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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

How to Measure Your Team’s Productivity Effectively

How to Measure Your Team’s Productivity Effectively

Have you ever looked around your office and thought: my team is busy, but are they productive?

You can see how much time your team is putting into their work. They come in early, or work late. They fill their calendars with meetings, and respond to every email that comes their way. You know that your team has the best intentions. But what are they actually doing? And is it producing the results you need? You need an effective way to measure your team’s productivity.

Is there a way to know that all that time they spend devoted to their job is moving your company forward, and not simply spinning their wheels? Is there any productivity measurement you can make use of?

The most effective way to find out your team’s productivity is to answer the questions below:

1. Does Your Team Know Where You’re Going?

One of the best ways your team can improve its productivity is for everyone to understand where you’re going — to have well defined corporate goals, and to focus on only a few at a time. According to John Doerr in his book Measure What Matters:

In a survey of eleven thousand senior executives and managers, a majority couldn’t name their companies top priorities. Only half of the could name even one.

If your team doesn’t know the company’s direction, they will have no idea how to do the things that will add value. Bob the Senior Manager might talk to 10 key contacts per day, but he might not know that none of these contacts have bought something from your company in the past year. He doesn’t know that increased sales from your team is an important, which is a way for you to contribute to the company’s key goals.

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So the first way to measure your team’s productivity is to ask if they understand what is important.

2. Are You Committed to Your Specific Goals?

When I was CFO at a small startup, we worked hard to clarify a handful of important goals. The company was early stage, so our three goals were: fundraising, corporate partnerships, and pipeline product development.

But the CEO had Shiny Object Syndrome. Every time someone mentioned an interesting idea in the industry, he wanted to give it a try. We found ourselves assessing several product acquisition opportunities which would require a complicated debt agreement. As the CFO, I was dragged into days of work on these side projects.

As a result, our progress on fundraising and corporate partnerships stalled, which created a fire drill as time went on. We managed to raise funds in the nick of time, but missed our corporate partnership goals.

It was impossible to be productive as a team when we were running in so many different directions. We would pivot every time the CEO found something new and interesting.

The lesson is, while it’s critical to have defined goals, they won’t create a more productive team unless you commit to them.

3. Do You Have a Leading Indicator of Performance?

Once you’ve determined the few key goals for your company, you communicate them to your team, and commit to those goals (without chasing down every shiny object). The next step is to see if you have an indicator that measures your team’s performance.

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Many companies use a P&L (profit and loss) statement to measure performance. And that is an important piece of the puzzle. But by the time you look back on the month, quarter, or year, all the activities that went into the P&L already happened, and all you can do is respond to them. But as Geno Wickman writes in Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business:

According to an old business maxim, anything that is measured and watched is improved.

So instead of looking backward, think about what you can measure to look forward in your business.

Let’s revisit Bob the Senior Manager, who talks to 10 key contacts per day. Talking to contacts can be one lead indicator, but that’s not enough. Talking to those 10 contacts is not generating the sales, and everyone on your team now understands is a key goal. But if you track the steps in his process, you can determine what is working and what isn’t. And better optimize your team’s productivity.

So for Bob, he could track the number of inbound versus outbound calls, the number of in-person versus phone conversations, the number of times he needs to talk to a contact before they make a purchase, and then the number of sales per week/month/quarter.

Keeping track of each step will give a much better metric of what is working and where things are breaking down. It will also tell you the most productive step.

For example, after tracking all the steps, Bob could realize that he makes 3 times more sales after in-person meetings than he does after phone conversations. So the way to measure Bob’s productivity is to keep track of his percentage of in-person meetings.

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4. Does Everyone Know Who Owns What?

So your corporate goals are set. Everyone understands which direction the company needs to go, but that doesn’t meant that everyone on your team knows exactly what they are supposed to do. How they, individually, contribute.

Accountability is a key component to measure your team’s productivity. It is critical that everyone knows, understands, and owns their independent actions that contribute to the organization as a whole.

When everyone is held accountable for their contribution, your team is more productive. They know what other people seek in them. And when team members show both ownership and accountability, your team develops trust in each other.

Trust means less people checking or duplicating other team members’ work, or wasting time micromanaging; and a much more efficient workplace.

5. Is Your Team Making Decisions?

The ability to make decisions is an effective way to measure your team’s productivity. Decision making is difficult for almost everyone. People don’t want to commit, in case the idea is wrong or something better comes along, especially in a team environment.

But in Napoleon Hill’s classic book Think and Grow Rich, he mentioned a study that analyzed 25,000 people that had experienced failure. In that study, lack of decision-making, or procrastination, was one of the major causes of failure.

If you find that your team is spending a lot of time kicking a can down the road, instead of picking a direction, it’s likely that your team is not as productive as you might hope. Kicking that can take up a lot of time and energy, and can often take more time than simply picking a direction and then pivoting later.

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6. Is Your Team Focused on What Is Urgent, or What Is Important?

So you’ve set and communicated a few, clear goals. You have found your leading indicators, and your team has the power and ability to make decisions. But they still aren’t reaching their targets. You still feel like they are working hard, but their results are not reflective of their actions…

Take a deeper dive into what is slowing them down. Some productivity slowdowns come from a team culture that requires immediate responses to email and days filled with meetings. It’s easy to use these actions as a proxy for productivity. But they aren’t actually producing anything.

So take a look at the daily actions of your team. Find out what they are doing that isn’t directly related to the communicated goals.

Help them prioritize the important tasks versus the ones that feel urgent because they showed up out of the blue. Remind them that it’s okay to address unexpected tasks but, as David Allen recommends:

Do unexpected work as it shows up, not because it is the path of least resistance, but because it is the thing you need to do vis-a-vis all the rest.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of ways to measure and enhance your team’s productivity. But even if you find that your team is struggling with several of these issues at the same time, don’t change everything at once. Pick a few things that stand out the most. See what works in your unique workplace and what doesn’t.

Take a few mindful steps toward a more efficient environment and be consistent. Productivity is always intentional.

Remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone on your team has to perfectly managed every moment of every day. The goal is to focus on actions that create the results you want and minimize the ones that don’t.

More About Team Management

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Deb Knobelman, PhD

Neuroscientist and C-Suite business executive who writes about the intersection of mindset, productivity, entrepreneurship and how to reach goals.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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