How ineffective are you?

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential” –  Stephen Covey

Not all workers are effective. The reality is some lose sight of focusing on the key aspects of their role that are important to success. Instead, they get caught up wasting time and effort on lesser important tasks. What can be done to break the cycle for ineffective workers?

Recently I was coaching an employee (who I’ll call Tom) of a medium-sized organisation. Tom was a classic case of a busy worker who was somewhat ineffective. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Have you identified what’s important?

Tom: Yes

Me: What percentage of your day do you work on what's important

Tom: Zero

Me: Zero, really? Um, how do you achieve your objectives or even keep your job?

Tom: Well, maybe it’s less than 5%, but it’s minimal. Everyone sees how busy I am, so I wouldn’t expect anyone would question my worth to the company

Devoting time to important work didn’t mean much to Tom because his mindset saw busyness as a greater measure – like it was some kind of badge of honour. I decided to flip the conversation by requesting Tom to measure “the amount of time you waste each day on tasks or activities that aren’t important - there might be a percentage of these that might need to be done but it’s unlikely all of them will.”

After 1 week Tom reported his time was taken up by:

  • 20% on tasks that weren’t important to his role but were to the team he worked in
  • 75% on tasks that just weren’t important
  • 5% on tasks that were important

Tom said: “See, I told you so”

I came to realise the reason Tom was struggling so much was because he didn’t know how to manage his workload. He had lost clarity.  This is a familiar story encountered by busy workers who have never been taught how to build and maintain a working rhythm. A study commissioned by Cornerstone OnDemand reported that work overload decreases productivity by 68% in employees who feel they don’t have enough hours in the day to complete their tasks.

Tom had a good work ethic so his situation wasn’t all that difficult to improve. At the end of the coaching engagement, Tom was dedicating an additional 2 hours a day on what he deemed as important to the success of his role. The return on investment was significant and Tom’s manager reported that Tom was a far more effective employee.

It should never be assumed that workers already know how to do work effectively because they’ve been shown generic 1 size fits all productivity techniques that work for some but not for all. Ineffective employees need help by customising productivity coaching help unlock their potential. How ineffective are you?