PRO­DUC­TIV­ITY IS ABOUT CHANG­ING HABITS

If we want a cul­ture that lifts our pro­duc­tiv­ity and mo­ti­va­tion, then we need to look at the habits that shape that cul­ture, many of which are counter to what we say the cul­ture and val­ues of our or­gan­i­sa­tion are, Ali Tocker tells Jane McCar­roll.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - Jane McCar­roll is the strate­gic part­ner­ship lead for the Skills Group in­clud­ing IMNZ, The In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment New Zealand, help­ing lead­ers stand up and lead since 1946.

If we want a cul­ture that lifts our pro­duc­tiv­ity and mo­ti­va­tion, then we need to look at the habits that shape that cul­ture, many of which are counter to what we say the cul­ture and val­ues of our or­gan­i­sa­tion are, Ali Tocker tells Jane McCar­roll.

Ihad the plea­sure of catch­ing up with Ali Tocker from Tocker As­so­ci­ates re­cently. Tocker is a new mem­ber of the Skills fam­ily too, and it spe­cialises in lead­er­ship devel­op­ment and all as­pects of strate­gic plan­ning and have been sup­port­ing work­place teams, lead­ers and man­agers in New Zealand since 1997.

When or­gan­i­sa­tions are at their best there’s a high de­gree of align­ment of where they’re go­ing and peo­ple feel com­fort­able in their skills to de­liver that.

And as we close out on an­other dy­namic year, I asked Ali her views on build­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and her top tips that we can take into our roles to hit the ground run­ning in 2019.

Ali told me that we hear or­gan­i­sa­tions talk a lot about how to be pro­duc­tive, to in­crease ef­fi­ciency we need to get peo­ple to work to­gether.

“We talk an enor­mous amount about get­ting the cul­ture right. We know that cul­ture plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in pro­duc­tiv­ity, but I think it is a prob­lem­atic word.

“Cul­ture is some­thing deeply per­sonal, that is cre­ated over time, in con­text and as a re­sponse to the things that hap­pen to us and around us. It is a de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing thing, and when or­gan­i­sa­tions say they want to ‘work on the cul­ture’, they are re­ally say­ing that the way peo­ple are be­hav­ing isn’t work­ing.

“This is when things get tricky. Who sets the rules on what works in a cul­ture? Who gets to de­cide on cul­ture? Of­ten the peo­ple we in­volve in these con­ver­sa­tions don’t share all they might be­cause this is a process of judge­ment – we have looked at the cul­ture and found some­thing lack­ing.

“These con­ver­sa­tions of­ten put us in a po­si­tion of us and them – the peo­ple who dis­play the ‘right’ cul­ture, and those who don’t. And what does that say about each of us?

“Peo­ple hold tightly to their own cul­ture, even when it doesn’t have a spe­cific name or de­scrip­tion. We like to do things in a way that fits with who we think we are, and of­ten our cul­ture is in­vis­i­ble to us.

“When we talk about chang­ing or adapt­ing a cul­ture, we are ask­ing peo­ple to re­con­sider who they are at their core, which can put the best of us on edge and into a re­ac­tive mind­set. ‘Why should I change when it’s you who doesn’t re­spond to me on time?’ In­stead, I think we need to talk about habits – a far eas­ier thing to re­con­sider and some­thing we know we can change. This might sound like se­man­tics, but there is a key dif­fer­ence.

“Stud­ies show that about 40 per­cent of what we do ev­ery day is a habit. We don’t think about it, we just do it. I’ve never met any­one who doesn’t have a habit they are in­ter­ested in chang­ing in some way.

“Ask peo­ple if they want to change a cou­ple of their habits around how they work and they’re pretty open to the idea. Ask them if they want to change their per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion to the cul­ture and you’ll get a very dif­fer­ent re­sponse. Poor cul­ture is al­most al­ways about what the oth­ers’ are, and aren’t, do­ing – not about us, so it’s not our prob­lem to solve, right?

“So, when I think about pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness, in­stead of cul­ture, I think about the habits I have that move me to­wards and away from these things.

“For ex­am­ple, when we want to be­come more pro­duc­tive, think­ing about to­day’s to-do list rather than the years’ goals be­comes an eas­ier choice – pro­duc­tiv­ity can be gained by cre­at­ing or ad­just­ing my daily habits that help me fo­cus on the real pri­or­i­ties at hand. I can use these habits to pro­pel me for­ward.

“When we want lead­er­ship that gets ac­tual, last­ing re­sults, we can choose to cre­ate habits that con­nect us to the im­pact of our work (this connection to the out­come is one of the big­gest pre­dic­tors of mo­ti­va­tion for peo­ple – the fur­ther we are from see­ing how what we do makes a dif­fer­ence to peo­ple, the lower mo­ti­va­tion is likely to be).

“I could cre­ate a habit of check­ing in with my team once a week around the ques­tion ‘who did we sup­port or make a dif­fer­ence to this week?’ It might sound like a soft topic, but ac­tu­ally, it’s a con­ver­sa­tion likely to in­crease mo­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“If we want a cul­ture that lifts our pro­duc­tiv­ity and mo­ti­va­tion, then we need to look at the habits that shape that cul­ture, many of which are counter to what we say the cul­ture and val­ues of our or­gan­i­sa­tion are.

“How many times have you seen the posters on the wall about cre­at­ing a cul­ture based on in­no­va­tion or be­ing trusted ad­vi­sors, and then thought to your­self ‘but that’s not what ac­tu­ally hap­pens around here’?

“We might say that we have a cul­ture of look­ing out for peo­ple, but have a clear habit of recog­nis­ing and re­ward­ing in­di­vid­u­als who work 12-hour days to get the work done. If we were se­ri­ous about look­ing out for peo­ple in our cul­ture, wouldn’t we cre­ate a habit of recog­nis­ing those peo­ple who man­age time and en­ergy well and have great bal­ance?

“Do we have a habit of com­plain­ing about other teams when we don’t get what we need from them, or do we have a habit of sit­ting down with them and talk­ing through what else could work?

“These habits are op­por­tu­ni­ties to shape or­gan­i­sa­tions and for ev­ery­one to take a lead in that.

“We can build habits that chal­lenge us to be open minded and try new things; we can build habits that sharpen our fo­cus on what ac­tu­ally mat­ters, and we can build habits that help us to take a wider, more con­nected per­spec­tive of get­ting great work done.

“Or we can com­plain about hav­ing poor cul­ture and won­der why we have re­duced pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“Lead­er­ship re­quires con­stant acts of courage. The courage to chal­lenge and change habits in our­selves, our team and our or­gan­i­sa­tions that are hin­der­ing our col­lec­tive suc­cess. These con­ver­sa­tions take time, but chang­ing habits is re­ally a mat­ter of con­cen­trat­ing our ef­forts to­wards what we think mat­ters.

“Our habits cre­ate our cul­ture, which im­pacts our pro­duc­tiv­ity. We can spend a bunch of time cre­at­ing posters about our cul­ture, or we can get to work on the habits that sup­port it. We can start cre­at­ing these habits any­time we like.”

It was great to spend some time with Ali and her team at Tocker As­so­ci­ates.

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