In the UK, it seems that we are obsessed with hard work. The phrase “hard working families” is used in politics like a mantra to conjure up images of virtue and responsibility, while the standard business small talk question seems to be “are you busy?”. As a nation we certainly don’t work the longest hours in Europe (that honour goes to the Greeks!) but we are mid way up the pack and in some business sectors, long working weeks are the norm. Lessons from Scandinavia might suggest that our hard working ways might actually be hurting our productivity rather than boosting it.
A decade ago, Toyota’s Swedish service centre experimented with a 6-hour working day and they discovered that productivity and profitability actually went up. Since then, various organisations have been doing extensive trials of shorter working hours, with a view to making a 30-hour week the national norm. What they have discovered is that if you have clear ground rules in place about cutting out activities that are non-productive, then shorter days can be more effective as you are fresher and more focused on what you are there to do. You are working smarter – not harder.
Hard work is of course hard to measure, but one metric that is well used is simply time spent in the office. You know the idea: “Bob is a hard worker, he is here before everyone else and usually the last to leave!” The question, however, is time at work always synonymous with productive work?
Imagine for a second your working week, and try to map out all of the things that effectively waste your time. I am guessing, but they might include:
Imagine then that you replaced this with time at home or out of the office. Fill in the gaps for your self – you could be with your family, playing sport, walking in the woods – whatever.
The Swedish experience suggests that taking time away from work to enjoy these things will actually increase your effectiveness when you are there. If it that easy, then why aren’t we all doing it? Simple – most of us are desperate to keep up the appearance of hard work for fear of being branded as slackers.
So what is the answer? Maybe it is time to care less about what people think and care more about the quality of the work that we actually do. The Swedish research shows that by getting work life balance right you can be healthier, happier and achieve more. What’s not to like?
We work with leaders to help them focus on what is important in their roles and to form the habits that will drive success. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.
Depending on your priorities, the current slump in the oil price could be good news! Fuel at a little over £1.00 a litre, for example, feels pretty good.
If you are actually working in the industry, however, the positives are scarcer than hen’s teeth. The one exception is the idea of businesses being “fit at $50 (or even $40)”. This is the idea that if organisations can get their act together to be viable in a downturn, then when things pick up they will be laughing. The good news for us at Wild Thinking is that clients who want to be “fit at $50” really do need to work smarter and that’s where we can help!
Summer is firmly upon us. You only need to look out of the window for evidence of this. OK, so dependent on your locale this maybe easier to recognise in some places rather than others.
Regardless, though, of the day’s weather as you read this, it won’t stop the annual hopes that you actually see your fair share of nice days. Allowing you to get out of the workplace and enjoy some pleasant time outdoors.
A successful business often sees one singular person at the top, who accepts the plaudits and kudos, rarely the whole team. Though it would be incredibly unusual for that individual not to be supported by a less recognised, but equally dedicated group of individuals behind the scenes keeping the whole thing on track.
In this way tennis and indeed any top level solo sport is very similar to the companies we all work for.
Corporate mission and vision statements sometimes get a bad press. Sure, poor ones can be clichéd, vague and overly long. Most successful organisations in the world have them, however, so what is not to like?
The challenge is to develop a mission and vision statement that people really connect with and feel that they own. At their best, the statement should be the compass that gives a workforce direction and a clear sense of purpose. At their worst, however, they can be little more than designed-by-committee platitudes that rarely emerge from some forgotten corporate file.
Success comes from thinking differently, seeing opportunities further down the line and building strategies for the future. Most importantly, it is about making sure that your people are up for the challenge, motivated and always looking for the next opportunity to improve performance.
Let’s imagine, your playing Fantasy Football and you get the chance to design your ultimate dream team. Do you go for broke and pick 11 of the world’s greatest strikers? Of course not: your goal would be wide open. You need to field the right balance of players that excel in different positions – players that understand their strengths and can play together brilliantly.
Nothing stays static. Markets shift, customer expectations change and employee expectations evolve. If leaders want to continue to deliver high performance in the long term, then they have to be constantly checking their course and trimming their sales to stay on course. In an environment driven by short-term results, it takes discipline to step back and look at the bigger picture. The long-term rewards are well worth the effort.
We coach a number of leaders and leadership teams who want to see their organisations sustain a high level of performance. We encourage them to take time out on a regular basis, where we ask them some BIG questions. Doing this can make a huge difference to keeping things on track.
The questions aren’t complicated, but they do help leaders to focus on the really important things that they can do to help sustain performance in the long term:
It stands to reason that the happier and more engaged your workforce is the better the results they will deliver.
Achieving a high performance culture in your business will not happen by accident. It takes conscious effort to both create and maintain, but never fear, help is at hand.
Here are Wild Thinking’s 3 easy steps to get you going: