The Difference Between Having a Strategy vs. Being Strategic

Why is it that strategic plans often languish on the shelf? Some would say it’s a matter of lazy executives but experience shows that it has more to do with creating the right context from the start.

A client I work with has an idea: “let’s put up our own website.” At first blush, it makes sense. Every organisation has one. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to let the world know you exist.

However, a brief survey of websites of similar organisations reveals an inconvenient truth: they are all embarrassingly stale.  The layouts look tired. Not a single site is current, or has been updated in ages. Whoever had the original vision has long gone, leaving behind an obsolete artefact.

But it’s likely that when the idea was first pursued, people were excited. They invested personal energy in the project and when it was done, felt satisfied that their vision had come to life.

Unfortunately, they also made a deadly mistake. In their minds, the purpose of the activity was to produce an object (a website) versus to launch a process (a way to keep staff in touch with the public.) In other words, the context they created for the project was limited.

This particular error happens every day. Imagine the typical family. The kids want to adopt a dog, but their parents refuse. The fact is, the older, wiser heads know that owning a pet is more than possessing an animal object. It also means engaging in a process of feeding, exercising and cleaning that takes time and money. They understand that this job is likely to fall into their laps when their children lose interest.

As adults, they see the real cost.

This also happens in strategic planning retreats when companies try to compress the activity into a single day. It’s possible to create a report in this time-frame if the team focuses solely on producing unlimited visions of the future. They walk away feeling inspired, as if they have just adopted a dog or launched a website.

However, the typical second day is usually focused on adding in real-life constraints – the true cost. Once they are included in the plan, tradeoffs must be considered which lead to the team making difficult decisions. Among them is a choice to kill certain initiatives.

The sad reality? There just isn’t enough time, manpower, money or energy to accomplish all the goals set on day one. That initial mood of boundless creativity must be balanced.

Apart from spending two days on this activity, what else is required to be strategic versus just producing a plan?

  1. A Context of “Being Strategic”
    Paradoxically, the main output of each planning exercise may not be the plan. Perhaps, it’s better understood as the start of a process which engages everyone.

In this process, a new paradigm is introduced which reshapes everyday work. Now, instead of simply doing their job, an employee is doing so for a greater purpose which inspires them.

This means that the plan should be changed as often as necessary in order to play its role as a guide for daily actions. These updates keep it fresh and relevant.

Some companies unwittingly rob employees of learning how to “be strategic.” First, they  hire outsiders to write their strategy. When the final document (the object) is handed over, the company finds itself unable to execute because no-one possesses the requisite way of being to be successful. It disappeared out the door with the consultants.

  1. Make Concrete Commitments
    In prior columns I accused executives of failing to treat their time with the same level of rigour as they do their budgets. Consequently, their strategic plans are unrealistic and are treated as if they can all drop their overfull schedules at a moment’s notice.

One antidote is to book the same time in each executive’s calendar for implementation: e.g. Monday morning from 9-12 am. Doing so means cancelling or delegating existing commitments. It’s a way to ensure that the new projects and processes in the plan have a chance of survival in the real, post-retreat world.

  1. Make Behaviour and Process Changes
    Pay attention to those strategic initiatives which are as painful to implement as the challenge of learning to write cursive with your non-dominant hand. At both the individual and corporate levels, old habits and processes will assert themselves, resisting the planned changes.

Instead, put in place new systems for performance management, rewards, recognition, training and automation. Hardwire these improvements to reduce the possibility of failure.

Part of being strategic is acknowledging all these obstacles and finding ways to work around them. Admittedly, they are harder than simply producing a document but they will ensure that your plan is realistic and provide a unique pathway to future success.

How to Help Employees Exert Emotional Labour

The challenge that organizations
have is that they haven’t trained, rewarded or permitted their frontline
employees to exert emotional labor to create human connection when it’s most
needed. Seth Godin

Now and then I come across a quote
which makes me stop and think. Here’s why this one brought the local customer
experience to mind.

Most Jamaicans who travel to the
United States are struck by how well-trained service workers are. At first
blush, it appears that they really know how to smile, be polite and seem
interested.

However, those who end up staying to
live in North America tell a different tale. They recall a discovery: five
minutes after a seemingly meaningful interaction the provider can’t remember
your face or name. It was all an act.

Where it comes from is
obvious – those who have peeked behind the scenes say it’s the result
of thorough training tightly coupled with swift, harsh consequences for
non-compliance. It gets the right behaviour, but does it produce genuine
feelings?

Contrast that situation with the
experience of tourists who visit Jamaica repeatedly for several years, making
lifelong friendships which start with chance encounters on the beach, village
or bus. These extraordinary, unscripted stories end up bonding entire families
from different cultures. Sometimes, they even cross generations, in spite of
the geographic distance.

How can these two contrasting
experiences be reconciled by you, a manager who must develop staff to serve
local customers? Godin’s quote offers a few clues.

1. Faking isn’t Creating

I suspect that frontline workers in
the US have been trained to “fake human connection” on demand – to go
through the motions, following a set of actions they have memorized and
practiced. Unfortunately, they also haven’t learned to separate true emotion
from fakery.

How to get past this obstacle?

If you believe that your front-line
workers are acting the part but not actually creating authentic
experiences, they may need deeper training. Noticing real emotions in the
middle of a transaction isn’t easy, especially when the customer is upset. Most
of us can’t: it takes a kind of emotional maturity few possess.

2. Doing Feeling Work

However, when we bump into someone
who can regularly provide this experience in the worst of circumstances, we
tend to think of their emotional maturity as a rare gift or talent.
Unfortunately, this explanation puts them up on a pedestal, far beyond the
reach of the unlucky majority.

Godin implies that this thinking is
false.

“Emotional labour” is really what’s
missing, he explains. It’s the trained effort most companies’ leaders just
can’t be bothered to develop – the expense is too high. Their lack of
care begins with haphazard hiring and continues with non-existent onboarding.
Employees who receive this basic training are left to their own
devices, never given the tools to produce emotional results. Then, when
problems occur, most managers simply blame the employee: they fail to
accept responsibility.

But Godin goes further: he hints
that many companies don’t even “permit” their front-line employees to provide emotional
labour. They actually make it hard.

Have you ever received a quiet act
of kindness from an employee who put themselves in harm’s way to make an
exception in your case? That’s someone who is working around the limits
implemented by a blind, callous leadership.

3. Identifying Moments

These subversives are not only
brave, but wise. They can tell when a human connection is most needed and act
decisively to provide it.

But they aren’t just interesting:
these moments are extraordinary opportunities to create lasting loyalty.
Perhaps they explain why these tourists return to visit their newfound “family”
in Jamaica. Their initial link was so positive, and so unexpectedly real, that
they end up feeling closer to a Jamaican front-line worker than their actual
neighbours or office colleagues.

Can workers be trained to identify
these key moments in a customer’s experience?

They can, but if your employees have
childhoods pock-marked with trauma, it’s much harder to do so. Unfortunately,
given the low pay of our service providers, many have experienced such
hardships and won’t get over them on their own.

If management steps in and provides
the counselling, training and coaching needed to move past these obstacles,
everyone benefits. The fact is, employees who are being trained to emotionally
labour on behalf of customers who need a human connection need to deal with
their own wounds first.

This puts them in the driver’s seat: able to respond to the customer without their history getting in the way. Now, they can deliberately create the kind of deep loyalty customers enjoy but rarely experience. It’s emotional labor which provides a win for all concerned.

The dilemma of the bored employee

Why is it that your employees who start out excited about
their jobs lose interest so quickly? Is it a problem with their age, a cultural
phenomena

or just fate? Can their experience be enriched by savvy
managers?

The dilemma begins with most leaders who compare employees
to cars and their jobs to long-term parking spots. In other words, all they
need to do is slot people into positions and leave them. From that point on,
the person is expected to perform the role faithfully and occupy the position
indefinitely.

Unfortunately, that‘s not how things work. As you may know,
there are a startling number of staff who merely go through the motions: “It’s
just a job.” Long gone are the challenges which kept them up at night. All
that’s left is a routine they can now do without thinking.

Predictably, they turn their attention to other life
demands. They raise children to pass exams with top grades. They sign up for
marathons. They become deacons in their churches and volunteers in community
organizations. While there’s a great deal of good they accomplish in all these
other areas, their career remains stagnant: the same job from one day to the
next. A few convince themselves that the steady salary is worth the deadening
sacrifice. Others refuse. They walk away, quitting to find a different career
or start their own company.

Meanwhile, executives in your firm probably remain clueless
about the real depth of disengagement: the high percentage who give their
work-life the bare minimum. Understanding why employees are more dissatisfied
than ever can help you produce a breakthrough culture.

The New Employee

Today’s entering staff member is often surprised at the
stale environment found inside most companies. The truth is, little has changed
over the years. People at all levels are still stuck in the
car-and-parking-spot frame of mind.

Why are they shocked? They have been raised in a world of
high engagement in which social media, entertainment and games occupy a great
deal of their personal energy. Each of these platforms is  engineered to
grab hold of a user’s attention and keep it for extended periods of time.

Creators of highly engaged online environments realize they
are in a competition with other experiences. With every bit and byte, they
intend to keep users interested and use attention as a measure of success. The
makers of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t want you to slip away.

By comparison, most jobs in the workplace seem to be
designed to lose, disrupt or even destroy attention. It’s tempting to think
this has something to do with technology: instead, it’s all about intention.

Unfortunately, there are probably few managers in your
company who see their challenge in the same way. They fail to recognize that
“experience design” is part of their job, instead pretending as if nothing has
changed over the years.

The outcome? Employees who can hardly last 15 minutes alone
or in a meeting without reflexively searching their smartphones for something
better.

A New Challenge

Most of your fellow managers probably just shrug their
shoulders, complaining. For them, the point of engaging staff is not to
entertain them, but make them productive.

Perhaps they could adapt the mindset of game designers. One
of their leading thought leaders, Amy Jo Kim, asks: “How can we create
experiences that get better as employees become more skilled?”

In most companies, the focus has been on the opposite. HR
has been trying to keep employees’ experience the same once they reach a
certain level of skill: the old car-and-long-term-parking-lot model. The result
is boredom.

Behind this unwanted outcome is a lack of responsibility.
Most manager’s don’t believe that their job is to engineer an outstanding
experience. In their minds, work is not a place for intrinsic fulfillment or
purpose: it’s a crude exchange of money for labour.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to tackle this issue
head-on. As a new employee at AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1988, I joined a
system which made room for technical employees who had no interest in becoming
supervisors. A technical ladder allowed many to be promoted and recognized without
having the burden of direct reporting relationships.

At a micro level, your company can train managers to develop
detailed ladders of skills. Imagine if, at any moment in time, your employees
could know exactly which rung they occupy. Furthermore, they would also be able
to pinpoint which skills they are developing. This way, they know what their
next personal improvement target happens to be and when it is due.

This form of career gamification can engage even long-term
staff, blocking the default – boredom – which thwarts your company’s goals.

4 Steps to Help Employees Self-Train

May 24, 2019

Are your employees taking their training into their own hands? If so, how can you stop the motivated learner from abandoning your good training for a five-minute YouTube video? Attend this session to discover ways to engage your learners in self-training experiences filled with expert content gleaned from your company or industry. Use it to win learners’ deep attention, defeating the appeal of superficial tips and tricks.

This is a live presentation made at the Association for Talent Development Conference 2019 held in Washington DC. The accompanying slides and online game from the session can be accessed here – http://2time-sys.com/atd

To listen to this podcast, visit Source

Why It‘s Time to Ban the SWOT from Your Next Retreat

Does the
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities  and Threats (SWOT) technique deserve
it‘s accepted place in your next strategic planning retreat? Maybe not. There
are more precise ways to understand the current state of the business that take
less time and use more facts.

My recommendation:
If you are leading your organization‘s next planning exercise, lift things up a
notch by omitting the SWOT activity from the agenda. There are three reasons
why this list-making activity needs to be transformed.

1. It’s just an
opinion survey

When people cough
up strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats they are merely offering
opinions. While there are facts sitting in the background somewhere, the truth
is that the exercise is based on opposable points of view, even allowing items
to show up in multiple lists. For example, a reality such as “We have five
employees” could fit into any of the four categories, construing it as either a
“pro” or a “con”.

Given the fact
that anyone can have an opinion about anything, merely accumulating these
arbitrary points of view is a low-quality exercise. Discussing and debating
them at length only reduces your meeting to a talk-shop.

2. It anchors the
team in old thinking

The purpose of a
well-designed retreat is to establish a clean break from the past. By contrast,
the SWOT activity does the very opposite. Why? It merely asks people to
rehash old, familiar lines of thinking. This reinforces the emotional link to
whatever former strategy happened to be in place, which in turn, makes it
harder to create a fresh one.

For example,
imagine what happens when the team lists the fact that having five employees is
a weakness. Now, it’s difficult to see it as a strength, which it may be in the
context of a fast-changing industry. Stating the old concept as the
solid truth only stands in the way of realizing a new paradigm.

3. It takes too
much time

As the designer of
the retreat, you are probably painfully aware that time is a scarce commodity.
A SWOT survey gets people talking, but it requires several hours of precious
space to collect the group’s point of view, collate and present it. This
time could be better spent doing deeper dives into hard data.

—-

Given these three
shortcomings (which many executives already quietly realize) why does the
exercise continue to be so popular? As a retreat organizer, you may have the
answer: because it‘s easy.

Not only is a
choice to do the activity never challenged, those who participate are unlikely
to challenge each other during the exercise. Unfortunately, this avoidance
tactic violates research showing that a group must struggle to produce good,
new ideas. Here are some recommendations I make to solve the dilemma of coming
to agreement without taking a shortcut.

1. Do the SWOT
Survey Online, Before the Retreat

My clients do
these surveys before retreats, as part of our data gathering and include all
employees. The most salient results are summarized in the meeting within
15 minutes, which saves time and effort.

2. Facilitate a
Current Snapshot

Perhaps the
original intent of the SWOT was to gain an understanding of the present state
of the business. This picture is still needed, but it must be fact-based.

As I have
explained in a prior column, your snapshot can be pulled together using
different perspectives: financial, customer/competitor, operations and
employees. Add in an analysis of the external environment with the PESTER
views, (Political, Environmental, Sociological, Technological, Economic and
Regulatory), taking special note that technology is emerging as the most
critical outside factor.

At first glance,
this may seem like a dull recitation of boring data. However, the point is to
understand (as a team) the story the facts are telling. Inevitably, this will
include a robust discussion of various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
threats but there‘s no need to group them. Instead, let the information do the
talking, rather than hasty opinions, and weave the four SWOT themes into the
narrative.

Invariably, the
tale the data tells is nuanced, filled with ups and downs, polarities,
discrepancies and paradoxes. Only a team of insiders with a deep appreciation
of the organization and their individual specialty can fully pull it together.
Certainly, an outside consultant can’t.

Of course, there
are companies which attempt to skip the snapshot altogether and jump right into
planning the future. Unfortunately, doing so yields pipe dreams with no
foundation in reality. It reduces the trust needed to make a risky move.

In summary, it
takes a concerted effort to have everyone on the team see the company’s current
position from a joined-up point of view. However, it’s more than a
team-building activity: It’s also an evaluation of the status quo which is the
first step to carving out a transformative strategy. Don’t block a big change
which needs to happen with a costly SWOT mistake.

How to Use Defects to Dramatically Improve Performance

Why does your company appear to
repeat simple mistakes so often? If you are a manager, it’s exhausting to chase
one error after another, doing little more than fighting fires. There may be a
better approach – use the principles of “defect management” borrowed from Total
Quality Management.

In the late 1980’s the world came to
recognize Japanese dominance in automotive manufacturing. The country had come
a long way: back in the 1960’s the quality of its cars were
sub-standard with numerous customer complaints. While the techniques they
adopted to transform their situation weren’t new, they were the first to apply
quality improvement and process management in a rigorous, systematic way. The
resulting turnaround appeared miraculous to the rest of the world, resulting in
manufacturers adopting their techniques on a large scale.

One of the innovations they
introduced was a peculiar way to uncover operational problems that only occurr
in small numbers. 

If your company has over 100
employees, it has the same challenge: it’s made up of intricate,
cross-organizational processes which are hard to diagnose. In other
words, tricky issues persist because the link between cause and effect
isn’t easy to determine. Take, for example, two of my favorite problems: email
and meetings. Your CEO might decide to order people to spend less time on these
activities, but his command wouldn‘t work. The defects in both of
these areas have multiple causes, which means that these forms of
corporate waste are difficult to eradicate.

Here’s a way for your organization
to use this technique to stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

1. “Defects” – A Re-Definition

In their solution, the Japanese
pioneered a new way of looking at defects. They argued that companies are poor
at distinguishing them due to bureaucracy, company

culture and internal politics. For
example, managers who are trying to look good at all times are likely to disown
their defects.

It’s not entirely their fault.

Most people who think of defects
imagine visible and tangible errors, such as a car rolling off an assembly line
with its steering wheel missing. However, you are probably a knowledge worker
and the defects in your role are much harder to identify. The chances are high
that they are not being noticed or measured.

For example, a meeting may be
effective overall, but still full of defects. Let’s glance at the last
gathering you called. Compare it against this checklist of possible defects.

– a late start or end

– a tardy attendee

– an agenda which was never
assembled or followed

– each time someone used their
smartphone to check email

– action items which weren‘t
captured

– a lack of written feedback

By this definition, some managers
have never attended a defect-free meeting. In fact, these problems may be the
norm in your company, which is blind to these mistakes. Unfortunately, they add
up and damage employee productivity.

2. Defects in Your Work

Now, let‘s switch to the everyday
work you perform. If you are a manager, what are the defects you could be
unwittingly producing with your direct reports? The way to identify them is to
find the shortfalls; the places where standards aren’t being met.

For example, if a performance review
conversation with your employee doesn‘t go well, consider that to be a defect.
You probably aren‘t measuring the number of times this occurs, but if you were
to do so, you could actually launch increasingly deep improvement efforts.

That would mean resisting the
temptation to bury the defect inside a string of successes. This happens when
you argue: “Yeah, but how about the other times when I don’t make mistakes.
Shouldn’t I get credit for my 99% success-rate?”

In this context, the correct answer
is “No”. There‘s no need to be defensive. Defects are not important because
they make people feel bad. Instead, they are a critical part of your efforts to
uncover the details which aren‘t working. They help you craft precise
interventions which produce superior performance.

If you think that this isn‘t
achievable in small increments, think again. The Japanese industrial miracle
was built on steady tiny gains, accompanied by knowledge accumulated over
time. It gave their companies a solid competitive advantage over others who
were boasting to themselves about their “99% performance.”

It’s ironic: the way to continue
improving is to start by calling out defects. This puts the focus where it belongs
and prevents people from hiding behind the numbers. Fail to do so and it won’t
be long before a comfortable mediocrity sets in which affects productivity at
every level. Committing to removing defects takes great courage, but it’s one
of the keys to competitive advantage.

8 Skills Employees Need that Require Zero Talent

How can a manager be promoted, only for others to discover
that he lacks certain basic, foundation skills? Someone, somewhere dropped an
easy ball that could have been corrected if the company had the right
perspective on how to develop new employees.

There‘s an interesting meme floating around pointing out 10
skills that every employee needs to possess. It adds a zinger: they don‘t
require a drop of talent, implying that no excuses are possible. While the list
wasn‘t developed for Jamaican companies, here is a local version of this
popular meme based on my experience.

#1 – Being On Time

In our environment, this is a huge challenge. Like many
other firms in tropical climates, we allow lateness to run rampant, even in
executive suites. Also, people who are punctual don‘t confront those who
aren’t. Finally, our companies don’t develop a way to teach employees what “on
time” means in their context.

For example, I had a friend who regularly told others she
was “just around the corner” even when she hadn’t yet started the car. In her
mind, she was “on time.” By contrast, I worked with a company in which
“on-time” meant that you arrived early and prepared yourself to start on
the exact, scheduled minute. Yet another organization translated the phrase to
mean “any time before the most important person arrives.”

The point is that your firm must teach its own definition of
“on time” plus all the detailed enabling behaviors, starting with the CEO and
her direct reports.

#2 – Work Ethic/Effort

New employees are often slow to appreciate that for every
corporate skill, there is a ladder of accomplishment. Unfortunately, those who
are unaware, usually occupy the lowest rung. This is no matter of disrespect.
The fact is, if they are taught the existence of higher skills and how to
achieve them, they can become inspired.

Their objective, before they are confirmed as full-time
staff, should be to show they have climbed the rungs of some key skills. For
example, a summer student should be able the demonstrate an unbroken string
of on-time arrivals at work. These may seem to be too easy, but don’t
under-estimate the effort required to learn new behaviors and apply them
consistently.

#3 – Body Language

Have you ever seen a young person slouch in his office
chair, apparently ready to doze off? Newly hired workers just
aren’t taught that their body language influences others. The impact on
customers, colleagues and managers is part of what they will be held
accountable for.

#4 – Energy

Whereas it may not have been cool to be an eager-beaver in
their prior lives, young employees need to learn that the tables are now
turned. How they get work done is vitally important, and they aren‘t “allowed”
to have a bad day that drags down others. Every hour is intended to be an
opportunity for enthusiasm and engagement, and they must learn to manage their
sleep and nutrition to accomplish this goal. Habitually overcoming the
“I-don‘t-feel-like-it” blues is a vital new capacity to develop.

#5 – Attitude/Resilience

This is perhaps a nebulous skill but companies need to go
beyond the level of clichés and define it clearly. Science has shown that
there are concrete steps in techniques like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy which
can be followed to transform a poor attitude. This will benefit them on the job
and in every part of their lives.

#6 – Passion

With few exceptions, most employees are passionate about at
least one thing in their lives. Companies do a poor job of nurturing these
strong feelings, allowing new hires to slip into the ranks of the disaffected
and disengaged within months. However, developing a love of one’s work is a
skill that can be taught, even though it’s usually left to chance.

#7 – Being Coachable

Jamaican workplaces are rife with stories of new employees
who are convinced that they “already know” everything. When this lack of
self-esteem interferes with the development of a “Beginner’s Mind” it’s time
for an intervention. A good one would interrupt their habits and show them how
to accept coaching, a capacity which does not come naturally to high achievers.

#8 – Being Prepared (To Do Extra)

New hires must learn to over-prepare if they hope to
succeed; they simply have fewer in-company experiences to draw from. Then,
once projects start, they need to be ready to go the additional mile
repeatedly. This behavior is a signal that they are taking their careers
seriously.

Many of these eight practices can be tied to company
standards enforced by your firm’s environment. Your organization must make them
explicit: a strong start to a successful career. This ensures that when
promotions occur, the recipients are fully trained.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based
Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column?
To receive a free download with articles from 2010-2018, send email to
columns@fwconsulting.com 

The audio version of this article can be heard here or at https://Framework.podbean.com/e/8-skills-employees-need-to-have-that-require-zero-talent/

Why Super-Busy People Shouldn’t Take Average Advice

If you manage an extremely high number of tasks, it’s a mistake to accept productivity advice from just about anyone. Instead, you should use special solutions tailored for people like you.

CEO‘s I have worked with share a few distinct characteristics. They tend to be:
– High energy – Sometimes, they get a lot done by simply working harder than others.
– Driven – They don‘t need to be inspired by outsiders: They motivate themselves even under trying circumstances.- Creative – They routinely come up with novel solutions from disparate sources.

While this list may appear to be little more than a bunch of “good things”, these characteristics create a unique personality: an “Ultra-Busy“. She is someone who regularly places more tasks on her plate than she has the capacity to complete. In other words, she sets lofty aspirations which she sometimes can‘t meet.
She is also prone to live an unbalanced life. High blood pressure, overweight and lack of time with loved ones are common problems for her and others in this cohort.
Finally, she fails to account for her uniqueness. Believing that others are just like her, she mistakenly trusts them to deliver at the same level.

Perhaps you recognize these traits in yourself. While they may sound like profound weaknesses, they actually come from a positive place. You see, Ultra-Busys aren’t simply workaholics.

Instead, they love tackling big problems, both for the inherent challenge and for the underlying mission. They aren’t happy unless they use their brains, hearts, minds and souls for a worthy purpose. As such, they give everything they can, often losing track of time as they tackle and resolve one issue after another. These totally immersive moments are high points.

As such, their time is precious, making them fastidious in their choice of productivity habits and aids. Always on the lookout for the latest improvements they need to heed a word of caution: much of the advice floating around isn‘t actually meant for them. Here’s why.

During adolescence, each one of us starts to teach ourselves how to use our memory to manage our personal task-load. Then, as we grow older, we search for better methods to handle more tasks.
A few people – The Ultra-Busys – take this to an extreme. Their love of big results requires them to manage a monumental task-load. Unlike others who see added tasks as a burden, they willingly create lots of them in order to make quicker progress towards their life-goals.

However, most productivity advice doesn‘t account for this difference. Instead, it‘s geared for the average person who simply wants to survive each day using a few handy coping mechanisms.

But if you happen to be an Ultra-Busy, what methods should you use? My research reveals the following.
1. Use a Time-Scarcity Schedule
Most people adopt a calendar exclusively to track appointments, but this technique doesn‘t work for Ultra-Busys. Instead, you must use your calendar to plan all your hours, including sleep, weekends and holidays. In this way, it helps you confront the reality of a 24-hour day, especially when you reach the end of an activity and need to choose which one to do next.
Other folks don‘t experience your level of scarcity and have lots of spare time. You don’t, and a time-budget is your key to keeping yourself on track in every dimension of your life.

2. Use Flexible Tools to Combat Disruptions

As an Ultra-Busy, you deal with unexpected, daily disruptions. This means that you must use advanced task management software in place of either memory or paper tools.

It’s your answer to the problem of not having an administrative assistant who can re-juggle your schedule when the unplanned occurs. Instead, you are required to do everything on your own and the best choice of task manager is one that‘s cloud-based,  using the latest Artificial Intelligence.

3. Embrace Your Agency
If you‘re a real Ultra-Busy, you probably exhaust others around you with your pace and intensity. Some will pity you, thinking that you are a sorry case…a victim of your own success.
However, deep down you know that nothing could be further from the truth. You accept and appreciate your own agency – each task you undertake is one you created freely, from far inside your commitments.
So don‘t be alarmed when others fail to understand. Instead, find the few who are like you and learn from them. You can take the free training I offer to Ultra-Busys at ScheduleU.org – The School for Scheduling Everything.

Your job is to stay true to your calling and its consequence: the incredible time demands you put on yourself. Avoid average advice and uncover the thinking that fits your extraordinary commitments.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20190407/francis-wade-time-schedules-super-busy-manager

Why Some Leaders Hate Long-Term Planning

Why do some executives resist making
long-term plans for their business? The hidden secret is a deep fear of failure
but there’s a way to be confident about the top team’s quality of visionary
thinking.

Vague aspirations to “Become
World-Class” will always drive some portion of your employees crazy. Even if it
happens on a grand scale, the answer isn’t to abandon inspirational goals

Fortunately, the Jamaican
Government’s Vision 2030 avoids these perils by having both clear measurable
targets and a specific end-date. Without these two components, it would be just
be a bunch of wishful thoughts…fairy tales with no basis in reality.

However, most managers
under-estimate the effort to produce such detailed targets. They struggle, but
don’t understand why. One reason relates to a lack of harmony between two
opposing camps: Dreamers and Realists. Your team is best served when a drive
for inspiration (i.e. Dreaming) is balanced by a need to be practical (i.e.
being Realistic). Here are three steps to include in your next planning
meeting.

Being Inspirational through the
Details

If you have noticed that most of
your employees have lost the zest for Dreamer-led Rah-Rah / “Being Number One”
chest-beating, you may ask: “Why did it become passe?” In short, it doesn’t do
well in today‘s world where authenticity is the main currency.

They see such lofty goals as
inauthentic because they lack specific, measurable characteristics. As a
result, these targets lack credibility, reducing them to having no more
significance than an idle knock in table tennis, or a meaningless game of
solitaire played just to kill time.

Today, your employees expect real
engagement which must be linked to clear performance feedback which is
objectively measured. Such black and white targets tell them whether they have
won or lost, not only individually, but on a corporate scale.

In the case of Vision 2030 there
was, I imagine, a long hard distance to go from becoming “the place of choice
to live, work, raise families and do business” to defining multiple, explicit
targets for specific sectors. It’s exactly the tough task many executive teams
are unwilling to do. Instead, they try to take lazy shortcuts. For example, it’s
popular to get each department to come up with its own goals, then ask a clerk
to pull them together in a final document.

At first blush, this approach may
seem logical, or efficient. However, the end-product ends up being little more
than a grab-bag of bits and pieces. This Frankenstein plan is exactly what
Realists fear the most because the lack of practical coherence dooms it to
failure.

Allowing Brutal Reality to Trim
Dreams

Some Realists have such strong
feelings that they block or boycott planning retreats altogether. Instead, they
argue that today is the best guide to tomorrow and advocate no more than
annual budgeting. Implicit in this approach is the assumption that competitive
advantage was decided in the past, and won’t change.

This dangerous idea is usually not
spoken out aloud…until it’s too late. Like Cable and Wireless of old, they deny
the arrival of an impending Digicel, thereby facilitating their
competition’s success.

Unfortunately, most executive teams
never resolve the difficult tension between Dreamers and Realists, preferring
to allow one side to “win”.

The way out of this zero-sum game is
to balance the time devoted to each camp during your next strategic planning
retreat. When you create your agenda, build this in: ask everyone to Dream,
then stop. Pause, and then provoke participants to trim the vision by making it
Real. In other words, allow each approach to run its full course before switching
from one to the other. The fact is, both are important, but they are impossible
to reconcile simultaneously in a workshop setting.

Time and Discipline to Balance Both
Activities

Most executives don’t appreciate
this delicate balance. Instead, if you belong to one group, you are
likely to point fingers at the other, complaining that
time spent in their preferred zone is wasted. As a result,
I often find myself in the middle, arguing for a balance. This means pointing
out the pitfalls of “short” retreats. I explain why we no longer offer them:
they inevitably favor one camp over the other, producing a weak strategy which
is neither rigorous nor durable.

In other words, trying to focus
exclusively on Dreamers or Realists defeats the purpose. The point of such sessions
is to make the most difficult decisions regarding the future of the company.
Bringing both camps together is just one of the critical end-products.

Teams who realize this
fact produce miracles: building inspiring long-term plans based on
realistic short-term commitments. While it’s a hard result to generate in a
mixed group, this balanced approach is the best way to craft sustainable
competitive advantage.