A new era of productivity is emerging. It’s safe to say that the workplace you developed your skills in is not the same workplace you show up to everyday.
In the industrial economy of the past, model employees would work at capacity for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year—give or take some time for holidays.
That model may have worked when employees were considered nothing more than cogs in the machine—a means to a company’s ends.
But in the 21st century knowledge economy, productivity is not defined and measured as the rote completion of tasks to check off and call it a day.
Today, enterprise productivity is a flow that emerges when employees, managers, and the organization itself is optimized. It is a delicate dance of actions that uphold the highest values of your company and the people working within it.
And there are three key pillars by which enterprise organizations can increase productivity: Developing skills to maintain attention, optimizing energy for full engagement, and taking responsibility for the information you need to succeed.
That’s why, in this piece, we’ll explore how important it is to upgrade your organization’s digital infrastructure to hone employee attention. Then, we’ll show how this sets the stage for full engagement before finally bringing it all together by helping your leadership team develop a mindset that will accelerate your team’s productivity and your company’s success.
First Pillar: Attention
As we have talked about before, the traditional hierarchical authority model is dwindling. And good riddance we say!
So how then can you reduce employee distractions without imposing site blockers and watching their every move to see if they’re confirming that Tinder date for later tonight rather than staying on task?
You start by instilling a tool like One-Tab that helps employees clean up their tabs and bookmarks.
The part of your brain which processes information on your screen is constantly activated by whatever your eyes and other senses are taking in. By making this slight adjustment on decluttering your web browser, you essentially eliminate the opportunity for distraction (after consistent practice) and your attention to the task you have to complete is not compromised by hundreds of unorganized tabs and countless bookmarks you never use anyway.
Rather than imposing your internet filter on your employees, you’re empowering them to be their own gatekeepers to the information they need to succeed.
Organizing your screens is a simple but high-leverage introduction to help employees build attention without trying to command and control them.
You can implement this on a small scale with your closest team at first and gather data to see how effective it is. Have fun with it by holding a contest to see who has the most unorganized desktop and browser and how well they can clean it up using these tools at work and home.
Implement it yourself and shoot an email to the team letting them know you’re trying this out and you could use their participation to see if it works (we know it works, and we know it will work for you, but this way you’re not coming at them like “the boss” and telling them to do this).
Hold quick, 5-minute weekly check-ins to see how it’s going and what the potential is to improve focus and attention in and out of the office.
And this is only the first step towards empowering your team to reclaim their attention.
Some other tactics on how to reclaim and optimize workplace attention include:
- Try analyzing your meetings to ensure your team is making the most of their precious time and attention.
- Hold “office hours” once or twice a week where your door is open for drop-ins.
- Encourage deep focus on one task by creating structure around a team-wide chat system that allows your team to check-in at agreed specific times.
As futurist, author, inventor, architect, and overall boon to humanity Buckminster Fuller said, “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new thinking.”
An era of collaboration in the knowledge economy requires new ways of thinking and having faith that your efforts will lead to a higher order of productivity. And it starts simply, with a free browser extension, better meeting management, and some low-risk collaboration.
Read on to learn how paying attention to your energy expands productivity even more.
Second Pillar: Full Engagement
A disengaged and distracted employee is an unproductive employee. We know that now based on the last section, and have a simple tool to energize focus and attention.
According to psychologist and best-selling author Jim Loehr, “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”
And Loehr knows a thing or two about performance. From working with high-performance athletes and later with high-ranking professionals, Jim’s counter-intuitive system for high performance and overall enterprise productivity is to keep you and your employees engaged.
But what is “engagement?”
According to the author, full engagement occurs when we are “physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and… aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”
Not sure how to implement this in the office?
Start simply—get a small test group together and go over what skills in the graphic below you and your group excel at and where you and they lack. Create accountability and action steps in making a plan together on how these can be developed in the office.
Developing full engagement honors the natural energy cycle of your body and mind and allows for greater attention, focus, and productivity. Engagement occurs both during work and during renewal. Developing the practice of becoming “fully engaged or strategically disengaged” all but eliminates future shock and information overwhelm.
Employee engagement is heavily related to business outcomes. It is also related to the company creating the conditions for the employees’ and the enterprise’s inevitable success.
Both are huge in elevating productivity in the office. But only by optimizing energy in your employees and in yourself by taking breaks from the desk and screens and moving your feet, connecting with colleagues on non-work conversation, and giving your mind a rest from the information-processing it does while staring at screens does the purpose of why everybody is there align with the company’s mission and highest values.
Third Pillar: Leadership
You’re aware by now that you can’t “make” anyone do anything. Instead, you must win employees over to your way of thinking.
You must help them gain clarity on why it’s important to be productive and on-task and why organizing and decluttering screens and optimizing energy for full engagement is so important.
You must take what former Navy Seal, bestselling author, and CEO of Echelon Front Jocko Willink calls “Extreme Ownership.”
Someone is late to work? You haven’t found a way to inspire them to look forward to coming into work every day.
A job wasn’t completed on time? You didn’t explain the importance of the deadline so that they got on board.
“Millennials are entitled, lazy, and unmotivated and I don’t know what to do about it!” the media tells you. Yup, that’s on you too.
Perhaps extreme ownership is required on your part to decide if the rigid work schedule, lack of leadership on projects, and a fixed mindset about the way the world of work is changing needs an upgrade.
A strong growth mindset—the belief that abilities, intelligence, and traits can be developed in the workplace under your leadership—is vital to today’s workforce and is key to instilling ownership and leadership in your enterprise.
According to authors of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, at its essence implementing Extreme Ownership “requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”
Taking extreme ownership is more than taking responsibility for the consequences of when things don’t go as planned. Extreme ownership also means making it your mission to understand your employees and their various ways of doing things, adjusting your leadership style accordingly to increase productivity, and carrying out the company’s mission in the new knowledge economy.
Be authentic, be genuine, but overall be flexible enough to deal with and treat people as individuals who you want to see at their very best in and out of the office. And develop yourself so that you can create a culture which values attention and focus, strives to engage fully, and takes ownership for their work and their lives.
Here’s some reading we can recommend:
- On Leadership:
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman
- On Persuasion/Influence:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini
- On Emotional Intelligence:
- Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
- The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey
- Topgrading by Bradley D. Smart
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.
Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist turned CEO for the Center for Humane Technology, declares in his TED Talk: “There's nothing in your life or in our collective problems that does not require our ability to put our attention where we care about.”
Developing attention, full engagement, and leadership of your employees leads to a workplace where all are upholding the deepest values of the enterprise and unlocks the vast potential of creativity and innovation so necessary to the world of work right now.
And we believe it all starts with understanding how you’re using your valuable resources and what you can do to optimize them. To get started today for free—no risk or obligation—download our ebook How to Use Meeting Room Analytics to Design and Optimize Your Future Workplace.