on the wrong end of the deal quite so often:
- Be ready to negotiate. When people ask you for something they don’t always expect you to say yes, and are ready to look at alternatives if you go about it the right way. So don’t think that doing what you’re asked to every time is what is expected.
- Test people’s positions. When they ask for something, they often don’t really mean it. There is normally at least 20% ‘wiggle room’; to be had, so test whether there is.
- Don’t give anything away for free. That way people will value it more, and you may find you get something back in return.
- Insert ‘if’ into your response. “If I do that analysis for Friday can you do the slide deck?” Suddenly this is a two-way street and we are collaborating. This will improve our relationship, not weaken it.
I’m often amazed at people’s reactions when I suggest they make these changes. It’s as if the clouds have parted and the Sun has finally broken through.
To my mind they are nothing more than a statement of the obvious, but if they are not obvious to you (perhaps because you are so busy you have forgotten the basics) then I am confident they will make a real and sustainable difference to your workplace experience.
Michael Brown has been a business skills coach and trainer for more than 20 years and is author of My Job Isn’t Working!