In business, it’s a common saying that “your most important asset is your team” – but whilst we may value the team very highly, it’s also common to value employee performance only what they contribute to work. “Whatever you do in your own time is up to you, as long as you get results at work,” is often the mantra.
Well I’m not alright with that.
If a team member is struggling at home with their own problems, but keeping it together at work, then that’s not alright. If someone is achieving great things at home and getting just enough done in the office to keep everyone happy, then that’s not alright either. If work is just something that you do to pay the bills, then maybe it is alright just to do what’s needed and keep home life separate. But for most people, work takes up a lot of their waking hours, and it’s not alright just to be getting by – so why should employers think that it is?
No limits to help and support
I don’t advocate getting into people’s private business, but why limit the help and support and training that you give your team to only their work tasks and skills? For my part, I’ve achieved huge steps forward in my own life, professional and otherwise, by really getting on top of planning, motivation and focus, and the idea of keeping these benefits to myself is just daft.
I want my team to be successful not just in the projects that I give them but in every activity that they choose for themselves and every project that they take on.
To that end, I’ve been doing some work with my team over the last 12 weeks to try and bring some of the rigour and focus that we apply in our professional careers to their broader lives. The results have been remarkable. There are lots of techniques that folks use to increase focus and get more done, from the full-on Getting Things Done methodology (big learning curve) to the meditative Tai Chi.
I’ve struck a balance between the spiritual and the practical and opted to share the daily and weekly practice of the BestSelfJournal. I tried this journal myself at the end of last year and was impressed with the positive change that I got out of the practices that it promotes.
In short, the journal encourages the user to set out one to three goals, break them down into the daily steps that are necessary to achieve them and review their progress weekly for course corrections. The goals can be work related or not, the important thing is the daily practice. So what happened when I handed over three journals to my three team leaders and said “go for it”?
Well, one took to it quickly, one took a while, and one is still needing a nudge from me even now. It’s not for everyone this self-improvement thing – at least not in this form. They have each found that the idea of setting a target and taking daily steps towards it is fundamentally helpful. It really helps them get meaningful progress towards their objectives, specifically:
- Setting up a daily practice makes it clear that you are yourself responsible for making that happen, and so I’ve seen the team grow more tenacious at chasing others and following through to get results
- Revisiting your goals daily really helps focus and helps you stop getting pulled off down rabbit holes which just suck time away
- Looking at longer term goals is great at encouraging people to think long term about where they are going in their careers and what they need to do to get there
Of course there are challenges too, it’s quite a heavy physical thing to carry around, it can be a bit of a self-conscious thing to do, and if you’re already organised about your tasks then there’s a certain amount of doubling up on stuff you’ve already written (or typed) somewhere.
But overall it does work. In the last three months, each of my team leaders has improved their professional work, moving their projects faster, keeping a tighter focus, and communicating better.
But the really remarkable thing is what has happened outside of work. One of my team leaders has taken a decision about where they’re going to be living and is well into the process of making that work. One has branched out in his photography and is taking amazing pictures and has even sold one, while another has started a meet-up group on a topic they’re passionate about that.
If I can take action in my team to make them not only more effective in work, but more ambitious, happier and successful in their lives, I hope that’s a lesson that can be shared.
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