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Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%

Here’s a sample snippet of a coaching conversation I have often had with executives. To set the scene for you, it usually happens after we’ve discussed a project or strategic initiative and its value alignment for their organization.

Exec: “This is terrific; I can see how it will make a big difference for us. I’m anxious to get started; we could probably introduce the plan at our next staff meeting.”

Me: “I agree, it is a terrific plan. However let me ask you something before you move on to how you’ll communicate it, and the campaign you’ll subsequently run with it. What are you assuming this additional project will replace in your existing operation?”

Exec: “What will it replace? Well, the old way we’ve been approaching things; we all agree that our present tactics aren’t all that effective.”

Me: “When you say ‘present tactics,’ how much are you referring to? Are you completely confident that everyone will make the same assumptions you are, and not continue trying to handle both the old and the new? What are the reasons they might want to hold on to the comfortable, tried and true way they’ve always approached this?”

Exec: “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing. I’m sure they can figure it out.”

Another potential stress factor lobbed into the organization. Unless… we continue the conversation to figure out how without micromanaging, the Exec can articulate some suggestions whereby he gives them the gift of reasonableness, not adding to their sense of overwhelm.

The reality of most organizations, is that pleasing the boss, in handling directives both old and new, contributes to the significant, and rampant proliferation of auto-pilot, sacred cows, stressful overload, and productivity slowdowns. Like it or not, and whether you want to admit it or not, when you are the boss, people are very selective about the questions they’ll ask you, fearing they are exposing their own shortcomings or lack of self-confidence. If they perceive “the old way” was one of your once-favored pet projects, they’ll hold on to their practice of it, even when they might think better of it otherwise.

When you are about to add to someone’s workload, you should own the 100%. What I mean by that, is that the responsible thing to do, is to own the productivity equilibrium in the operation when you contribute to it.

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The one assumption you should make, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is that everyone is already at 100%. If you add another 10%, you can’t expect them to be equally productive now at 110%. Thus, 10% somewhere else has got to go, and suggestions from you on what that old stuff you are expecting to (or willing to) replace, can really help.

This doesn’t just apply to executives, but to leaders and managers at every level of an organization. Adding versus replacing is contributing to workplace overwhelm every day, and in small ways that add up to BIG drags on overall productivity.

When I coach clients to do audits for process duplication within their organizations, it is amazing how much they find, and how much “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing” turns into “I can’t believe we still do this!”

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Even with unanimous agreement on its breakthrough merits, no matter how extraordinary your new idea or captivating project might be, it will add to workload. Excitement dims quickly when the pep rally is over, and reality sets in. You’ve got to reckon with the domino effect any new project or strategic initiative can create, by always seeking to replace, and not just add. Own the 100% and help your organization realize the full benefit of your breakthrough ideas.

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Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

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Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Your Final, Essential Hiring Question.

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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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