Want to increase your at-work energy? Here are ten caffeine-free actions guaranteed to boost your presence and productivity.
1. Mix with different people. Step away from your immediate work area — and into a new work unit, floor, or department. Meet, greet, and learn what these other folks do.
2. Get up and move. Not long ago, most jobs involved standing, walking, and moving around. In today’s knowledge-worker world, not so much. Do your body a favor and take active breaks every day.
3. Do things differently. A little change can shake you up in an energy-building way. Start your day with something different. Change the order of your activities. Take a new approach with an old work task. Stop going through motions that have lost their meaning.
4. Lend a hand. We all need help now and then. Tune in to your colleagues, and step forward whenever your skills, expertise, and empathy might make a difference.
5. Visit with your customers. Maybe your job puts you in contact with the people you serve. If not, then find them, spend time with them, listen, and learn. When you see how people benefit from your work, you’ll feel a surge of energy.
6. Tell success stories. Did someone go the extra mile for a customer? Did an unsung workplace hero help someone meet a tough deadline? Did a creative colleague come up with a big idea? Watch for good news and spread it around.
7. Learn with others. Attend a learning session with a co-worker. Start a book group. Circulate that timely work-related article to team members. Make learning an everyday priority.
8. Be a coach. Don’t diminish your skills and expertise. There’s a lot you know that others need to know, so please be a generous teacher.
9. Make it better. Do your work processes show room for improvement? Then get busy with colleagues to analyze and strategize. But be ready to break from the past while you break apart those old ways of doing things.
10. Take on a big challenge. Stretch your skills on a new project. Take that big idea you’ve had for months now and be the one who gets it started. By expending energy in a positive way, you’ll get much more in return.
By Tom Terez • Contact
When you encounter a problem that’s easily solved, you solve it, right?
You probably said yes. I’d say yes too. Most people think of themselves as problem solvers.
But what about our actions? Are we actually solving problems — especially little ones — or are we mostly thinking about them, talking about them with colleagues, and wringing our hands?
These questions came through loud and clear for me at a recent conference.
When sound problems kept the people in the back of the ballroom from hearing the keynote speaker, a few of them spoke up about ten minutes into the presentation. An audio tech fiddled with some controls, the speaker adjusted the microphone, and the sound quality improved slightly. But the people in back still couldn’t hear without straining.
The folks in the front reported better sound quality, and seats were available. So guess how many people moved from the back to the front?
Out of about one hundred people struggling with suboptimal sound, 3% took matters into their own hands to solve the problem.
As for the 97%, perhaps they figured that the audio tech would eventually work a miracle. Perhaps they expected the speaker to switch from the clip-on microphone to the one with a cord. Or maybe they were so settled into their seats that they stayed put by default.
Keep this story in mind as your week unfolds, because you’re likely to face similar situations in which problems arise and solutions are within easy reach.
Will you count on someone else to effect a fix, will you submit to inertia, will you complain to yourself or to a colleague? Or will you work out a solution right there and then?
By Tom Terez • Contact
If a face can launch a thousand ships, can it also kill a thousand ideas?
My guess is yes.
Some time ago, my work path crossed with someone we’ll call Helen. She seemed plenty nice, but whenever she heard an idea that didn’t fit her way of thinking, she’d say so with her face.
Her lips would tighten. Her mouth would twist to one side. Her eyebrows would knit together. Sometimes her head would tilt.
Without any words, Helen seemed to be saying: Your idea stinks.
When she went on to speak, her words often matched her expression. She would begin with skepticism.
I can’t say that Helen sunk a thousand ideas – I wasn’t keeping count. But she sunk some of mine, and she kept other ideas from setting sail. I became so intent on avoiding her negative expression that I stopped coming forward with new ideas.
The whole experience got me thinking about the signals I might be sending. It reminded me to turn up my self-awareness.
Facial expressions are like pictures – they’re worth a thousand words. Let’s use them for good.
By Tom Terez • Contact
A friend of mine contends that great jobs boil down to three things: praise, perks, and pay. The more you get, the better things are.
It’s an appealingly simple formula — but it’s woefully incomplete.
I’ve spent years exploring what matters most to people at work, and I know that praise, perks, and pay are important. The degree of importance varies from person to person, but it’s nice to get that external validation every now and then. Plus, there are bills to be paid.
But there’s much more to the “great jobs” equation. Let’s call these additional factors the five C’s.
One of them is job content. As management guru Peter Drucker used to say, if you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do. As much as possible, jobs should be designed so people can use their talents and strengths while seeing real results.
Unfortunately, many people are told exactly how to do their jobs, with little if any leeway. This takes us to the second factor: choice. When people can make their own choices and decisions to shape how they do their work, their engagement and enjoyment go way up.
The third and fourth C’s are related: collaboration and community.
When people can freely team up and help each other as the workday unfolds, it’s like getting additional brainpower. Over time, collaboration turns into community. Both factors affirm that we are human beings, not human doings. The social aspects of work are a big deal.
The fifth C might be the most important of all: caring. In great workplaces, people care about their customers. Co-workers care about each other. Bosses care about the people they manage, and vice versa. When people truly care, they show concern and strive to help others succeed, even when the people who benefit are not their close friends.
Don’t get me wrong, the three P’s are essential: praise (let’s call it genuine appreciation), perks, and pay.
So are the five C’s: content, choice, collaboration, community, and caring.
Add them up and you get workplace nirvana. It’s that simple — and that challenging.
By Tom Terez • Contact
Day after day, Bill sticks to his work routine like few people can. Co-workers tease him for his same-time arrival and departure each day, but they mean it as a compliment. They’re awed by his ability to do the same job over and over with little comment, no complaints, and consistently high quality. Says a co-worker: “The guy’s a machine.”
This is good, right?
To a point.
It’s easy to love the solid work ethic, predictable performance, and steady productivity. But too much self-enforced routine can move the mind to autopilot and render a person’s creative powers pretty much useless. That positive predictability can become a groove that turns into a rut that keeps Bill from ever seeing new ways of doing things that could produce better results.
Call it too much of a good thing. When a strength is overused and used exclusively, it can become a liability.
Look around and you’ll see plenty of examples.
That skillful analyst who revels in data and spreadsheets? She brings objectivity to the decision-making process, which is great. But she often gets stuck in an endless loop of over-analysis. She seeks data and only data for every decision — even for decisions that call for experience, intuition, and anecdotal information.
That creative type who’s always coming up with new ideas? He’s energy personified, and his presence adds spark to every meeting. That’s fantastic. But with his creativity running full tilt all the time, he zooms past the part where you’re supposed to focus on just one idea, develop it in detail, and get it going. The ideas keep coming, but nothing gains traction.
Responsible Robert? He ends up taking on so much work that he can’t do any of it well. Organized Olivia? She’s so organized that she’s one file folder away from being a control freak. Empathetic Edward? He spends so much time listening to people and their problems that he’s worn out.
What about your greatest strengths? Are you using one of them so constantly and exclusively that you’ve taken it to its counterproductive extreme?
If the answer is yes, here’s great news: As soon as you ease back on that one overused strength, you’ll give all of your other strengths more room to step forward and go to work.
By Tom Terez • Contact