What separates the best performing workplaces from those that remain middle-of-the-road?

It’s just one single word: productivity. The top-performing organizations all understand how to generate and maintain a high level of productivity within their workforces. It all goes straight to the bottom line.

In a perfect world all employees would arrive at their jobs with a fully realized, finely tuned sense of how to manage their time and energy. But none of us live in that perfect world, we live in a world where employees tend to rise and fall according to the expectations and practices set by their employers. If you want a highly efficient and effective workforce, here are some pitfalls to avoid.

  1. Chasing fires to put out instead of prioritizing work

Without setting at least one clear, measurable and actionable goal a day, your employees will spend hours solving unimportant “emergencies” and completing minor tasks whose resolution amounts to nothing. Coach your employees and co-workers on goal setting and managing their priorities.

2. Focusing on prevention instead of creation

When setting goals, it’s always better to set proactive goals (actions focusing on building something new) instead of reactive goals (actions focusing on preventing something “bad” from happening).

3. Running your business on negative energy.

Whether your organization runs on positive or negative juice depends a lot on your attitude….Provide employees with abundant reinforcement and positivity.

All organizations run on one form of energy or another, and whether your organization runs on positive or negative juice depends a lot on your attitude. Instead of fueling your employees with fear, anxiousness, and intimidation, provide them with abundant reinforcement and positivity.

4. Allowing your employees to check their email constantly.

Constant email checking drains employees’ time and distracts your workforce from focusing fully on their tasks. Create set times when your employees are allowed to send and receive emails, and hold firm to these boundaries. And follow that practice yourself.

5. Setting the wrong expectations for checking email

Checking email at a time when no action can be taken saps energy and creates stress. Without setting expectations, you risk incessant email checking. Giving permission for breaks in the email action can enable focused work. The best times to check email are those times when the information contained in your employees’ inboxes will lead to them taking productive action. For most organizations, that means five times in a day is more than enough. Morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, end of day.

6. Negatively acknowledging social networking

Your employees will find a way to scratch their social networking itch throughout the day, even if you try to block these sites on work computers. Instead of forbidding these sites and forcing your employees to seek clever, time-consuming alternatives, simply create set times when Facebook, Twitter and their kin are allowed.

7. Aiming for perfection

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.
Employees who aim for a “perfect” outcomes are simply wasting their time. As long as you’re clear about what an acceptable outcome looks like your employees should focus on achieving their specific goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, instead of striving for an unnecessary, and often impossible, level of achievement. I like to say, “strive for excellence, not perfection.”

8. Not tracking results to Identify truly important tasks

Nothing kills employee productivity like pursuing tasks, clients and priorities that don’t contribute to what matters most to your organization. By tracking the results of every task you give your employees you’ll begin to only assign them those tasks that are worth their time and energy.

9. Treating the workday like a marathon
Humans operate on what are called “ultradian rhythms,” 90-120 minute stretches of time where they experience sustained levels of high performance. Once one of these 90-120 minute cycles ends, focus plummets and high performance becomes impossible. Instead of expecting your employees to power through the day, acknowledge and enable breaks in line with their natural rhythms.

10. Forgetting the “big picture”

Ultimately, an employee is only as productive as they are connected to their organization’s highest goals. Without the exhilarating, empowering feeling a strong sense of purpose provides, no employee can sustain their productivity for very long. When you keep the big picture present and alive, it will enable their motivation and sense of purpose. The football coach who wins the Super Bowl doesn’t mention that goal only once in a season, does he?

Extreme productivity is a business advantage. Knowing what traps to avoid can give you the strategies for what to promote and reward.

How does your business rate on each one of these? And what will you do about it?