WorkWise: Increase productivity with peers

culp@workwise.netJanuary 6, 2013 


Discussions about increasing productivity tend to focus down on the organizational chart. This one moves more directly across to explain how to confront the need strategically, then tactically, whether managers are seasoned or not.


Strategies for starting a project vary considerably, from bringing to light the vision of a project’s outcome to what appears to be personalizing the task for inexperienced managers. Mike Williams, CEO of the David Allen Company Inc. in Ojai, Calif., a former GE executive, recommends that a manager working with peers set out immediately to define direction and create a shared vision.

“Try to increase the number of great starts you have in intersections with people,” Williams says. “If there’s a gap, you can experience differences on the front rather than back end.” Meanwhile, you’ll spare everyone excessive emails attempting to overcome misunderstanding.


The approach of Cathy Sexton, coach at The Productivity Experts LLC in St. Louis, Mo., differs greatly from that of Williams. It emphasizes strengthening relationships by increasing understanding of productivity styles in a collection of managers. “Helping everyone recognize what everyone else does well can change the whole atmosphere of the whole team,” she remarks. She advocates recognition that’s more public than a simple thank-you, such as positive customer feedback typed on a piece of paper and placed on a wall.

Consultant Jennifer Stanford falls somewhat between Williams and Sexton in her strategy of understanding “the human capital landscape” before establishing trust to enhance communication and collaboration. As CEO of Emergent Performance Solutions LLC in Reston, Va., she suggests developing a survey to assess trust and accountability.


Once begun, a project offers managers several methods for proceeding. Sexton, focused on team-building, recommends an exercise as the meeting begins or ends, which appeals to young managers. One person at a time turns his back to the group. Everyone else follows individually by “saying something positive about that person,” she explains. “A negative becomes a positive and helps the person hear things he wouldn’t normally hear. This changes the whole environment by getting managers to (reflect on) the positive about themselves and their team.” She considers the exercise easier than face-to-face communication.

Stanford advises people to “think about how you’re improving communication and collaboration ... and keeping each other on task and motivated.”

While the project-focused tactics Williams offers might seem less attractive to inexperienced managers, they appear to honor the project – the purpose of working together – rather than create distraction on remedial issues. For most managers, he advises developing lists, re-defining success as needed when working on multiple projects and communicating weekly.

Task lists cover tasks you’re doing for another person and those the other person will fulfill. The agenda list reminds you how each person prefers to exchange ideas, such as by email, texting or telephone calls. “The art of it all,” he says, “is to select the optimal communication channel somewhat based on the person you’re intersecting with and preferences for both of you.” The project list briefly describes each project and its desired outcome. That, with weekly communication, should help keep everyone on track.

What is a truly professional manager? Productivity will only increase when managers come together with personal considerations satisfied. Otherwise, each project will be burdened by a need to fill in personal gaps, which distracts managers from shared commitment to project success.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2013 Passage Media.

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