Ways I have improved my productivity

When I started working full time as a consultant, one of my goals was to improve my work-life balance. I have always worked more than the standard 40 hour work, and I desired to spend more time with family and friends.

To help achieve a better work-life balance, I have worked to improve my productivity. Some of the areas that have helped include the following:

  1. Physical activity: We know that physical activity is good for our brains. Exercise improves memory and thinking and decreases stress. I try to start the day with push ups and/or sit ups, and I find this helps me wake up, get the brain working, and immediately provides a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, I try to spend time walking during breaks throughout the day.
  2. Structured breaks: Many of us try to work longer hours to get more accomplished. This article suggests the ideal length of time to focus on a single task is 52 minutes followed by a break of 17 minutes. I find 45-60 minutes on task followed by a 10-15 minute break allows me to be very productive and mentally fresh. My breaks often involve a quick walk, reading, or a mindless task such as emptying the dishwasher.
  3. Mindfulness: My life feels constantly busy, and I find taking some time to meditate quiets my mind, sharpens focus, and relieves anxiety. Here is one of many articles about the topic. When I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, I was surprised by the high percentage of successful people he interviewed that regularly practice meditation or mindfulness (80%).
  4. Schedule time to accomplish difficult tasks: I have worked hard to schedule my time better. My best mental focus occurs early in the day, so I avoid early morning meetings and other tasks that are not very mentally demanding when possible. I strive to keep the mornings open to focus on projects that require a great deal of focus, including complicated proposals, report writing for clients, blogging, and reviewing documents.
  5. Email: Most people I talk to struggle to keep up with their email. Some have suggested that people are more productive when they skip checking email when they first get up. I try to only check email when I am in a position to respond. In addition, I schedule time for email “blitzes” to knock out a lot of email in a short period of time. Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted email time can be very productive.
  6. Stop multitasking: I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask and was often working on multiple projects all at once. Instead, I endeavor to focus on one task at a time, and I find this approach allows me to complete tasks more efficiently than before. There are numerous studies that support the negative impact of multitasking on productivity, including this review of research from the American Psychological Association.
  7. Listen to audiobooks: Reading helps me increase my knowledge base as a consultant and stay current with best practices in my industry. It can be difficult for me to have uninterrupted time to actually sit down and read. I subscribe to Audible and listen to books in the car or when I exercise. Many public libraries offer free audiobooks for cardholders. I listen to audiobooks at 1.25X speed, and I know people that can listen at even faster speeds. The increased speed helps me listen to more books, and this Audible article suggests that comprehension can improve at faster speeds.

I’m not perfect. There are some days when I am more productive than others, but I find that intentionally focusing on productivity has changed how efficiently and effectively I use my time. What boosts your productivity?

We provide leadership coaching for clients in a wide variety of industries, and the coaching is customized based on each individual client’s needs. There are times when we help clients improve their productivity and carefully focus their use of time through a leadership development plan.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Ready to learn how we can help your organization’s leadership, strategy, or creativity?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Creative Problem Solving for Congregations

Dr. Tad Dickel will provide “Creative Problem Solving for Congregations” workshops through the Center for Congregations on March 12, 2020, in Fort Wayne, Indiana and April 2, 2020, in Seymour, Indiana. The workshops will help attendees improve how they creatively approach complex problems encountered by their congregations.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

All attendees will take the Basadur Profile in advance of the workshop to better understand their preferred creative problem styles. During the workshop, attendees will learn how their styles influence their creativity and problem solving as individuals and in teams. Other topics include effective meetings, productive conversations, and team building.

The workshop will introduce ways to enhance creative thinking and apply these skills to real problems experienced by congregations. Learn more at the following link:

https://centerforcongregations.org/workshop/creative-problem-solving-congregations

Ready to learn more about how we help organizations enhance creative thinking and collaboration to solve complex problems?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Simplex Workshop in Evansville

Are you looking for a process to help you build more effective teams, improve creative thinking, enhance collaboration, and facilitate complex problem solving?

Dr. Tad Dickel will be leading Basadur Simplexity Thinking Levels 1.0 and 2.0 from September 16-18, 2020, at Innovation Pointe in Evansville, Indiana. This program has not been offered to the public in Evansville since September 2018. We hope you will reserve your spot now. 

Think about the amount of change that has occurred in the last 10-20 years. As we get access to more information through technology, we are experiencing an accelerating rate of change, and organizations need to be more creative and innovative than ever before.

Most organizations understand the importance of creativity and innovation but lack a strategy for fostering a more innovative culture. This three day workshop will give attendees a process for creatively and collaboratively working through complex problems, challenges, and opportunities. Here are descriptions of Levels 1 and 2:

Level 1: Using Applied Creativity

People who work in organizations are constantly faced with change issues and ill-structured problems. This workshop builds skills in proactively seeking out problems and opportunities and implementing creative solutions on the job. This includes understanding the nature of problems and using a process to creatively deal with them for positive change. It emphasizes working with others in harmony to discover important opportunities for improvement in both products and procedures and creating and implementing practical new ideas. Participants learn by applying the Simplexity Thinking system individually and in teams to their own work-related problems. (From basadur.com).

Level 2: Leading Applied Creativity

Participants build skills in facilitating small groups through the Simplexity Thinking process and gain a deeper grasp of the Simplexity Thinking system, preconsulting, meeting roles, phases, group dynamics and debriefing. Participants facilitate actual problem solving meetings. Not only do these skills improve the ongoing productivity of teams, but participants gain a greater understanding of Simplexity Thinking and its use in formal and informal situations. The facilitation skills learned also develop a more facilitative leadership style. Graduates can proceed toward certification as Simplexity Thinking Facilitator.

To register, go to: 

https://www.usi.edu/outreach/lifelong-learning/professional-development/simplex-10-20-solving-complex-problems/

Previous workshop attendees wrote the following reviews:

“Grateful to have gone through this valuable training.”

“The whole process was a wonderful experience .”

“I really enjoyed it and felt so much more confident at the end.”

I greatly enjoyed the workshop and its facilitators. The class style was perfect.”

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Want more information?

Leadership coaching vs. leadership conferences

When I was a high school teacher, I really enjoyed attending conferences. I learned a lot from experts in the field, networked with other professionals, and went back to work inspired to change what I was doing in the classroom. When I returned to work, I always had the best intention of applying what I had learned but often went back to my old ways of doing things. I noticed other teachers doing the same thing when I was a high school teacher, principal, and president. 

Leadership conferences and single offering workshops are popular and can provide the following benefits for attendees:

  1. Current trends and best practices in leadership
  2. Opportunities to network with presenters and other attendees
  3. Exposure to new ways of thinking or doing things
  4. Inspiration to improve

Unfortunately, many people attend conferences and workshops but do not apply what they learned back at their job. They go back to work and keep doing what they were doing before. We often know what needs to change, but we do not actually change. To illustrate this point, there are studies that indicate a high percentage of heart attack victims do not change their lifestyle factors for the long term even though they have experienced a heart attack and understand the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. While conferences and workshops have their benefits, they do not provide the follow up and accountability that most attendees need. One thing companies can do to improve employee performance is to set up a system to ensure information learned at conferences is shared with other employees. In addition, they can create leadership development plans to track how well conference or workshop content is applied on the job. 

Leadership / executive coaching is an individual experience that provides the following benefits: 

  1. Individualized leadership development plan to structure the improvement process
  2. Regular follow up and accountability to ensure new skills and behaviors are implemented
  3. Deeper awareness of leadership abilities and opportunities for improvement
  4. Opportunities to discuss leadership successes and failures with an expert to better understand what really happened

Leadership conferences and workshops are typically short term in nature, and leadership / executive coaching is an ongoing process. One off training can be affordable compared to a long term coaching engagement. However, coaching has a better chance of ensuring long term leadership growth occurs. 

There are many advantages of using a coach from outside an organization to provide objective feedback and structure for improving leadership skills. Our leadership and executive coaching projects typically begin with an assessment that helps us develop a customized leadership development plan for the coachee. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. In addition, other leadership assessments are used as needed. We recognize that behavioral change takes time. As a result, coaching projects require a minimum six month commitment to ensure follow up, progress monitoring, and time for change. Coaching can occur in person, through videoconference, or on the phone. Our goal is to build up the capacity of leaders rather than build up the leader’s dependency on the coach. 

Ready to build your leadership skills or the leadership skills of your team?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC helps organizations improve leadership effectiveness through coaching and training services. T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.

Building effective teams the Google way

We often work with clients who are trying to improve the effectiveness of their teams. Google (Rozovsky, 2015) studied effective teams and came up with the top five characteristics:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters? (para. 5)

More information can be found here.

Before we share this list with a client team, we ask them to share what they think are characteristics of effective teams. We have never had a team come up with “psychological safety.” In many organizations, it is more advantageous to play it safe than to take risks. How can we foster a sense of psychological safety within our organizations?

We encourage organizations to intentionally reward and encourage risk. Google (Rozovsky, 2015) suggests that we can improve psychological safety by having team members share a risk they have taken at the beginning of each meeting. This action prompts us to think about and discuss risk.

Divergent and convergent thinking are foundations of creativity. With divergent thinking, we strive to generate as many ideas as possible before we evaluate them. A feeling of psychological safety should help team members feel comfortable to generate more ideas with each other.

In John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters, he discusses the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system utilized by Google and many other successful organizations. Doerr describes OKRs as “a collaborative goal setting protocol for companies, teams, and individuals” (p. 6). Objectives are “what” is to be accomplished and should be “significant, concrete, action oriented, and (ideally) inspirational” (p. 7). Key Results describe “how” the Objective will be met. “Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive, yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable” (p. 7).

According to Doerr, OKRs help organizations achieve the following “superpowers”:

  1. Superpower #1: Focus and commit to priorities
  2. Superpower #2: Align and connect for teamwork
  3. Superpower #3: Track for accountability
  4. Superpower #4: Stretch for amazing

Organizations benefit from OKRs by clearly communicating priorities, aligning the efforts of teams and individuals to achieve the objectives, setting a system for tracking progress, and inspiring teams and individuals to strive for audacious goals.  

  1. How can your organization utilize Google’s effective teams research to achieve more
  2. Does your organization have a system like the OKRs to clearly communicate priorities, align efforts, track progress, and inspire teams and individuals to achieve more?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC helps organizations improve team effectiveness through coaching and training services. In addition, we work with organizations to develop goal setting systems to improve performance.

Want to learn more about developing effective teams and implementing a successful goal setting system?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

undefinedDr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer. 

Rozovsky, J. (2015, November 17). The five keys to a successful Google Team. Retrieved from https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/five-keys-to-a-successful-google-team/

Do you know an insulated leader?

We regularly provide leadership training programs and coaching to a wide variety of organizations. These different types of organizations often have similar leadership challenges. One common issue we encounter is insulated leadership which we describe as any of the following:

  1. The leader lacks awareness about how they are perceived as a leader
  2. Those around the leader do not feel comfortable being open and honest to the leader
  3. The leader is surrounded by a those who continually agree with him or her
  4. Important complaints and issues are not shared with the leader to avoid conflict and protect people

An insulated leader cannot perform as effectively as an aware and informed leader. Insulated leaders are prone to making uninformed decisions and assume the business is operating better than it is. In addition, insulated leaders can frustrate those around them which results in lower engagement, motivation, and retention of employees.

We recommend three approaches to help leaders be less insulated:

  1. Listen more: In general, leaders need to listen more than they speak. There are many organizations with employees who constantly defer to the leader. Leaders can encourage those around them to be open and honest about their leadership and to always share essential business information with him or her.
  2. 360 feedback: Leaders can gather confidential feedback through a 360 feedback process. This type of process is a good way for leaders to openly share that they want to hear from those around them. Many employees will be more open and honest if they know their feedback is confidential. 
  3. Leadership inventory comparison: There are many leadership assessments that can be used for this approach. Leaders can complete the assessment on their own and ask those around them to complete it independently. This approach allows the leader to compare their perceived performance on leadership indicators with the views of others.

After soliciting the input of others, it is important to acknowledge and thank those who participated. This is a perfect opportunity to set leadership development goals.

Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith’s book What got you here won’t get you there describes how leaders assume that their behaviors in the past will continue to result in success. One way leaders can improve their leadership is by reducing insulation and increasing awareness.

We can help you conduct a 360 feedback process and a leadership inventory. In addition, we can work with you to create a leadership development plan. We coach leaders to ensure follow up on the leadership development plan and provide needed leadership training programs.

Want to learn how we can build your organization’s leaders through effective leadership training and coaching?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Why hire a strategic planning consultant?

Strategic planning is all about ensuring the long term success of an organization. There are some organizations that successfully use internal people to lead and facilitate strategic planning, but we recommend organizations at least discuss the pros and cons of conducting the process internally vs. using an outside resource. In general, organizations hire a strategy / strategic planning consultant for one or a combination of the following reasons:

  1. Their staff lacks the time necessary to lead the process. Most organizations are already busy running day to day operations. Devoting an internal person to leading and facilitating a strategic planning process is not always realistic. A strategic planning consultant can be hired for the length of the engagement for a relatively affordable fee. 
  2. They lack familiarity with developing strategy or creating a strategic plan. Many leaders are very knowledgeable about their industry but do not have an extensive background in strategy and strategic planning. A strategic planning consultant provides expertise in strategy and has experience applying this expertise to numerous organizations.
  3. Bringing in an external party will signal the planning process is a priority. Spending is an expression of our priorities, and using a strategic planning consultant signifies to the entire organization that the process is an investment in the future. 

We like to think of strategic planning having three major phases:

  1. Gathering data
  2. Goal setting/plan development
  3. Implementing, monitoring, and modifying

Gathering data: During this phase, we gather as much relevant data as possible. Data can be quantitative such as financial information, trends, and statistics, and it can also be qualitative such as open ended feedback gathered through surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Candid feedback can sometimes be difficult to stomach, but we need this information to learn how to improve. A strategic planning consultant can be helpful during this time to develop a system for gathering quantitative and qualitative data. 

Goal setting/plan development is the time when we really need to be creative and collaborative. We recommend involving multiple people in the development of the plan to gather ideas and develop buy in. Utilizing divergent and convergent thinking skills will enhance a group’s ability to generate creative ideas that will lead to “out of the box” thinking. When strategic planning is facilitated with an internal staff person, it can be difficult for staff members to facilitate the process and provide their input. A strategic planning consultant is a neutral third party that is only in charge of the process. This allows all participants to fully participate in developing the content of the plan. 

In the third phase of strategic planning, we focus on implementing, monitoring, and modifying the plan. This phase is arguably the most difficult and time consuming aspect of strategic planning. Many organizations create a plan and struggle with the follow up. To enhance implementation, we encourage all strategic plans to include an owner who is accountable for each goal, a clear timeline for execution, identified metrics to determine when a goal has been accomplished, and a plan for regularly reviewing the plan. Multiple people can be involved with implementation teams for each goal and should receive regular progress updates. Implementation typically occurs beyond the scope of a strategic planning consultant’s contract, but we strive to help clients set up a system and process for implementation. In addition, we recommend clients consider utilizing an outside party to formally evaluate the plan on an annual basis. There may be reasons to revise the plan as new factors emerge. Having a formal review of the strategic plan creates accountability and sends a message that the plan is important.

Help your organization enhance strategic planning processes.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, creativity, and strategy in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, creativity, and strategy consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer.