The Right Way to Manage Different Work-Styles

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If you have ready my latest book, you may have noticed the central role that Dr. Brigitte Claessens plays in the re-definition of time-based productivity.

Her work is breathtaking in its impact and I consider her an unsung heroine of the new time management, highlighted by her statement that “time cannot be managed in any sense.” It’s a statement that sits at the heart of our work here at 2Time Labs as she’s the first academic to make that claim in a published, peer-reviewed research paper.

This week’s article is based on another claim of hers that’s garnered from empirical research into different styles of time allocation. She discovered that people allocate time in major tasks in five ways, with some surprising conclusions. Unfortunately, my article only has the space to mention two of them briefly given its limitation of 800 words.

There are other resources available, however. I recommend a paper I presented to the Project Management Institute of Southern Caribbean Chapter 2013 conference entitled “Reducing the Risk of Un-Productive Team Members.” http://bit.ly/16e691R

It’s available as a free download. Within it, you can find a link to Claessens’ original article.

While I don’t dwell on these findings in my books they are a great example of how original research can make a big difference in our understanding of the reality found within companies and the individuals who work within them. I don’t think I’m alone in complaining about the popular anecdotes, tips and tricks that get passed around freely, but are no substitutes for data-driven wisdom.


 

As business professionals, we often fall into the trap of treating our colleagues as if they manage their time in the same way. Recent research by Dr. Brigitte Claessens from the Netherlands reveals the truth: professionals differ in the way they approach mid and long-term tasks.

Let’s say that you are a manager who has recently accepted a leadership role. Your new team’s capabilities would be unknown, making you wonder how they will perform. Claessen’s research offers important clues, revealing five work styles (A-E) that professionals use to complete tasks.

A. The Early Action Worker
This person starts the job with a full-on attack, getting as much done as early as possible, leaving precious little to do at the end.

B. The Early and End-Term Worker
Starting with a bang, this personality begins working immediately but loses momentum quickly. As a result, they are forced to put in a supreme effort to meet the deadline at the last moment.

C. The Constant Action Worker
This person acts in a steady manner during from the beginning to the end. Their consistent effort makes them equally productive from start to finish.

D. The Mid-Term Action Worker
Someone with this style starts slowly and increases their effort so that it peaks at the middle of the project. Between the middle and end, their effort falls off as their workload decreases.

E. The Deadline Action Worker
This individual also starts slowly but increases their effort so that by the end of the task they are running at full throttle.

In recent speeches, I have explained these five styles, asking audiences to rank order them with regards to the general population. I have used two questions: “Which styles are more productive than the others?” and “Which styles can be found more frequently than others?”

From the answers I have received, I have learned that we don’t possess an intuitive grasp of Claessen’s findings. Here they are in a nutshell.

Finding 1: The least productive is Style B. The full rank order from low to high is B < E < D < A < C

Finding 2: The least frequent of these styles is D. The rank order is from D(13%) < E(17%) < A(17%) < C(23%) < B(31%)

If you spend a moment studying these results you may find a few surprises. Based on these findings, there are a few things supervisors and project managers should do to prepare themselves for a reality they may not be currently managing.

Reality #1 – there’s some bad news… the least productive style (B) happens to be the most frequent. This may explain why the “planning fallacy” (where we routinely underestimate how long tasks take) is so common. As a manager of other people this may come as a shock. Most of your people (almost a third) are likely to get you into big trouble if left to their own devices. Perhaps, like most professionals, you have a tendency to relax in the middle of a project, believing that the early indications of effort are reliable. This is a huge mistake, as the results indicate that you should be planning to launch a major engagement effort in the middle of the project to prevent later disaster.

Reality #2 – how people end, not start their tasks, is more important. The second finding shows that the least productive are those who wait for a looming deadline to put in their hardest effort. As their manager, you probably know that they cause you the most anxiety. Both of the least productive performers (B and C) show this tendency.

A recent study conducted at Warwick Business School backs up this finding. Drs. Arnott and Dacko discovered that students who submitted their essays at the last minute receive, on average, lower grades.

Some may say that you are being pessimistic if you expect low performance before even meeting your team for the first time. However, the science is clear, pointing to an unproductive reality that must be confronted.

The savvy manager can use anecdotal evidence to determine who appears to use a particular style. Yet, there are more rigorous methods. The 11 forms provided in my book are examples of the kind of assessments anyone can use to gain deeper insight into their skills in this area. If you can enrol your employees in completing them, you’ll both know where an employee’s strengths and weaknesses lie and what to do about them.

So far, no-one has come up with a similar assessment tool for Claessens’ 5 styles but her study provides important, early insights that can’t be ignored. These clues can make the difference between your success or failure, which is built on the habits your team members use every day. You need not be caught unawares: instead, bring an informed, nuanced approach to managing their time-based performance.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

 

Click here to be taken to the article on the Gleaner’s website.

How to manage employees with different styles

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If you have ready my latest book, you may have noticed the central role that Dr. Brigitte Claessens plays in the re-definition of time-based productivity.

Her work is breathtaking in its impact and I consider her an unsung heroine of the new time management, highlighted by her statement that “time cannot be managed in any sense.” It’s a statement that sits at the heart of our work here at 2Time Labs as she’s the first academic to make that claim in a published, peer-reviewed research paper.

This week’s article is based on another claim of hers that’s garnered from empirical research into different styles of time allocation. She discovered that people allocate time in major tasks in five ways, with some surprising conclusions. Unfortunately, my article only has the space to mention two of them briefly given its limitation of 800 words.

There are other resources availale, however. I recommend a paper I presented to the Project Management Institute of Southern Caribbean Chapter 2013 conference entitled “Reducing the Risk of Un-Productive Team Members.” http://bit.ly/16e691R

It’s available as a free download. Within it, you can find a link to Claessens’ original article.

While I don’t dwell on these findings in my books they are a great example of how original research can make a big difference in our understanding of the reality found within companies and the individuals who work within them. I don’t think I’m alone in complaining about the popular anecdotes, tips and tricks that get passed around freely, but are no substitutes for data-driven wisdom.

Here’s the link to the article in the Gleaner. And here is the article in full.

The Right Way to Manage Work Styles

As business professionals, we often fall into the trap of treating our colleagues as if they manage their time in the same way. Recent research by Dr. Brigitte Claessens from the Netherlands reveals the truth: professionals differ in the way they approach mid and long-term tasks.

Let’s say that you are a manager who has recently accepted a leadership role. Your new team’s capabilities would be unknown, making you wonder how they will perform. Claessen’s research offers important clues, revealing five work styles (A-E) that professionals use to complete tasks.

5 Styles Claessens for gleanerA. The Early Action Worker
This person starts the job with a full-on attack, getting as much done as early as possible, leaving precious little to do at the end.

B. The Early and End-Term Worker
Starting with a bang, this personality begins working immediately but loses momentum quickly. As a result, they are forced to put in a supreme effort to meet the deadline at the last moment.

C. The Constant Action Worker
This person acts in a steady manner during from the beginning to the end. Their consistent effort makes them equally productive from start to finish.

D. The Mid-Term Action Worker
Someone with this style starts slowly and increases their effort so that it peaks at the middle of the project. Between the middle and end, their effort falls off as their workload decreases.

E. The Deadline Action Worker
This individual also starts slowly but increases their effort so that by the end of the task they are running at full throttle.

In recent speeches, I have explained these five styles, asking audiences to rank order them with regards to the general population. I have used two questions: “Which styles are more productive than the others?” and “Which styles can be found more frequently than others?”

From the answers I have received, I have learned that we don’t possess an intuitive grasp of Claessen’s findings. Here they are in a nutshell.

Finding 1: The least productive is Style B. The full rank order from low to high is B < E < D < A < C

Finding 2: The least frequent of these styles is D. The rank order is from D(13%) < E(17%) < A(17%) < C(23%) < B(31%)

If you spend a moment studying these results you may find a few surprises. Based on these findings, there are a few things supervisors and project managers should do to prepare themselves for a reality they may not be currently managing.

Reality #1 – there’s some bad news… the least productive style (B) happens to be the most frequent. This may explain why the “planning fallacy” (where we routinely underestimate how long tasks take) is so common. As a manager of other people this may come as a shock. Most of your people (almost a third) are likely to get you into big trouble if left to their own devices. Perhaps, like most professionals, you have a tendency to relax in the middle of a project, believing that the early indications of effort are reliable. This is a huge mistake, as the results indicate that you should be planning to launch a major engagement effort in the middle of the project to prevent later disaster.

Reality #2 – how people end, not start their tasks, is more important. The second finding shows that the least productive are those who wait for a looming deadline to put in their hardest effort. As their manager, you probably know that they cause you the most anxiety. Both of the least productive performers (B and C) show this tendency.

A recent study conducted at Warwick Business School backs up this finding. Drs. Arnott and Dacko discovered that students who submitted their essays at the last minute receive, on average, lower grades.

Some may say that you are being pessimistic if you expect low performance before even meeting your team for the first time. However, the science is clear, pointing to an unproductive reality that must be confronted.

The savvy manager can use anecdotal evidence to determine who appears to use a particular style. Yet, there are more rigorous methods. The 11 forms provided in my book are examples of the kind of assessments anyone can use to gain deeper insight into their skills in this area. If you can enrol your employees in completing them, you’ll both know where an employee’s strengths and weaknesses lie and what to do about them.

So far, no-one has come up with a similar assessment tool for Claessens’ 5 styles’ but her study provides important, early insights that can’t be ignored. These clues can make the difference between your success or failure, which is built on the habits your team members use every day. You need not be caught unawares: instead, bring an informed, nuanced approach to managing their time-based performance.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

Ensuring Corporate Happiness

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How managers can make employees happyIn today’s Sunday Gleaner column, you may recognize a familiar theme if you are a regular reader – that it doesn’t make sense to expect a behaviour change without detailing the new steps required. The only difference is that this time around we’re looking at a different kind of end-result… an emotional state.

In the article I share a simple practice I have used for over a decade. As time has progressed, the effects have accumulated – a fact I didn’t mention in the article. But I think it makes sense that if you pick a single useful habit and repeat it often enough with an intention to make improvements, the benefits will increase over time.

This is exactly what’s happened in my case which is why the research I quote caught my attention… what if a simple emotion we all want, like happiness, was available to us in greater, steadier quanta? What if we could develop the discipline to be more happy? For example, meditation has been shown by researchers to produce repeatable benefits, yet the number of who have actually tried it in the Caribbean remains small.

Would corporations, or more specifically, your boss, be interested in learning how to teach the practices required to produce happiness? I suppose the answer varies from one organization to any other, but we do share a common humanity in which we desire many of the same things.

I’d love to hear what you think of the article either on my Facebook page or on Twitter (@fwconsulting99) or even my email – http://ReplytoFrancis.info. Here it is below in full, or on the Gleaner website.

How Managers Can Make Employees Happy

It’s easy in these times of economic difficulty to focus on the bad news. The fact is, just the exercise of watching prices rise and exchange rates falter gives each of us evidence that being unhappy is no longer a choice, but a consequence.

In corporate Jamaica, executives who trust in the link between employee productivity and happiness scratch their heads wondering what to do. They conclude that employees who can influence their state of mind can also be more productive. They know that giving away more money doesn’t work for more than a short time, that engagement is not something that can be bought or sold at a price. It must come from inside.

However, they typically have a difficult time translating this knowledge into concrete action. For example, employee appraisals often devolve into little more than cliches. This confuses the recipient, who based on the feedback, has no idea what to do differently.

An example borrowed from a recent study highlights the need for managers to do their own research. Happiness, it appears, is not a random mood that descends out of nowhere. Instead, it’s strongly correlated to particular habits.

First, let’s consider the opposite. I have a friend who has a habit of recreating past disappointments with remarkable ease. She not only remembers the details, but evokes all the emotions that were present in that moment, no matter how long ago. She is well-practiced.

Contrast her routine with one described by University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman. “Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. Next to each positive event, answer the question ‘Why did this happen?'”

I can speak to the power of such a practice. For the past 13 years or so, I have recorded a list of things I am grateful for, before sending it via email to another person. Today, it’s an activity scheduled in my calendar each week that I hope to become as routine as brushing my teeth.

The effect, which Seligman details, is remarkable. After I hit “Send” I feel immediately different. The fact that someone close to me is reading the list makes a big difference because it’s a peek into some of my innermost thoughts. It acts as a powerful reminder of what’s important.

As you may imagine, these two contrasting sets of habits produce opposite results. Is it conceivable that this simple technique could be taught in corporations? In the right context, “Yes.” Employee resilience is an attribute companies say they care about a great deal, but do little to help employees develop. The few who attempt to hire “Rah-Rah” motivational speakers discover that this effect doesn’t last long. What endures for much longer are new repetitive behaviours like the ones Seligman uncovered.

The best news of all is that the technique of translating an emotional state into practical, teachable behaviour changes is one that anyone can learn. In fact, it’s a must if you, as a manager, hope to create new productive habits among your employees. Here are some guidelines.

1. Translate Emotions into Behaviours
Take a long, hard look at the end-result: an emotion, feeling or attitude you want. (It may be quite vague at first.) Then, decide which observable behaviours can be used as a proxy. In other words, ask yourself: If someone were to implement the chosen behaviours, would it be reasonable to assume that the end-result has been achieved? For example, if someone consistently makes a Seligman-style bedtime list, is it reasonable to conclude they will become more happy?

2. Do Research
Much of our conventional wisdom around creating emotional results is just plain wrong, and our intuition is sometimes misleading. For example, many executives are motivated by corporate profits. They are baffled as to the reason why employees don’t share this ambition. To get past these biases, use studies in psychology and management to separate fact from fiction. Then, convert research results (which usually come from outside the Caribbean) into local language and practice.

3. Coach
The average employee isn’t born with enlightened habits of mind and must be taught. The best method is usually some kind of coaching that involves their immediate supervisor. However, managers often don’t attempt to model the desired behaviour and are reluctant to share their personal struggles. If you find yourself disconnected from your employees, this may be part of the problem.

Ultimately, the best way to start (as a manager) is by helping yourself, even if the pain isn’t acute. Your direct experience is an invaluable asset if, like author Tim Ferris, you try your recommendations on yourself first. This is one powerful way to give yourself choice over what you feel, which is exactly what your employees want also.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com