How to be effective, efficient and productive?
I am jovially known at work to be greeting team members on a Thursday or on a Friday morning with my signature motivational statement: “Happy Sunday..!” Sunday of course being the first day at work in most countries in the Middle East. It’s the same as saying “Happy Monday” on a Friday morning in the rest of the world. When most people are preparing to welcome in the week end and switch off from the vicissitudes and stressors that is at times the workplace, the inference of my statement instead is that they consider the moment as “day 1” of the week.
I know I don’t risk to be lynched by them because these are my TEAM and I love them and they love me. And we know one another very well. They know that, come what may, I am their most vehement advocate; their guardian angel ready to protect them whenever they take risks, feel vulnerable or make a mistake. They are there for me, too when I need them.
But I encourage them (even push them) to do stuff. To write that Report, to create those slides. To stand up in front of a group of stakeholders to present that business case. We learn when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. My Team also knows another of my signature statements, namely: “We should feel uncomfortable the moment that we feel comfortable”; because comfort is lethal, as it is linked to the concept of time, which is turns is man’s worst enemy. We don’t have much time.
The world around us is moving faster than ever before.
You see, doing takes courage; because it is when you do that you are likely to make mistakes, or to upset people. The number of mistakes we make is directly proportionate to the amount of doing we make. The more you do, the more things can go wrong. The more you get blamed. The more your self-confidence gets hurt. So the more you freeze. And this dangerous vicious circle risks to perpetuate. And in doing so, you stop learning; because we learn mostly by doing. Imagine what might happen if this syndrome were to infect and spread to a high number of people in your organization: it would create a depressing culture of stagnation and lack of progress. People’s motivation would dwindle and dissipate, talent would hemorrhage and customers would churn in favor of the competition. Revenue and profits would reduce to unsustainable levels, until the inevitable might happen.
So how do we change this for the better?
The answer is: by being effective, efficient and productive. Each of these words has its own distinct meaning. To be effective means that our actions have brought the result that we had expected. To be efficient means that we act with little or no waste in whatever we do. And productive of course refers to the “throughputs” that we can produce during the span of the working day. So, one can be effective but inefficient. Equally, one can be efficient but ineffective. Finally, we can highly productive without being either efficient or effective.
So, how can you get to do the right things and do them right? To be efficient and effective and productive all at the same time?
In order to do the right thing, we must understand the purpose of our work. A Sales Person’s purpose is to sell by providing customers solutions to their needs and wants. In order to do things right, we need to know how to; we need to reach some degree of competence and job knowledge both of which are acquired – again – by doing, by gathering experience.
The next trait is to have the right attitude. If you have it, then you will find it easier to take the initiative, or to cover for a colleague on leave or simply deliver your work to the best of your abilities. A quote I love in this space says: “It is not your aptitude but your attitude that will determine your altitude”.
Time management comes next in line. This is a skill that can be learnt and must be learnt. Without this skill, your days will feel like a frantic race, with every project, email and phone call competing for your attention.
Good communication skills are essential, especially when your goal is to work more effectively; active listening, writing skills, effective emails, report writing and presentation skills. Most jobs rotate around influencing people, convincing, explaining, articulating thoughts, concepts and ideas. Communication is a two-way process and leads to learning at every conversation.
Stress management is one of those skills that can make us more effective, more productive and certainly more efficient. So, we need to practice this skills and find intimate ways to remain calm and composed when facing stressful situations.
In addition to having the technical skills required to do your job, you also need to focus on soft skills; leadership skills, problem solving techniques, EI and creative thinking.
In conclusion, to be effective, efficient and productive, we must become increasingly competent in the purpose of our job. We must curate our soft skills as well as technical skills, along with adopting a high dose of good attitude and time management.