Being “busy” is a productivity myth

March 8, 2020 in Employee Engagement, Employee Motivation, Work Culture

“Busy is being in one place doing one thing with the nagging sense that you ought to be somewhere else doing something different

Jane Porter (FastCompany)

Busy has become a term worn like a badge of honour, especially in the workplace. Being ‘busy’ has somehow become synonymous with being productive, accomplished, successful. But here’s the thing… motion does not always equal progress. 

Simply moving doesn’t mean you’re going in the right direction. The shortest path between two points is a straight line – so if we’re constantly distracted, flitting between tasks, and being preoccupied with seeming to be occupied, that line tends to deviate.

Many of us have become so committed to multi-tasking, being productive and getting stuff done, that we’ve lost the ability to focus wholly on one task at a time; to do whole and complete work; to, and US Army General Creighton Abrams put it, “eat the elephant one leg at a time”.

And aside from making us feel anxious and overworked and under-rested, being constantly busy is bad for our health and our businesses.

Why? Being busy means…

…you’re not in the present

A recent Microsoft study indicated that people these days have only an eight-second attention span. This has been attributed (blamed) on everything from evolution to the proliferation of open-plan offices and the now ubiquitous nature of smartphones. Regardless of why it’s the case, what this lack of attention capacity means is that unless you’re absolutely focussed in the present – in ‘flow’ as some refer to it – it’s very hard to avoid distractions. The constant buzzing of notifications, colleagues sharing cat memes, personal matters encroaching on your professional life. 

Some businesses are combating this with an approach called “deep working”, defined by Cal Newport as, “The ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.” It’s about focussing wholeheartedly on a single task and avoiding the desire to appear busy for the sake of it.

…you miss opportunities

When we get wrapped up in the busyness of life, it’s easy to forgo the opportunity to try new things; learn new skills or take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. If you’re so busy being busy, it’s easy to turn down that invite to a networking lunch, after-work drinks, or even personal opportunities like weekends away or dinner with friends. As Richard Branson says:

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”

…you avoid problems and prioritise poorly

Want to distract yourself from bigger problems or more pressing priorities? Get busy. A priority is something we should do, as opposed to something we feel the need or compulsion to do. When we get caught up in the busyness trap, it seems like everything needs to be done. Now! Yesterday! Learning to identify what really matters is a skill. And learning to identify the ‘one thing’ – that when achieved will make all the other things easier – will make life less busy and more focussed. And that ‘one thing’ is not always a physical task; it may be dealing with feelings about a recent disappointment or difficult experience. Whatever it is, being busy will not solve the problem, it’ll simply ensure it sticks around a little longer.

…you neglect the things and people you love

If you’re so caught up in running around, there’s little time left to do the things you enjoy or the things you need to keep you firing on all cylinders. Things like eating properly, getting enough exercise, spending time with your loved ones, petting your dog or cat. If you’re always at the office until 9pm; always rushing to collect the kids from school and get them to soccer training; always feeling like you need to be in two places at once, it leaves very little time for self-care, rest and reflection. It’s easy to get caught up in the “glamour” of being busy and neglect the things that are truly important. Life is there to be lived and enjoyed – sure, we all have to work, but finding a little time for yourself each day will make those hours on the clock a whole lot more enjoyable. And productive.

…you have no time to think, rest or recover

Time for reflection and consideration is key in the workplace. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people do their best work when they also have the opportunity to wind-down, relax and recharge. Most people need space from the day-to-day grind in order to do their best work – especially those in strategic roles that require reflection, deep thought and future thinking. 

The proliferation of flexible work conditions has been one measure implemented by many workplaces to help employees manage the so-called work/life ‘balance’. But being able to turn up a little later, leave a little earlier, or work from home once in a while does not necessarily offer the space needed by people to recharge and rejuvenate in order to keep performing at their best.

BRG CEO David Anderson urged his team before Christmas to take time over the break to do things they find joy in, connect with those they love, and recharge, in order to return to work refreshed and ready to go in 2020. The analogy he used was this:

“For every 20 seconds an elite athlete performs at their peak, they rest for two minutes. This allows them to recover sufficiently before pushing themselves to the maximum again.”

This approach not only builds resilience, or the ‘bounce-back’ muscle, it also ensures the athlete gives themself time to recuperate before pushing their body to maximum effort again. And while we’re not necessarily likening actual jockeys to ‘desk jockeys’, the principle is sound. No one can perform at their peak for a prolonged period without burning out – even a computer needs the odd reboot.

…And ultimately, you forget what drives you

It’s easy to forget your passion and purpose when you become distracted by the everyday. Humans need purpose. It drives us when the path ahead is unknown. If you have a clear “why”, it’s easier to push through the inevitable obstacles, setbacks and disappointments. But being constantly busy can see you become detached from the purpose that drives you forward. Having a long list of tasks to get through isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re busy without a purpose you’ll soon find yourself feeling detached, dissatisfied and drained.

So why not commit to being a little less busy and little more focused on one task at a time? You might be surprised at the difference it makes to your overall productivity, health and happiness.

Simon Sinek: Soft skills hold the key to better leadership

March 2, 2020 in Employee Engagement, Employee Motivation, Employee Retention, Work Culture

We’ve all worked under a bad boss at some stage in our career. And having an ineffective manager has all sorts of ramifications for the individuals involved, as well as the wider business. From stunted development opportunities to poor engagement, productivity issues and absenteeism – poor leadership is a scourge on modern business. 

Bad bosses are sadly not uncommon. But according to outspoken and widely-regarded leadership expert Simon Sinek, we shouldn’t lay blame on them… because no one is actually ever taught how to be an effective leader.

“One of the big challenges for leaders is that rarely are they taught how to lead and yet it’s a skill set like any other. If you’re an accountant, you learn how to do accounting. If you’re a salesperson, someone taught you how to sell … but usually, we don’t get taught leadership.”

Simon Sinek

So how can we help people become more effective leaders?

Like anything, leadership, and finding and fostering a unique leadership style, is a skill that must be learnt, practised and continually refined.

Sinek says, “It’s up to leaders to create the leadership climate, to set the tone, to establish that being empathetic, honest, patient – these things are the standard of how we do business, and people will follow suit.”

In fact, soft skills like those Sinek promotes as key for effective leaders have never been more important in business, and for the leaders in the drivers’ seat.

Businesses have long focussed on technical skills – the ‘how’ to do the job. But soft skills help effective leaders get to the ‘why’ and motivate the people around them to do those jobs more effectively.

More commonly labelled as “people” skills, soft skills – in the age of automation – are becoming more important than ever. Things like emotional intelligence and the ability to teach, connect with and motivate others, won’t ever be the work of machines or algorithms. And mastering such skills will be key to success, regardless of how much of a business, or individual jobs, is taken over by tech.

LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner says in the increasingly tech-heavy work environment, soft skills are now more important than knowing how to code. In fact, a recent study from Instructure found that when leaders cannot effectively communicate with their employees or help them to accomplish their career goals, those employees will simply leave the business. The cost of not having sound, and soft, leadership skills is too high to ignore.

According to Sinek, a lot of bosses need to get back to the basics of good leadership – fostering their listening skills, learning the art of effective confrontation, mastering feedback, as well as key humanity measures of patience and empathy.

“Business engagement is down, loyalty is down – a lot of young people have no desire to stick around for their whole career in one job. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s because the companies offer them no loyalty and no love. All parties have a role to play in any relationship … the difference [in business] is the leader is the one who goes first.”

In addition to promoting and fostering soft skills in our workplaces, Sinek has some other tips for becoming a better boss:

  1. Be a student. Effective leadership requires a desire to learn – if you want to be a better leader, you have to become a student of leadership.
  2. Tap into the need to lead. Good leaders have to want to lead. It’s not a path for everyone because leadership is not about making money or getting results; it’s about taking care of the people who do those things.
  3. Ask for help. Effective leaders are never too proud to reach out for help from those who have trodden the path before them.

The commercial impact of looking after your people

February 27, 2020 in Employee Engagement, Employee Motivation, Employee Recognition, Employee Retention

A culture built on the foundation of rewards and recognition is proven to build engagement, drive retention and attract top talent, while simultaneously reducing attrition and turn-over.

It makes good business sense to nurture a culture of engagement, it’s hard to argue with the numbers…

  • Disengaged employees estimated to cost the Australian economy $305 billion each year due to lost productivity – an average of $26,300 per worker
  • Non-cash incentives have been proven to be 24% more powerful at boosting performance than cash incentives.
  • In Australia, online search volume for experiences is in the billions each year.
  • Those businesses defined as ‘experiential’ are four times more profitable, have two times higher average revenues and boast 40% lower turnover.
  • Employers who invest in a great employee experience outperform others by 122% on key success metrics​​.
  • Companies ranked in the top 25 per cent on employee engagement report nearly three times the return on assets and double the return on sales compared to organisations in the bottom quartile.​​ 

So at a time when every business is looking to establish a competitive advantage, taking care of your greatest assets – your people – is a powerful means of doing just that.

Hands up if you want to be appreciated?

Recognition builds engagement, drives retention and assists in the acquisition of top talent. At the same time, a culture built on the foundation of thanks is proven to reduce attrition and regrettable turn-over.​ In fact, 69 per cent of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.

So where do experiences come in? Well, shared experiences create moments of bonding, camaraderie and understanding between individuals and teams. They create social currency and talkability about your brand. And it’s these stories that create culture and folklore. That’s how brands are built in the hearts and minds of both the people inside your business as well as customers. ​

More than that, people want experiences – more than ‘things’ and more than at any other time in history. In fact, 31% of household income is now spent on things to do, including travel, dining and entertainment. 

That’s why the REDii framework is based on the power of experiences to drive engagement, celebrate moments and create memories that build trust and connection which ‘things’ cannot. ​

Experience the REDii difference today.