Creating a productive culture within your business

Jürg Widmer Probst

Creating a productive culture within your business

jurg widmer probst

We live in a world in which productivity is big business. From to-do list apps to productivity gurus, from bestselling books and processes, to TED talks and conferences – they’re all dedicated to the ongoing challenge of how we can get more and more out of our daily lives. But what does it all mean for our companies and the teams we lead? How do we create a more productive culture within our own businesses? Here are our thoughts on how the challenge of creating a more productive culture might be overcome.

  1. Understand what productivity actually looks like for your team

Our starting point for this process is simple – but that doesn’t mean that it is easy, or that you should skip over it. The common denominator in most productivity methods – whether you’re a follower of the ‘Big Rocks’ approach or you’re dedicated to mono-tasking – is to have clear goals. It sounds blindingly obvious, but going through the process of creating and being very clear about what you want to achieve is actually incredibly easy to overlook in your rush to greater efficiency and productivity.

What do we mean by this? Well, a daily morning meeting might seem like a great idea on paper – an efficient and yes, productive, way to get everyone together, to let them all know what they’re doing that day, and to set the tone for the day. But before you commit to something like this, it’s crucial to think about goals. What are you actually trying to achieve with the regular meeting? While having this kind of regimented daily communication might seem like a good idea, is it actually helping more people to get more things done? Or is the meeting actually using up valuable time and taking people away from more productive tasks that would actually get you closer to the goals you’ve set for everyone? Is there a better way to still keep everyone informed, but just without the meeting?

  1. Create productive habits

Another common characteristic of many approaches to improving productivity is the need to develop good habits. Habits are a fundamentally human activity – they are our default behaviours, and they can take a long time both to build up and to break.

Habits can be destructive to team spirit and productivity – for example the habit of consistently missing deadlines – or they can also be incredibly positive. Our point here is to simply identify what those good productivity habits might be for your team and to then do everything you can to both share these good habits and to embed them into the broader processes of your team.

For example, someone may be great at always actively listening to other people and then taking those views into account in their solutions to problems – and so it’s your job as a leader to make sure that this kind of behaviour is encouraged and replicated throughout your organisation, and that everyone sees and understands the clear benefit of working in this way. The key, we believe, is in showing people not that these kind of things are just ‘good’ ways of working – but rather that they actually add value to what you do as a business, and increase your productivity as a team.

  1. Reward and recognise.

Clearly, reward and recognition is one of the best ways to do this. If there is one feeling even more satisfying than working hard and achieving a goal, it is being recognised by others for it. And, conversely, there are few things more demoralising and disheartening than not being recognised properly for the productive work you’ve done.

This insight we have is backed up by the numbers too – research by shows that the top 20 per cent of companies who did a great job of recognising their people had a remarkable 31 per cent fewer people who wanted to leave their business.

That’s nearly a third – a substantial group of people who have decided to stay with a business simply because they feel valued. Imagine that those people might be among some of your most talented and productive people, and you’ll quickly understand the value of simply saying ‘well done’ properly.

So, creating a productive culture in your business is achievable – but it needs constant work. Good habits need to be reinforced with recognition, and everyone needs to have a clear idea of how every single thing that they do is both productive and valuable, as you work together towards your goals.

Jürg Widmer Probst 

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