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3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

Being happy at work? That’s for when you’re off the clock, right? You’ve heard the expression, “That’s why they call it work.” Isn’t that the way work has always been?

Not anymore.

A recent study, “Happiness and Productivity,” conducted by a pair of economist academics, has proven that happiness makes people more productive on the job.

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According to one of the authors of the research, Professor Andrew Oswald, there’s data to back up the claim: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google it rose by 37%. They know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

What this research shows is that happiness isn’t a luxury only afforded high-value Silicon Valley firms. Team happiness is not something that organizations can ignore, but rather a crucial investment in staff morale, retention, and productivity.

Whether you’re leading a small team or a large enterprise, there are practical methods for keeping your team happy while still meeting management’s targets. Here are three tips to building happy and productive teams.

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Be a Better Communicator.

If you’re not able to articulate what it is that you want people to do, they’re not going to be able to do it. That’s obvious. What may not be so clear is that by being a poor communicator you’re corrupting the bonds of trust between you and your workers, which over time will create a toxic work environment.

How do you communicate more effectively and, in so doing, help make a happier team?

  1. Listen- a lot. Communication is a two-way street. Put aside your own thoughts and ideas to really listen to people on your team and demonstrate that you’re willing to seriously engage their ideas. You can show that you’re listening (and remember what your team has said) by repeating back what you’ve heard them say.
  2. Stay on topic. When you’re doing the talking, don’t confuse the issue by going off on tangents. Have one conversation at a time, and keep your point short and easily digestible.
  3. Look people in the eye. This may seem like an outmoded idea since we all stare at our phones and multitask these days. Eye contact helps you and the listener focus on the topic at hand, and it also shows you’re focusing on listening to feedback and ideas.
  4. Ask Questions. Before you’re done with a meeting or a conference, ask if there are any questions. This helps make sure the information you wanted to get across was conveyed accurately and helps with overall team engagement, too.
  5. Build team involvement. Making your team accountable is a good start, but make them part of the process to define the goals, too. This helps them buy-in to the work, gives them ownership, and makes them fully aware of what they’re accountable for.

Respect Workers’ Autonomy.

If you micromanage every nanosecond of your team members’ day, you’re really not helping their productivity. You’re certainly not creating a happy workplace. That doesn’t mean you give workers free reign; you are their manager, after all. However, you do want to instill mutual respect, and that involves giving your team autonomy to manage their time their way.

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One of the biggest culprits of time wasting is the internet. With the web just waiting behind that spreadsheet, it’s a big temptation to check Facebook or your favorite blog, and as I said, a prohibitive climate is not a productive one. In fact, micromanagement may be more detrimental to productivity than a few idle moments online.

What do you do to encourage productivity without laying down Draconian laws?

  1. Set success metrics. If you have clear milestones that each member of your team is responsible for achieving within a specific scheduled time, then you’re saying you trust them to achieve this task on deadline the way they know best. If they need to take a break and watch a cat video then that’s okay.
  2. Offer incentives. Everyone likes to have their good work recognized, so provide the team members who go above and beyond to complete their work on time with some kind of gift. It can be as simple as buying them lunch or giving out monthly gift certificates to top performers. When you make the incentives fun, it helps build a happy team culture, too. Be sure to be fair and include everyone- not just the favored few.
  3. Offer flexible working hours. Though there may be certain periods of the day that you need your team together, the time of day is less important than meeting the deadline. Also, some people work best first thing in the morning whereas others are more suited for later hours. If you can afford the flexibility, then allow your teams to work when they work best.
  4. Offer training opportunities. Complacency is dangerous for both you and your team. You want to always encourage and enable them to be updated on new tools and techniques. Again, that investment will be rewarded by loyalty, trust, and improved productivity.

It’s not just today’s project and productivity goals that you should be focusing on. There’s always another project down the line, even though it can be difficult to see the forest when you’re in the weeds of a particular job. Future projects need to be kept in the back of the minds of everyone in the company.

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If you burn out your workforce, you’re going to have to go through arduous team building all over again. It is not only hard work to find and train a new worker but expensive as well. The Corporate Executive Board has researched the cost of replacing a departing employee and found it can be as much as 150% of their salary to replace them if you take into account lost productivity, recruitment fees, and training. Therefore, it’s crucial not only to get the job done today, but to cultivate a workplace that retains its workers.

There are many ways that companies and managers have made their organizations more attractive to their teams. Some of them are:

  1. Offer wellness benefits. If you’re able to provide employees with perks such as gym membership, a massage therapist who visits the office, healthy meals and snacks, even mindfulness meditation breaks, you reduce work stress and create a happy work culture.
  2. Offer financial incentives. Money is the universal language. While team members may never be fully loyal to a company, they will respond positively to having their hard work rewarded with cash incentives. Whether it’s a bonus or some other financial benefit, it’s a worthwhile perk to put into the budget.
  3. Extend paid leave options. It may seem counterintuitive to retain employees by allowing them to take an extended absence from the office, but it will pay off in the long run. Whether it’s personal days to attend family events, a paid vacation or sabbatical, these breaks from the daily grind allow people to regenerate and return to the job refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.
  4. Be a happy role model. As a manager you cannot be always burning the midnight oil and then telling your workers to go home and take it easy. This doesn’t mean slacking, but you want to exhibit the balanced behaviors you expect to see in your team and also work on your own happiness to be an effective model.
  5. Set boundaries. With smartphones, emails, texts, and all the other new technologies and apps to keep people connected, it can feel as if work never ends. While it’s great that you and your workers have a modern means of communication, you need to respect their privacy and have specific times when they’re working and when they’re not.

In Conclusion

That’s it. Easy, right? No. Of course it’s difficult to be happy and harder still to promote a happy team culture especially within a large organization. Think of happiness as another line item on your budget. You have to make the investment in order to get the return. Give it the due diligence that the current research (and Google) has proven, try out these tips, and see what results you get.

Bet you’ll be happily surprised.

Featured photo credit: Girl Using Laptop in Hotel Room by Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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http://stokpic.com/project/girl-using-laptop-in-hotel-room/ by Ed Gregory 3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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