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Video: Managers Need Better Time Management April 27, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace, building a better workplace, business strategy, communication, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, management, manager, middle manager, time management, workplace.
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So managers, let me ask you this question, if only twenty percent of your time is spent actually managing, who is it that really needs a Time Management course? The truth is that Time Management is never about time. It’s about having clearly defined priorities. And it is the manager’s job to ensure that the clear priorities have been communicated to the staff. So how can the manager make that happen?


Video: Employees Are NOT Created Equal February 15, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in acknowledgement, attitude speaker, boss, business model, career, corporate culture, engagement, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, middle manager, performance, results, speaker, survey, time management, workplace.
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Too much effort is spent in managing people into conformity. The truth is that too many managers want one employee to be just like another employee – one who models the traits and gets the results management likes. It’s counterproductive when managers start trying to manage their employees the exact same way. It’s worse when they expect each employee’s results to be the same.


3 Ways To Manage Procrastination November 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, procrastination, time management.
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Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have identified traits of procrastinators:

  • Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators: they don’t pay bills on time, they don’t cash gift certificates or checks, they leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.
  • As a culture we don’t take procrastination seriously as a problem. Because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  • Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner (time management) is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  • Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned. Managers may reinforce (and sometimes even create) procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of excuses.
  • Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink – the effect of avoidant coping styles.
  • Procrastinators lie to themselves such as, “I work best under pressure” or that time pressure makes them more creative. But in fact they do not work best under pressure nor do they turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  • Some are thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush. There are the avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them. They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

Here are 3 ways to manage procrastination (taken from my new program, Tweak™ – the Future of Management):

  1. Eliminate long deadlines for project completion – in the same way that manufacturing ramps up daily production over a longer term (5000 more widgets over 25 days = 200 more widgets per day) you must break down projects into daily steps. This forces the procrastinator to engage NOW! Tomorrow is always the deadline. This way you don’t get blindsided by being too far behind. You can correct immediately.
  2. “Show me what you have so far” pop quiz in public – risks embarrassing the procrastinator. Knowing that you might ask at any time for status reports forces the procrastinator to have something prepared. Always ask for status. Inspect, don’t expect. Procrastinators fear embarrassment. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Deliver consequences and don’t buy excuses – last-minute efforts produce mediocre results at best. If a procrastinator is not pulling his/her weight, take project responsibilities away from them and swap project responsibilities with a good worker. Give the procrastinator’s project responsibilities to the good worker and give good worker’s mundane tasks to procrastinators so that the good worker is not punished by having to pick up the slack.

What are your thoughts on procrastination? What has worked well for you? Leave me your comment below.

Do Checklists Actually Work? July 21, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, attitude speaker, attitude strategist, communication, goals, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, performance, team-building, time management, training.
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Checklists work for people who either need or like checklists. My wife is a great checklist person on those little, teeny scraps of paper. It’s a system that works for her. My system involves only big items (appointments, proposals, meetings, etc) on my Blackberry. I make priorities first and then squeeze all the other little stuff to less-productive times of the day. The little stuff gets done after the big stuff is accomplished. I guess I’m more of a “rocks in the jar” kind of guy.

But some people are convinced that every little thing needs to be written down. And I suppose that’s true if you’re forgetful or you need to pat yourself on the back for feeling like you got a lot of things accomplished in a single day.

Here’s the problem with list-building though: it doesn’t overcome procrastination and lack of motivation. Having a list doesn’t mean you’ll get get off your fat butt and get it done. The motivation to get started is an attitude. The decision to procrastinate is also an attitude. Dealing with underlying attitudes is the part missing from most training – the “why do it now” especially when you don’t want to.

It’s why there is no universal Time Management course that works. If there were a Time Management course that worked for every person every time, there would be no need for any more Time Management courses because everyone would be doing it already – having already taken the course.

There are no universal communications courses because everyone has their own communication style. There are no universal team-building courses because each person’s contribution and attitude towards their workplace is different.

If universal learning courses worked, there would be only one Time Management course, one Interpersonal Communications course, one Team Building course, one Supervisory Management course, one Sales course and, well, you get the idea. There would be one course only because it works and anything else would be a foolish waste of time and money – having found one that worked all of the time for all people.

So before you embark on investing in a new list-building program, ask yourself if you really want to do the job in the first place? If not, no list-building is ever going to work for you – or your staff. Address the “attitude” part of productivity first before you throw money and time at it. The illusion of taking some sort of action still doesn’t solve the underlying problem. There’s no single solution to each problem. Each employee is managed a bit differently if you’re trying to get maximum performance out of each person.

Study: Top Managers Are Nice Guys June 16, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, boss, business model, career, coaching, corporate culture, Employee Engagement, hiring, HR, kevin burns, keynote speaker, loyalty, management, manager, performance, relationships, respect, study, time management.
Develop the people side of managers ahead of skills side.

A recent study by Green Peak Partners in collaboration with a research team at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations showed some amazing findings about who makes the best manager.

Overall, people who are nice people tend to lead a higher-performing department that those who are harsh, hard-driving, “results at all costs” managers. Hard-drivers actually diminish the bottom-line. It turns out, the managers who get the best results and make more money for the company are the self-aware managers who are exceptional at communicating one-on-one with their people. This is exactly what I have been saying: managers need to be more like personal coaches than policemen.

Here are some other findings of note:

  • Bullies, often seen as part of a business-building culture, were typically signs of incompetence and lack of strategic intellect.
  • Poor interpersonal skills lead to under-performance in most executive functions.
  • “Self-awareness,” should actually be a top criterion in choosing managers.
  • Executives who change jobs frequently are often trying to outrun a problem, and that problem often has to do with how they ‘fit’ in the workplace.
  • People with multiple siblings tend to be better managers.

The future of management is NOT time-wasteful courses like Time Management, Conflict Resolution or Personality Profiling. The future of successful management is in developing your managers to be better “people.” Make them be better coaches, mentors and people with feelings and you will attract and retain great people who can learn from and be valued by their bosses.

The market is changing. Old style thinking and old-style courses haven’t been able to solve the problems because the problems still exist. But the philosophy of “make people feel like they mean something” improves engagement, loyalty and recruiting for top talent.

But only do this if you WANT to be better than mediocre. Otherwise, ignore my words and do nothing differently.

Oxymorons And Half-Truths In Management May 20, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, attitude speaker, boss, change, coaching, culture, customer, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, people-skills, sales, service, speaker, time management.
manager with megaphone yelling at employee hidingSeemingly, managers are supposed to manage to manage all the supposedly manageable things that they manage to manage each day – if they can manage it?

Some of the titles of “areas of management” really make me laugh – some because they are simply oxymorons and others because, well, because they just can’t be managed, no matter how fancy the title.

  • Quality Management – if you are able to offer quality, then why would you offer anything less? Quality is not something you manage. Quality is an on/off switch. Either you offer quality or you offer crap.
  • Change Management – you can manage change about as successfully as you can manage the weather. Change happens whether you are trying to control it or not. Change is embraced. It is not managed.
  • Acceptance Management – the king of oxymorons. You will only attempt to manage that which you do not fully accept. And if you do not accept it, how can you manage it?
  • Thought Management – I really had to think about this one but realized, in mid-thought, that I wasn’t managing the thought. The thought was managing me. Good luck with that one.
  • Behavioral Management – isn’t that what the straight-jacket is for? If someone’s behavior needs managing, why are they still working for you?
  • Crisis Management – If it’s managed, it’s not a crisis. If it’s a crisis, the steps leading up to it were not managed.
  • Disaster Management – you can figure this one out on your own. Think janitorial.
  • Stress Management – just like Crisis Management, if it’s managed, there’s no stress. Therefore, if there’s no stress, there’s nothing to manage.
  • Relationship Management – no one person is in charge of a relationship – business OR personal. It takes two to have a successful relationship. Go ahead and tell your spouse you’re taking charge of managing the relationship. I dare you.
  • Time Management – my personal favorite. It’s not the time you manage. It’s what YOU do with the time. It’s called self-discipline. Time flies whether you’re managing or not. Sorry TM trainers.

Bottom-line: it’s people you manage, not things. If your people-skills suck, you will suck as a manager. People are a precious commodity to be coached and inspired. Nothing happens in any organization without people. Nothing is purchased without people. There are no sales without people. There are no customers to service without people. And without people, you don’t have a job – because you don’t need managers if there are no people.

Get good at the basics of people-skills and building quality relationships. Leave the fancy titles for those who need to look important. There is much more reward in helping people become better people.

One Way To Stop Being Mediocre October 19, 2009

Posted by Kevin Burns in 7 attitudes to greatness, attitude, attitude adjustment, attitude expert, kevin burns, keynote speaker, sales, speaking industry, time management, training.
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Most training delivers only temporary motivational highs, so what should training companies do differently?

It’s not the training companies that are the problem although sometimes the problem IS a bad trainer/speaker. Most times though, the problem is the people who hire the trainers and speakers.

Companies keep hiring the wrong trainers/speakers because they are trying to fix what they THINK is the problem. Most training addresses usually only the symptom and not the root-cause. Example: poor time-management is a symptom of poor self-discipline and an attitude of mediocrity (good enough). A time-management course will not solve the underlying issue and so, for a few days, there will me a motivational high which will dissipate over time and you will be right back to having the same issue in a few weeks or months.

The same can be said of communication skills, change, leadership, motivation, productivity, stress and team building: all useless training until you address the underlying values and attitudes. Besides, if these really were the problems, you would have solved the problem years ago. They already have been given the skills so why isn’t it working?

If sales are down and you have a well-trained sales department, throwing more sales training seems wasteful. They have already been trained and were doing well up to now. Something else is going on. Sales managers, look past the numbers and see what’s really going on. Maybe this recession has your sales team scared. Scared sales people do NOT perform well. Address the root-cause, not the symptom.

You can’t expect brain-based training (courses and trainers who only know how to appeal to the brain), you have to get past the brain to that place where all of the reasons, excuses and justifiers for not wanting to be better are: attitude. “How to” is great if you have addressed the “why” people do the the things they do. Without the “why” (the underlying attitudes), your training will fall flat and end up in a pile of mediocrity – just like every other organization before you.

When you read the testimonials from trainers and speakers, read them. If they have a lot of “You were great” testimonials, then they will deliver a temporary motivational high. What you want to look for in testimonials is how an organization is different/better after training. Or better yet, an evaluation NOT filled out in the session – but filled out 3 months after.

Speakers/trainers take the stage for one of three reasons:
1) for the applause (ego stroke)
2) catharsis (working out their own problems using your group as therapy)
3) to make a difference regardless of applause or evaluation scores

Most trainers/speakers (80%) could fit easily into the first two choices. Only 20% actually do what they do to make a difference and without need to manipulate your people into getting high evaluation scores and standing ovations. (Any speaker/trainer who quotes evaluation scores needs to be liked. Attendees rarely score a trainer low who they like.)

If you want lasting results, you want training that makes your people a bit uncomfortable, makes them squirm and makes them voluntarily want to have better than mediocre results. Address the root-cause, not the symptom. But, if your people just want to have fun, hire a clown but don’t call it training.

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Change Attitudes To Change Culture October 1, 2009

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, attitude adjustment, attitude expert, communication, corporate culture, kevin burns, keynote speaker, time management.
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So, what’s really the problem?

This is a very interesting question. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t ask that simple question the right way. They make assumptions when what they should be doing is clarifying what their problems really are.

Here’s a perfect example: forcing your people into Time Management courses when time management isn’t really the problem, it’s the symptom. Chances are, if the vast majority of your people are using their time unwisely then your organization is probably suffering substantial apathy — because nothing more than that is being asked of these people. That apathy is the result of poor workplace attitudes and a corporate culture that says how you use your time isn’t really important.

The same could be said for employing Communication courses. Are you holding a communication course because every one of your people is poor at communicating or are you holding the communication course because one or two people don’t seem to communicate well? Most times, it’s a few bad apples that have no idea how to communicate effectively and unfortunately, the rest of staff is penalized as a result. But if it’s an entire organizational concern, then communication isn’t the issue. You have a poor culture of communication or an attitude that says good communication isn’t important.

In both cases, accountability is waning, responsibility is absent, and a genuine, productive attitude is completely missing in the workplace. It’s obvious: your people could care less about their coworkers. If they did care, they would take the time necessary to ensure that their messages are fully understood. Open communication would be the rule as opposed to the exception.

Having an attitude of respect for your coworkers is perhaps the most critical component of developing a strong, workable corporate culture. If senior management does not demonstrate their commitment to their people through their words, communications, honest feedback and demonstrated leadership example then there is no way that the employees will feel that they have to make an effort either.

And management, not by their policies or directives, but by their very example has created a culture of apathy, a culture of disrespect, a culture of wasting time and a culture where no one speaks to each other.

If you believe that your organization needs to address company-wide concerns like communication or time management, then I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that the issue is not communication or time management but is, in fact, the workplace attitude issue — it’s part of your culture. And you won’t fix it without addressing the attitudes that created the problem in the first place.

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Time Management Is A Symptom September 2, 2009

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, attitude adjustment, attitude expert, attitude of leadership, attitude of money security and safety, attitude of resilience, kevin burns, keynote speaker, time management.
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How long would you let a workmate pop headache pills for a recurring headache before you said something? Three days? A week? A month? How long would you let it go before you offered your opinion that there’s a bigger underlying problem in which he or she should really see a doctor?

Treating a symptom with a few pills doesn’t resolve a problem. But that’s exactly how most organizations operate: they treat the symptom and not the root cause.

Time management is a symptom. It is not a strategy for addressing a root cause. When an employee is consistently late in meeting deadlines, seems to have a procrastination problem or doesn’t seem very organized then the standard thinking is to enroll the employee in a time management program to solve their time management issue. But in actual fact, time management isn’t the issue. Self-discipline and attitude are the issues and no amount of time management training will solve it. Why? Because the concept of time management is based on the premise that all people have good self-discipline and strong work-ethic. But if they don’t, time management doesn’t work.

What if the problem isn’t time management, just poor personal management based on a poor self-image? Treating that with Time Management would be a monumental waste of time.

Time management is a symptom of a larger problem. If you want the symptom to go away you treat the root cause. The root cause is usually attitude. And here’s how you overcome a time management symptom. You’re going to need to address three specific attitudes: an attitude of leadership, an attitude of resilience and an attitude of money, security and safety.

Adopting an attitude of leadership doesn’t mean that you have to be in management. It means that you simply have to have enough self-confidence to be able to take control of your own responsibilities. That’s part of an attitude of leadership.

An attitude of resilience says that whatever you’re facing right now you are able to handle whatever is in front of you no matter what. It’s an attitude of resilience that gets you through the tough times and allows you to feel more control and feel less overwhelmed.

An attitude of money, security and safety allows you to feel safe and secure in the performance of your duties. When you feel safe and secure in your abilities you feel less overwhelmed, less stressed and more in control.

Allow people to feel that they have control over a situation and they will rise to an occasion. Time management won’t be necessary. Besides, if time management really worked, you would have solved all of your problems years ago.

Time management is a symptom — attitude is the root cause. Work on attitude and time management solves itself.

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New Manager – Help! August 16, 2009

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, attitude adjustment, attitude expert, attitude of resilience, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, time management.
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Question: I recently became the Supervisor of the Internal Audits department of my company and I am facing challenges in supervising – specifically People Management and Time Management. What do I have to do to make my department really successful?

Answer: I’m guessing that this was a sudden and surprise promotion. So, first thing right out of the gate is to apologize to your staff for your lack of People and Time Management skills. Let them know that you realize you have shortcomings and that you’re not trying to hide them in order to look like you’re in control (people who do try to hide it can’t and end up viewed as inept by their people). Ask for their patience and suggestions to help in the short-term while you deal with the long-term strategy. They will look up to you for having the courage to be honest.

Then, get yourself into a good management course. You’re feeling like you have no Time-Management skills because you’re overwhelmed by having to manage people – something you’re not familiar with. (Remember this though, the higher-ups wouldn’t have promoted you if they didn’t think you could do it.) Once you get a good handle on the managing people part, many of the Time Management issues will start to sort themselves out.

Right now, you’re too busy trying to figure out what to do next that it seems like you need to organize better because you don’t want to miss anything. After all, it’s in your genes – you’re in Audits. Stressing the details is what you do. Get that Resilience Attitude working for you. Get up and get at it. There’s a challenge here in front of you but it’s not insurmountable.

The truth is, your organizational skills will improve the moment you improve your management skills and build your confidence in managing your people. Relax, you can do this.

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