Tag Archives: team productivity

The frog, the ninja and you – time and productivity


By Elisabeth Goodman, 23rd January, 2018

Drawing inspired by Brian Tracy’s “Eat that Frog” – illustration by Isabelle Spain

I would not endorse eating this frog, but it’s a powerful metaphor adopted by Brian Tracy in “Eat that Frog!” for tackling the most difficult and least attractive tasks first, and for just getting on with it.

The “21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time” suggested by the subtitle of his book certainly stand up to scrutiny.

We’ve been referencing Graham Alcott’s “Productivity Ninja” in RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management, and also Time and Meeting Management courses, and have our own illustration for that too.  (See also an earlier blog: There will never be enough time!)

The Productivity Ninja, based on Graham Alcott

Brian Tracy’s list of 21 rules adds a little something extra to Graham Alcott’s list and also to information we’ve gleaned from some of our other sources.

So, in this blog, I’ve picked out a sub-set of Brian Tracy’s list that particularly resonates for me, either because the items are different from or because they reinforce some of the messages we have been using so far.

1. Get clarity on what is expected of you – your unique contribution

I like this as a starting point for planning how we use our time at work.  What is it that we have to offer that perhaps no-one else does?

Having a conversation with our boss about this, or with ourselves if we are self-employed, provides clarity on expectations and also, in essence, our own personal mission or purpose at work.

It lays the foundation for the next topic, and also resonates for me with one of Stephen R. Covey’s “habits” of “begin with the end in mind”.

2. Prioritise your top 3 goals

Whether at work, at home, in the community, or in our own personal fitness / health programmes, Brian Tracy suggests that 10% of what we do creates the 90% of value that we contribute in each of these spheres.

If we focus on that top 10% that will deliver our personal mission we will be more productive.

3. Do this long-term, weekly, daily

I’m not too keen on keeping long lists of tasks.  They’re fine as a starting point but are then more effective if triaged into your diary or calendar.  That’s also what Graham Alcott advocates.

However, you do need to begin with a list, and reviewing / updating what you are planning to do weekly and daily will also help you to keep on top of everything.

And of course this applies to projects as well as individual tasks.  Break the projects into tasks and schedule those too.

4. De-prioritise everything else

We use The Mind Gyms’ “5 Ds”….

The 5 Ds for managing time – adapted from The Mind Gym’s “Give me Time”

…. and they are not dissimilar from Brian Tracy’s ABCDE list.  He uses the word “posteriorise” to emphasise the importance of differentiating between what should be done now, and what should be done later…

(Stephen R. Covey’s “Urgent and Important” matrix is invaluable in this space too)

5. Create gaps in your schedule for getting things done

This is at the heart of every guide to making the most of your time and being at your most productive.  Carving out chunks of time when we will not be disturbed by other people or by other tasks  will enable us to “get into the flow” or “in the zone” and so produce our best work.

We advocate scheduling these chunks of time into your calendar, and protecting them as you would protect attending an important meeting.

6. Don’t make technology your master

Again, we know this.  Turn off e-mail, turn off your phone, turn off any other messaging system.  Access this technology in a way that won’t interrupt your productive work.  Find other ways to manage those “urgent” or “priority” communications.  Figures for how long it typically takes for us to refocus on a task once we’ve been interrupted range around the 20 minute mark..

7. Make technology your slave

We and Graham Allcott are unanimous on this too.  There are lots of tools out there to help us manage our time and tasks – use them!  Brian Tracy also suggests using social media to publicly declare what we are committing to achieve – and thereby reinforce that commitment.

8. Develop your knowledge and skills

This has an echo of Stephen R. Covey’s “sharpen the saw”.  Brian Tracy suggests that we identify what capabilities we need to deliver on our top goals, and make sure we are continuously learning to so as to better support those goals.  This will also better equip us for removing any constraints to achieving our goals.

9. Just start…

The Mind Gym’s “Give me time” has a whole chapter on procrastination. It’s a big topic! Just starting a task, a chunk at a time, will often help to overcome our self-imposed barriers.  Brian Tracy uses analogies of tackling all the tasks involved sequentially: “a salami slice” at a time.  Alternatively, he suggests doing so randomly, simply “a swiss cheese punch” at a time.

He also stresses that working in this way, getting things done, brings its own rewards. We feel good about what we have achieved: our self-esteem, our confidence increase, along with the results.

10. Balance work and life all of the time!

This was a wonderful message to read in a book of this type.  We should not expect to work longer hours, in the evenings, at the week-ends, in order to be successful at work.

Instead your goal, whether by the frog, ninja or your own method, should be to work as efficiently and effectively as possible, so as to free up valuable time for your other priorities outside of work…

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Enhancing team effectiveness through temperature checks or diagnostics – a second look


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th December 2015

Additional insights on team temperature checks

It’s been three years since I wrote my last blog on team development and team temperature checks, and I have since published The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook, and also used the principles and approaches with project and operational teams.

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

 

My adapted version of Tuckman’s stages of team development, and the team temperature check survey or diagnostic are continuing to prove to be both simple and powerful tools for helping teams to be more productive and happier in their work.

I have, inevitable, gained some additional insights:

  1. There are no short cuts for achieving high performance teams
  2. It is however possible to accelerate the formation of high performance teams
  3. There is a handy way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness
  4. There are many more aspects of team effectiveness to add to the list
  5. A team’s stage of development is determined by the least integrated member of the team

I’ll go through each of these in turn.

There are no short cuts for achieving high performance teams

My recent work with a team vividly reminded me that there is no point trying to encourage them to think about how they are going to work together, until they have resolved what they are each trying to do.  People not only need clarity on the team’s overall purpose, but also on their individual roles and responsibilities.

Until they know what they are expected to do, the lack of certainty involved can lead to insecurity and an inability to think beyond that to how they can build stronger relationships with the other members of the team, let alone start developing more effective working practices.

It is possible to accelerate the formation of high performance teams

An early face-to-face team building event still seems to be the most effective way to accelerate the formation of a team.  We need to be in the physical presence of our colleagues to foster that deeper understanding of each other, to build trust, and to have open discussions with each other about what we think and feel.

I continue to find that psychometric tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) or the Belbin Team Roles are a terrific resource to help team members understand and appreciate the respective strengths that they each bring to the team.

The other very simple technique to accelerate the formation of high performance teams is to encourage people to work with different members of the team in turn.  There is nothing like working with someone on some specific task as a way of getting to know each other.

The different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness can be grouped together

I realised, as I was working with one team to collate the results of a team temperature check (or diagnostic), that there is a natural way to group these elements.  This discovery was reinforced by another client that was already using the groupings, albeit under slightly different names!

A way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness

One way to group the different elements or prerequisites for team effectiveness.  The elements listed are examples from potentially longer lists.

There are many more potential elements of team effectiveness to add to the diagnostic list

Each client I work with has their own ‘take’ on which elements they wish to retain or add to the list – and that seems entirely appropriate.  The list is likely to depend on their team’s stage of maturity, and the nature of its role.

The list in my original blog on team development and team temperature checks was just nine items long! I have reproduced it here.

  • Clear purpose & goals
  • Trust & support each other
  • Open communication
  • Clear roles
  • Diversity
  • Task / Relationship Balance
  • Decision Making
  • Meeting management
  • Information Management

The various teams I have worked with have added such elements as:

  • Communication with stakeholders (as opposed to communication within the team)
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Action follow-up
  • Leadership
  • Performance monitoring

We use the final list as the basis for the team temperature check or diagnostic survey, and so it’s also worth having an ‘other’ category to pick up anything else that team members feel it’s important to review.

A team’s stage of development is determined by the least integrated member of the team

When my colleague Janet Burton and I are running the RiverRhee training courses for managers we ask them to identify which stage of development their team is at.

It’s not unusual for most of the team to have got to a certain point in their performance, only to be pulled back to an earlier stage with the arrival of one or two new team members.  Alternatively, part of the team may have forged ahead, whilst the rest of it is still in the storming stage.

After some discussion we usually come to the conclusion that the manager needs to work with those members of the team who are at the earlier stage(s) to properly assimilate them into the team.  Only then can the whole team achieve high performance.

What has your experience been?

As always, it’d be great to hear from readers who have explored the stages of team development and/or used temperature checks or diagnostics to enhance their team’s performance..  Have your experiences been similar to the above, or different?  What else have you learned?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management).