INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY: STRATEGIES TO GIVE YOU AN EDGE

By James D’Ambrosio

In professional circles, August has traditionally been a time when people take vacations, have some down time, and gear up for the year ahead. Taking this a step further, there are ways nonprofit staff can use this time to plan and organize for greater efficiency.

Managing work flow takes on added importance in the midst of funding cuts, reduced resources and increased service demands. And since so many depend on the work we do — service recipients, populations we advocate for, victims of abuse and natural disasters, etc. — we owe it to them to perform with optimal efficiency.   

IDEAS TO INCREASE EFFICIENCY AND STAY FOCUSED

A.) THE YEAR IN REVIEW: Take time to reflect on accomplishments during the past year and give yourself credit. Sometimes, pressed to meet never-ending demands, we can forget about the good work we have done. Positive reflection can provide perspective and keep you moving forward. If you’re still frustrated, consider the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We all have limits.

B)THE YEAR AHEAD: Think about your goals for the coming year. What can you do to increase your chances of achieving them? For example, if you have a heavy workload — who doesn’t? — consider focusing on fewer projects and doing them really well, instead of spreading yourself too thin. While multi-tasking is a reality, quality over quantity has real benefits.    

C.) A WEEKLY PLAN: On a smaller scale, here’s something I’ve done successfully which might be of help. On Fridays, about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. as things wind down — assuming you’re not meeting a major deadline — take 30 minutes to assess/organize your work. On a sheet of paper, list all items to address the following week and keep it on your desk for reference. This reaps several benefits: 

1) On Monday morning, you’ll spend less time re-orienting to your work — you’ve got a plan right in front of you; 

2) As the week unfolds, cross off each item as it’s completed, prioritizing the most important tasks. This way, if something does fall off the shelf, it’s a less-important item;

3) With information right in front of you, it’s easier to stay focused and you’re less likely to forget intricate details which sometimes makes a BIG difference; and

4) As the week wares on and your to-do list shrinks, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and control over your work.

As you can see, I’m a strong believer in planning and organization. Too often, lack of careful thought and execution results in a frenetic rush to complete a project or meet a deadline — and that’s exactly when mistakes are most likely to occur. It also creates unnecessary stress that, if left unchecked, can lead to burnout and poor morale — two things nobody wants.

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QUESTION TO READERS: What do you think of these ideas? What has been helpful in planning and organizing your work?

EVIDENCE SUGGESTS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY

By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series focusing on emotional intelligence)

Building on last column’s overview of emotional intelligence, the following research illuminates the effectiveness of employing emotional intelligence in the workplace. For those nonprofits continually struggling for time and resources, the following information can be helpful.

In an article titled “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Why it Matters More Than Personality,” Mike Poskey, vice president at Zero Risk Human Resources, Inc., a Dallas-based human resource risk management firm specializing in hiring and retention, discusses how emotional intelligence impacts the bottom line. He notes that many organizations concentrate selection criteria and employee training on the more established  worker attributes such as technical skills, industry knowledge, education, and personality assessment. Conversely, qualitative skills — stress management, assertiveness, empathy and political and social acumen — were not measured in selecting job candidates or in training and development. Ironically, the author argues that these [emotional intelligence] skills have proven to be critical factors for success: they directly impact the bottom line.

Poskey cites research supporting his assertions:

 ♦ A study of 44 Fortune 500 companies revealed that salespeople with high levels of emotional intelligence produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores;

♦ Technical programmers rating in the top 10 percent of emotional intelligence competency developed software three times faster than those with lower scores;

♦ A recent study by a Dallas-based corporation indicated that productivity was 20 times greater among workers with higher emotional intelligence scores as compared with those scoring low in emotional intelligence; and

♦ A large hospital reduced turnover of critical-care nurses from 65 to 15 percent within 18 months of instituting an emotional intelligence screening assessment.

When examining questions many supervisors ask — Why do some people cause conflict while others are adept at resolving it? Why do people put self-interest before organizational values and objectives? Why do some employees get into more accidents than others? — Roskey again points to emotional intelligence, offering this profile of the emotionally intelligent employee:

“An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her own impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations. These employees also have empathy, remain optimistic even in the face of adversity, and are gifted at educating and persuading in a sales situation and resolving customer complaints in a customer-service role.”

Sandi Redman, an education manager at the National Telephone Cooperative Association, points to research from the Center for Creative Leadership indicating the top causes of failed leadership are associated with a lack of emotional intelligence:  a) an inability to manage change; b) inability to function well in teams; and c) a dearth of interpersonal skills. Conversely, it was found that six emotional competencies were often possessed by successful executives: influence, team leadership, organizational awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership.

Redman notes that adult workers’ level of emotional intelligence can be improved through cognitive and emotional learning, as companies worldwide are investing training resources in emotional intelligence awareness and assessments to better educate their leaders. It is emphasized that learning success hinges on four important conditions: a) commitment from top management; b) a strong plan; c) skilled trainers; and d) a good learning environment.

QUESTION TO READERS: How has your organization used emotional intelligence to improve its operations?

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