In 2016, we get an extra day to be productive (among other things) as we synchronize our calendar with the 365 1/4 days it takes the earth to circle the sun. The 'Leap' year supposedly gets its name because all days after February 29th effectively leap over their usual progression day and onto the next one. For example, in 2014 Independence Day fell on Friday, in 2015 it was Saturday BUT in 2016, it will leap over Sunday and be on Monday.
So with the science and history lesson now complete, let's think about how we can utilize that extra day AND the 365 others to become better colleagues, peers, and leaders.
Use time wisely—yours and your colleagues
Renowned Leadership and Engagement expert Kevin Kruse points out in his new book that, unlike health, money, friends, etc..., you "can never lose time and get it back again. You can't spend time and earn more of it. You can't buy it, rent it, or borrow it."
- Instead of lofty resolutions and wish lists, set definitive and measurable goals.
- Have a schedule of how you are going to achieve each goal rather than just winging it. Plan the work and then work the plan.
- Forget multi-tasking. Seriously, it's a cute little buzzword from the 80s/90s that can reduce productivity by 40 percent (Try spelling your name out loud while writing, "I LOVE ZESTY SPAGHETTI" and you'll see what I mean.)
- Instead, prioritize and work on a particular task up to a point where you have finished, or you can cleanly stop and move to something else.
- Keep meetings brief and to a minimum.
- Always aim to finish in less than 30 minutes rather than adopting the "Let's block off an hour for this" mindset. Include only necessary people on emails and if an email exchange becomes a back-and-forth dialogue nip it in the bud quickly.
Encourage Feedback – giving and receiving
Make this the year you and your team embrace the concept of giving and receiving proactive feedback.
Without feedback, people will work on their assumptions of how they are performing to meet business needs – and that can be as an employee or manager. Today's workforce wants feedback, advice and to be assured they are doing the right thing. The trick, however, is not simply to be honest but to be honest skillfully.
- When you're giving feedback, talk about solutions rather than problems. Discuss how you want things to be rather than dwell on the past, what has happened, or who said what to whom.
- When receiving feedback, show that you appreciate it by problem-solving on the issues rather than attempt to justify, blame or criticize. Be approachable and have time for people's questions, concerns, and suggestions.
- When giving or receiving, invite the other party to talk about their needs by asking something like "What do you need from me?" Non-verbal traits are important so remember to make eye contact, match the energy, feelings and tone of voice of the other party and keep an open posture.
Managers who think that being blunt and 'brutally honest' with their employees is a good tactic are doing harm as they will quickly alienate the workforce who will be very reluctant to bring any issues or suggestions to them.
Ask for feedback on how you gave or received the feedback.....and then think about that for a minute.
Manage Differences—channel them for success
When Stephen Covey first wrote, "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities" even he couldn't have imaged how important the statement would be in today's multi-faceted world.
Just like the end-user of your products or services, the employees within the organization have a wide variety of business-centric ideas, perspectives and behaviors. When people do not recognize the validity of other opinions, viewpoints or mannerisms it can cause inefficiencies, dysfunction and may potentially escalate to conflict. However, when effectively managed, differences can be harnessed and nurtured into a collaborative culture for the better good of the team, department and business as a whole.
Help your team get to know each other, find out what is important to them and how they like to work. Encourage employees to challenge, debate and disagree–but only in a constructive manner. It is OK to be different, but it is not OK to be dysfunctional.
Champion feedback as a powerful business tool that is not simply a top-down effort but one that goes up, down and sideways throughout the organization. Encourage all team members to diffuse a potential situation early and not resort to argument and conflict. For example, if your employee states that something won't work, re-frame the resistance by asking, "what do you think it would take to make it viable?"
OK, so one extra day may not make a huge difference. But if you put a definitive objective and plan together to address just these three items above you will build a culture of openness and an organization where people feel valued.
And that is worth making a leadership leap of faith.
This article was initially written for TalentCuture and was first published on their site on February 10 2016