Increasing Productivity

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Finding the Zone“Finding The Zone” is a concept that most athletes are familiar with, but what about CEOs? We’ve all heard the sportscaster refer to an athlete as being in “the zone,” and so my question is this: “How do you find your performance zone as a CEO?” or better yet, “How do you find and remain in the leadership zone?” What respectable chief executive wouldn’t want to function at their best more often than they currently do? Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing to be able to place yourself in the zone when needed? In today’s post I’ll provide some tips for CEOs to help them be successful in Finding the zone…

We’ve all no doubt had our individual moments in the zone. That said, I don’t know too many chief executives that wouldn’t like to find a formula that would allow them to replicate on demand their highest level of achievement, and the almost euphoric feeling associated with peak performance. While all of us have experienced the zone, some of us clearly spend more time there than others…

In fact, if you examine peak performers you’ll find that whether they’re athletes, scholars, executives, soldiers, politicians etc. they all spend more time in the zone than their counterparts who comprise the masses. They seem to have the ability to reach down and call upon something special when the steaks are at the highest. Reflect back upon your personal history and you’ll find these peak performers to have been your team captains, class presidents, mentors, and other people of influence. People who know how to frequently find the zone tend to be leaders that inspire confidence and engender credibility through their decisions and their actions.

In thinking about “the zone,” as important as finding it is, learning to stay in the zone is perhaps even more critical. So, is there really any single formula that will allow a person to find and stay in the zone? Probably not…the main reason I answer in the negative is that everyone’s definition of success or peak performance will be unique to their personal needs or situation, which makes a one size fits all formula rather difficult to apply. The above caveat being noted, if you apply the rigor of the following disciplines to your personal situation, I believe you’ll not only find the zone, but you’ll be able to stay in the zone more often than you otherwise would:

  1. Knowledge: Rarely will you find a peak performer who doesn’t either possess superior knowledge and/or understand how to access and leverage the knowledge of others. Gain a superior knowledge of your subject matter, and create strong relationships and alliances with other subject matter experts such that you have a competitive edge. It is extremely difficult to find the zone when everyone around you has better access to information and more knowledge than you do. Never stop learning…when you think you’ve learned everything you need to know look-out for the brick wall ahead as it will hurt when you crash into it…
  2. Become a Great Communicator: Nothing will help you find the zone faster than becoming an excellent communicator. While knowing what to say, when to say it and who to say it to is important, knowing how to say it is even more important. Oddly enough knowing when not to say something is perhaps the greatest evidence that you understand the art of communication. Long story short, become a master of communications in both written and oral form and you will stand out from the crowd.
  3. Authenticity: I was listening to a panel discussion last week in which two different members of the panel articulated similar positions about being your authentic self. One member simply said: “Be yourself as everyone else is already taken” and the other member chimed-in by saying: “Nobody can be as good at being you as you can…you have the market cornered on you.” By being true to your core values, understanding who you are, and knowing what makes you tick you will already be ahead of most of your peers.
  4. Passion: Authentic people are not only very real and transparent in their dealings, they are also extremely passionate about what they do. Passion often translates into a very strong purpose which in turn presents the passionate individual with clarity, energy and a relentless edge that others do not possess. Passionate people don’t quit…in fact they just plain refuse to lose. If you’re not passionate about what you do it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever find the zone much less stay in the zone.
  5. Prioritize and Focus: There is an old saying which states that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” If you allow yourself to be distracted your efforts will be less than your best, and your results will be diluted. Your authenticity and your passion will make your priorities clear. It is much easier for the passionate to focus on the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. It is difficult to find a passionate person who is not extremely focused.
  6. Breakout of comfort zones: If you think about comfort zones as danger zones you’ll be less likely to be derailed by apathy & complacency. Peak performers are rarely satisfied with the status quo…They are the change agents and innovators who turn the unthinkable and unattainable into reality. Mario Andretti once said that “if everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” If you want to find the zone more often be disruptive, challenge everything, fly in the face of conventional thinking, and push the envelope. Greatness is never found in the comfort of mediocrity.
  7. Who You Know Matters: Build a strong, diverse and loyal network. Much has been written of late about ROR (Return on Relationships) and all of it in my opinion is true. In today’s complex global economy, long gone are the days of the person who stands alone. Your true strength resides in your ability leverage your network to bring influence to bear on critical issues when needed. If you are not constantly building and improving your network you are making a huge mistake.

If you focus on the points listed above your chances of both finding and staying in the zone will increase measurably. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or tips about increasing performance by commenting below…

Productivity for CEOs

By, Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Understanding how to maximize CEO productivity becomes even more critical during recessionary times. Oddly enough, when it comes to productivity at the C-suite, many CEOs tend to struggle with determining what constitutes highest and best use of their time.  It has been my experience that all CEOs, regardless of tenure or ability, tend to find themselves conflicted with this issue at some point in time. Clearly everyone on the org chart deals with this same issue, however it is infinitely more complicated for the chief executive. In today’s post I’ll provide some thoughts about how to maximize the use of your time while removing some of the more typical internal decisioning conflicts…

One of the root issues that most CEOs need to address when coming to grips with improving their productivity is the fact that most of them don’t have a job description. In fact, out of the CEOs I’ve worked with over the years, only about 10% of them actually had formal job descriptions when I first started working with them.  There appears to be an unwritten rule for CEOs that goes something like this…by the time someone reaches the esteemed position of CEO they automatically know what to do, always having the right answer to any and all problems. The truth of the matter is that CEOs have a greater need for a job description than any other employee within the company. 

A good CEO wouldn’t allow other members of their executive team, management team, or staff to operate without a job description. So I ask you, why then, when the CEO has more responsibility, more accountability to a greater number of constituencies, and ultimately more at risk than other employees, do they not take the time to clearly define their duties, responsibilities, obligations, and performance expectations? There is no real pat answer to this question, but rather the reasons underlying the answers consist of a convoluted combination of arrogance, over-confidence, laziness, confusion, and ignorance. 

The CEO job description is certainly the shortest job description on record, and frankly a rather a simple one: To ethically increase shareholder equity. The problem therein lies in decisioning how a CEO should go about accomplishing that task. CEOs are constantly faced with deciding between strategy and tactics, vision and mission, leadership and management, internal vs. external communications, branding vs. advertising, marketing vs. sales, talent vs. resources, and on-and-on. Further complicating these matters is that great CEOs need to touch on all these points (see a previous post entitled “Contextual Thinking“) in order to get the job done.

While one person clearly cannot do it all, the CEO also cannot abdicate responsibility. On one end of the spectrum, many CEOs either misunderstand the difference between ultimate responsibility and day-to-day responsibility, or on the other end of the spectrum, they cannot or will not accept responsibility for anything at all. The truly great CEOs clearly understand their role and are masters of execution. They realize the influence they possess, and the powerful impact that their decisions and actions have both internally and externally. They neither take on too much responsibility, nor do they ignore their responsibility.

I have always believed that the role of CEO is first and foremost to be a leader. It is the CEO’s job to provide leadership based upon a clearly articulated vision and a well defined strategy. Priority number two is team building and talent management. If the vision and strategy are clearly articulated, and people are hired, mentored, and developed based on a values based leadership model, then you will develop an outstanding corporate culture where innovation and performance become the rule and not the exception. One of the main keys to generating organizational leverage is for chief executives to know when, where and why to deploy (or redeploy) talent and resources. It has been my experience that it is much easier to recruit talent or acquire resources than it is to properly deploy talent and allocate resources. 

The successful CEO understands that they are responsible for vision, mission, strategy, culture and talent management, and that executives and management are responsible for objectives, goals, tactics and process. Great companies are focused, collaborative, and innovative which only happens in an organization created and led by talented chief executives.      

How Productive Are You?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

How Productive Are You?” Let’s face it, productivity is the standard by which most of us are judged in the business world. At the end of the day, in most business environments, your destiny is likely to come down to a “what have you done for me lately” type of evaluation. My question to you is this…Are you as productive as you think you are, or even as productive as you used to be? Would your co-workers agree with your assessment? In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts about any number of different things that can adversely affect your ability to produce, as well as some of the key items that can leverage your ability to optimize productivity. 

Even though entrepreneurs and executives are typically bright, talented, and motivated people known for being highly productive, studies have shown that most professionals, when objectively assessed, are found to view themselves as being more productive than they really are. This is even true with the classic over-achieving type “A” personalities. So, what separates the productive from the non-productive? In working with countless CEOs and entrepreneurs, it has been my experience that those professionals who like to cover a lot of ground, and consider themselves masters of multi-tasking, are not nearly as productive as those who have an ability to focus (see previous post entitled “The Power of Focus“).

Okay, let’s examine an all too common scenario: You have 30 minutes before the beginning of a strategy meeting which you are facilitating, and as you start to prepare your final thoughts you receive an e-mail from legal asking you to review the latest version of an important contract before you go into the meeting. As you begin to redline the contract you receive an IM from a board member asking for your immediate attention on a key issue. As you start to respond to the board member, your assistant informs you that an important client is on the phone and needs to speak with you immediately…As you begin to take the phone call you glance out your window only to see a small line forming outside your door, and just then your Blackberry goes-off with a 911 from your spouse…

The sad part about the aforementioned illustration is that for many executives this is standard operating procedure. The pressure to become a multi-tasking phenom is in my opinion at the root of a decline in executive productivity. Multi-tasking in my opinion is choosing to deal with perceived “urgent” matters rather than focusing on truly “important” matters. My father once told me that “part-time efforts yield part-time results” and I have found that with rare exception his premise is correct.

In the scenario presented above it is likely that this fictional executive would not have been properly prepared for his/her meeting, missed a key business point in reviewing the contract, sent the board member an indiscernible IM full of typos, upset the important client by not giving him/her the deserved amount of respect and attention, frustrated the employees lined-up outside the door, and more than likely would have ended-up sleeping on the couch because he/she forgot to return their spouse’s phone call.

It is impossible to kind-of, sort-of, almost, focus and still be productive. If you find yourself constantly multi-tasking you are exhibiting a lack of focus, an inability to prioritize, and regardless of what you might think, you are not optimizing your productivity. The first step in dealing with an addiction is to recognize it exists in the first place. Technology can be a beautiful thing but only if you learn to be its master and not its slave. Without question the most successful executives I know are the ones that can prioritize, delegate, focus, and who understand the difference between a productive “no” and an unproductive “yes”.  Learning to stop trying to be all things to all people while attempting to single handedly conquer the world is what will help lead you toward a certainty of execution and an increase in productivity.