I get asked a bunch of questions about… you know… stuff. And in the early morning hours I enjoy responding (hopefully) thoughtfully and thoroughly. A couple members of my team suggested I start sharing my advice. Previous AMA’s are here. So, without further ado, please enjoy this installment of Ask MilEs Anything:
A reader asked me: “How can I stop working on unproductive stuff and get others on the same page?”
My first question: How do you know it’s unproductive?
Clearly somebody doesn’t think it’s busy work or they wouldn’t be asking you to do it.
Maybe it’s time to quickly get clarity on your job description and encourage your co-workers to do the same. This can often be considered busy work, but good companies do it annually if not even quarterly.
If it really is unproductive, and if you’re all doing it, then there’s a systemic problem within your company, and you have a hard choice to make between (a) leaving your company, and (b) being brave, standing up and (respectfully and discreetly) pointing out your concerns to ownership.
The choice is yours. I don’t see a third one unless you want to remain unhappy, unproductive, and disengaged.
If job descriptions don’t quickly and clearly provide focus and clarity and a renewed sense of purpose, it sounds like your organization needs a hard reset.
You need to make sure you’re all working towards the same goal. Only once you have that focus can you begin to eliminate busy work. And not only will you be more productive, the entire team will be thankful for that. But your owner or your board of directors or your senior leadership need to know they’re missing this blind spot, and this can all be done without forming committees, holding unnessary meetings, and sending an endless loop of threaded emails.
No one likes unnecessary meetings. People are annoyed by busy work.
When my Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota goes to the line of scrimmage, all other 10 guys know exactly what their role is supposed to be for that particular play. Okay… maybe that’s not the best example.
When the conductor of the Nashville Symphony raises his baton, dozens of musicians prepare to play their parts, and when they do, the whole becomes infinitely more beautiful than the sum of their individual parts.
Does your team know the plays? Does your players know the score?
Success starts with servant leaders building a culture of ownership.
Your senior leadership team should send an anonymous survey with two questions:
- What is it specifically we’re trying to make happen? What metrics do you think we, as a senior leadership team, measure and how often do you think we measure them? What goals are we trying to accomplish?
- What are two things we need to hear about our company?
Based on the results of this anonymous survey—if they’re willing to do it—your employers will have a baseline of company focus and identify blind spots where they must improve as servant leaders and behavior modelers for the rest of the company.
If they’re willing to do this survey, you will begin to see a change within your company—step by step and chunk by chunk—toward a more focused, engaged organization. Motivation will improve because the team knows what matters and knows how their employers are keeping score. Your team also know they’ve been heard about what’s missing and what’s unclear.
Communicated properly by leadership, you and your co-workers will begin to understand the value of what it is management is asking you to do. Unnecessary paperwork only leads to poor morale and employee disengagement, which costs $350 billion a year, according to Gallup, to companies just in America.
Don’t be one of those companies.
Now, if your senior leadership appears to be unwilling to ask these questions…
If they seem uninterested in your brave suggestion to improve the focus and engagement of your company… if they seem to think things are “just fine…”
Well… I think that tells you all you need to know about what—and who—your organization values… and doesn’t value.
(It might be “whom,” and I know I should know, but I also know you know what I mean, and I know if Garrison is reading this, he will let me know.)
If you have a question you’d like to ask and don’t mind (a) replies in the wee, small hours of the morning, or (b) me sharing the answer with the rest of the class (removing any personal info, of course), please reach out to us. If you get our emails, just reply. If you’re reading this on our site or in your RSS feed, click me.