All posts by - maureen

Procrastination – lack of knowledge or lack of interest?

As my list of to-do’s continue to get longer and longer, both in my professional, personal and student lives, I often wonder how much of my perceived procrastination is because I don’t know how to do something or if I just have my priorities wrong?

There are definitely responsibilities in my life that are not interesting to accomplish, and more of those seem to get added to that list than the fun energizing ones.   I definitely tend to manage my time by due dates, although at times, even those need to be de-prioritized for a something more pressing.

Recently I was discussing with my manager an issue of a peer team being non-responsive to deadlines.  He told me that people don’t get things done because they don’t know how to do it or they don’t feel it important (de-prioritize).   I have been thinking about this a lot with my own internal de-prioritization.

I am a mom, wife, daughter, graduate student, e-commerce merchandiser for a large company, entrepreneur of a seasonal brick and mortar retail store, a person that wants to get into better shape and, although sometimes I forget, a human that still needs occasional downtime (a.k.a. sleep).

When managing yourself, a team of either direct reports or peers, or even managing up to a supervisor, keep in mind the reason why things may not be getting done.

Is it because someone doesn’t know what to do, or it isn’t a priority?

In both a personal and work environment, tasks that are less desirable, will take longer, or are more challenging are often put to the bottom of the list.  Balancing that with tasks that you truly are not sure how to tackle is key.

I am the type of person that needs all of the information to best make decisions, and often to even get started on a project.   In the ever changing nature of my job, that often leaves me stressed that I am late getting projects accomplished.   However, I look at other people in my workplace who constantly provide an overload of information and the minute by minute changes, where I wait it out for the final direction and give one set of directives.   Which is better?  Of course, I’m still figuring that out.

Often, I do notice that tasks or projects that I find myself skipping on my list are those that I am missing some point of knowledge that prevents me from either starting or completing.    When managing a team of people and you find that tasks are not getting accomplished, dig deeper, find out why.

Keep in mind that often, if you are the team leader, that others will not want to admit that they don’t know what to do.   Fostering an atmosphere of openness to ask the proverbial ‘stupid question’ and ability to admit when you also don’t know something, can work wonders in helping get to the underlying issue of why things aren’t getting done.

Another issue is that of prioritization or de-prioritization.  Does your team know what needs to be done first?  What tasks are most critical to the business?  What are the clear deadlines?   What are the one, two, three things that have to be accomplished today?   I know I need to start there and I’m sure my stress level regarding the rest of that long list will ease up.

If you’re feeling like me, ask yourself,

“What’s holding you back from that To-Do list?  Information or something more important?”

 I’d love to hear ideas you have for managing your responsibilities!

 

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Is Money the Ultimate Motivator?

Over the years I have tried to find what motivates my team to do well in their jobs. I think I have found a recipe (I’m sure this is not THE recipe) but my recipe used in running my business for the past seven years. Hopefully by sharing a few of the ingredients you can freshen up your recipe for a successful team.

People want to feel valued. Give them a reason to show up every day. Tell them that no matter what small task they perform that it is essential to the overall business and without that, the business would not be successful. Help the entire team understand the goals and how everyone is needed to achieve those goals. Many times the behind the scenes employees are making ‘it’ happen for those in the limelight. Remind them that no one shines if there are burned out light bulbs and the entire business is left in the dark.

Ensure that every job has an element of fun. Now I am not saying that it is your responsibility to make sure employees are having fun at all times. However, there was something that motivated them to apply for the job, sell themselves to you in an interview and then accept the commitment to do that job. So many times, somewhere along this path, that enjoyment; fulfillment; sense of fun; is lost. Here are a few ideas to help keep or bring back the fun in your team.

  • Once a week, once a month, bring in breakfast to the team. Encourage a bit of informal water-cooler chat time to let everyone get to know each other and discuss things outside of work that means something to them. (kids, hobbies, trips, latest movies or television shows)
  • When someone has a big task that can be divided and conquered with a group, bring others in from their normal tasks to help out. Team members enjoy a change of pace and like being able to help out others. They become a part of something bigger. It can be a win-win for everyone involved.
  • Ask them what they enjoy most in their job. I know it is novel to actually ask someone, but it will tell you a lot just to ask “what part of your job did you enjoy most today, this week, etc.” It is amazing what you will find out. Use that information and try to have them do more of whatever that is for them. Again, another win-win, as long as their answer isn’t ‘going home’. But if it is, you know you need to dig deeper, that may not be the best person in the right job any longer.

Praise accomplishments, both big and small, along the way. Recognition is often left until the end of a project or sales season, when results are tallied and profits are gained. Although, don’t forget to give public praise for the steps along the way.

  • “Good job”
  • “Thanks for the extra effort to get that done”
  • “Great work in helping that customer have a wonderful experience”

These will go a long way to take a challenge or difficult customer situation and make it into one of the fun, fulfilling moments of the work day.

Loyalty is hard to find, sometimes you do need to pay for it. In an ever changing work environment, loyalty is not something that is at the top of most lists, neither the employer nor the employee. A great workplace culture will only take you so far, employees jump from job to job to make even a little bit more money. If you have found good people, you need to provide the financial incentives to keep them producing for you and not your competition. I have found that although I pay above market minimums, I cannot afford to pay the premium wages that some of my employees could command. So I make up for it by:

  • Creating sales incentives to help increase take home pay based on specific products sold
  • Paying for and providing food on busy days
  • Pay season-end bonuses (a practice that is not common for my industry)
  • Enable an aggressive employee discount on our products
  • Direct our donations to the schools and community groups that impact my employees

Here is a taste of my motivators. I know that these are nothing new, but I find in the day-to-day of everything we do, I need to remind myself to take care of those that, without them, the lights on my business would go out.

Share your thoughts:  What ingredients for success do you use to motivate your team?

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