Don Khouri Blog

How Business Leaders Can Motivate their Teams to Get More Done

Posted by Don Khouri on Tue, Oct 16, 2012


What makes our team members want to pursue their motivation, technology leader, productivitygoals?  When are they really motivated to achieve them, and when do they seem to be going along because it is required to do so?  There are three needs that must be fulfilled for individuals to want to pursue their goals -- competence, connected, and autonomy.

Competence.  We need to feel that we are good at what we are doing, and that we are adding value to a greater cause.  This is why it is so important to reward our team members in some way, acknowledge their contribution, and provide specifics on what they are doing well.  It is also critical to ensure that they understand what they are doing is tied to the organization mission.

Connected.  We need to feel connected to others, to care for others, and to have others care for us.  When working with technology teams, there is value in making sure this exists in some way through team building events, and social events.  When the members of the team are confident their teammates care about quality and care about the others, they are more likely to work toward the goals.

Autonomy.  Our business team members want to feel that they have some choice in what they are doing.  The days of dictatorial leadership are long gone.  The complexity of our work requires technology leaders to engage their teams in determining their own goals that align with the organizational goals.

When these three needs are met, our team members (and business leaders themselves for that matter) will be more committed to working towards, and achieving the goal. 

There are two types of motivation -- intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation happens when we are interested in the activity, and we would do it independent of external factors.  Extrinsic motivation happens when we perform an activity because of some external driver like money or punishment. 

Studies have shown that intrinsic need satisfaction on the job will predict both performance ratings and psychological well-being of employees.  Those managers that support autonomy will facilitate satisfaction of all three intrinsic needs. 

When job satisfaction results from attainment of basic need satisfaction, it results in effective performance but when satisfaction results from attainment of desired outcomes that do not satisfy the basic needs, there is not effective performance.

Don's Coaching Questions

  • What is motivating your team members to perform effectively?
  • What is motiving you?
  • What steps can you take to validate your answers to the last 2 questions?

Source:  Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000).  The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior.  Psychological Inquiry, 11 (4), 227-268

Tags: productivity, leadership, motivation, multi-tasking, small business

How Technology Leaders Stay Focused

Posted by Don Khouri on Mon, Apr 12, 2010

Technology leaders face increased challenges. Don shares insights on how effective technology leaders manage incoming information. 

Get Everything Off Your Mind  

A popular expression claims that "all words ever spoken by human beings" could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data.  Today, the global monthly internet traffic is estimated to be 21 exabytes.  In case you were wondering, an exabyte equals one trillion gigabytes.  By 2020, there will be three billion people using the internet which will be 1/2 the world's population.  

how to be more productive, keys to productivity, Don Khouri Massachusetts

Technology leaders, and many other leaders, are dealing with increasing levels of complexity and rapidly growing amounts of information. 

How do technology leaders effectively master increasing levels of complexity, and stay ahead of the curve?  Capture Everything!  The only way to deal with this level of complexity is to focus on it, and the only way to do that is to capture what has our attention.  Our minds are phenomenal with respect to the amount of information they can process.  Imagine the potential if we could give our minds the opportunity to process and focus as opposed to remember.  There was a study done several years ago by American psychologist George Miller who concluded that humans can hold about seven things in our short term memory.  Anything more than that and we start to forget.

For this reason, it is critical to get those items off our mind, and into a system that has the following characteristics:

  • Trust.  We have to trust ourselves to use it.  If we don't trust it, we will try to keep everything in our mind.
  • Portable.  The system needs to have enough flexibility such that we have a way to capture things anytime anywhere, and that we can refer to it when necessary
  • Personal.  The format of the system must be personal to you, Is in a format that is personal to you; some prefer paper, some prefer electronic.

There are a number of projects going on in your work and life (David Allen, productivity expert, estimates 50-100) that are unfinished.  It is unrealistic to think that we can track all of those projects effectively in our head.  We need a way to keep these projects moving forward without having to think about them all the time.  Allen says, "there is an inverse proportion between on your mind and getting it done."

Let me bring your attention to a few things that may need to be captured in some way.

  • Everything on your mind, as we have discussed.  Take some time and write down everything that is currently in your psyche.  It is an empowering exercise.
  • What's on your desk that is not equipment, supplies or decorations.
  • The emails in your in box, read and unread
  • Voicemail that you have not acted on.

These are all items that are not in the state you intend them to be in when they are finished.  They need to be captured and tracked in some way.

My suggestion here is simple.  Review your capture tools and identify ways to improve them so that you can free your mind to focus on solutions as opposed to remembering.  When you remove remembering tasks from your mind, you automatically and effortlessly start focusing on the bigger picture items like goals, vision and purpose.  These are the things that you are really being compensated to do. 

Don's Coaching Questions:

  • What improvements can you make with your capture tools?
  • What is on your mind now that is not getting done?
  • What is on your desk that is not finished that you would like move forward?

Get more done

Join Don as he shares with you some concepts and methods to track and categorize what has your attention which facilitates your progress effortlessly. 

Please click here to register 

Space is limited, reserve your spot now!

Tags: productivity, leadership, technology, multi-tasking

What the CEOs Think About Productivity AND My Comments

Posted by Don Khouri on Thu, Mar 18, 2010

Inc Magazine recently published an article with lessons from 15 American CEOs about productivity.  Just so we are absolutely clear about this, I wanted to separate these in to three categories for you: bulls eye, on target, and missing the mark.

Bulls eyebullseye, productivity

These productivity ideas are right on the mark, and I like the insights of these executives.

The idea:  Answer the phone
The Executive:  Jordan Zimmerman, founder of Zimmerman Advertising
My take:  Communication is key.  The richest form of communication is face-to-face and next to that is the phone.  Choose your communication medium based on the context.  Email, online is not always the right answer.  Keep in touch with your customers, your team, your partners.

The idea:  Organize Your Daily Interruptions
The Executive:  Danny Meyer, CEO Union Square Hospitality Group
My Take:  This is a unique idea which is to have your assistant or someone capture all of the potential interruptions and summarize them at the end of the day.  Now, part of being effective is making conscious decisions in the moment about the importance of an interruption relative to what you are working on.  This helps compartmentalize it a bit.  If you don't have an assistant, you could emulate this in some other way.

The idea:  Use a Wiki to Capture Ideas
The Executive:  Garrett Camp, founder of StumbleUpon
My Take:  Your job is knowledge. Capturing information and ideas from your team in a structured way that team members can refer to as needed is a big productivity boost.  A wiki is great technology to do that.

The idea:  Schedule time to focus on the big picture
The Executive:  Scott Lang, CEO Silver Spring Networks
My Take:  It is easy to get bogged down in the day to day demands of you job, and react to the latest and loudest.  It takes discipline to block time to think -- about strategy, vision, goals.

The idea:  Avoid multitasking
The Executive:  Douglas Merrill, former CIO of Google
My Take:  The simple truth is, and the research supports this, that we get more done when we are focused on one thing than we are when we try to do multiple things simultaneously. 

The idea:  Always be interviewing
The Executive:  Kevin P. Ryan, Double-Click and AlleyCorp
My Take:  The spirit of this idea is very good which is to stay in touch with your team, your extended team, and your entire team as appropriate.  Keep looking for and assessing talent.  As Jim Collins says, "people are not your greatest asset, good people are your greatest asset."

On Target

These ideas are good but need a clarification to make sure you are making the most of them. 

The idea:  Skip meetings
The Executive:  Mark Cuban,  Dallas Mavericks owner and CEO, HDNet
My Take:  Yes, some meetings are worth skipping.  And meetings 8-10 hours / day every day do not make sense.  In the spirit of face-to-face communication, meetings are worthwhile.  Face-to-face communication is important.  To make sure meetings are worthwhile, the planner should invite the right people, communicate an agenda 24 hours ahead of time, and be clear about the successful outcome.

The idea: Live by the "two-pizza" rule which is that project teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas
The Executive:  Caterina Fake, co-founder Flickr
My Take:  Artificial team sizes and random meeting end times can actually hurt your productivity.  I would rather see the spirit of the rule followed to keep teams small and use your judgement.  Again, make sure meeting agendas are clear, and use the time necessary to get done what you need to, even if it is less time than scheduled.

The idea:  Hire for flexibility
The Executive:  Julie Ruvolo, co-founder and COO of Solvate.
My Take:  Nothing really new here, businesses have been hiring contractors for years. 

The idea:  Use email to document
The Executive:  Karl Hoagland, founder of Larkspur Hotels and Restaurants
My take:  Again, nothing really new here.  Yes, email is a great documentation tool, and you should use it to schedule meetings and confirm appointments.  It just wouldn't make my top 15 productivity concepts.

The idea:  Always save time to exerice
The Executive:  Mike Cassidy, CEO Ruba
My Take:  Yes, in fact schedule time to exercise.  If you save time, it will never happen.  Schedule around it like you would any other appointment.

Missing the Mark

These next few items are just not good productivity best practices.  I am sure they work for those executives, just be cautious about accepting them broadly.

The idea:  Rank items on your to-do list
The Executive:  Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank panelist
My take:  David Allen, productivity guru, says that priority is actually the fourth criterion to look at when deciding what to do.  Number one is context (where you are and what tools you have available), number two is time available, and number three is your energy.  Then priority.  Your number one priority may require two hours and if you only have ten minutes right now, then do something else.

The idea:  Be extra-productive during off hours.  Choose work over social life.
The Executive:  Seth Priebatsch, CEO SCVNGR
My Take:  I know the lines between work and personal are blurring and they have been for a number of years.  We are doing personal business at work and vice versa. I advocate keeping an all-life to do list, and working on it at the appropriate times.  The bottom line is be productive when it makes sense, not more or less during off hours as Mr. Priebatsch suggests.  And make time for social, fun, family, and whatever else is important to you.  Balance.

The idea:  Shrink your mental deadlines
The Executive:  Krissi Barr, founder of Barr Corporate Success
My Take:  Generally, we underestimate how long things take to complete, proven by research called the planning fallacy.  So this concept of working faster to complete something is less time than you think it will take is unrealistic and will put unnecessary pressure on yourself.  It seems to be prone to mistakes.

The idea:  Review your productivity at the end of the day
The Executive:  Bob Compton, CEO Vontoo
My take:  A daily review of your schedule and actions is critical to help you stay focused on the right things for the day.  A weekly review of your full inventory of actions, schedule, and important to keeping it all up to date.  Othwerwise, your actions get stale and you don't trust your lists.  Adding yet another review to see how you did at the end of the day is superfluous and is not the best use of time.

Don's coaching questions:

  • Which of these can you implement immediately to be more productive?
  • What is your personal most productive time of the day that you can plan to get your most challenging actions complete?
  • How can you use technology to support your productivity practices?

I would love to hear your ideas on productivity, and how they help you and your teams.  productivity, technology


Please click here to take my
Free Productivity Assessment.

Tags: productivity, leadership, technology, multi-tasking

How Good Are You at Multi-Tasking?

Posted by Don Khouri on Sun, Oct 18, 2009

I have heard the term, "multi-tasking", a number of times in the last 30 days from both clients and colleagues.   One client put "multi-tasking" as a required skill on a job advertisement and another colleague was talking about the importance of "multi-tasking" in today's world.  The truth is there is no such thing as multi-tasking.  Sure, you can switch between tasks at a very fast rate, but you are still doing one thing at a time.  I will advocate the skill of focus is more important in today's world, not multi-tasking.  In a recent Stanford Study, self-proclaimed multi-taskers underperformed other groups in several multi-tasking tests.  The study results showed that people are actually less productive when they are multi-tasking. 

We are very easily distracted by the latest and the loudest, and it is difficult to stay focused on any one thing.  As a result, it becomes very challenging to actually get anything accomplished.   The answer to this dilemna is simple - stay focused on one thing at a time.  Think about when you are most effective and productive.  It is when you are clear about what you want to accomplish.  It is when you focus on a single task and lost track of time making progress toward the finished product.  Here are four suggestions on how you can stay focused on one thing at a time.  

Get your email inbox to zero.  That's right.  Each one of those emails in your inbox is some type of open loop that  you are committed to getting to a state that is different than the current state.  Those emails will grab your attention and take you away from what you are working on.  Stop checking your email every 5 minutes, set some specific times to process your emails, and turn off the alert that pops up telling you that you have a new email.   

Clear your desk.  Anything on your desk that is not reference, equipment, decoration or supplies is also an open loop, and will act as a distraction from what you are working on.   A clear desk will help you get to a clear mind, and stay focused.   

Put a strategy in place for social media.  We have a lot of information coming at us today through the web, blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin, you name it.  In fact, I heard a statistic a while back that goes something like this:  in 1900 people received 1000 pieces of new information in 6 months, in 1950 people received 1000 pieces of new information in 6 days, and in 2005 people receive 1000 pieces of new information in about one hour.  So, set some time aside each day or each week to stay current on the blogs you want to read and the people you want to virtually connect with.  If you are not familiar with some of the consolidation tools like Tweetdeck or Google Reader, they are worth a look. 

Focus on the important, not urgent.  Everything that is urgent seems important but it is not.  Think about when you are interrupted - phone call, text message, online alert of some kind.  How good are you at deciding what is more important, the interruption or what you were working on?  If it is what you were working on, how well do you trust yourself to park the interruption and get back to it at the right time?  Making these decisions are critical to your focus and your productivity.  It is most valuable when you can align your day-to-day work with the higher horizons of life - projects, goals, responsibility, vision, values, mission.  When it all aligns, you know for example, "Writing this article is important because it aligns with my goal of producing valuable content and with part of my mission of being a great coach who brings out the best in others." 

Don's coaching questions:
o    How can you stay focused on what has your focus?
o    What are the factors in the environment when you are most productive?
o    What can you do to distinguish the important from the urgent?

Tags: productivity, leadership, multi-tasking