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Leading for maximal productivity

The fifth in a five-part series on maximizing sustained productivity improvements for yourself and for your team.

8 min read


Leading for maximal productivity


This is the final post in a series on productivity. Read parts one, two, three and four.

Since rolling out my “four-step” productivity plan, I have seen the need to include an added step that focuses on leadership. After all, if we are going to get more from our people, we need to use our leadership position to motivate others, create a healthy work environment  and engage others in meaningful work.

The five components of this final step (step No. 5, and I do mean final this time) are:

  1. Build workplace passion
  2. Manage stress
  3. Understand and leverage your leadership style
  4. Set them up for success
  5. Lead from the values up

Productivity begins with engagement and passion. Disengaged, dispassionate workplaces are much less productive.


The following strategies can be helpful for leaders who want to instill more passion into their workplace:

  1. Start early and look often. Look for passionate people during the interview process. Identify passionate employees and finds ways to promote them.
  2. Break down barriers. Sometimes the biggest obstacles to passion are barriers that prevent people from making it happen. By encouraging people to work cross-functionally, you tap into their connecting disposition and keep them from feeling confined. 
  3. Craft the job around their interests. Team leaders ought to focus on identifying their keepers and then adjust job descriptions and requirements around them. Encourage your people to work on projects they are interested in instead of (or in addition to) those they are assigned to.
  4. Build their capacity and efficacy. Offer training and educational opportunities to help your people grow and become more confident in their work. Nothing drives passion like a deep sense of ability and aptitude.
  5. Put passion all around them. Hire great managers and team members who are engaged and passionate about helping others discover their talents. Passion breeds passion.

Building passion is also a great way to manage and reduce workplace stress. Stress is a drain on productivity and had a direct effect on worker health and absenteeism. Stress-related illnesses cost businesses an estimated $200-$300 billion a year in lost productivity, as reported in “Stress in the Workplace.” That report by Health Advocate found that 1 million workers miss work each day due to stress. This absenteeism costs employers more than $600 per worker each year. Meanwhile, 12% of employees have called in sick because of job stress. This is not surprising because most people respond to increased stress with added caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking and prescription medications.

Leaders can reduce stress by helping their people better manage it. Understand that leaders don’t create stress for others. Instead, they create conditions that, taken together with whatever is going on in people’s personal lives, can increase stress levels and decrease productivity and job satisfaction.

A leader’s role, then, is to help their people by educating them about the importance of self-care (see step No. 4) They should encourage people to eat properly, take regular breaks and get enough sleep. People also need to have their minds and souls fed, with such things as time management training, meditation, prayer or a list of personal and team values to motivate them and help them make correct, healthy decisions.

Leaders can also help by pitching in, offering people opportunities to delegate, accepting excellent even if imperfect work and giving people opportunity to vent and offer constructive feedback to improve processes and systems.

Of course, leaders cannot force their people to take better care of themselves, but the fact that they offer options and serve as a resource for stress reduction can be helpful. After all, who gets the blame for work-related stress if not the boss?

In addition to the strategies listed above, leaders should consider the following tactics to manage their own increased stress levels.

  • Record and review your leadership goals. Clarity of purpose and action is a solid defense against leadership stress.
  • Be selective in your work. This was discussed in step No. 1. Don’t engage in tasks and efforts that unproductive or produce limited benefits.
  • Learn to delegate. Clear your plate of all the “other” things so you can do the “right” work. We detailed this in step No. 2.
  • Seek to control only the controllable. Focus on the things you can control such as your efforts and the way you choose to react to problems. 
  • Remain positive. Stress is part of leadership so don’t let it poison your work mindset or, more importantly, your self-perception.
  • Get social support. Leaders often lack social support at work. To combat this, consider joining a peer board, a mastermind group or a leadership development group that will provide trustworthy, confidential and ongoing social support.
  • Regroup on a task. When a task is stressful, look for ways to better organize and streamline what needs to be done. Take time to clearly define roles and clarify expectations.
  • Increase your determination. A lot of the stress that we feel starts in our head. Commit to working through challenges rather than allowing them to gain the upper hand.
  • Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling with your burden, keep in mind that you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be there for them.

Another way that we can lead ourselves and others to increased productivity is to understand how to leverage your leadership style. Leaders who understand their type preferences can more easily identify their strengths and potential weaknesses, develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and understand the impact of their behaviors on others. They also better understand what about their style motivates others and what might demotivate them.

For example, some people (who we’ll call “blues”) are more emotional and value relationships much more than their personality “opposites” (“greens”) who most value logic and their ability to maintain control over their emotions.

Consider what happens when a “blue” leader is replaced by a “green.” The former was empathetic and often willing to give people multiple chances. The latter is more logical and analytical, typically seeking to remedy problems and optimize performance while giving little attention to human feelings. In most cases, the new leader will be viewed as distanced and disinterested, valuing processes over people, unless they consciously make an effort to motivate their “blues” with connection and empathy.

The fourth component of this productivity-through-leadership leadership step is to set your people up for success, by putting them in position to get more done. Here are some examples:

  • Allow people to work remotely. 86% of employees say they’re most productive when they work alone from home, as cited by Fundera. 77% of employees report greater productivity while working off site, according to the Remote Collaborative Worker Survey by CoSo Cloud. 64% of global business leaders said flexible working had a positive impact on productivity, Condeco reports. Telecommuters are 14% more productive than their office-bound colleagues according to a study released by Stanford University. Research found that working from home increases job performance and productivity while also decreasing the number of sick days taken.
  • Plan your workspaces for maximal productivity. An Exeter University study states that open-office layouts create a 32% decline in overall well-being and a 15% reduction in productivity.

Lastly, be sure to lead from values. Values are the core components of a person’s deepest beliefs, the concepts that they hold most dear and that drive decision making, or at least should. When a leader takes the time to identify her deepest values, she is likelier to make satisfying choices and remain consistent in her actions and choices.

Moreover, if she is effective in articulating her values then others will understand her reasoning and, more often than not, be more inclined to support her process.

Of course, the ideal way to lead is to do so from the rear forward, rather than to drag others along from the front. The more that followers feel and a sense of ownership of and connection with the underlying values and related decision making, the more inclined they will be to support the effort and contribute towards its success.

In review, we discussed the need to plan, share, do, sustain and lead if we want to be productive for the long haul. Each step, if properly and consistently completed, will do wonders to enhance your own performance as well as that of your team.


For more tips on being productive, I invite you to sign up for my blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new productivity blueprint and his e-books, “Core Essentials of Leadership,” “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing” and “How to Boost Your Leadership Impact.”

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