What’s killing your productivity?

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Business growth is important to success, so when a business owner notices a backward slide in productivity, alarm bells start ringing.


When it comes to business productivity it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problems are. So many things can influence a business owner’s and team’s productivity which is why it’s important to assess whether a small business is unproductive or if other factors (like market conditions) are affecting their success and growth.


Knowing what is killing your business productivity is the key to getting back on track. It’s important to regularly assess whether you and your team are having issues of underperformance and identify their root causes. Doing this ensures that you’re consistently  accomplishing high-quality tasks and projects in as little time as possible.


Managing your productivity well reduces bottlenecks in operations and maximises your time, freeing you up to develop different areas in your business for continued growth. 


Being productive is also great for staff satisfaction and staff retention. Creating a sense of accomplishment and pride within the team boosts morale and inspires each individual to perform at the highest level. This will have positive impacts on your customer relationships because your staff will have trust in the brand and communicate this in their work. Customers also find satisfaction in the return of high quality projects on time.


A big part of efficiency comes in the appropriate delegation of tasks. As a small business owner I’m sure you would love to handle every aspect of the business in person. However, it’s important to build up your team’s skill, ability, and confidence through work assignments and independent performance. When your staff are productive, they can help you build your brand, meet deadlines and sales targets, and achieve bigger business goals.


When staff are unproductive it can create a savage cycle of increased procrastination, complaints, and management stress as you and other members of your team have to pick up the slack.

3 signs you and your team are unproductive


It’s important to read the warning signs early so you can find suitable fixes to any unproductive areas in your business. Here are three indicators that a business owner (and their team) may be unproductive in the workplace:

1. You procrastinate


Procrastination is constantly putting off important tasks, even while you’re aware of closing deadlines. As well as a sign of unproductivity, it can also be caused by a lack of delegation or improper delegation. 


Business owners may find procrastination is rooted in feeling overwhelmed about your never-ending to-do list. That’s why it’s important to delegate and brainstorm solutions with your team so you don’t have to carry the burden of growing a business yourself.


Keep in mind that you and every staff member in your business have different strengths and weaknesses. If you keep assigning work they’re not good at or passionate about, they’re more likely to underperform. The best way to maximise everyone’s potential is to delegate tasks that work with a team member’s strengths and improve their weaknesses, while challenging them to grow.


There may also be deeper causes for procrastinating. You may be feeling demoralised about tackling one grueling project after another with no end or reward in sight. Make sure you and your team set mini goals and celebrate the small wins you accomplish everyday so you’re consistently boosting each other up. 


Remember that your energy can affect your success and the morale of others so it’s crucial that you cultivate a positive and productive energy in the workplace that your team members can emulate.

2. You encounter recurring issues 


A productive business will have repeatable processes which allows you and your team to address issues effectively with minimal disruption.


If you’re constantly tackling the same issues with the same amount of effort and difficulty, it indicates you are applying ineffective solutions (or that you haven’t established any in the first place). When all your resources are focused on putting out fires instead of achieving your goals it can lead to you and your team becoming unproductive.


Be proactive in identifying the causes of your recurrent problems and in establishing solutions so that you and your staff can get on with business as usual.

3. You don’t communicate


Miscommunication can negatively impact you and your entire team’s productivity. It can cause misunderstandings or misalignments within the group and result in project delays or even failures.


Here are some of the types of miscommunication seen in the workplace:


  • Unclear expectations - When you assign tasks to your team members, make sure you discuss your goals and success metrics so that you’re both on the same page.
  • Finger-pointing - Rather than lay blame, encourage your staff to be accountable by being understanding and fair when problems occur. 
  • Silence - No communication allows bad behaviour to continue and for ongoing issues to fester. Find ways to clearly talk about issues that arise so they can be cleared up and everyone can move forward.
  • Unconstructive feedback - Balance your criticisms with encouragement and praise so that it motivates your team to perform better. When you offer criticism, also provide solutions, or assist your team in turning the situation into a learning experience.


Being a straight-shooting business owner in your communications helps you become an aspirational leader and dependable boss. 


Share your business vision with your team, discuss plans of action in achieving your goals, and check in on those goals for correction and celebration. Actively listen to what your staff has to say so that they feel included and valued in your business.

Two things that are killing your productivity


What we tell ourselves and what we do influence how productive we are. Here are two ways that your thoughts and actions can be impacting  unproductivity for you and your staff.

1. Getting easily distracted


Multitasking seems like a great way to become more efficient and productive, but that’s actually a myth. Our brains can only process one given activity at a time. You may be able to read a book while listening to classical music, but it’s harder to read when you’re also listening to a song with lyrics, as you’re processing words in text and audio.


Your brain is constantly switching gears when you’re multitasking. This is why answering emails and messages on communication channels, like Slack, while you are working on a project can negatively impact your productivity. It’s a distraction because your focus drops every time you shift your attention between different tasks.


Running a business can be overwhelming since you’re handling different areas simultaneously, which is why you need to manage your time effectively. Rather than doing multiple tasks at the same time, structure time blocks in your day where you dedicate your focus to complete just one task (e.g. sending emails, contacting leads, following up with staff, etc.). This way, you can create a focused work flow and lessen the strain and time wasting of constantly switching tasks.

2. Too focused on deadlines


Objectively, a due date is an unchangeable time slot. It’s an external factor that doesn’t necessarily take into account other tasks and responsibilities or the needs of your team.


The truth is, you don’t need hard deadlines to be productive. More often than not, deadlines can increase unproductivity because you have a tendency to rush and produce second-rate work, while missing out on developing innovative ideas. The stress of missing those deadlines can have negative effects on your mental health, too.


When you consistently assess and understand the impact of your tasks, you can stop using deadlines as a crutch to become accountable and productive.

Why you need to prioritise based on impact (not on deadlines)


Being productive is not just about doing the work that needs to be done, it’s also about understanding the value of what you’re doing. This helps you make smarter decisions in prioritising and accomplishing tasks.


Creating deadlines isn’t the only way to deal with unproductive staff. It’s better to help them see the bigger picture of the project in terms of the impact it will make to the business and even to themselves. When they understand the importance of their tasks and, by extension, the importance of their role in your business, they become more motivated and productive.


In my experience as a business coach, I’ve developed three steps in assessing the impact of a task:


  1. Identify who else is involved in this project. Am I the only one involved or will other members of my team need to contribute?
  2. Evaluate the Return Of Investment of the project. How will my business and my team benefit from completing this project?
  3. Look at the deadline. What timeframe do I have to accomplish the project?


Instead of creating projects around deadlines, I prioritise tasks based on the impact my team and I can make with it. This prevents me from procrastinating because I fully understand the importance of the project. This type of prioritisation also ensures that my team avoids working up until the last minute, because they’re motivated in making an impact.


Identifying underperformance in your small business can be challenging because it demands deep reflection on issues that you may be the cause of. It can be hard to admit that the hindering factor that’s preventing you from achieving your goals is you. But once you start addressing the things that are killing your productivity and put practices in place that make a happy and motivated workforce, you and your team can maximise your potential in your business and move forward.


If you need more support in boosting your team’s productivity, book a call with us today.

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