Doing the Right Things Right

"Truly successful executives are those who can thoroughly mine the intersection of efficiency and effectiveness to maximize their value and that of their team’s."

- Doing the Right Things Right, page 143

Laura Stack is a productivity expert. Her specialty is showing people how to do more in less time. Laura categorizes the three areas where leaders spend their time into what she calls “The Three Ts”: Thinking Strategically, Team Focus, and Tactical Work.

She divides each of those three domains into four principles and covers a myriad of ideas and examples for how to quickly obtain profitable and productive results. Always with a focus on managing the intersection of two critical dimensions: effectiveness and efficiency.

The beauty of Doing the Right Things Right is that it is written in the most efficient and effective way possible; it’s a quick read! She conveys her ideas succinctly and logically. Busy executives can quickly pick up time management strategies that will be immediately effective.

One time management strategy that I can incorporate immediately is to boost productivity by eliminating bad habits. Overly long breaks, failure to take breaks, unproductive discussions, poorly planned meetings, procrastination and multitasking are all time-wasters. I routinely skip lunches and breaks; it never occurred to me that taking them can increase productivity. Setting a good example and holding others accountable are ways to eliminate these bad habits and increase productivity.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Think about how you think

"The more you think about how you think, the more you can use your self-knowledge to improve your productivity and boost your professional growth."
- Doing the Right Things Right, page 133

As a passionate life-long learner, this idea of framing self-development as an efficiency measure took me by surprise. Makes plenty of sense though: intentional effort invested in continuous quality improvement and personal excellence not only increases one’s effectiveness, but is more than likely to involve some measure of efficiency too.

In my experience, self-knowledge involves much more than thinking about how I think: understanding my abilities, motivations and emotions, and acknowledging my beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are all part of the self-knowledge package. But Stack’s point rings true: self-knowledge leads to personal growth, which leads to greater effectiveness and productivity.

It also leads to leadership-by-example and the ability to nurture the development of others. The more we can influence the engagement of those we work with, the more effective they will become. That in turn increases organizational productivity and effectiveness.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Empower your people

"Perhaps the greatest change we’ve seen while boldly going deeper into the Information Era is that the roles of manager and worker have evolved toward each other."
- Doing the Right Things Right, page 208

Working closely together and empowering staff is a leadership approach that I embrace. When managers and workers work together as a solid team, things run smoother and the organization’s capacity builds.

Empowering employees to make responsible decisions about how they spend their time and do their work requires a leader who can create the conditions to support safety and success. A leader has to make it easy for the team to excel by removing obstacles to success, encouraging teamwork, and emphasizing accountability. As well, one has to be tolerant of failure: people have to be able to fail without worrying about punishment. By owning mistakes and reflecting on failure, individuals can grow and develop, the team improves and the organization benefits.

As Stack points out, “Smart leaders realize they get further by forming partnerships with their employees.” Let them know why their work matters and how it moves the organization forward. And when employees can take ownership of their jobs, they will be empowered to use whatever strategy works best in the moment to be effective and productive. Develop your people, support them, and trust them to do the right thing.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Boost innovation and flexibility

"While we have procedures and traditions for a reason, we can’t let them hold us back. Mavericks who keep their eyes open and are willing to try something new drive innovation. So open your eyes to the possibilities."
- Doing the Right Things Right, page 125

Coming from the world of public funding and bureaucratic red tape, this statement jumped out for me. Sometimes we can find more efficient ways to meet the controls and accountability of red tape, and sometimes we can’t.

And sometimes it’s all too easy to see the established procedures, traditions and bureaucratic processes as the only thing that matters. But when we reach that point, we’ve forgotten the mission of our organization.

In my case, the organization is a public library. Traditions and established procedures are ingrained in our service model. We’re classic at doing things “because we’ve always done them this way”. But in this new information era, the digital landscape requires some serious reflection in order to remain loyal to the core mission while being open to doing some things very differently.

Certainly there are constraints, and yet innovation requires looking at things in a new way, and looking beyond the established traditions and bureaucratic requirements. The motto “creativity loves constraint” applies in my context. For me, opening my eyes to innovation and possibility requires a creative mindset!

The theme of flexibility runs through this entire book. Stack describes how best to triage tasks, embrace change, avoid techno-traps, improve continually, facilitate tasks, and adhere to purpose and goals.

And while this book packs in lots of good ideas and solid practical advice, I was grateful that Stack extols the necessity of a balanced life in the effort to be efficient and effective. As she says, “Sometimes work has to wait while you live the rest of your life.”

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Jacqueline van Dyk

ABOUT Jacqueline van Dyk

As a chief librarian, I'm passionate about libraries, collaboration and life-long learning. Life brings serendipity; I started out as a visual arts major...
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