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Efficiency & Effectiveness

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Can ‘Deep Work’ Really Work for You? It’s a condition familiar to a broad swath of American workers. You need a free stretch of time to tackle a problem or concentrate on a piece of writing. But diversions and interruptions keep coming: emails, texts, just one more spin through the Facebook news feed. It’s as if we are all struggling through a Christina’s World field of distraction toward a quiet place where we might actually be able to get some work done. The lure of a place apart, if only a psychological one, is a recurring theme in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, the popular new book that argues for the virtues of longer periods of time for uninterrupted thinking. Cal Newport, a Georgetown University professor of computer science specializing in the theory of distributed algorithms, has written a cri de cœur from the digital age.

Newport argues — as have many before him — that the internet has had a corrosive effect on our ability to concentrate. A Deeper Need for Deep Work A Range of Deep Work. 5 Levels of Remarkably Effective Delegation. Managing Your Boss. A quarter-century ago, John Gabarro and John Kotter introduced a powerful new lens through which to view the manager–boss relationship: one that recognized the mutual dependence of the participants. The fact is, bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers, for their part, rely on bosses for making connections with the rest of the company, for setting priorities, and for obtaining critical resources.

If the relationship between you and your boss is rocky, then it is you who must begin to manage it. When you take the time to cultivate a productive working relationship—by understanding your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, priorities, and work style—everyone wins. In the 25 years since it was published, this article has truly improved the practice of management. To many people, the phrase “managing your boss” may sound unusual or suspicious. In 1975, Philip Bonnevie was promoted into a position reporting to Gibbons. 1. 2.

Understanding the Boss. Making Dumb Groups Smarter. Since the beginning of human history, people have made decisions in groups. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. If so, then three heads should be better than two, and four better still. With a hundred or a thousand, then, things are bound to go well—hence the supposed wisdom of crowds. The advantage of a group, wrote one early advocate of collective intelligence—Aristotle—is that “when there are many who contribute to the process of deliberation, each can bring his share of goodness and moral prudence…some appreciate one part, some another, and all together appreciate all.” The key is information aggregation: Different people take note of different “parts,” and if those parts are properly aggregated, they will lead the group to know more (and better) than any individual.

Unfortunately, groups all too often fail to live up to this potential. “Groupthink” is the term most often applied to the tendency of groups to go astray. Why Do Errors Occur? Amplifying Errors The finding? The Behaviors that Define A-Players - Jack Zenger , and Joseph Folkman. By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman | 9:00 AM April 11, 2014 Individual contributors sometimes ask themselves, “What will it take for others to recognize my potential?” They may simply want acknowledgement of the importance of the work they do.

Or they may aspire to move into management. In some cases, they’ve been told that they’re doing fine and have been advised, “Just keep doing what you are doing.” Yet they see others being promoted ahead of them. To see what separates the competent from the exceptional individual performers, we collected 50,286 360-degree evaluations conducted over the last five years on 4,158 individual contributors. Which leadership skills distinguished the best from the merely good? Set stretch goals and adopt high standards for themselves. The less effective individual contributors are excellent “sandbaggers,” having concluded that the biggest consequence of producing great work and doing it quickly is more work. Work collaboratively. Take initiative.

Share Your Star Performers Strategies with the Rest of the Staff. While attending a conference recently, a friend pointed out a session that he thought might interest me. Reading the blurb, it appeared that the sales manager of a smallish financial institution was going to unveil the sales secrets of the universe. (That's only a slight exaggeration.) I smiled while reading it and reflected on the dangers of overselling. Going by what the presenter was promising to accomplish in his session, I wondered if he would be wearing a cape.

I figured he had to be either a magician or a superhero. Alas, he was neither. I'm not saying that is all bad. The speaker stated that the kind of people we hire is important and that we should be sure to keep our good employees and get rid of the bad ones. I smiled as folks around me jotted that wisdom down. When he shared his fondness of stack-ranking branches, I was reminded that many mistakes seem to be evergreen, as well. No, I'm not suggesting that our top performers should be stalked by bank paparazzi.

Meetings

Use a Task Map to Improve Your Team's Performance - Allison Rimm. By Allison Rimm | 11:00 AM February 27, 2014 If you’ve noticed your team is functioning unevenly and its esprit de corps isn’t what you’d hoped, it’s time for you to ask yourself whether your people are deployed optimally. Employees’ skills and interests can evolve over time, as can the goals of your group, so misalignment can happen without your noticing it. That person who was hired to do analysis but has blossomed into a first-rate motivator and loves working with groups: Is he still stuck in front of a computer doing analysis?

Is the employee who was recruited as a trainer feeling frustrated because she has no opportunity to take advantage of her extraordinary talent for writing? I’ve found that there’s a powerful way to answer questions like these: Create a task map. A task map is a visual tool that allows you to see where skills are lacking or duplicated on a team. It can help you assign tasks that will take advantage of each person’s abilities and interests. 3 Ways You're Derailing Your Employees' Productivity. Image credit: Shutterstock In the past six years, my wife Jodi and I have launched three businesses and hired and fired employees along the way.

We've learned the hard way that there are certain things that can derail our team members' daily productivity. This isn't a surprise. Entrepreneurs are often stressed and they transfer that stress onto their employees, making them less productive. Earlier this month, while in Portland, Ore. for entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau's World Domination Summit, I decided to ask as many people as I could what their bosses had done in the past to get in the way of their productivity.

"They micro-manage me. You might be so caught up in your own stress that you don't realize you're causing your own employees stress on a daily basis. Here are three ways you might be derailing your employees' productivity without realizing it: 1. 2. 3. Being clear about your company's goals makes it possible for everyone to set their own priorities and be their best every day.

E-mails

Getting Buy-In for Innovation that Doesn't Fade at the End of the Quarter - Sunand Menon. By Sunand Menon | 11:00 AM November 6, 2013 You’ve prepared a business plan for a promising new entrepreneurial venture. You’ve got funding and the blessing of your CEO and Board to go ahead with this high-profile “experiment”. Your venture could be a growth engine for your corporation’s otherwise large but slow and steady core business. Then you start worrying. Even though there is a three-year execution horizon, they expect results in the first year.

What can you do? Here’s where Mission Analysis can help. For the large organization, Mission Analysis gives the necessary reassurance that there is a plan in place with specific measurable deliverables, which can be translated and absorbed into the overall planning process of the corporation. Begin with the “What,” a clear and actionable mission for your business. Follow with the “Why” to describe the background behind the mission. Specify your Objectives, Measures and Targets, all on one table, ideally on a single page. Define Your Organization's Habits to Work More Efficiently - Brad Power. By Brad Power | 11:33 AM May 17, 2013 We don’t often think about the way we usually operate at work, whether we’re performing an informal five-step process for evaluating a new proposal, or setting priorities for managing our time. But our ability to improve the ways we do things depends on defining and shaping our daily habits of mind and practice — our “standard work.”

Consider the experience of my friend Lynn Kelley, who joined Union Pacific Railroad, the largest railroad network in the United States with 46,000 employees, as vice president of continuous improvement about two years ago. When she arrived, she learned that a large proportion of the workforce would retire over the next decade. So the organization started documenting standard operating procedures to capture employee know-how and wisdom. “Must Do” Procedures. “Should Do” Practices. “May Do” Discretion. We need to do away with the notion that standards necessarily mean rigidity.