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  • Writer's pictureAmy

Productivity Potential

Wow!  I don’t think I could possibly come up with a more boring title.  However, one of my coworkers challenged me to be more positive and the title “You’ve Screwed My Productivity Because You Hate Your Job” seemed too negative.  Let’s move on to the meat of the blog.

I posit that corporate productivity is the sum of individual productivity.  I know.  I know.  You are probably saying aggregate individual productivity produces a slight exponential result and, until recently, I would agree.  But we would all be wrong.  Every company has employees who produce more (or better) than average and those who actively work to crush excellence.  This is a reality and reality follows the bell curve.  So, these employees sit on the left and right tails of a bell shaped distribution.  Corporate excellence comes from shortening the left (lazy) tail and lengthening the right (star employee) tail.

Bell Shaped Distribution - You are on the long tail

Bell Shaped Distribution – You are on the long tail

Productivity is a popular topic and something companies try to measure.  We measure it in wickets produced, customers served, and avoidance of cost, spoilage, scrap, and rework.  Just the other day I mentioned how hard it was to be productive when directions are ineffectively communicated.  I had to rework the product three times.

Additionally, productivity is a measure.  I emphasize measure because, in order to measure something, there must be a baseline.  How are your baselines established?  Is it based on the people in the middle of the bell curve or those toward the left?  Is it an average of ‘how we’ve produced in the past’?  If so, I hope you didn’t have a bunch of idiots working during that time because you are probably shooting low and stunting your corporate potential.

Lets look at individual productivity and lengthening the right side of the distribution.  Individual productivity is affected by a ton of factors; really too many to chat about in this particular blog.  Today, we will focus on enthusiasm for the task.

I hate volume work and it is hard to be enthused about producing anything in volume.  If you want to punish me, have me produce wickets … all … day … long.  I had a job like that once.  There was no end result and I didn’t see a purpose.  So, I did what any sane employee would do; I caused trouble by finishing my tasks before everyone else (probably because I didn’t pay super close attention to detail) and walked around asking if I could help on other projects.  This worked to my advantage for two reasons; (1) no one wanted the boss to know it only took 4 hours to finish everything for the day and (2) supervisors started giving me projects they didn’t want to finish.  Voila!  Volume work shifted to someone who truly loves repetition (and did a WAY better job than me) and I got to sink my teeth into a project that others had been avoiding like the plague.

There are times, though, when you love your job but have to interact with another stakeholder, whom we will call Pete, who hates his job. You work tirelessly to produce an awe-inspiring deliverable. You put on your best cheerleader face when you talk with Pete but it really only serves to make him more resistant. Pete is chronically late with input, has ZERO attention to detail, and then totally disappears the day before feedback is due. Guess what? Your productivity potential is on the LEFT side of the distribution. You could be the savior of the corporation but you will fail because Pete is an albatross around your neck.

Learning how to motivate the ‘Petes’ of your world will go a long way to increasing your productivity potential.  Not all ‘Petes’ like Rah-Rah cheerleaders in their life.  I, for one, am not motivated by ‘Atta Boys’ and ‘You Can Do Its’.  If you want me to step up, frame the issue almost like there is ​no possible solution​ and then ask me if I can help.  Heck yeah!  I got this!  And if all else fails, throw money at me.

What is the point of this blog (other than a place to vent)?  It’s a time to realize four things.

1. Your individual productivity potential is framed by many factors and one is your level of enthusiasm for the task. Your potential is also heavily influenced by the enthusiasm of other stakeholders. Therefore, you can always make yourself feel better by blaming someone else if your productivity is lacking. I am TOTALLY doing that at this very moment.

2. If you work with Pete, try minimizing your reliance on him. He cannot be the gatekeeper for all information. There is probably someone else who has similar abilities to provide the data. If Pete is the only gatekeeper, I’m sorry. Mainly because I’ve been in your shoes. It sucks.

3. If you work with Pete, try getting to know him. Grit your teeth for the first 20 visits. It will get better with time. The purpose of getting to know Pete is to find out specifically what he hates about his job. It could, literally, be your request for information. Maybe he wants you to tag someone else but doesn’t want to look like he is doing work-judo. See if there is a way around your impasse. If nothing else, you build rapport and he feels like you “get him”.  He might be less of a jerk if he has a connection with you.

4. If YOU are Pete, try to either adjust your work or find another job that you love. Why should you be miserable for the rest of your life doing a job you hate? And, more importantly, why are you making MY life miserable?  As a side note, ALWAYS make sure you have an awesome job waiting for you before you leap. Don’t quit your job with no Plan B or with the hope that you won’t starve to death. That is not real life.

I am actively looking for realistic advice (see how I qualified my request?).  How do you deal with the Petes of the world?

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