While there are many great things about working in an office with other people, the office can also be the scene of a lot of wasted time. From gossip to inter-office personality conflicts, too much time is spent on redundancies and activities that add nothing to the bottom line. Try these eight strategies for getting your employees focused and back on track:
1. Have a daily huddle.
My huddles are rapid-fire, stand-up meetings in which I outline our team's primary objectives for the day, taking the time to address any potential challenges. They’re not discussion-based; they’re solely for the transmission of essential information. I’ve found that this daily 10-minute check-in keeps my team focused and ensures that we’re all on the same page, working hard toward the same goals. Any team member who has problems or individual challenges brings those to my attention after the meeting so we don’t waste the group’s time on minor matters.
2. Manage conflict.
Politics and personality conflicts happen—they’re unavoidable, but they are manageable. Keep an eye out for conflicts among employees so you can address little problems before they can develop into big ones. Be diplomatic, take the lead on the resolution, solve the problem and move on.
3. Terminate chronic problems.
The 80-20 rule works in so many instances, and conflict is certainly one of them: 20 percent of your staff will cause 80 percent of your trouble. You can confront the problem, and if an employee persists in stirring up trouble, consider letting that employee go. To keep trouble at bay, you may need to clean house and move on.
4. Maintain 360-degree communication.
Maybe you’re the problem. If you can constantly solicit feedback on your performance and the support that your staff needs from you, then you may be better able to make changes before minor issues get out of hand. Listen to your employees, and try to make sure you’re being reasonable and supportive.
5. The right people, doing well, the right way.
Every one of us has innate talents and limitations. Take the time to study the way your office and your staff work, and try to make sure you have people working to their strengths rather than struggling to overcome their weaknesses. Simply reshuffling your employees to the tasks that suit them best can have huge effects on productivity.
6. Trust your employees.
If you’re constantly besieged by tons of questions from employees who are afraid to proceed without your OK, then it might be that the stakes are too high in your office. Acknowledging that mistakes will happen can help, as can affording your staff the opportunity to fix those mistakes. Empower your employees, and they may be able to operate with more confidence and authority.
7. Give your employees a sense of ownership.
If your team sees a personal benefit from the profitability of your company, they’re far more likely to work hard for your success because it’s their success, too. Offering your employees a percentage of the profits—whether it’s phantom equity or a profit-sharing plan—can turn time wasters into efficiency experts. Bonus tip: Include information about your company’s health in your daily huddle for a reminder of what’s at stake for all of you.
8. Praise your staff publicly.
Think hard about the good behaviors you want to reinforce, and dole out liberal, public praise to those employees who are already performing those activities. The other side of this tactic is that you need to ensure you’re not unconsciously reinforcing undesirable behavior. It took me awhile to realize that one of my chief interrupters at the office simply wanted some attention, and when I invited him to sit down in my office, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Now I make sure I praise the great work he does, but when he interrupts me, I keep the interaction brief. He gets what he needs (attention) in other ways, and I get to go back to work quicker.
One last word of advice for a productive day: Provide a fun work environment, and give your staff breaks to help them re-energize. At my office, we have "library hours" from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s quiet time—we don’t chitchat, we don’t forward email jokes, we work. But during break time, you might find us around a basketball hoop, blowing off steam and giving our minds and bodies a break so that when we buckle down, we’re ready to be focused and productive.
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This article was originally published on November 7, 2014.