How to improve productivity? What’s happening in your organization?

Editor’s note: Donald Thompson, serial entrepreneur and investor, writes an exclusive column on leadership, equality, entrepreneurship and management. His messages are published on Wednesdays.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – In my 20 years of leadership, I’ve discovered that productivity is the skill most closely tied to achieving goals. As leaders, it’s essential that we model productive behavior while teaching others the best ways to achieve meaningful results quickly, efficiently, and consistently.

How a person manages their time is critical not only to their own success, but also to their career growth and personal development. Knowing the right things to work on, in the right order, is an important part of each person’s ability to become a leader in the organization. If someone cannot effectively manage their own time, they are highly unlikely to be able to manage a team’s performance and priorities.

Donald Thompson

In my experience, top performers achieve high quality business results by spending their time in the most productive way possible and pushing forward despite distractions and obstacles. This means approaching the job with a list of high-priority items and a method to get the most out of your time. It means blocking out time for what’s important, so you’re not perpetually distracted by what’s urgent.

If you’re a senior manager, here are the productivity skills you should teach your team to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. And if you’re a professional moving up the leadership ladder, here’s what you need to know to cut through the noise and focus on what moves the needle.


At live events, Stephen R. Covey, the productivity mastermind behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, used to perform this powerful demonstration of why it is essential that we organize our priorities if we are ever going to get things done. The demonstration related to his basic productivity rule of “Put first things first.”

In it, he gave someone a large glass container, which represents a limited time, and a large number of large and small rocks for the person to insert inside. The big rocks are the things that really matter. Small rocks are things that seem urgent or distracting. If you add the small stones to the container first, the large ones will not fit. But if you put the big stuff in first – if you make time for the things that really matter – the little stuff always falls through the cracks.

Make time to sit down every week, quarter and year to determine what things will really get things done for you, both personally and professionally. What three things are you responsible for that are really important? What things should be eliminated or delegated to others? To help you decide, follow my best practices for effective delegation.


At an organization-wide level, when determining your priorities, you must first know your annual strategic objectives. Then break things down into 90-day increments and review your to-do list weekly to make sure everything is running smoothly.

This mapping of weekly, quarterly, and annual goals is critical to success. For those who know Gino Wickman Traction book and Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), your 90-day goals are your “quarterly rocks.” Whether they are goals for the organization or goals for your personal and professional growth, once you have them written down, go ahead and share them with key players in your network who will hold you accountable. of your success.

Quarterly goals take advantage of our natural human attention span of up to three months, creating a sense of focus for you and your team. By naming them out loud, you link productivity with accountability to ensure success. As Matthew Abrams explains in Forbeswhen designing your accountability structure, “Getting feedback. Are they the right rocks? Are they aligned with the larger goals? Are they specific? Can you measure them in yes/no mode? Are they 80% achievable? That’s nice to lay stretched boulders, but given that most of our lives are busy, we tend to push the limits.Especially in the early trimesters, it’s good to set the bar a little lower.


If you know me, you know I have a high tolerance for failure. As long as I’m failing and learning from the process, it’s okay if one of my brilliant ideas turns out to be a flop. But of course, you don’t want too many flops in a row, because that means you’re not learning fast enough and applying what you’ve learned to mitigate future risk.

From a leadership perspective, how do you know which ideas are worth testing and which are just distractions from your overall productivity? Ask yourself these four questions. First of all, if we add this offer, what is the impact? Second, if done right, is it a market differentiator? Third, are we able to run this independently? And fourth, what is the cost of researching and building an initial roadmap for this project?

Don’t stifle innovation or productivity by focusing on why something can’t be done. Instead, encourage your team to find creative ways to save time for innovation and don’t let excuses derail their productivity or creativity.


Spending time with unproductive people will also make you unproductive. It’s easier and more fun to mentor people who get their energy from challenges, so build your team with people who like to solve problems and won’t let obstacles get in the way. When these high performers work effectively and efficiently, you all benefit from increased productivity.

Look for reliable people who are ready to grow and who aren’t afraid to push issues forward quickly. surround yourself with people who have big ideas and the confidence to really push the boundaries. That way, you know you’ll be pushing each other toward greater productivity.

Remember that productivity is an ongoing practice. As leaders, what productivity requires is that we constantly embrace our own personal development, regularly review and update our own priorities, and also teach our teams the best ways to approach their work.

About the Author

Donald Thompson is co-founder and CEO of The diversity movement which offers a suite of employee experience products that personalizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) through data, technology and expert-curated content. Their microlearning platform, Microvideos by The Diversity Movementwas recently named one of the “World Changing Ideas 2022.” With two decades of experience growing and leading businesses, Donald is a thought leader on achieving goals, influencing company culture and driving exponential growth. An entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach, Donald is also a board member of several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. . His autobiography, Underrated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, is available for pre-order now. Connect or follow him on LinkedIn to learn more.

More from Donald Thompson:

Exec insight: how to lead innovation from concept to commercialization

Donald Thompson: Talking Entrepreneurial Capital, Retention and Belonging with Jim Sills of M&F Bank

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