Boost your efficiency by doing less, not more

Performance coach Vanessa Bennett suggests that less is definitely more when devoting energy to your work – and the same principles apply not just to business owners, but to their employees and even their customers.

Two of the biggest issues for small business owners always seem to be:

1. Time – we all want more of it.

2. Staff – how to keep great staff.

Well, both of these can be dealt with by working on your productivity. Think about Olympic swimmers: do they just jump in the pool and start flapping their arms and legs, and hope for a gold medal? No.

In fact, they look effortless. Most of them look like they are hardly even kicking! How? They work on their technique so that every part of their stroke is aimed to minimise their use of energy, thus every stroke feels easier.

So what can small business owners take from the Olympic swimmers? In order to improve our productivity on a sustained basis, we need to decrease our perceived effort. That is, we can only improve our productivity if it feels easier.

Simple in concept – how do we actually achieve it? There are actually many ways to improve productivity.

Personal pace

One way of achieving this is to focus on personal pace – for you and your staff. So what do we mean by fast and slow pace? Say you give two people the same three tasks and the same time to complete them.

The faster-paced person would prefer to spend a small amount of time on each and chop and change tasks. For example, it might be 20 minutes on task A, then over to task C for 30 minutes, and then task B for 25 minutes and so on, until all the tasks are completed by the end of the day.

The slower-paced person would prefer to start with task A and complete it in its entirety without any interruptions, and then move to task B, and so on until all the tasks are completed by the end of the day.

Which is more productive? Both are equally productive! Assuming both are working to their natural pace, they are both completing their tasks at the same time; it’s just different execution. So how do we use these differences in pace to create time and keep staff?

Freedom of choice

Now the trick to keeping your staff is to let them work more closely to their natural pace, even if – shock horror – it’s different to yours.

For example, if they are slower paced than you, then your constant interruptions will stress them out and they will leave the office feeling mentally exhausted. The more mentally exhausted your staff feel at the end of each day, the less likely they are to stay with you long term.

Let them work more closely to their natural pace so that they improve productivity for you and leave the office feeling energised. It is good news for them and you won’t have to effectively pay twice their salary to replace them – it’s a win-win.

Speak the client’s language

If you have a relatively short attention span and like to jump around between tasks, you are ‘fast-paced’; whereas if you like to focus on one task for longer periods, then you are more ‘slow-paced’.

As well as when engaging with your employees, these behavioural concepts can also be used to help you better communicate with your customers.

You can more than likely think about some customers who come across as though they have shorter attention spans. They will tend to want the executive summary in a verbal sense quite quickly and probably just want you to point to where they need to sign.

And then you can probably think of other clients who are happy for you to take your time in the meeting and explain things in a little more detail before they sign the documents.

Let’s face it, when it comes to business and building relationships with people, it’s less about “treat others how you want to be treated” and more about “treat others how they want to be treated”. As such, it is important to be able to adapt your communication style to the way that makes the client feel most comfortable.

If you feel that you are dealing with a fast-paced client, it’s best to get to the point quickly and then answer questions as they probe you for further information. Let them be the guide on when to go into more detail.

For a slow-paced person, it is best to take them on the journey with some more detail before leading up to the main point of the conversation.

Adapting to your client’s behavioural style will increase your ability to communicate with them more effectively, and inevitably increase your chance of securing repeat business, and in turn new referrals.

Vanessa Bennett is the CEO of Inside 80 Performance in Australia – working with business leaders and their teams to ensure high performance is improved and sustainable.

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