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Have you ever looked back on your day at work and thought to yourself “I accomplished nothing”? Don’t worry you’re not alone. Many of us face days filled with interruptions, meetings and a looming sense that we just didn’t get enough done.  So what do successful people do to stay productive?  Many use productivity apps to organize lists and focus on assigned tasks (by the way, Wunderlist and Be Focused are two of my favourites).  I encourage you to use these tools if you aren’t already.  However, it is important to know that they will not completely fix your productivity problems.
Did you know the secret to productivity in the modern workplace is high-functioning teams?
We’ve recently learned that one of the main trends in organizations is the shift from hierarchical structures to networks of teams as outlined in the recent 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report.  Today’s teams need to be agile, responsive and flexible so getting things done efficiently and effectively is key to success.  We’ve known for many years that there is no “I” in TEAM and historically organizations willingly invested in growing team work capabilities. Company retreats or day-long workshops used to be common events for teams where they could build trust and strengthen relationships through activities and games. Unfortunately, these programs are now far less common than they used to be. Budgets are constricted and time is limited, not to mention the fact that people can now be part of many teams at once.
So what can you do to increase productivity at work and stay motivated?
Build a culture of trust, dialogue, debate and respect so that it becomes a natural way of working.  A team culture is more powerful than one individual and when you focus on it, a change in team membership won’t disrupt it.  Think of the activities you do every day and how you can make small adjustments.  For example, how effective are your meetings?  Do they drag on or are they over before you know it?  Do you have healthy dialogue and debate or is the room quiet with limited participation?  Do one or two people constantly dominate the discussion?  Addressing these time guzzlers will provide your team with the resources and answers they need to get a lot accomplished.
Don’t get discouraged….remember that building a team doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time and consistency to build trust so that members feel comfortable debating and questioning each other.  It is incredibly important to get diverse opinions on the table for discussion as it leads to better solutions for the organization and customer. Small actions and behaviours demonstrated every day will build trust which is the foundation of any high-functioning team. These types of teams respect the process and team decisions because everyone feels heard and respected.
“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” – Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”
Meeting effectiveness is a catalyst
Meetings are a common place for the team to interact so it makes sense to bring a level of efficiency and effectiveness to them.  Here are some simple ideas you can implement now that will strengthen any team and bring any meeting to life.
  1. Make a concerted effort to ask everyone to contribute their opinion. Extroverts can easily dominate the conversation and purposefully giving everyone an opportunity to speak will demonstrate a belief that everyone’s opinion counts. Don’t hesitate to limit each comment to 30 seconds.

  2. Have people take on different roles in the meeting. Someone can keep time, someone can write the action items, and someone can be charged with keeping the conversation on track. Spread the accountability over different team members instead of just one.

  3. Stimulate different thinking by directly asking people to share the opposite perspective. Give them permission to disagree. After you do this a few times, it should become more natural and increase diversity in thinking.

  4. Adhere to timelines. If the meeting is supposed to start at 1pm, then start it at 1pm.  It’s ok if everyone isn’t there.  Be respectful of the people in the room.  You need to be consistent with this – soon people will fall into line.

Remember, everyone can play a role in strengthening team trust and creating productive meetings. It’s not just the boss’ job!
Carolyn Swora
Carolyn Swora is a workplace culture architect who facilitates development in three core areas; Courage, Resilience and Belonging. Join Carolyn in a conversation via email, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Carolyn’s book, “Rules of Engagement”, is available on Amazon. You can also listen to PWE & ME, Carolyn’s Podcast.