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PRODUCTIVITY

Keep Up the Self-Scrutiny--or Try This

What happens if you don't focus on what you could have done better? An experiment in productivity.

As a business owner, you're critical--by nature and by profession. You hold yourself to high standards, and are rarely satisfied with the status quo. You have a tendency to focus on what did not get done, when it should have, what could have been done better, and what still remains to be done to move forward. You know that both survival and success depend on continually measuring how you're doing, and relentlessly demanding more from yourself. I know the toll this scrutiny takes on me--especially when I am at my most driven. It causes me to be stressed, makes me frustrated, and sometimes, distorts my perspective on the reality I am navigating through.

An Alternative to Self-Criticism

Earlier this week, however, I had the occasion to participate in a leadership workshop that changed my thinking. Instead of a critique, I was asked to list all the things I had accomplished for my company in the past 30 days. My partner, who was also there, had to do the same. It took me a few minutes, but then many things began to spring to mind, and as I listed, I felt better. Regardless of what was left to do, there had been some great successes as well. What I found really interesting was that my partner struggled much longer than I did to come up with the list of accomplishments--whereas I knew exactly what major milestones he had made happen! Taking stock of all we had gotten done gave us both a renewed feeling of excitement about our business, and an even stronger commitment to our company's mission and purpose.

This got me to thinking. How would my productivity change if I did this exercise once a week? Taking stock of what got accomplished would allow me not only to feel good about the tasks I had completed, but it would also give me a new way to approach how I organize my work. It would be an opportunity to evaluate how long projects were taking, how I could use my time in the week ahead, and ultimately, it would leave me with the energy I needed to make room--both in my schedule and my heart--for new initiatives that otherwise would have seemed like just more items on an endless to-do list.

Can the Whole Team Get Involved?

And then I had an even bigger "eureka" moment. How would the overall productivity of my staffers change if I asked them to do the same? Perhaps, like me, my employees feel frustrated at the end of the day when they realize she did not get every call made that they had intended. Perhaps, like me, they all feel that it would have been better if they could have told just one more customer about a new product. Perhaps, like me, my employees actually don't realize how much they contribute to moving Metal Mafia forward with each action they take. 

So next week, my employees and I are all going to look at things from this new angle. And I have decided to set the tone by leaving a note on the desk of each employee next Monday, thanking her for at least one thing she accomplished in the past week. I think the exercise should start like this, because although I always have an eye on the things my team is getting done, I am sure I do not make a point of telling people I noticed often enough. I want them to know that I am paying attention not just to obstacles, delays, and urgent matters but to all the victories, big and small, as well--so my staff will do the same.

I'll let you know in a few months how taking time to reflect on the positive parts of the road already traveled affects how we all feel about the rest of the journey ahead.

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Last updated: May 20, 2013

VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG | President, Metal Mafia

In 2004, Vanessa Merit Nornberg opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009.




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