How to Stop People From Grabbing Your Valuable Time Away – Part 1 – Email

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How to Stop People From Grabbing Your Valuable Time Away – Part 1

Email and meetings have become two of the biggest productivity killers in Jamaican corporate life. In this first article in a two-part series, we will focus on the cost of bad email.

You are in your office after 6 PM with the door closed. Unfortunately, you are struggling to catch up while, at that moment, the Time Grabbers who wasted your attention all day are at home, relaxing. Even if happen to be the rare person who can’t stand to leave with important work unfinished, you probably still think it’s not fair. How did you reach this point?

Fact: earlier that day, Time Grabbers cc’d and bcc’d you on unproductive email threads. Sometimes, you were only peripherally involved. But most of the time you were included in order to help achieve some unspoken political purpose.

What the offenders don’t know (or don’t care to know) is the amount of time it takes others to process their messages. It only takes a few of these emails bouncing from one department to another to decimate an hour of your best time. It’s the reason you are still there after hours and why you may be one of the 74% of workers who report that they are more productive outside the office.

How can this problem be overcome?

The challenge is that Time Grabbers are unaware of the social chaos they are causing, having never received factual, quality, feedback. While it’s true “they know not what they do,” they shouldn’t be forgiven too readily. Instead, here is an idea for a software app that would help everyone connect the cause (ineffective email) with its effect (wasted time/costs).

In companies that share the same email system, an “Email Budget Allocator” is a programme that could be used to make a difference. As a plug-in designed for use inside your current system, (such as Outlook) it would automatically display the cost of an email even as you are drafting it. How would this be calculated?

It’s easy. The app would compute the cost by taking into account the amount of words, plus the number and level of the recipients. Furthermore, this sum could be modified by a programme like Hemingway, which instantly reports the complexity of an article. For example, this column registers at a reading level of “Grade 9.”

But that would be just the beginning. To help change actual behaviour, you and your colleagues would receive an internal email budget depending on your respective roles. Each message you send would debit your budget, much in the same way that a prepaid call debits a mobile phone’s credit. At the end of the quarter, your manager would review your expenditure and together you’d make the necessary adjustments.

The final feature I can imagine would be a private feedback mechanism for individual messages. Once an email is sent, the system would take note of the number of times it is deleted without being read. Also, a recipient would be able to anonymously indicate when an email is a waste of time by forwarding it to a special address. There, the programme would aggregate all wasted email, compute the total cost, and further debit the sender’s account.

This app might work because it brings a hidden, pernicious cost out in the open. By contrast, we are acutely aware of our expenditure on cell-phone calls because each one reduces our hard-earned credit. While this system does not involve any loss of dollars and cents, it would raise the profile of wasted attention. As it is, the average professional spends 1-2 hours per day on email; an ever-increasing number. Even then, most companies don’t offer any training on email productivity, resulting in not only lost time but frayed nerves.

But here’s the good news. You don’t need to wait for this app to be invented to use these ideas in your organization.

For the most part, your colleagues have no idea of the cost related to clicking the <SEND> button. You can remedy this by actually determining a dollar value and sharing it widely. Compute the time it takes people to process email of different kinds, depending on their level in the hierarchy. Use estimates to teach them how much the average email costs the organization. For the first time, Time Grabbers could understand the impact of their behaviour on other people. Their behavioural changes, according to my calculations, would more than pay for the price of the training.

Most organizations are far too willing to let their employees work long hours for reasons they can control. Cutting the expense of wasted email could free them from having to do unnecessary work that keeps them from their families.

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

 

How to Stop People from Grabbing Away Your Valuable Time Part 1

How Leaders Save Followers From Being Professional Victims

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Ddec 6 2016How Leaders Save Followers From Being Professional Victims

Many executives are relatively strong at taking responsibility, especially in areas where others don’t. They stand up to be counted, assuming risks that others won’t.  However, they are often baffled when their followers show an excessive and inexplicable fear of victimization. What should leaders do to eradicate this bad habit that makes good people slip into dependency and turns potential future leaders into weaklings?

Case: A corporate leader who I work with scratches his head in dismay. His followers, who he hopes to grow into a new cadre of leaders have devolved into victims-in-waiting. That is, they have learned an infantile, super-sensitivity to perceived slights and imagined disrespect. He has discovered that even his best attempts to make a difference are taken as personal attacks. They have become professional victims.

According to the Urban Dictionary “professional victims” claim victimization when things don’t go their way. They continually believe someone is taking advantage of them. In his case, workers have taken to attend meetings in a silent boycott, refusing to contribute anything more than a minimum.

Truth be told, there is a certain kind of power to be gained from convincing your (perceived) oppressors that you are their victim. At best, it invites them to take responsibility in a new way as a result of seeing the truth for the first time. When this happens, transformation can result as it did in countries like the USA, India and South Africa.

However, at worst, being a victim can be just a form of hostage-taking. Then, it becomes a nasty blame-game where the self-described weak gain a scrap of leverage, usually by bullying those in power into feeling guilty.

Unfortunately, in some companies there are a frighteningly large number of staff members who act as professional victims. In your company, you may know exactly who I am talking about. If you do, then go a step further and ask yourself: “Is the diseased thinking spreading or shrinking?”

Use your answer to gauge how effectively your people are being led. Ineffective leaders merely join the pity party, engaging in their own version of professional victimhood. They may, for example, compare their current job against prior roles they held in better companies, with better colleagues who served better customers. This just makes the situation worse.

Effective leaders respond quite differently by taking the following three steps.

1. Demonstrate By Example
Real leaders take responsibility at extraordinary levels, far beyond the boundaries of space and time. For example, they may even take ownership for what people do to each other. Or, they may assume responsibility for what has happened in the past, under prior leadership, as if they were in charge when it happened.

While others may think this is crazy behavior, it is actually self-empowerment at its finest.

Leaders who are powerfully self-aware are not blind to what they are doing and they don’t do it in secret. They actively create a context in which they locate themselves as the cause of important results, positive or negative. As they do so, one public step at a time, it’s noticeable that something is different. This magic ingredient may be hard for others to articulate, but leaders seize vacuums of responsibility to inspire others to act.

2. Educate Followers
A few top leaders don’t just act differently, they teach this exceptional behaviour to others at every opportunity. Sometimes, they have developed their own language for what they do, using homegrown phrases such as “taking one for the team.” Developing responsibility in others is a critical part of their job and the key to a cultural transformation.

3. Share the struggle
A tiny handful go even further than teaching others. They take the risk of sharing their personal struggle with new areas of responsibility. By doing so, they show that it’s OK to be imperfect, giving staff real-time insight behind the scenes of a leader’s transformation.

Unfortunately, most top executives are clueless about these three steps. With low awareness, they are stunned when people avoid interacting with them for fear of being victimized. They witness employees acting as responsible adults in other areas of their lives (family, church and community) and can’t understand why the workplace is so different. Professional victims are perfectly capable of this dualism.

They can also be quite effective at converting others to their cause: misery loves company. This means that leaders cannot just sit back and wait for people’s mindsets to change – they won’t.

The solution is to be aware and active. If you are a leader, work on the three skills listed above and make them part of your everyday way of being. Leaders are only called forth when the stakes are high and success will be impossible if you avoid this particular duty. It is hard, but necessary.

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