How to Drive Productivity as a Leader
Productivity is the lifeblood of any successful business, and optimising this is one of the omni-present tasks of leadership. While this is a self-evident truth, however, it is fair to say that many leaders and managers either misunderstand the nature of productivity or fail to adopt the necessary techniques to motivate their employees.
Either way, such misunderstandings can trigger a downturn in productivity within your business, while in the worst case scenario they can also drive low morale and impact negatively on your ability to retain (and recruit) talent. With this in mind, strong and strategic leadership is crucial if you are to maintain a productive and contented workforce with a low turnover of staff.
While the assertion that good leaders are integral to a productive workforce makes for a compelling argument, however, you will need to develop strong techniques if you are to make this a pillar of your business.
Here are three tips that will enable you to drive productivity through excellent leadership:
You must humanise productivity and increase engagement.
Whenever productivity is discussed in modern times, there tends to be a focus on specific organisational tools and desktop applications. While purposeful tools such as Trello and Evernote are viewed by many as the cornerstone of productivity in the digital age, it is important to remember that they will only ever be as effective as the individuals that interact with them.
As a leader, you must therefore prioritise the human element of productivity and increase the level of engagement that exists within your firm. After all, it is your employees that have the ultimate responsibility for their workload, and not only must you recognise this but you must also take steps to ensure that they are fully empowered and motivated as individuals.
One way to achieve this is to ensure that you carefully manage your interactions with employees, using your listening skills and openness to respect staff member's opinions and any concerns that they have over their workload. It is also important to empower them as part of the decision-making process within the business, both in terms of how work is distributed and how tasks are undertaken.
These steps will help your employees to become more productive and increasingly engaged with the brand as a whole, while they will also drive collaboration between teams.
Understand the difference between working hard and working smart.
On a similar note, it is easy to confuse the concept of productivity with hard work. These are two separate entities, however, and focusing solely on the latter may overload your workforce and damage employee morale.
During periods of decline or austerity for your business, inexperienced leaders are always inclined to respond by demanding more from their staff members. This is all well and good, but if your employees are already giving their all increasing their workload or hours will simply demoralise them and impact on your ability to retain talent.
In contrast, strong leaders understand that productivity depends on the ability to work smart, and will therefore adopt an analytical (and consultative) approach to optimising the output of employees and the business a whole. This can involve everything from changing work flows and processes to eliminating time-consuming and ultimately unnecessary tasks, while even a number of small changes can have a cumulative impact within your firm.
This not only drives productivity without overloading your employees, but it also improves morale as staff members can see their efforts deliver optimal results.
Afford work a higher purpose in the eyes of employees.
We have already touched on the importance of empowering employees, but sustained productivity also relies heavily on your staff member's fundamental approach to work. This includes both their motivation for working and their perception of the role that they have within the firm, as productivity issues can arise as a result of each employee's individual mind-set.
While it can be difficult and time-consuming to appraise individual mind-sets, you can drive productivity as a leader by affording the work that you do a higher purpose. This makes employees feel as though they are contributing to something truly special, while simultaneously offering them a unique opportunity to add value and derive genuine job satisfaction. Even if this only adds 5% or 10% to the productivity of each employee, the combined effect of this could be significant across the business.
In practical terms, there are several simple ways in which you can elevate the purpose of your work. The first is to eliminate all unnecessary meetings and tasks, as these can frustrate staff members and undermine even the most grandiose of projects. Developing incentives beyond the bottom line is also a sensible move, as this enables you to tap into a wider range of motivational values and makes individual work roles more aspirational.
Hi, Lewis – useful post.
I have nothing particularly to add to your comprehensive discussion, but I did especially enjoy your reminder that all our glitzy productivity tools “will only ever be as effective as the individuals that interact with them”. We so often emphasize the technology over the users and you have rightly reminded us that the person’s skills are key, not the capacity of the software, application, or gadget.
I also think that your revisioning productive work as something to be valued and protected is a strong point. The example of keeping folks out of meetings so they can concentrate on their important tasks is pure gold:).
Hello Lewis. I enjoyed reading your post. I believe that leading by example is another great motivating factor. In times of high demand, the hours can be long and the tasks at hand might be grueling, but if you have a leader who is willing to roll up his/her sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done, it inspires me to push forward. That old saying “actions speak louder than words” is true. Often the greatest distance that leaders have to travel is the distance from their mouths to their feet.
To your point about working smarter not harder, I believe that good leaders make things happen. A leader must be willing to take charge of change and move quickly to mobilize personal and group resources to deal with any problems. Problems could be inefficient processes or unnecessary red tape hurdles. Working with the team or employee to brainstorm on how to work smarter not harder will go a long way to improve productivity.
My final thought is this “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). This is true with a good leader. The more the leader is willing to share with his/her employees the more he employees will learn and feel empowered all of which leads to increased motivation and productivity.