Leaders: Increase productivity by 8%, today!

Learning in a face-to-face human community, as humans have evolved to do over hundreds of thousands of years, may always be the ideal – especially in an endeavor that is as relationship-driven as business.  ~Warren Bennis

coffee breakProductivity–it’s a popular topic in most, if not all, organizations.  It’s a theme that transcends size, industry, for-profit/not-for-profit, or any other category or label.  We can all make potentially significant improvements in productivity with one simple change.  Put down your device and talk, face-to-face.

We like to believe that technology has made us more efficient; therefore, more productive.  Or has it?

While searching on Google a sidebar caught my attention:  The New Science of Building Great Teams, an HBR article.  So just like Google wanted me to do, I clicked on the link.  I learned that of one of the findings of the “new science” is the increase in efficiency by simple, old-fashioned, face-to-face communication.

Here’s one actual example shared in the article.  The manager of a call center wanted to raise the energy and engagement of his employees.  It was suggested by the researchers to institute a common coffee break for each team.  This simple change (which cost nothing!) increased their face-to-face interactions and raised their energy levels.  Measuring efficiency before and after this simple change revealed that efficiency in the center overall increased by 8% on average and by as much as 20% for the worst performing teams.

Who would have thought that simply talking, even informally, could markedly increase efficiency?!

If you’re leading a team and want to increase your team’s productivity, here are a few more research findings:

  • Socialize more (even a 15-minute coffee break together).
  • Be democratic with your time. Communicate with everyone equally and make sure all members get a chance to contribute.
  • Listen as much, or more, than you talk.
  • Practice energized but focused listening.

These researchers concluded that “the most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. The next most valuable is by phone or video conference, but with a caveat: Those technologies become less effective as more people participate in the call or conference. The least valuable forms of communication are e-mail and texting.”

Emailing and texting has become our communication default (professionally and personally).  It’s what we turn to first because we think it’s most efficient.  Why not put these research findings to a test, try it with your team.  Instead of emailing and texting, get face-to-face or on the phone, video chat (yes, that device you hold in your hand everyday does more than email and text).  It’s not old-fashioned, it’s good leadership.

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