No matter if you are a project manager or a startup founder, at some point, we are all struggling with productivity in the workplace. We all have to find different ways to collaborate with colleagues and without a doubt, this may prove to be a serious challenge. Managing a team is a hard enough task, so you cannot just neglect it and rely on traditional methods in order to improve productivity and boost morale.
Team responsibility is always shared, but at the end of the day, the manager/leader should be able to steer the team towards optimal results. Unfortunately, still, there are project leaders who prefer to manage their teams with a focus only on final results.
This may be derived from the fact that project managers often measure success in a very raw way. On many occasions, if a project is completed it is considered a triumph. The path is of no importance. What matters is the result. This is one of the main reasons why 39% of employees worldwide are moderately engaged at work while 39% are passively or actively disengaged, and they are less willing to invest energy in accomplishing organizational goals.
In my experience, it is not very difficult to keep your employees happy and efficient. However, it seems extremely painful for the vast majority of project managers/entrepreneurs to create a friendly and highly productive team atmosphere. Actually, there are different ways to improve productivity and it can happen by applying some simple tricks. Here are some tips derived from our practice, which I can state with confidence they really work.
Ditch the Hierarchy. Don’t Be a Boss. Be a Leader.
Being a project manager or founder (CEO) does not make you a god. Very often, these people have the perception that they can do anything they want and everybody else has to obey. This is the biggest mistake a leader can make. The role of the dictator will make you the most hated person. Furthermore, this is the first step of creating an enormous gap between you and your employees/colleagues. This is the stage where disengagement begins. Unless you want to turn your team into a group of individuals who work without passion and enthusiasm, break the ice.
So, how to improve productivity in the workplace through the hierarchy?
Include everybody in discussions and listen to any opinion without roughly judging. In other words, “respect for people”. Make employees feel like decision makers and do not be afraid of criticism. Being a leader does not mean you are always right. It means you have to keep your team motivated and enthusiastic about their job. It is easy to say this, but acting like a real leader (not like a boss) is one of the most effective ways to improve productivity in the workplace. The good manager should practice a shared leadership style, where he is considered as an equal by the other team members, but not as a villain.
As Richard Branson states: “Good people are not just crucial for the business, they are the business. Finding them, inspiring them and holding them is one of the most important challenges a leader faces.”
Discourage Multitasking. We Need Focus.
The concept of multitasking has been broadly discussed in the last few decades. Some support it, others do not. One thing is for sure, multitasking comes as a requirement from higher management. Executives and managers often think of multitasking as a tool for executing as much business goals as possible, simultaneously.
You cannot increase productivity in the workplace if you make your team multitask constantly.
The intentions behind multitasking are very often related to the desire of better and faster results. Ironically, what multitasking brings is slower and worse results. The main reason for this is that if you apply multitasking, you load your team with many different tasks. Respectively, the focus slowly starts to blur and deadlines start to overdue. At the same time, new projects are knocking at the back door and before you realize, your employees are overloaded with work and nothing happens as it should.
Work overloading often converts into occupational burnout, which is one of the biggest enemies of workforce productivity. According to Forbes, 95% of HR leaders state that employee burnouts are sabotaging their workforce.
So, how to improve productivity then?
I don’t say, there is a universal panacea to avoid all these issues, but single-tasking and focusing definitely work. Methods such as Kanban have proved that single tasking and focused work is much more efficient. In other words, if you create a smooth and focused workflow, your team will be less stressed and more productive. This way, projects are finished much faster and thousand times more efficiently.
Optimize Meetings. Improve productivity.
I worked for a huge corporation for a while and the department manager was always wondering how to increase productivity levels of our team. At the same time, there were days when we were in meetings 90% of the time. And these occasions were not a rarity.
We have to admit, one of the greatest enemies of the productivity in the workplace is the countless number of meetings. They are a vital part of project management and a major tool for project leaders to stay updated, but it is important unnecessary meetings to be located and removed from the working process.
Meetings should be used for discussing future steps and emerging problems, and not for debating tasks, which are already well known or completed. Such sessions are often considered a waste of time and 59% of US employees said, “wasteful meetings are the biggest hindrance to productivity”.
On the other hand, some companies don’t tolerate meetings, at all. In such companies where meetings are a rarity, team members can slowly lose the sense of common progress and projects’ statuses. This way, you can get to a point when a single team member doesn’t know what the others are working on. Respectively, the needs of re-work will occur regularly, which will damage your team’s productivity dramatically.
Instead of making a countless number of meetings or ignoring them, you can try holding daily stand up meetings. These are short morning sessions, where all team members share what they achieved yesterday, what are they going to work on and possible obstacles. This way the whole team will be on the same page and it will keep everyone accountable.
Do Not Make Assumptions. Communicate.
There is no doubt that good results can be achieved through active communication. Assumptions are unacceptable and they create confusions.
I bet all will agree that projects are complex tasks that consist of many elements such as goals, deadlines, priorities and etc. In order to be successful in project management, make sure that all members of your team are on the same page regarding all elements. If there are misunderstandings, clear them through active communication.
Making assumptions will not improve productivity in the workplace. It will only create misconceptions, which will slow down the cycle time of any given project or task.
Your team doesn’t need to wait until the next meeting to share concerns, obstacles or questions. Encourage your team to use online collaboration tools and to communicate more often for the sake of clarity and efficiency. There are many online collaborations tools your team can benefit from. Just make sure that all team members have a clear understanding that they don’t have to interrupt their colleagues constantly. Too many distractions and context switching lead to low productivity. So, find the balance.