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The Real Trouble with Productivity

The Real Trouble with Productivity

I have a confession: I cringe at the word productivity. Getting things done. Saying that feels like being against democracy or love or Buddha or something, but I feel that much of what passes for productivity is simply ubercybersonic doingness dressed up in happy faces. Organization, accomplishment, measuring effectiveness–all those tools and systems are cool, but what if our doingness masks a hollow core, or gives us fuel for avoiding the life we say we’d like to be living?

  • Doing more won’t make us happy any more than doing happy will make us more [fill in the blank].
  • Doing more better also won’t make us happy.
  • Until we look at what generates true happiness, we won’t be fulfilled and content no matter how many boxes get checked in a day.

Productivity is bootless without sole.

Aligning with what makes us happy, fulfilled and alive connects us with our being. And what we’re really talking about here is honoring our values, those must-have, absolute qualities of being we crave expressing to be who we truly are. So if your top values are say, creativity, adventure, compassion, fun and service, they must be present somewhere in the holy grail of GTD, your daily life, and connected to your vision. If not, simply put, you’re eventually going to be miserable. And since miserable is a word often paired with work, all this values talk begs the question:

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“But what if I’m in a job where I have to buck up to the company’s demands and get all these things done, or else?”

If we want to be pragmatic about walking the talk of values-to-vision living, or personal mastery, and connect it to getting things done, I can’t help but think of Peter Senge:

Personal mastery is the bedrock for developing [shared visions.] This means not only personal vision, but commitment to the truth and creative tension — the hallmarks of personal mastery…Those who will contribute the most toward realizing a lofty vision will be those who can “hold” this creative tension: remain clear on the vision and continue to inquire into current reality. They will be the ones who believe deeply in their ability to create their future, because that is what they experience personally.

So whether we work for ourselves, or in an organization, getting things done has to be grounded by a continuum of learning infused by vision. According to Senge, “Organizations intent on building shared visions continually encourage members to develop their personal visions. If people don’t have their own vision, all they can do is ‘sign up’ for someone else’s. The result is compliance, never commitment.”

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At The Bamboo Project, Michele Martin challenges us to wake up to learning in her post Do You Set Your Priorities to Add Value or Avoid Pain:

Essentially what I see all too often is that things like paperwork and lengthy meetings of questionable relevance take precedence in most organizations over spending time on learning. It’s like what happens in a lot of marriages, where everything but the couple’s relationship is a priority and then the next thing you know, you’re in divorce court. If you think about it, “avoiding pain” is a pretty negative and short-sighted criterion to use in deciding how we spend our days. It tends to put us into a cycle that creates even more pain because we aren’t focusing on the kinds of activities that build us up (individually or organizationally), but on the things that constrain us. If you believe that you get what you focus on (which I do), then focusing on pain is just a way to keep inviting it back into your life.

So, how do we go about changing the dynamic?

Chris Bailey at Bailey WorkPlay consistently generates the answers to questions like this, and in a comment left at Steve Roesler’s site–All Things Workplace–he asks us to consider who’s really in charge:

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I’m feeling run down by work that increasingly feels like a J-O-B. I’m losing my passion for it. I can actually feel it receding away like the ocean tide. I know what my strengths are and what I love to do…and I feel that I don’t have a chance to utilize these in my work with my organization. Now, does my manager read All Things Workplace?

Probably not, but yeah, he should. In this case, it’s me who needs to take the first step to guide the passion along. More generally, sometimes it’s the employee (or the even manager) who needs to bring her or his own manager to the table for this dialogue. It would be great if all managers got the memo suggesting that they can perpetuate passion. That may not be entirely fair to lay this all at their feet, though. The employee has to be there, too. The employee needs to know what they love, what they want to do, what will connect into their purpose…and they must be willing to share this. And who knows…maybe the employee might lead the manager to a new understanding of how to connect their passion and purpose to the work they do.
And this moves us, as everything inevitably does, to transparency and personal responsibility. Again, Steve Roesler in his post, A Good Place to Use Some Passion:

Managers don’t have easy jobs. They’re trying to pay attention to you and everyone else in their group. Why not get passionate about taking some of the burden from your manager’s shoulders and simply start a conversation about what’s on your mind? If you want a good shot at using your talents where you are now, then take the responsibility for making it happen. Nothing warms a manager’s heart more than seeing someone who is passionate about responsibility.

Yes, I know I veered a bit. How this all ties in for me is that in countless conversations with clients, time and productivity are always issues, but the real breakdown, we discover, is that there has been a lack of resonant underpinning– a values to vision consciousness in the individual and the workplace.

What do you have up your sleeves, Lifehack readers? Dive in. Inquire. Discuss.

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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