Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living In Your Calendar

I just read an article today on Harvard Business Review, thinking I might learn about a new productivity tool.  The article is called To-Do Lists Don't Work by Daniel Markovitz.

Turns out I was already following his suggested alternative, I just hadn't thought to give it a name.  I like the one he's come up with, Living In Your Calendar.  Having used this method for a few years now, I share it for your consideration. 

Here's Daniel's advice:  "The alternative to the feckless to-do list is what I call "living in your calendar." That means taking your tasks off the to-do list, estimating how much time each of them will consume, and transferring them to your calendar."  "In essence, you're making a production plan for your work."

For me, what that means is that my day, while still full, is realistic.  If the task doesn't fit, I move it to a day and time where it does.  And if something of higher priority comes up (for example, a client meeting), I move the task to a future day/time on the calendar to make room. 

  • Sanity  As I said, it makes for a realistic day.  Things don't so much move off the list as they just get done.  And I don't lose track of the rest of the work because it's already been scheduled somewhere else on the calendar.    
  • No Guilt  The to-do list always made me feel like I was starting my day with a backlog of things I "should" have bene able to cross off yesterday.  The calendar method instead follows the philosophy that there's a time and place for everything.
  • Prioritization  Since I'm scheduling, not just making a running list, I put things on the calendar in a manner that corresponds to due dates, appointments, and even best time of day for my work style. 
  • Running Time Tracker  When I look back on my week or my month, it's easy to see where I've spent my time and then I can adjust on the go-forward if I think it's not in balance with my business goals.  It can also be an easy way to keep track of accomplishments.
  • Tough Fit For The Corporate Environment  If your typical day is back-to-back meetings with other people, you'll spend too much time moving your to-do appointments around.  At best, you might be able to work them into early or late day, but even then, only if you have little to no meetings with people in other time zones.
  • Public Viewing  If others (like your team) have access to the contents on your calendar, they will also see these appointments, along with the details.  Unless the whole team has adopted this method, these appointments with yourself to do work may look to others more like free time such that they can insert themselves by calling/stopping by.  It can take a lot of discipline for you to protect these to-do appointments.
  • Harder To Delegate  If you set up to-do's as tasks (Outlook), you can delegate them.  If you set them up as appointments, you can't.  The calendar approach assumes you are the only one who can do the task, or at least that you need to be involved while it's been accomplished.
So depending on your work situation, Living Your Calendar is an approach to consider.  The small business leader, solopreneur, or senior leader with a manageable meeting schedule (perhaps, 4 hours or less per day spent in meetings) would seem like a good fit.  Corporate leaders who are already double and triple booked in meetings from morning til night, not so much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Owning Your Team's Destructive Behaviors Is Step One

My HR BFF sent me the link for a recent article on teams from TLNT, an HR blog.  It's called 10 Destructive Behaviors That Can Bring Down a Team’s Success by Deb Spicer. 
Here is the list (further descriptions can be found within the article):
  1. Power Coalitions (cliques)
  2. Piranha Factor (saboteurs)  
  3. Complacency/Status Quo
  4. Lip Service
  5. Competing Factions Within a Team
  6. Round Here Thinking
  7. Strong Silos
  8. Passive-Aggressive Behaviors
  9. Blindness to Customers
  10. Engrained “Old Culture”
Chances are you recognize these from your own experience, and could even add on a few of your own.

And while I agree that this is a good short list on destructive team behaviors, I worry that compiling it in this manner sends an unintended negative message that the team members are the the source of all problems.  In other words, "Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a leader and all the nonsense one has to deal with."  In my experience, the behavior described in that list is a direct result of past and present management capabilities, policies, and culture.
  • Was a team member rewarded by their last manager for delivering on their goals even though the manner in which they achieved it meant that another team was unable to deliver on their goals (e.g., resource hogging, refusing to collaborate)?  Knowing how a new team member was incentivized/rewarded by prior management is just as important as it is to communicate your own expectations going forward.  If it's different than they've experienced before, call attention to the difference, monitor, correct as needed, and reward when the new desired behaviors are demonstrated.    
  • Is the culture you've established for the team one of competition or collaboration?  If it's competition, expect to continue with about half of that list (cliques, silos, saboteurs, lip service, passive-aggressive, competing factions). 
  • Did the recent reorganization merge teams that had previously not worked well together with the expectation that common leadership (aka, sharing the same boss) would "fix" it?  Don't count on it.  Merging silos on an org chart does not make them go away.  It takes sustained effort with consistent messaging by the new leader to break down silos.
  • Does your team have both individual and team accountability well defined?  And if so, do you really deliver on that?  Organizations that move "problem" employees around rather than address poor performance do not uphold individual accountability.  Teams that set only individual performance goals do not have team accountability.  This is where complacency/status quo, 'round here thinking, and ingrained old culture come in.
So yes, recognize the destructive behaviors.  Then get busy understanding where they come from and determining how you're going to address them.  Whether you created or inherited the problems, you own them now.  And that's good news because these are just behaviors, and behaviors can be changed.  Own it and then change it.

Although targeted for those in HR, this website is full of great articles and webinars for leaders in any part of the organization.  Check it out at

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hire A Coach And Reach Your New Year's Goals

It's a new year.  Know how I can tell?  No, not the calendar, not the fanfare in Times Square, and not the long lines at the mall to redeem the holiday gift cards. 

I can tell it's a new year because during every commercial break on TV and radio, in every form of print advertisement, and on every banner ad, there's a message informing me that now is the time to lose weight, start a new exercise routine, join a gym, and begin that diet.  New Year's Day is the official start to the "Get Healthy" season.

It lasts about a month.

One of the ads I saw last week on TV was by Nutrisystem with Janet Jackson.  It struck me that their core message was as good as any you'll hear about what it takes to be successful in meeting your goals - weight loss or otherwise.

"You have to have a plan and then you have to get on it."

The plan tells you where you want to go, why you want to get there, how you'll get there, what the timeline is, who will be involved, what investments are needed, and how you'll measure success. 

And then you have to get going.  Or as Nike says, "Just Do It". 

A coach can help you make that plan, get moving, and reach those goals.  There are fitness coaches, career coaches, life coaches, nutrition coaches, speaking coaches, and yes, executive coaches like me who want to see you be successful. 

If you've struggled to meet your goals, you don't have to go it alone this year.  Reach out to a coach.  Even if what you're focusing on isn't their niche, coaches know other coaches, and we love to recommend and refer. 

Make your New Year's resolutions last longer than a month this year.  Add a coach to your team and see that transformation come to life.