Open Thinkering


5 steps to making other people more productive.

It’s all very well making a commitment to your own personal productivity, but if your workflow depends on other people you need them to be productive too!

Here’s some suggestions for prompting other people to up their game* that I’ve used to good effect in various workplaces. 🙂

1. Establish a positive relationship

You cannot influence other people’s productivity unless they have a positive impression of you. In order to do that you need more than a ‘Hello, how are you?’ relationship with them.

The test of this is whether you can talk about something important to that person if left alone with them. I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t like talking about their own interests. Use that. Get to know people.

2. Outline where you get your ideas from

Nobody works in a vacuum. Whilst you may think that people thinking you’re some kind of productivity god is a good thing, actually it’s a bit of a turn-off. In the same way that people feel intimidated by people with high levels of technical skill, so they feel uncomfortable if they think you’re some kind of machine.

Drop into conversations that you read something on a particular blog, or that one of your former colleagues had a similar problem, or that you were listening to a podcast where there was a great idea. Getting people reading and listening to the same things as you allows you to have productive conversations and means you’re both singing from the same hymn sheet.

3. Be generous

In some Native American tribes, the chief would ceremoniously give away everything they owned. Why? It was a symbolic way to show that they had the power both to own and dispose of possessions in a way far greater than anyone else in the tribe.

People are drawn to those who are generous. To be generous means that you’ve got things sorted, finished and your life organised enough to be of benefit to others. So ‘lend’ books without expecting them back. Give people small gifts if you think it’s going to increase their productivity.

4. Get other people involved

I heard once that people have to be ‘evangelised’ to around seven times before they’re ‘converted’. I think this applies as much to secular things as to the religious. Therefore, if someone needs to hear a thing several times, it’s best if they don’t all come from you.

Talk to those who know the person you’re trying to influence towards increased productivity better than you. Ask if they’ve always done X, Y or Z in that particular way. Ask if there’s a reason for that. Mention other ways that may be more productive. Usually people will pass on your suggestion.

The great thing about this approach is that you seem not to be involved and the person you want to influence gains ownership of the change they make.

5. Expect the best

If you were at a restaurant and received a sub-par meal or bottle of wine, you’d send it back. Likewise, if someone’s produced some work that you don’t think’s up to scratch, don’t stand for it.

The best way to approach such conversations is to ask “What’s the matter?” or “Are you OK?” This is a fairly non-confrontational conversation starter. If they wonder why you’re asking, reply that they usually produce such stellar work that you thought there must be something wrong. If they invite you to point out what the problem is with the work, point towards something objective – for example the amount of time it took, sloppy mistakes, etc.

These steps are sequential. You can’t have the kind of conversation required in Step 5 without knowing people well!

Let me know if you try and put these into practice – how did you get on?

* In fact, ‘How to make other people more productive’ is going to be the final section of #uppingyourgame!

Image CC BY-NC-SA shadarington

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