Practical Practice Management

A Good Night Sleep Makes for More Productive Employees

 

 

We all know that if we do not get enough sleep on a work night that we will pay for it the next day.  Ask yourself this question; is it fair for an employer to pay for an employee who is suppose to give 100% that only gives 50% because they are sleep deprived?  I think I know what an employer would say.

Now there are many reasons that people do not get enough sleep so that they feel refreshed for the work day, some are personally chosen, but others are not and that is what I want to address today.  If you personally choose to stay up late and rob yourself of sleep and then do a poor job at work the next day, then shame on you for stealing your employers money and you should really think about what is ethically correct if this is regular habit.

On the other hand there are millions of people that would love to get a good nights sleep but for one reason or another they cannot.  I understand this because from time-to-time I suffer from insomnia.  For some reason I can fall asleep, but then wake up at 2 a.m. and cannot fall back to sleep.  I begin thinking about all kinds of things that I have no control over fixing.  It is a miserable state to be in as I am constantly thinking that I need to go back to sleep so I can go to work in a few hours and do my job.  Many times I just stay awake, which makes for a long tough day or even worse I fall asleep 15 minutes before my alarm goes off and when it does I am very grumpy and have a hard time shaking it off, knowing that I cannot go to work with this attitude, but my brain is pretty much fried from lack of sleep.

I know that I am not alone when it comes to having times of difficulty sleeping.  I wonder why it happens and what can be done to help?  Long term sleep disorders can take a physical toll on our body and cause such things like, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and more.  If we allow sleep deprivation to continue to the point that it really affects our work performance we can be a jeopardy of losing our job, our employers expect the best from us and they deserve it, that is what we are being paid to do.

There are things that we can do to help with this problem and allow us to get the rest our body needs in order to have peak performance.  The article below discusses this problem in depth and has tips on what you can do to try to get a better nights sleep like; establishing a regular bed time, avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime and learning to leaving stress at the office and not bringing it home (this one is a hard one for me).  If you have problems with sleeping even if it is not on a regular basis, I think this article has some good information that you may be able to use.

Sweet dreams!…..

Sleep deprivation affects work performance

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Over Promise and Under Deliver, Failing To Estimate The Time To Complete A Task

Our office is going to be remodeled at the end of next week, the flooring, wallpaper and paint are all picked out and ready for the contractors to arrive and get started. Although the contractors are ready to go we still have a lot do take care of inside the office to have it ready for them to come in and do their job.  If you can imagine, we have been in this office for 11 years, we have saved a lot of stuff that we do not need, and have accumulated much more that needs to be gone through before we begin moving it out so the contractors can work.

A few staff members had a little free time on Tuesday and asked if they should start packing things up to get them ready to move out so they would be ready for flooring people to come in.  I thought is was a great idea, as the more we get done now the easier it will be the next week.

When our boss saw what we were doing he made this statement “wait until next week to start this, as the office will look empty if you do it now.”  I think our mouths must have dropped open because he just stood there wondering what was wrong with us.  I told him that we could not do this next week that we needed to get everything packed up and moved out way before the contractor was to arrive.  He replied “it should only take about 15 minutes to get the stuff off of the walls.”  The walls? But what about all of the other stuff that needed to be moved next door to an empty office so the new floor could be put in?  Did he really think that all of the shelves, desks, computers, filing cabinets, etc., were going to move themselves in the middle of the night?

What was wrong with him?  He didn’t seem to have a clue as to what really needed to be done in order to complete this project in the two weeks that he was going to be on vacation.  And fifteen minutes…. was he mad?  No he was actually suffering from Hoftadter’s law  and Planning Fallacy.

Hofstadter’s law, conceived by the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, goes like this: any task you’re planning to complete will always take longer than expected – even when Hofstadter’s law is taken into account. Even if you know a project will overrun, and build that knowledge into your planning, it’ll simply overrun your new estimated finish time, too. This is referred to as the “Planning Fallacy.”

The Planning Fallacy is a cognitive bias–or a distortion in the human mind that has been well documented by psychologists. According to the studies, we know everything always takes longer than expected; we just seem to forget … again and again.

I personally never knew that there was a law or fallacy for what I call “poor planning” so I learned something new today.  I do think for a lot of people it is poor planning because they do not really take into consideration how much time things it takes to do things.

Maybe I am just wound a bit too tight, but I calculate task time and then add a little padding so that I am sure (unless something totally unexpected comes up) that I will be able to complete my project and without too much stress.  My boss on the other hand, seems to walk around with blinders on or is it rose-colored glasses?

The link below is to a good article about this topic, I think you will find it interesting.

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail” ~ unknown

Why we underestimate the time to complete a task

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Could 5 Minutes a Week Change Your Employees?

With so many different aspects of practice/office management for your business, one can have a hard time knowing what should come first in order to keep things running well. I recently read a great article on the Forbes website titled “The Open Secret to Motivating Employees” (link listed below for full article) which asked the following question of business owners; “Could a 5 minute interaction with an employee increase your weekly production?” What do you think, could spending 5 minutes with an employee improve their overall production at work for the week? You may be surprised but the answer in most cases is yes.

I am sure your question as was mine, what type of interaction needed to take place in that 5 minutes in order to make a difference to that employee that they would want to produce more? There are three major factors that will influence employees and make them what to buy into and produce more for their company.

1. Task significance – Everyone needs to know what the need of the company is and how is it that they can help achieve the goal in order to make the company they work for successful. This must be individualized for each employee so that they can see what it is that they can do to help achieve this. Knowing how their job has a meaningful, positive impact on others (those they serve, i.e., customers, other employees or their boss) makes employees happier and more productive. They see and understand their purpose.

2. Face-to-face interactions – When employees are told directly, not by e-mail, memo or a phone call what it is that they (personally) do that contributes to the success of the company it make a tremendous impact on how they feel and that translates into what they do, which is higher job performance.

3. Employers need to create ways that reinforce employees’ awareness of whom they are serving and the benefits that they personally are providing customers, co-workers, their boss or the company as a whole. Collect and tell inspiring customer stories, take pictures of happy customers, show them the profit and loss report when things are improving. Whatever you can think of that will show your employees what they contribute to the overall success of the business will make a big difference to how they function and desire to produce more.

Five minutes really is not that much time, even if you have 100 employees it only comes to approximately 8 1/2 hours for a weeks worth of interaction with the most important assets you have for your company, isn’t it worth the investment?

“Investing in employees is the single most important investment that a company can make.” -Brian Smith, Managing Partner, Blackfoot River Brewing Company, Helena, MT

Forbes; The Open Secret to Motivating Employees

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Disruptive Work Interruptions

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We certainly are busy people with a lot of work to do and often do not have time for idle chitchat when we are at work.

Lately, I have become more aware of what I call “filler conversations.”  This type of communication consists of things that have nothing to do with what is happening at the moment at work, and it is out of place at during work time.

For example: You are at your desk working away and someone steps up to you and states “Hey, they had a great piano player the other night at Johnny’s Grill.”  This has nothing to do with work and it is work time, yet they want to engage in a conversation with you about outside events.

Aren’t we accountable to our employers to give them the time they are paying us for?

Not to say that all conversations at work need to be about work, but we need to be considerate to our fellow co-workers when we interrupt them during work time with things that are not about work.

When you need to ask someone a question for information or discuss something that does not pertain to work you might ask “Is this a good time for you to talk with me?  Or “I have a question, is this a good time for you?”  This gives the person the freedom to either say “sure” or to let you know when would be a good time when it was less interrupting to them.  When you are considerate of your co-workers time they will be considerate of yours.

With timelines and deadlines at work even the smallest of interruptions can put one behind, which can cause undo frustration and stress.

The next time you get the urge to stop in at a co-worker’s cubical for a friendly chat remember that they may not be so happy that you did.

We need to remember that we are at work to work and that is what our first priority should be during working hours.

Manage disruptive work interruptions

 

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Handling Difficult Co-workers

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I am sure we would all agree that people are as different as oranges and apples.  In most workplaces you will find many different personality types that may or may not blend well.

It would be wonderful if everyone at work could get along well, but as we have all experienced this is not always the case.

If you are working with someone who is difficult for you to get along with be very careful how you handle the situation with him or her as it may backfire on you.

If there is a certain coworker that “really bothers you” do not complain too quickly or at least before you do a complete examination of the situation that is causing the issues.

Before issuing a complaint you need examine yourself to make sure that it is not you that is causing the “rub” between you and your co-worker.  Very often when people have a co-worker that is difficult to work with they start to complain to their superiors about them, hoping, that they will resolve the problem for them. .

If that doesn’t work then they start to complain to other co-workers about their problem hoping to gain support, possibly that the supervisor would then do something.

What needs to be realized is if we are complaining all of the time about a difficult co-worker, that we may begin to look like the “difficult co-worker our self”, meaning that we are unable to get along with others and this could be career damaging.

When having problems with difficult co-workers that you have tried to work it out with them, and have examined yourself and know it is not you, then go to your superiors to let them know of the situation.  Tell them what you have done to try to resolve the problem and ask for insight and guidance.

Do not go to them complaining.  Ask for advice on how you might be able to handle the situation better.  This is a professional approach, one that your superiors will respect you for.  You are eliciting help with the situation, not complaining about it.

Work relationships are not always easy, but you don’t want to hurt your career by not being able to handle them professionally.  Do not allow a “people problem” to taint your work reputation and potentially be the cause of others losing respect for you by handling the situation poorly.

Be an example of how to handle difficult situations with your coworkers, you will gain their respect instead of possibly losing it.

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Red Flags At Work

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I was talking with a gentleman the other day that had just lost his job.  He said that he went to work one day and all of the employees were told to clear out their desks and to go home.  The business owner had decided to close the doors and file bankruptcy.

This man and his coworkers were stunned.  They said they had no idea that this was coming.  I thought to myself “How could that be?” There had to be some signs?”

The more I talked to this man and asked questions, the more he realized that there were signs “red flags” that the company was doing poorly, but he thought that his employer would have said something to all of them if it were really bad.  He and his coworkers were upset and some were angry.

They felt betrayed by their employer that they worked hard for, and trusted.  They thought that he cared about them, but now they felt that he really must not have since he did not share with them honestly about the poor situation of the business.

Upon hindsight, here are a few of the “red flags” that were evident to the employees that the business was in real trouble.

  • Apathy, fatigue and confusion in their employer.
  • Disagreement between the employer and the manager.
  • Recent increase in customer complaints.
  • Cut back in employees.
  • Lack of communication from the employer.
  • Vendors calling about delinquent accounts.

It is too bad that this business owner decided not to let the employees in on the seriousness of the businesses situation, I am sure he had his reasons.  I also am sure that this group of employees will definitely keep their eyes open for any of these types of “red flags” from now on in future jobs.

We do not think about this type of situation happening when we take a job.  It is important to keep your eyes and ears open for signs that the business may be in trouble so that you can protect yourself and family from any shocking surprises.

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Leadership In The Workplace

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I read an article recently on the Forbes site titled Leadership Is About Emotion.  Whether you are in a leadership role at work, home or in an organization this article touches on 8 attributes that make a leader shine.

The author asks that you make a list of the 5 leaders that you admire most.  These leaders do not have to be just in the workplace.  She then asks you why you admire them?  Chances are very high the reason is because they touched you on an emotional level.

“The ability to reach people in a way that transcends the intellectual and rational is the mark of a great leader.  They all have it.  They inspire us.  It is as simple as that.  And when we are inspired we tap into our best selves and deliver amazing work.”

What I really liked about this article was that it gives the tools that are needed to reach this level of leadership and what the attributes are.

1. Emotional intelligence.

2. Continuous learning.

3. Contextualize.

4. Letting go.

5. Honesty.

6. Kindness and respect.

7. Collaboration.

8. Partnering with your people.

If you don’t have time to read the article right now, download it for another day.  It really has a lot of great leadership information and after all great leaders are constantly seeking to learn and better themselves.

Leadership is about emotion

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Be a Likeable Business

Customer service satisfaction concept I was reading Small Business News, if you have never visited their blog it is a great hub for excellent business articles each day, all on one site.  Yesterday there was an article by Small Business Trends (link below) title “8 Assets to Boost Your Likeability.”  Now who wouldn’t like to boost their likeability? We have all had encounters with businesses that we wondered “how do they keep their doors open?” They had either bad employees, made it hard to business with them, or their service from A-Z was very poor. We have also worked in businesses that we encountered business owners, managers, or co-workers that were anything but likeable.  So what makes a business or person likeable? The author is this article states “Truth is likeablility, trust, character and the experience we create for people and each other are absolutes.  Likeability has won presidential elections, has fueled comebacks, and has sold millions of movie tickets.”   The above is so true…. Then the article states something that I found to be a very thought-provoking statement, “Personal relationships are the only currency that matters.”  Wow, is that how we or our businesses can be successful?  Is it the relationships that we build with each other and those we come in contact with that make us successful?  Yep, I think that it is.

The article lists 8 attributes that will boost your likeability:

1. Be Knowledgeable

2. Be Credible

3. Be Honest

4. Be Pleasant

5. Be Optimistic

6. Be Consistent

7. Be Engaged

8. Be Caring

I think this is an excellent list to strive for.  I know that I would enjoy doing business with a company and people who possessed these traits. Can you come up with any other attributes to achieve “likeability?” Increase your likeability

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Watch Your Tone Of Voice

 

 

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Working with the public on a daily basis we need to remember that many times what our clients/customers hear sounds much different from what we think.  There are times when we encounter our customers that we are also in the middle of dealing with other daily routine tasks or maybe even an urgent issue and instead of our customer/client being our first priority and to them is sounds like they are not important and we may not even realize it.

We might even sound worse, like we really do not want to be bothered with them and how do you think that makes them feel?  Let me relate to you a situation that happened recently.  Our accountant had made an appointment a month ago to come to our office to go through the accounting program and make sure that he had all of the up-to-date information that he would need come year-end.  He had asked that I have certain bills and statements ready for his auditing and that he would only need an hour or so to do this.  When he entered my office he seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and his statements to me sounded very short and sharp.

My first thought was maybe he wasn’t having a good day, but then he proceeded to be more harsh and telling me that it appeared that “I” must be doing something wrong because certain accounts didn’t match up.  I let him know nicely that I had not changed anything at all and was not sure what he was talking about.  A few hours later and many “unnecessary tongue spankings” he realized that he did not make several “normal” adjustments last year and laughed “that was part of the problem, so things are not as bad as I thought.”

I just stared at him, he had been talking down to me telling me telling me that I must have been doing things wrong and much more, just to find out that “he” forgot to make some changes last year.”  I was not only upset, but was totally rattled by the tone of voice he kept using with me as if I were a naughty child and was doing things wrong.

When I did tell him that I didn’t know how to do one of the things he showed me, he just chuckled and said “oh I know that you have been told about this before, you just didn’t do it.”  I felt like my Dad was in the room scolding me!  It was really amazing to me that he felt that by using a tone of voice that was belittling, degrading, that I would want to keep him as our accountant.  We should pay to be treated this way?  I don’t think so.

This was not just a one time bad encounter, there have been several, but this will be the last.  I am not sure what the issue is with this person, but I do know that if we are going to be paying top dollar for services, we should be treated kindly and appropriately.

The one good thing that came out of this experience was the reminder to me to never allow our clients to be on the receiving end of a conversation or encounter with anyone who works for our business where they are treated with a tone of voice that is less than honoring and respectful, which is what they deserve.  Ask yourself “how do I sound to my customers?”

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Co-workers Who Weigh The Team Down

 

 

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One of the most difficult types of co-workers to have is one that does not carry his or her portion of the workload in the office.  We all have days when we move a bit slower, but this type of co-worker is like this on a regular basis.

For example: they wait for someone else to answer the phone first so they do not have to.  Or they see things that need to be done around the office, like trash that needs to be emptied or filing that is sitting there, but just leave it for someone else to do.  They always appear busy, but are not.

Because these employees do not step up to the plate and are not active and engaged players of the office team, they weigh down the rest of the team by leaving extra things to take care of.

As long as they have not been confronted with this issue, they feel that their behavior is acceptable.  For busy office managers this type of employee can fly under the radar unless the problem is brought to their attention to monitor and address.

Early in my career as an office manager we had hired someone who we soon found out was a “boat anchor,” she weighed us down with her unfinished work on a daily basis.  At first I thought it was because there was so much work to do, and I was so busy that I was not watching her closely to see what exactly she was accomplishing each day.

It was not until my boss mentioned to me that I could do her job twice as fast that I realized she was just pacing herself and collecting her paycheck while the rest of us were picking up the slack.

Having a “boat anchor,” your office team cannot move forward the way they need to because of the extra weight that they have to pull and will eventually tire out from trying.

Here are three steps for raising the anchor:

  1. Write specific task issues that are not being completed and spell out what the expectations and time frames are for completion.
  2. Address the fact that no one likes to pick up the slack for a less productive co-worker.  All team players need to equally do their part or they do not play on the team.
  3. Monitor progress and give feedback on improvement. This is a very important step as the “boat anchor” will realize that you mean business and are paying attention to what they are and are not doing.

By letting employees know that you are monitoring their work progress, you should have smoother seas for sailing ahead of you.  If they continue to drag the boat down, then cut them loose; your team will greatly appreciate being able to move ahead without them.

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