3 Conversations to Inspire Productivity

When I have a task in front of me that’s not my sweet spot or it’s going to be hard, I avoid it. Not with procrastination but with being busy. In college, my house was never cleaner than the week that I had to write that final paper. The entire afternoon was set aside for a project that’s not my favorite and it was my most productive afternoon for everything on my list BUT that project. 

We all have to do things we don’t love. My tendency is to step up and get the project done. However, if my avoiding behaviors start affecting my deadlines and my ability to deliver on what I said I would do, then it’s time for a conversation. And, it might not be the kind of conversation you expect. 

When it comes to working with others there are several dimensions that impact the ability to get things done … unclear expectations, competing priorities, a lack of resources etc. Certainly, at times, it’s important to directly address unmet timelines or other productivity issues.  In other situations you might  try one of the  three conversations outlined below that explore what might be happening below the surface and through this dialogue uncover elements that can reignite productivity. 

The Connection Conversation 

Productivity is not just about getting the job done. It’s about having fun and being fulfilled in the process of doing the job whether it’s at work, or in volunteering or when doing life tasks. Here’s a few ideas to engage a connection conversation to assess fit of the “job” to strengths and passions.

  • Review a personality or strengths assessment. Talk about what strengths or talents are being leveraged and what might be dormant. What is a small shift that could be implemented for better alignment?
  • Initiate a past, present, future conversation. What are the  “love it” or “loathe it” tasks that are being done right now? How has this changed from the past when it comes to these types of tasks? How might these tasks shift in the future?
  • Uncover moments of brilliance. What are moments in the past that highlight best efforts? Share several. Notice common themes. How does this type of  brilliance shine right now? How is it hidden?

The Appreciation Conversation

Productivity can wane when people work hard without appreciation, recognition or validation for their hard work. It’s possible that we underestimate the power of appreciation to inspire productivity. People need appreciation in ways that are specific and relevant to them. This is especially important if the team is volunteers! 

  • Say thank you, often
  • Take the time to talk about and affirm their strengths
  • Acknowledge their contributions in small ways and big ways
  • Cater recognition to their needs; some like it public, some like it private
  • Create meaningful incentives or rewards for productivity, outcomes, or contribution

The Permission Conversation

Sometimes productivity diminishes when people get tired. It’s no surprise that everyone goes through seasons of decline when they have been running at a high pace. As leaders we need to be tuned into this shift, things we might miss because we are so busy. So, engage in a permission giving conversation on a regular basis with a few ideas such as:

  • For the over-achiever, let them know that “done” might be better than “perfect”
  • Ask questions about what is giving them life and what is falling off the radar and brainstorm other ways they might want to lessen the load.
  • Hit the pause button. Sometimes it’s okay to take a break and re-look at the tasks at hand. 
  • Check in on what’s going on outside of their work  life.  What type of support might be needed?

Diving deeper into the conversations that uncover what hinders productivity can turn everything around and inspire creativity Working alongside people who love what they do makes for a healthy team and a healthy culture.

“A healthy culture is going to start with healthy communication. That starts with you.” 

~Christa Foss

Next Steps

  1. Reflect on the productivity of your team. Notice any shifts in either over achieving or underachieving.
  2. Review the three conversations. Select one you would like to have with your team member and give it a try.
  3. Check out this episode on The Art of the Ask on creating a volunteer culture from our Side by Side Podcast to see if it would inspire your ideas on how to inspire productivity in your team whether they are staff or volunteers. 

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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