How to be More Productive at Work 2

There's a reason why we only have 2 hands unlike an octopus. Don't multi task!
There’s a reason why we only have 2 hands unlike an octopus. Don’t multi task!

I have talked about Pareto’s law, Parkinson’s law and coming to work slightly earlier in my first article on How to be More Productive at Work.  I have an additional 2 tips that will make up this article on part 2.

1) Do not multi-task. Just like in marketing, communicating one benefit is often stronger than communicating 5 benefits at once. The strength of the five benefits will be diluted by five for each of the mentioned benefits. So you have 5 much weaker benefits compared to one very strong USP benefit. Similarly, by diluting your focus, mental and physical energy on five different tasks at the same time counters good productivity. Focus all your mental and physical energy on one task at a time, and you can burn through your task like a laser does in no time.

2) There are times when we have to work late. Hopefully this is not often nor regular, as it defeats the purpose of productivity. If you are perpetually working late, you need to 1) hire extra help, 2) re-examine your priorities and delegation, or 3) re-evaluate your productivity level. If you work late once a while, that’s ok. But if you do so, don’t work late more than a few days in a row. Your body and mind need rest, so return to normal work levels after a few days at most, or else you will burn out.  A burnt out person will require a longer recovery time, just like incurring an injury during sports training that requires downtime.  It’s not worth it.

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How to be More Productive at Work

80 20 Rule at work. Find the 20% that Gives the Maximum Value to Your Results.
80-20 Rule at work. Find the 20% that Gives Maximum Value to Your Results.

Productivity is related to return on investments. When you invest a certain amount of money or time and effort on something, how much positive results do you get at the end?  There are days when I am bogged down by meetings after meetings, some good and some pretty useless, and that really sucked up precious time that Icould have used to do REAL work.  There are days when I come in to work knowing clearly what I need to accomplish, and executed them well within my deadlines with little disruptions.  That is the FLOW that we shall all aspire to.

Here are three tips on how we all can be more productive at work:

1) Have a sense of urgency when you work.  When your bosses give you work, attempt to finish it well before the deadline.  Parkinson’s law states that work will expand to fit the amount of time you give it.  So give all tasks a shorter duration than the deadline given. This will really help to finish the tasks productively and quickly. I used to take several days to do a particular task. Due to tight deadlines recently, I had to finish such tasks in about 30% of the usual duration that I usually took.  Guess what?  I managed to finish them in that shorter duration. Sure, it was more of a rush compared to before, but it proved that tasks often need less duration than what we originally thought they need.

2) According to Pareto’s principle, 20% of the tasks we do contribute to 80% of the results. So search for that 20% list of important tasks, and spend 80% of your time on them.  They are worth it. Shortlist 3 areas of work that are highly critical. Ensure you spend time on these 3 critical areas EVERYDAY.  Delegate other tasks that are not so critical.

3) Come earlier to work, and leave later. I am not a masochist nor workaholic that loves spending more time in the office just for the sake of doing so. However, by coming a bit earlier and staying a bit later, you can get more work done. So, you can achieve more in a single day. Start with say coming in 15 minutes earlier each day, and then staying 15 minutes later than what you usually do. You will realize that you can get energized with that extra achievements daily. Do not expand work time too much, else Parkinson’s law will creep in, where you will take a more leisurely pace with your usual work, giving the same daily output despite increased work time.

 

Hire People Better than You

Get Above Average Folks with Superior Attitude and Skills to Join Your Team
Get Above Average Folks with Superior Attitude and Skills to Join Your Team

I have managed teams for many years, and I have my fair share of highly competent subordinates and not so competent subordinates. If your subordinates are above average, you have it good.  Work gets done on time, and you can safely delegate work and projects to them.  However, if you have less than able subordinates, you will end up correcting errors, following up on projects you have already delegated, and ended up doing a lot of things yourself.

The best ones are those who can even exceed your intelligence, creativity and skill levels.  These workers are hard to find, or highly ambitious.  However, once you get them, you can exceed your business results, get things done quickly, and create a dream team that makes your company an outstanding leader in the market place.  You need to train them, give them the goals and targets, and let them loose to achieve those results.

On the other hand, if you have subordinates that are less than able, don’t fire them just like that!  There’s usually reasons why they did not perform to your expectations.  Start with the belief that most people want to achieve, and be a good team player.  Have frequent heart to heart talks with that person, and be a friend to find out if there’s a mismatch in roles, training or communication.  Be patient, positive and always persevere.  Be a career coach and help that person find an alignment with his passion and skills.

Modelling after Good Managers

In sports we learn from the best.  Do the same in your company.
In sports we learn from the best. Do the same in your company.

You may work for a big company with hundreds of thousands of employees, or you may work for a smaller company with perhaps just 30 employees.  Regardless, working in companies nowadays require not just the right technical competencies like marketing or sales, you need to navigate through much bureaucracy and build many quality relationships in order to do a good job.  In bigger companies, this is even more true, as you will spend even more time on building relationships.

I have found that the best way is to interview and find out how the better managers do it.  Every company is different, and it often takes different approaches or strategies to win internally in each of these companies.  You can read books for some macro generic guide, but it often takes real experiences in the real world to understand what it takes to succeed in each different environment.

Modelling after above-average managers is the best way to learn how best to thrive and succeed in your company.  Here is how you do it.  Observe how these managers act in different situations, and how they solve problems differently from the weaker managers.  Treat them to lunches, and make friends with them.  Interview them and find out their thought process, and understand the strengths that may not be apparent from mere observations alone.

5 Tips on How to Better Manage Product Life Cycles

5 Tips, on How to, Better Manage, Product Life Cycles
Caterpillars goes through different life cycles. So do products, and each stage requires a different management.

Products are born, and then they evolve, and some just die after a few years.  As marketers, we know that we are under consistent pressure to grow our sales year after year.  How do you keep brands growing continuously?  Here are 5 tips:

1) Continue to improve the product.  If you have the best lawnmower version 1.0, produce an even better version 2.0 in 2 years time.  This way your competitors are kept far away from your pot of gold always.

2) Produce line extensions.  They help to leverage on existing brand power to sell more products, and gain more sales.  One note of caution, don’t over line extend to stuffs that don’t share brand equities with the parent brand.

3) Promote awareness when the products are newly launched.  Then, focus on differentiating them vs. other competitors.  Bring out your unique benefits and USPs.

4) Grow your ‘question mark’ products (BCG Matrix) to Stars, with fast growth in market shares.  Once you are the dominant player, you can ease a little on your investments, and reap the profits with your cash cows.

5) Divest off products that are not making money.  These are usually products in non-growing categories, or where competitors fight fiercely with price wars.  You are also facing slow market shares growth despite large advertising expenditures.

The #1 Lesson I Learned from Apple

#1 Lesson from the #1 Brand, Apple
#1 Lesson from the #1 Brand, Apple

Apple has seen a massive revival in recent years.  Before Steve Jobs return to Apple, Apple products were very niche, and only a few of my friends used them then.  Now, most of my friends have at least an Apple product.  Apple is no longer for the few, but rather a successful mass product company.

I have experienced the Apple products for myself, and read a few books about the Apple company.  Biggest lesson?

‘Less is more’.  That’s it.  The biggest lesson of all.

Look at the first successful product under the i-series.  The i-Pod.  Simple design and simple to use.  Does the design look good?  Sure it does!  Even the box that contains Apple products are carefully designed to be easy to open.

Steve also insists that Apple focuses only on a few products at a time.  With more focus, they can create better products that delight consumers.  They make big bets, and refuse to spread the risk through launching many products.  Whatever few products they have, they invested all their effort and money to design, make and market them well.  Look at the success rate of their product launches.

Truly, less is more.

How to Recognize your Employees

Throwing fireworks to celebrate sales target achieved will make one joyous, happy team!

Sure, money is important.  But raises only comes once a year on average, so do you only recognize your employees once a year?  Definitely not!

You want to recognize your subordinates as frequently as possible, in a timely and specific manner.  This gets your employees motivated to go the extra mile for you, instead of just during year end appraisals and announcements of bonuses and raises.

When you put forth effort to recognize your subordinates, you send them a message that whatever they just did or achieved is meeting or exceeding your expectations.  This is positive reinforcement for their actions, which they will do more of in future.  Let them know that when they meet certain goals, they are definitely entitled to rewards or celebrations.  This creates the excitement of anticipation.  Occasionally, even when goals were not met, but fantastic efforts were put in by the individual or team, feel free to celebrate as well.

You don’t have to reward with money all the time.  You can reward them with tangible stuffs such as tickets to the movies or theme parks, a basket of fruits or flowers, and even a free massage.  A reward that shouts their achievements is also good, such as a T-shirt with ‘Salesman of the year Award’ written on it.  These tangible rewards are often more memorable than money.

When you recognize their efforts specifically and in a timely manner, you show that you listen and care for them.  And that’s part of being a good boss!

8 Ways to Manage People Better

Everyone is unique. Manage them differently.

Managing people is very important when we rise up the organization.  If you have capable subordinates, it makes for a much more productive, pleasant and progressive workplace.  Here are some tips for better people management.

1) Be socially aware of the people around you, be they your peers, subordinates or superiors.  Empathize with them, especially your subordinates, who may not dare to be totally honest with you about their feelings.  Understand the politics around you, even though you may not play them.  In big companies, you need to spend time navigating office politics as much as your core work.  Lastly, empathize with your consumers and customers too, as understanding them benefits your company.

2) You also need social skills.  You need to have a vision, and the ability to influence the rest through your communication.  Join a toastmasters or a writers’ club to improve your verbal and written skills.  For your team, you need to understand how to develop their skills, how to bond them together and handle conflicts.

3) I have always used an authoritative leadership style, which I feel is the most flexible and versatile leadership for most companies.  An authoritative leader will have a proper vision that is clear and purposeful.  He will then rally the team to commit to the vision, with a standards of excellence.  However, he empowers his teammates with flexibility on how to achieve the goals and vision.

4) The most motivating factors are achievements, recognition and the daily job itself.  The most demotivating factors are often times bureaucracy/red tapes/sacred cows, relationship with them boss and the management by the boss.  Give a good job scope, a competent boss and a supportive working environment, and you will have happy employees.

5) Everyone is different.  You need to understand this fact, and stop labeling your subordinates as good or bad based on your ‘one and only’ standards.  If you happen to frequently have ‘bad’ subordinates, you may be the problem.  So manage each one differently.

6) How many times have you heard the phrase ‘my boss is unfair’?  Lots from my peers.  You may think you are fair, but the people you manage may not.  How to have a basic framework of fairness?  Engage your team for ideas and inputs always.  When you make final decisions, give reasons why.  And expect everyone to adhere to a set of common and consistent standards.

7) Review your common operations and assumptions at times.  Sometimes we are in a rut without recognizing it.  Periodically review and critique your daily operations and habits to ensure that you don’t generate lasting negativity among your team mates.  E.g. some meetings may be totally useless and resented by your team, and you need to recognize that.

8) Manage your boss.  Even CEOs’ need to answer to the shareholders and directors.  Understand his goals, pressures, strengths/weaknesses, and working style.  You should always keep your boss updated and in the know, and make full use of the time when you are with him.  Avoid wasting his time unnecessarily.

7 Tips on Influencing Change

You need worthy supporters if you want change.

1) Choose your battles wisely.  It is not easy to induce change in the organisation or in others.  It requires tremendous efforts to do so.  So before you try to change anything, think carefully about what is really worth changing.

2) Employees may not be able to see the reason for change if they don’t experience it first hand.  Let them experience the problem themselves.  If it is poor customer service from lack of training, let them call customer service and experience it themselves.

3) When people fight back or resist your call for change, recognize that they are fighting against your professional role.  So do not take it personally, but be patient with them.

4) Use action rather than words.  Show them the way and the better results through your actions.  Prove to them that it works.

5) Use play of words and arguments.  Predict their counter arguments, and prepare beforehand to counter their arguments well.  This is not to win verbally, but to win the hearts towards your vision for change.

6) Look for opportunities to strengthen your points for change.  If you have a program for cost reduction, then look for examples around you regularly that you can showcase as examples.

7) Gather your supporters.  Be like a politician.  Wherever you go in the company, petition your cause and gather those who support your cause.  Soon, they will spread the word to others, and get more like minded people to join in your cause.