Coaching my clients new levels of workplace performance is my favorite thing about what I do. Sometimes it's hard, but hearing what they say afterward makes it all worth it:

Clearly, I wasn't working as efficiently as I could have.  Now, I'm creating greater results, with less effort

I had no idea such basic shifts in the way that I think about my work and how I use my tools could have such a profound impact on my performance, and my life. Thank you!

The last time my inbox was this empty was 5 years ago -- on my first day of work as CTO

I feel so much better about my work.

Sometimes, though, I run into something puzzling. After coaching a busy executive and hearing them express (over several weeks) the immense relief it's brought them, I'll bring up the subject of training the rest of their team.

Sometimes, they'll hesitate, then say, "I'm not sure they need this as much as I do . . ."

This used to stump me. I've seen my client's teams, and usually they're just as overwhelmed as the executives they answer to. My clients have gotten clear, lasting relief, so bringing the same to their team seems like a no-brainer to me. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone were so effective? Why not train the rest of the team?

Building people instead of buying them

Here's my philosophy on coaching: when I hire someone, I want to get their full value. To do that, they have to grow; to grow, they have to be fed.

That's why it boggles my mind when companies invest in the latest systems and tools for their employees, then refuse to invest in training them. The team is left to flail about and figure it out for themselves, always struggling just to survive in their job: overwhelmed, over-stressed, overwrought, and overboard.

As an employer, I don't want my people working that way. I want them to be effective, confident, executive, and efficient. Of course, I could simply hire someone with all the skills I want, but those tend to be very rare and very expensive; besides, they may still be unfamiliar with my tools and processes.

Honestly, I'd rather build my people.

One employee, then and now

A few years ago, I hired an intern, a recent college graduate new to the workplace. When I hired him, he knew relatively little about effective self-management and knowledge work. Most of his experience had been with someone else telling him what to do and how. He wasn't a "knowledge worker."

Now, though, he is an executive: maybe not yet in title, but in what he's capable of achieving.

He didn't get there by osmosis. I've trained him myself over time.

I could have spent my time on other activities. I could have let him sit with his current skill set and simply answer emails and do clerk-work. I could have been content to not get the full value of his potential—but I wasn't.

I chose to unleash his potential, for his benefit and mine, by investing in and training him.

Has it been worth it? I'd certainly say so.

This isn't my first time, either: I've repeated this many times, with many people over the past 30 years, and gotten tremendous value as a result.

Get the value

Maybe that's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. You hire someone to create value for you. Even if they come in with skills, at the minimum they need to learn how to work with you and your organization to create value.

"Value" can be measured in a number of ways:
- How quickly you get things done
- How much of your effort is directed towards the right things to do
- How confident and focused you are at work
- The speed and precision of your decisions
- Your ability to quickly process inputs and recalibrate

The job of you and your team, together, is to create value (all of the above and more) for the organization. So the question again is: what if you grew value in them?

But what if you lose them?

A senior manager once told Zig Ziglar that he didn't want to waste money training his people only to have them leave. Zig's response was, "The only thing worse than training someone and losing them, is not training them and keeping them."

I take the same view. You can train your people and make them more effective, confident, executive, and efficient . . . or, you can simply stay at your current accomplishment level. Think about it.

There's more to the story of the young intern I hired. I knew from the start that our time together was limited—a year or two, at best. So why would I invest so much in him?

Again, because I wanted to build value in him, for as long as I have him. I know it's been better for him and me.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that coaching and training work, and my clients and I have seen it work hundreds of times. This includes training I've given, received, and seen others give and receive. Some of my clients have even gone out of their way to measure how well it works (ask me for the impact report from PUMA).

I've seen people become more confident, relaxed, de-stressed, in-control, effective, and efficient after only a few hours of training. I've even come back to those people weeks or months later and found they're still working effectively. In most cases, they've even built on what they've learned and moved beyond it!

I've had the privilege of working with some forward-thinking managers and executives who've chosen to invest in their people. Because of that, they and their teams have gotten far more value out of their work. Most of them aren't using any more time or energy than they were before, but they're still getting much more done and much more effectively.

The client's decision . . .

To me, the decision to train people and build their value is unmistakably clear. It was clear for my client as well: once he saw the value, he decided to extend the training to other members of his team, and greatly appreciated the benefit of it.

. . . and yours

So will you be the manager that doesn't invest in training their people, leaving them to work with their current skills until they leave you?—Or, will you invest in them and get the value of their full potential for as long as they stay? The choice is yours.

When you're ready to invest in your people and get greater value in return, give me a call. I can help.

I sometimes hear the question, "Why should I invest in the tools my people have? We're getting a shiny new tool in a year." To me, what they're really saying is: "Our people are using dull tools now, but that's ok, because in a year they're going to get another, shinier, set of tools, which may or may not be better."

Here's a practical application: I was recently talking with a client about expanding eProductivity usage at his company. He wasn't sure he wanted to, because, he said, "I've heard our company is switching from Notes to Outlook in the next year."

I responded, "Ok; let me ask you, then: would you like your people to get things done at their current level for that time, then reduce that level as you switch?— Or, would you rather get a proven productivity benefit within days, then enjoy that benefit for the next year, and give your people skills and habits to use with any tools?"

Look at this way: if your employees' job was to cut boards, but they were using dull saws, would you leave them well enough alone for a year?

Carpe annum (seize the year)

Whether you're going to be using your current tools (e.g., IBM Notes) for a short or long time, it's good to consider how much value you're getting from them. In most cases, it's not hard to sharpen the saw to get incredible value.

"Value" can be measured in a number of ways:
- How quickly you get things done
- How much of your effort is directed towards the right things to get done
- How confident and focused you are at work
- The speed and precision of your decisions
- Your ability to quickly process inputs and recalibrate

The fact is, the jobs of you and your team are more complicated than cutting boards. Your job, together, is to create value (all of the above and more) for the organization. So the question again is: what if you could use a tool now, with minimal investment, that's designed to make all of this easier?

what if you could make your current tools even easier to use and more productive with minimal investment and effort?
what if you could use a tool that's designed to make all of this easier?

The only thing worse . . .

A senior manager once told Zig Ziglar that he didn't want to waste money training his people only to have them leave. Zig's response was, "The only thing worse than training someone and losing them, is not training them and keeping them."

I take the same view on giving people good tools now. The only thing worse than giving them great tools and losing them, is not giving them great tools and keeping your current level of accomplishment. You can stay there, or get better.

The bottom line

My clients and I have seen eProductivity work hundreds of times. Some of them have even gone out of their way to measure how well it works (ask me for the impact report from PUMA).

I've seen people become more confident, relaxed, de-stressed, in-control, effective, and efficient after only a few weeks (or days) of using it. I've even come back to those people weeks or months later and found they're still working effectively. In some cases, they've even built on what they've learned and moved beyond it!

I've had the privilege of working with some forward-thinking managers and executives who've chosen to help their people. Because of that, they and their teams have gotten more from their systems and learned to think differently about how they work— and they know that what they've learned can be applied to the future to create greater value, no matter what tools they're using.

The client's decision

To me, the decision to give people great tools now and get the most from them is unmistakably clear. It was for my client as well: he decided to expand eProductivity among his people, and he considered it an investment.

He knew it would immediately boost his team's productivity for as long as they were using it. He knew the switch to Outlook may or may not come, but he wasn't deterred from investing in his people by improving their toolkit and skills.

His time, place, position, needs, and team were not unique, and this was his decision. What's yours?

When you're ready to invest in your tools and get greater value in return, give me a call. I can help.



Recently, a coaching client asked me for some recommendations for paper-based resources that would help him implement "Getting Things Done."

I coach executives and professionals who use a variety of systems and tools. No matter how elaborate your systems, I find it's always helpful to have at least a few physical tools: solid reminders of ideas and tasks can be extremely helpful. Plus, the physical act of writing can help your memory and creative thinking.

In light of this, I recommended that he consider the following for his personal GTD system, all of which I've found helpful:

  • GTD system folders: I use these as my filing system away from the office
  • Large zip pouch: This helps keep the folders tidy
  • Notetaker Wallet: This lets me quickly and conveniently capture ideas anywhere. It's important to have this capability, whether you use the wallet or something else
  • Paper organizer: A PDF-format organizer that you can edit or print
Disclaimer: I don't benefit from the sales of these products: these links are provided solely as helpful resources for your consideration.

I was scanning the job board of a client that I serve and found this embedded in the description for an employment position:
Image:So much for starting a job productively (or sanely) 

I would expect this in a job listing for a juggler at a circus, not for a desk job. This is a position for a knowledge worker—someone who "thinks" for a living.

Thinking to create value requires concentration. Concentration requires focus. Both require minimizing distraction both from internal sources (e.g. multitasking) and external (interruptions, distractions). That's just how the mind works most effectively.

In my personal knowledge and information management (PKIM) seminars and workshops, I teach that focus is what you shut in and concentration is what you shut out. These are essentials skills and powerful tools for any worker.

So why would you set up a work environment that makes these things more difficult?

I realize that the HR person who wrote (and misspelled) that description was probably only trying to cover themselves, but I see this all too often.  It still makes me wonder: when will leadership and management get the fact that it takes concentration to create value?

I recently found two especially interesting things in my feed reader. One was Volker Weber's post on "How to empty the Trash in IBMverse.com" (especially the comments on it). The other was Nathan Paul's post on IBMers who are concerned about being switched to Verse and losing their current way to work — saying things like "it would be catastrophic."

It's been very interesting, watching the reactions to the "new way to work" unfold.

Read Nathan's post here.

I'm curious: for you, what would truly constitute a "new way to work?" What would be the result of it? What would a product have to do or be to enable a truly new way to work?