In my career working for and consulting to many different companies, I learned that the biggest obstacle to positive change is creating good sustainable habits. From my experience, the people I worked with genuinely wanted to be more productive and reach their career goals faster. But old time-wasting work habits continued to stand in the way of being effective on the job. Over the years, I found these five simple habits generated the most impact for me and my team.
1. Focus on priorities
It’s easy to get lost trying to balance duties of managing teams and delivering consistent business results, plus everything else in between.
An HBR survey reported that of 1,300 managers, including more than 500 presidents and vice presidents, poor priority setting is common. The study noted that even though most executives work very long hours, only 47% of their working time is taken up with managerial duties.
A disciplined system of priority-setting can set you on the right path to ensuring you’re focused on those goals and activities that are most important to the success of the team.
TIP: Determine your top 5 weekly priorities. To achieve them, plan the days of your work week around those activities that contribute the greatest impact to your organization.
2. Eliminate waste
Time remains any company’s most valuable resource. Yet, I see it wasted everywhere, impacting everyone from executives to administration.
To help your team run better and increase productivity, leader-managers need time to plan, strategize, and make decisions. Yet only 9% of executives claim they’re satisfied with the way they spend their time and 89% of employees admit to wasting time at work every day, according to salary.com.
For instance, we all fall into the habit of automatically checking email every morning as our first activity. It can be a productivity killer. A big distraction from producing actual work.
Tips: Learn how to prioritize email messages, and block time off during the day to check them. It’s also OK to politely tell other staff not to cc you on matters that don’t directly involve you, and suggest they do the same when emailing others.
Another time-draining practice is letting meetings run amok. They start late and end even later. The agenda – if there was one – isn’t followed. People who have no responsibility for the outcomes are often invited, resulting in meetings being derailed, and dragging on with no concrete result.
TIP: Holding well designed meetings with a clear purpose, agenda and outcomes will speed decision-making.
Invite only the key stakeholders and set time limits on each item being discussed. Most important, start on time and finish on time.
An essential part of eliminating waste that I struggled with myself is learning to build trust in my team and delegate. It’s easy to find oneself trapped in micromanaging others.
We are afraid that others won’t accomplish tasks efficiently. We don’t know any other way to ensure everyone is getting things done except on our own terms.
This needs to stop.
TIP: Give your teams access to all the tools they need to use their time wisely in ways that lead to improved productivity, faster decisions and better outcomes. Trust the team has the right skills to achieve what’s required of them and coach them where needed.
Set clear goals that will allow them to focus on getting the right things done, leaving you free to spend your time leading the company to greater heights.
4. Deliver results. Not just activities.
Being in sales for many years, I often found it easy to confuse many work activities with being productive.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the “busy” colleague. They look good, work long hours, multi-task well, do things fast. While all these are valued traits, real effectiveness isn’t about personality. Instead, it’s about delivering the measurable results of the job.
TIP: Help your team focus on results tied to their roles. Clearly articulate role expectations, how success will be measured, and what goals need to be achieved. Role clarity will empower your team to spend their time wisely on the most important things that help them deliver results!
5. Continue to improve
Finally, effective leader-managers are always on a mission for continuous improvement. Committing to getting better every day is the most important habit that will help you stay ahead of your game all the time.
It can be in the simple steps you take to improve your team’s day-to-day work routine, or in a major transition initiative in business focus or process.
In either case, you will need the right tools to achieve lasting success. You need systems, structures and established processes that are tested and tried.
TIP: Ensure your business practices, processes and tools all support your team to continuously improve and succeed.
As your business grows and team management responsibilities expand, you will find it necessary to be effective in order to continue to excel in your role.
Here is the good news: No matter where you are in your career journey, it’s never too late to pick up good habits and become a truly effective leader-manager.
But you can’t instill good management habits with advice or training alone. In order to make it stick, you will need a system that integrates very well into your team’s daily routine and into your organizations’ management practices.
As Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, put it, “Effectiveness is a discipline. And, like every discipline, effectiveness can be learned and must be learned.”