What Nietzsche, Jung and Sinatra have in common

20190603 Cover NJS Autenticity

The importance of authenticity in the workplace

Dale Carnegie on steroids

In the 1970s and 1980s, authenticity and self-development in the workplace were considered to be important by many middle and senior managers in the Western world. Perhaps too important: organizations were sometimes seen as narcissistic vehicles for self-development, instead of entities that should serve the interests of their shareholders and/or other stakeholders. Continue reading

Always put your oxygen mask on first

Illustration Oxygen Mask (Pexels)Increase your personal effectiveness by dealing with your actions first

For many senior business people, their day in the office resembles drinking from a fire hose. Not only do they need to attend a large number of meetings (often back to back), they are also hit with a continuous stream of ad-hoc questions from their staff, peers, customers, and line managers which require their attention and action.

A couple of years ago I started to get really worried about my personal effectiveness. Despite the outrageous number of hours I spent at work, I found it increasingly difficult to complete my tasks and finish my projects.

In order to address this, I decided to analyze my workload to find out what I could do to change this.

Who do you work for?

The shocking outcome of my analysis was the realization that I spent the vast majority of my time doing work for other people. Even more shocking was my discovery that most of my work did not come from my line manager, but from my own staff, my peers and various people in staff and support departments.

This resulted in the situation where the only time that I seemed to have an opportunity to work on my own tasks and projects was after 5 pm…when the people for whom I had worked during the day, were on their way home…

Increasing your productivity does not solve the problem

I decided I needed to start seriously investing in my productivity. I read all the books about Personal Efficiency, Time Management, and Delegation I could lay my hands on, attended training programs and optimized my Outlook and Lotus Notes systems to automatically store messages in specific folders, send reminders, auto-fill emails with templates, track action items, etc.

Unfortunately, the only result was that I became even more productive in doing the work for these other people that created the problem for me in the first place. As I result of this, I was rewarded with even more work from them and still had to wait until 5 pm until I could work on my own tasks and projects.

All this changed one morning, when, in an inspired moment, I wiped out my whiteboard and started to make a list of the tasks and projects I personally was responsible for. I was not pleased with what I saw: I was significantly behind with my own tasks and projects, due to all the time and effort I had invested in doing the work for other people.

A new working pattern

From that moment onwards I changed my work habits. Ever since that day, the first thing I do when I arrive in my office is to look at my whiteboard. This now shows my projects and my action items; enabling me to start my working day with progressing my projects and my action items.

A typical example of my day started to look as follows. As soon as I arrived in the office I started with the first action item on my whiteboard: Writing a proposal for project X. ‘Mmm, I stil need the information John promised to give me about the budget required for this, let me send him an email to remind him’. After spending 2 minutes on writing this email, I move on to the next item on my whiteboard: filling a crucial Finance role. ‘I do not seem to get enough internal applicants for this position, let me drop an email with the job specification to Anne at executive search company Z and ask if she can call me between 1–4 pm this Friday to discuss this’.

In this mode, I worked through each of my 10-15 projects on the whiteboard. Usually this took no more than 30 – 60 minutes. Once this was completed, I was able to work much more relaxed on projects and actions initiated by other people, knowing that my projects and action items had been addressed.

If you are also suffering from lack of personal effectiveness you might consider following the same strategy. Of course, you do not have to use a physical whiteboard. A piece of paper or electronic task list might do the job for you. The most important thing however is to start every working day with reviewing your tasks and your projects, not those from other people.

Is this egoistic? No!

A former colleague of mine always uses the analogy of the safety instructions on the airplane when we discuss this topic: “Before you assist others, always put your oxygen mask on first.” This is the same thing firemen do when they start fighting fires: they know their effectiveness might literally determine the fate of others, and they are well aware of the fact that effectively helping others requires them to put on their oxygen masks first. The same is true in business; most often we will be in a much better position to help others if we can give them our undivided attention, rather than to have a nagging feeling in the back of our minds that the issues we are responsible for have not adequately been addressed.

Unleash the Wimpy Kid!

illustration managing the wimpy way-1

Why I consider ‘Lost and Founder’ by Rand Fishkin to be a must read

At the beginning of my career, I managed a high profile ERP project. A couple of weeks before the go-live deadline, the customer introduced completely new requirements but did not want to shift the deadline. Needless to say, this significantly compromised the amount of time available for testing, something every available textbook warns one about. However, due to a combination of intimidating behavior of the customer, my own unwarranted optimism and lack of experience, I agreed to implement these new requirements and limit the amount of time available for testing. A decision which resulted in a rather ‘volatile’ go-live scenario which was highly visible for everyone in the company…

It is common wisdom that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. If anything, success has a tendency to make us complacent, whereas mistakes force us to take a step back, reflect on why our actions and behaviors did not work out as planned, and stimulate us to make changes in the way we approach opportunities and challenges.

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The millennials myth

Picture Article Millennials.jpg

By Dirk Verburg

When reading social media postings, business magazines and consulting firms reports, it is easy to get the impression that the number one problem organizations are wrestling with is incorporating millennials in the workplace. However, there is strong evidence that the orientation of millennials does not differ from previous generations at all.

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Focusing means saying no

Illustration Artiicle Focus

Leaders need to do three things in order to set clear priorities for their organisations

By Dirk Verburg

Most executives I know are extremely busy. It seems they always have more things to do than they have actually time for. This is probably the reason why articles, books, websites and software packages claiming to offer personal productivity solutions are more popular than ever.

Time Management Tools have a limited effect…

No matter how different these solutions are, they all have one thing in common: they force choices. Whether it is the Eisenhower Matrix, Frank Covey’s Time Matrix or Dave Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ philosophy, they all force choices between things that need to be done and things that could be done.

Many people try to implement some or all of these tools and techniques in order to try to balance their time with the items on their to-do list. However, most of them remain structurally overloaded. They continue to have more ‘need to do’ actions on their to-do list than they have time for.

…because most often it is an organizational issue

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Annual Performance Reviews RIP? No! Here are three things to fix them

Belshazzar’s feast, by Rembrandt
 ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ by Rembrandt (Based on the biblical story of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5)

By Dirk Verburg

The last couple of years it is extremely fashionable to bash annual performance reviews. A number of companies are publicly apologizing for the fact that they had them in first place, wondering aloud why they could ever have been so stupid, and demonstrate their remorse by publicly joining the ranks of the enlightened ones: those companies that abolished their annual performance review process.

In this context it is important to raise two questions, namely what the purpose of the annual performance review actually is and why it should be abolished. Continue reading