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Executive Podcast #214: Are You Experiencing Productivity Paranoia?

November 17, 2022
Executive Podcast #214: Are You Experiencing Productivity Paranoia?

Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and found that 87% of employees report that they are productive at work. Yet, only 12 percent of managers said they have full confidence their team is as productive when working remotely compared to sitting at their desks in the office. 85% of senior leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. The Microsoft report describes Productivity Paranoia as “where leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings and other activity metrics have increased.”

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Perry Holley:

Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a Maxwell leadership facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:

And I’m Chris Goede, Executive Vice President with Maxwell Leadership. Welcome and thank you for joining.

I’m excited about today’s lesson. We’re going to really talk about, it’s interesting that these phrases come up, that we’re dealing with.

Perry Holley:

Great Resignation.

Chris Goede:

Here comes the Great Resignation, the quiet quitting. And now we have another one that’s come up. And I don’t think that some of the other ones are new, maybe they’ve just been titled. I was funny, I was talking to John Maxwell the other day and we were talking about quiet quitting, and he started laughing at me and he said, “You understand, that’s nothing new. I’ve been dealing with that for 50 years. I’ve had people that would just be on the payroll and they’d already quit.” This one is a little bit interesting because we’re talking about what we call level three in the five levels of leadership, the production level where the title for today is, Are You Experiencing Productivity Paranoia? And we’re going to dive into that today.

But first, if you want to visit maxwellleadership.com/podcast, and if you want to fill out a form and maybe talk to us a little bit about some of the executive coaching we do or facilitating some of the content with your team, we would love to hear from you with that. Also, if you have a question or a comment, then you can leave that there. Or if you want to download the Learner’s Guide, you can do that.

So this topic today is something that is, again, a phrase you’re probably going to hear more and more about. And Microsoft, I’ll give you some data as we start off here. Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and found that 87% of employees report that they are productive at work. So that makes me smile right there, 87%. Yet only 12% of the managers said that they have full confidence that their team is as productive when working, and here’s the hot topic right now, the button, remotely, compared to when they were sitting in the desk in their office. And that’s a big gap. That’s a huge gap. 85% of the senior leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. The Microsoft report describes productivity paranoia as where leaders fear the lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though the hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased.

Perry, what in the world? I think we could probably have several podcasts around this and topics. What is going on? What do you make of all of this?

Perry Holley:

Well, I was going to say same problem, new name.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

But this is a little bit different.

Chris Goede:

Little bit different on this one.

Perry Holley:

But it’s got some of the same things as leaders that we need to be doing. But you brought this to my, you sent me an email saying, “Have you heard of this?” And the next day our marketing team sent me a question from a viewer, either on the YouTube or a listener to the podcast.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

Brian had a similar question. He said, “Our organization is really dealing with work from home, work from the office or a hybrid mode, and leaders don’t really know, they’re not liking it. They want people back in the office, but it’s a different world that we’re in.” So this is really about a number of things. I was thinking through it, the thought, what would I do? And I know you like me to come up with five things.

Chris Goede:

Yes. We’re back on the five train.

Perry Holley:

I’m going to give you five words.

Chris Goede:

Oh, I like it.

Perry Holley:

And you can then pick which words you want to talk about. But the five words I thought, if I’m thinking about productivity paranoia, would be culture, trust, performance improvement, accountability, and equity.

Chris Goede:

Interesting.

Perry Holley:

Threw that one in there for you.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

So where do you want to start?

Chris Goede:

Well, for us it’s about culture. So let’s start with this one because I think that as we simply define the culture word, and we have a incredible training, The Four Dimensions of Culture that was created by Greg Cagle, one of our executive facilitators. And it has drastically shaped and shifted some cultures and organizations. And we’ve seen it happen. But the simplicity of it is how do you think, act, and interact with your people and with your team? That doesn’t necessarily mean just in the office.

Perry Holley:

Right.

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Chris Goede:

We’re talking about this paranoia that’s out there. And so this even happens when it comes to the remote team members. And it comes back to, for us, what are your core values? We always talk about when you are lifting somebody up, when you are giving somebody some praise inside the organization, make sure that you lead with the core value that they’re demonstrating of your organization, and then the individual and what they did, so that you’re not maybe promoting the individual versus what you saw lived out as a core value.

So for us at the Maxwell Leadership, one of our core values is performance. And so one of the things that we will do with some of our remote employees is we will talk about their metrics, we’ll talk about their performance, we’ll bring those to light in our team conversations. And so that people aren’t going, “Well, so-and-so’s just hanging out at home all day, and I don’t really know, are they producing or are they not?” Because the value of ours is performance when they are hitting certain KPIs around their performance, I will make sure as a leader to say, “Hey, let me just stop for a minute.” We talk about performance being so, and we’re going to talk about this when it comes to the performance side of your word here. But this is a big thing for us and a core value, so I want to bring it up right here as well around our culture is I will acknowledge that so that not only as a leader, I don’t become paranoid, but the team doesn’t become paranoid that there’s a lack of that value being lived out by that remote employee.

Perry Holley:

Yeah, exactly. I think you hit it. We teach a lot about culture and culture always starts with your core values. And then there’s a few steps in there that we like to make sure happen, and almost every company I’ve work with has a set of core values. What you have to ask next is are they just on the break room wall or on the website or do people really know them? I was with a group a couple of weeks ago and I was doing an exercise and I said, “I’ve been scouring your website looking for your core values.” And my sponsor said, “I know we have some. Let me see if I can find them.” And so to me that’s a bit of a problem.

But if you have core values and you have them defined, what do they mean? People are not allowed to make up the definition. We make up the definition. And then what are the behaviors behind those core values? Then when you think about people working at home or people working in the office or people working in coffee shops, I don’t care.

Chris Goede:

Doesn’t matter, yeah.

Perry Holley:

How we do things here, how we think, act, and interact. What would the core values say we do? And so we have one of them performance. It doesn’t say how you perform in the office or how you perform it. We have a core value around that. So if you’re actually looking for behaviors, which you should be. You should have defined behaviors for every core value, then you don’t have to be the bad guy to say, “Is somebody working or not working?” The core values are the bad guy. The core values say, “This is how we do things here.” And Greg will say, “Culture is everything.” It’s like oxygen. You don’t even notice it until you don’t have it. And all of a sudden now I’m paranoid that people aren’t working? Then you’re not living your core values on that.

Chris Goede:

Yeah, that’s good. It’s going to happen. One way or another, your culture’s going to happen. And so you need to make sure that it’s aligning with your core values. I was thinking as you were talking, another one of ours is partnership, and making sure that we are being a good partner to our partners and make sure that we’re exceeding expectations. And so it’s another very well defined intentional behavior behind doing that. And so we often will talk about that. No matter what it takes, no matter where they are, to your point, I love the coffee shop. Or for us maybe it’s a plane, maybe it’s a hotel, maybe it’s whatever. Because the amount of time that we spend on the road.

Perry Holley:

You’re trying to figure out where I’m working?

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

You got a job of your own.

Chris Goede:

That’s exactly right. Yeah. Where in the world is Perry Holley today? That’s the game that we play every morning.

I want to go over all five of the words. I know you said pick a couple, but I like all five of them and I think this is relevant. This next one is of your five is trust. And this would be a little bit obvious, but I would say this. At times, I think everybody may have a little bit of a gap here where they go, “Hmm. Is that teammate really?” Really you’re having this maybe self-talk. And so when you’re having that self-talk as a leader or there’s doubt there, is there a trust issue that needs to be addressed? What may be driving that in our mind? Is it the lack of trust or is it something else in this productivity paranoia situation?

Perry Holley:

Yeah. Well, as we say, trust is the linchpin to everything in your leadership and I was troubled in this report, the Microsoft report, that it shared stories that some companies are so paranoid about this, they’re tracking your mouse movements on your machine at home, and they can see your Slack screen that says you’re active or your email has a green indicator on it and they’re tracking to see if you’re active. But I also know some employees that have figured out.

Chris Goede:

That’s exactly right.

Perry Holley:

How put your mouse on your dog’s tail or something. You’re very active. This is concerning me. Because if you’re in an organization that has to, I don’t know, trust to me, again, goes back to the core values. And trust, I think about Stephen Covey’s, Stephen M.R. Covey’s Speed of Trust, and that trust is really about your character and your competence. Are you good at what you do? Can I trust you in your work? And then can I trust your character? And if you don’t have character, but you’re really competent, I’m not going to trust you. If you’re really competent, but you don’t have character, I’m not going to trust you.

So to me it’s the combination of both and how that fits in. Go back to the number one. You say didn’t you make trust number one? I think your culture drives everything and trust is a part of that culture. It was intentional why I made that the second word. But to me, if you got the culture right, trust will generally fall in line because we have that consistency. We trust each other, we know that this is how we do things here. And people can trust you in that.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

But we did a podcast last week about you may not be as trusted as much as you think you are, so there are some signals that we can watch out for there.

Chris Goede:

Absolutely.

Adertisement:

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Chris Goede:

Well, the third word that you mentioned I want to talk a little bit, is really around performance. And we’ve talked about this. Matter of fact, you and I were both with a client, maybe a week ago now, 10 days ago, and having some of the best years that they’ve had over the last two or three years. I mean just record breaking and their performance is through the roof. And one of the things we began to talk about and as a group with all their leaders was this idea of, “Hey, are we allowing what’s going on right now from a performance standpoint to create bad habits?”

And I think it’s very interesting because if that happens, and the numbers begin to shift, if there’s bad habits there and the numbers begin to shift and they’re going to shift. Everybody’s going to go through it. Do all of a sudden your leaders become paranoid or do you have that paranoia, because all of a sudden your numbers are shifting and now you think, “Well, it’s got to be because of the bad habits,” and now all of a sudden you’re not trusting your people. “Oh, is the culture right.” and now you’re just in a tailspin around this.

And so I think leaders then get tightened up when it comes to then managing and they just put the screws on even harder. And that’s not necessarily the right thing to do, but that’s what ends up happening when you have that paranoia and the performance begins to shift. Because if there are bad habits that you’ve seen, then you think that’s the cost. So with my comment there, it’s like, hey, making sure no matter how good times are or what’s going that they continue to focus on the habits, the good habits of what then drive the KPIs in your organization.

Perry Holley:

And KPIs, everybody’s got a scoreboard.

Chris Goede:

Everybody. No matter what you do.

Perry Holley:

No matter what you do, you have a scoreboard. And when it comes to performance management, whether you’re in the office or out of the office, the scoreboard is generally a lagging indicator. And by the time we get there, it’s too late to do anything about it. And if you’re nervous about people not being productive. By the way, I’ve seen a lot of people in the office that were faking performance.

Chris Goede:

No doubt. No doubt about it.

Perry Holley:

So you don’t have to be out of the office.

Chris Goede:

That’s right. You’re exactly right. It goes both ways.

Perry Holley:

So it doesn’t matter where you are. So I think the biggest jump I’ve had in performance management with the folks I work with is developing leading indicators that say-

Chris Goede:

Yes.

Perry Holley:

-for sales for instance, “I know that if we make X number of calls, X number of demonstrations, X number of customer lunches, X number of proposals, and we do that on a weekly basis.” I know our team, they track calls made every week because we know if you make those calls, based on how things work, we’ll get that lagging indicator.

But if I look in a week and I know you do this every week on our Monday call, you say, “If we’re not making that call, we’re in danger now making that lagging indicator.” So I love this leading indicator idea. For your work, no matter what you do, there are some things you do every day that you know if you did them, you’d be successful on the scoreboard at the end. So start managing those leading indicators. And it doesn’t matter where you’re working.

Chris Goede:

That’s right.

Perry Holley:

You’re at Starbucks. Did you make your calls? Great.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

But I can tell. No, you have to track it. You have to be accountable. You have to bring people in and make sure they know those. But once you start doing that, my goodness, it doesn’t matter where you are.

Chris Goede:

That’s right.

Perry Holley:

You can be productive.

Chris Goede:

Yeah, that’s good. And John calls this, thinking about your comments, the law of priorities. Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishments. So with that being said, I love your comment about what are those leading indicators that will drive it no matter where you’re working? And not only as a leader do you need to set those, have a collaborative conversation with your in office, I love your comment of that there are people in my office that there’s no doubt about it. You’re like, “You seem awful busy all day long and I don’t see the metrics showing up.”

Perry Holley:

You see a lot of business but no production.

Chris Goede:

That’s right. And so work with the individuals depending on what their KPIs are that then again tie into the bigger enterprise, make sure they understand all that. And have them speak into the activity levels that can lead to, “Hey, so if we do this, you feel like it will lead to that, and then that’ll hit our KPI. Great. So do I. So now let’s talk about the fact that we just don’t want to be active to be active. We’re going to be intentionally active behind that so that the team kind of knows what’s going on. And that’s the direction that we’re moving to.”

Perry Holley:

Well, it kind of leads to the fourth word, which is accountability.

Chris Goede:

Yeah, it’s perfect.

Perry Holley:

Which says that I’ve got the leading indicators, and we have our expectations of people no matter where you work, I need to have that regular accountability. Now let me tell you how we look at accountability is not who to blame when the lagging indicator doesn’t hit.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

“Who’s accountable for this?”

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

No, it’s ownership. And so if we’ve set it up right, we have our leading indicators, we have set expectations with our team, we know the goal. You’re out of the office, you’re in the office, you’re at the coffee shop,

Chris Goede:

Doesn’t matter.

Perry Holley:

It doesn’t matter because I’m going to have a weekly conversation with you tracking what’s happening, what were your activities, what were your activity levels around these leading indicators that I’m going to hold you accountable, which means you own it. So who owns it? You’re making a personal decision to say, “I own it and I’m responsible for that outcome.” And if people know that they’re responsible for the outcome, they have a leading indicator to hit every week and you’re going to hold them accountable for it, you could be on the moon.

Chris Goede:

And what I love about that is, to your point, it is something that from an accountability standpoint, who who’s owning it? I’m always amazed at times, and again, this’ll happen to me. Especially when you get so busy. You start talking about ideas and this and that. You walk out of a meeting and you never assigned ownership of it. So then you get in the meeting the next week and you start talking about the progress that’s made and no one has any type of ownership. And so there’s no accountability. One of the things I love that we do with our team is that we say, “Hey, who’s going to own this?” And then we say, “Okay, great. They’re the one that’s going to report out on it.” And then on a weekly basis, we’re all holding each other accountable. It’s not, “Hey, Chris or Perry’s going to hold me accountable,” whatever. It’s like as a team, you have to report out, and we begin to have that peer-to-peer accountability.

And so when that takes place, I think you have great accountability. And I think by doing that, no matter where you’re working, you’ll feel as a leader very comfortable with the progress that’s being made. And you may not have that paranoia that this article is starting to talk about, which is the new catchphrase around leadership.

Well, the final word that you gave us, and I’m interested how you put this in here, when we talk a little bit about the equity word that you added as the fifth word.

Perry Holley:

Yeah. I thought you might be surprised because I was.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

When I started thinking, just really putting this to thought about what would I do, is that we’ve been teaching a lot about inclusive leadership.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

And one of the last things I teach in inclusive leadership, the difference between equality and equity. And everybody doesn’t need the same thing. And we’re renowned for giving everybody the same. Everybody got to be in the office, equal treatment. Everybody’s got to be in home, equal treatment. But what if different people, equitable treatment was some people need to be in the office, some people don’t. Some people’s jobs require them to be on site. Some people’s jobs don’t require them. Some people have personal limitations that would hinder them being effective on site. Some people would be more effective being at home. If you do some of the other previous four words, I think that’ll take care of itself.

Chris Goede:

Yeah.

Perry Holley:

But the equity was, do I know my team well enough? Do I know the individuals well? Do I have that relationship that I know what you need? I just really want to encourage our leaders that are listening that if you know your people well enough, you know them personally, them professionally, and they know your expectations. And that they have different needs. Some of the things in this study and what’s happened since COVID and what’s people have figured out, it’s why quiet quitting and some other things are happening is, I don’t really need to work as hard as I used to, people are thinking. But you say, “Well, I really want you to be motivated and driven and energized by our work.” Well, you can do that sometimes by letting people have autonomy over their work. But not everybody wants that. So for me it was, “Can I figure out what’s the individual need? And can I value people equally, but treat people with equity?”Was what John says.

Chris Goede:

That’s good. Love it. As I wrap up in thinking about this, I love how you brought that in. There’s two things that I think about, which is a phrase that I love to use that goes like this. Listen, learn, then lead. And I would say that the first two are pretty hard for some leaders to do. We feel comfortable leading people, but do we really listen to them? Do we really learn? And that goes for me too. Where your team members are at. I love how John says this, and it’s why we kind of developed a course that you played a pivotal role in the content of, is this inclusive leadership. And the big movement out there has been, and I love it, is that we’re out there pushing the diversity training, the DE&I traction that’s out there. But for us, where we go in our DNA is, while there is diversity and we need more of it, we think leaders are missing the boat of inclusively leading the teams, the diverse teams they already have.

And we believe that we’re going to add value and unconditionally love all people. Now, in order to do that, you’ve got to listen to them and you got to be open to learning and then you can lead them appropriately. And I think if you do that, you’ll have a much stronger connection with them that will hopefully reduce the productivity paranoia that you have with those individuals.

I think the other thing I was thinking about, as we wrap up, that I just want to bring up real quick is that I think depending on the KPIs of your team, one of the things you’re also going to deal with in this productivity paranoia is that certain job responsibilities are more effective in the office than they are remotely. And it’s going to be a challenge for some of you leaders that are dealing with that balance of it’s going to be better for your team and then there are going to be other teams in the same organization that maybe can work fully remote and it works really, really well.

And then you got to deal with the dynamics of the employees and the team members seeing that and being able to work through and talk about these five things that Perry brought to us about the importance of that, in your team being onsite versus being remote or maybe your team being remote versus some being onsite. So there’s all kinds of dynamics when it comes into this and you’re just going to have to kind of listen, learn, and lead through those times. But as leaders, we need to make sure the five things that Perry talked about we are setting in stone so that we’re not experiencing productivity paranoia with our team.

Perry Holley:

Fantastic. Well thank you Chris. A reminder, if you want that Learner Guide that has all these notes, you may get that as well as leave us a question or a comment or learn about the five levels of leadership. You can do all that at maxwellleadership.com/podcast. We’re grateful for you being here. Always love to hear from you. That’s all today from the Maxwell Leadership Executive Podcast.

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