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Taking a personalized and strategic approach to setting goals with employees is arguably the most effective way to boost their performance. Gallup found that 69% of employees whose managers help them set goals are engaged compared to only 8% that don’t.

Not only does their engagement boost their productivity and motivate them to perform their best, it also ensures that they’re focused on activities that directly contribute to your organization’s goals as opposed to projects that are less relevant.

To get those benefits, you can’t just quickly assign every member of your team a goal. Instead, you need to set strategic goals, communicate them effectively, and empower your team to be successful. Here's how. 

Connect Goals with Broader Organizational Objectives

A study published in Harvard Business Review found that only about half top employees understand how their goals fit in with their company’s broader objectives. This lack of awareness about the purpose of individual goals often causes misunderstandings about the goals themselves and which projects are the highest priority.

For example, if an employee is working on three projects, they may invest the majority of their time and energy into the one that they think is most important and rush through the one that’s the true priority for your organization.

To ensure your employees are focused on the right priorities and understand why their work matters, connect all of their goals to your broader organizational objectives so that they can see how what they’re working on fits into the bigger picture.

Here are some examples:

  • Our goal is to improve the accuracy of our data analysis software by 20%. Doing so will enable us to surpass the quality of our competitor’s products and increase market share.
  • Our goal is to create systems that reduce manufacturing energy usage by 15%. Doing so will contribute to our commitment to lowering our carbon dioxide emissions by 50% within the next ten years.
  • Our goal is to increase revenue by 25% this year. Doing so will give us a chance at appearing on the fastest growing companies list.

By making sure employees are aware of the big picture visions behind their goals, you enable them to focus on long-term results instead of just the specific goal they’re working to achieve.

Read More: 4 Goals Every Growth-Driven Manager Should Have

Involve Employees in the Goal Setting Process

Research estimates that only 30% of managers involve their employees in goal setting. This is a huge missed opportunity since involving your team in the goal setting process has several benefits including:

While you already have broad organizational objectives, you can involve your employees in deciding how to achieve those objectives.

For example, if you’re leading a sales team, your overall is probably to increase revenue by X%. There are a variety of ways you can achieve that goal. So, have conversations with your team to get their ideas and choose which smaller goals each individual is going to be responsible for achieving.

For best results, engage in goal setting discussions every time your employees finish a project and will have more bandwidth and/or alongside your quarterly performance reviews.

Read More: How to Inspire Goal Commitment from Your Team

Create Actionable Milestones

If you want your employees to be successful, you need to provide them with actionable milestones that offer a clear picture of what they need to do to be successful.

According to Gallup, only about half of employees fully understand their goals at work. The remaining half who are unsure what exactly their managers expect of them are significantly less productive since they waste time trying to figure what to do and/or producing undesirable deliverables.

Setting goal milestones with your employees empowers them to be successful by:

  • Making ambitious goals seem more attainable by breaking them into quantifiable pieces.
  • Ensuring they have an accurate understanding of what is expected of them. This prevents your team from wasting pursuing the wrong ideas.
  • Giving you set times to check in and assess goal progress. If they fail to meet milestones and/or do them wrong, it gives you early opportunities to step in and help them improve.

To increase the likelihood of success, you should discuss goals with employees and create milestones that:

  • Have an objective definition of completion. For example, the campaign copy is drafted and ready for editorial review, or you’ve completed fifty introductory sales calls.
  • Be realistically able to be achieved by the deadline. Milestones are only useful if they’re attainable. So, review how long it took your team to finish similar projects and use that to map out project duration.
  • Add up to achieve the goal. The most effective milestones drive goal completion by ensuring that once all milestones are completed successfully, so is the larger goal.

The bottom line is creating actionable milestones gives your employees the structure they need to be successful.

Read More: 6 Office Productivity Hacks to Boost Employee Performance

Consider Constraints Outside of Your Team’s Control

Your team’s ability to achieve their goals may be subject to a variety of external factors that are outside of their control. Prior to assigning your team goals, assess if there are any constraints that would make it significantly more challenging for them to be successful.

If there are, you need to address them so that your team doesn’t feel like they’re doomed to fail from factors outside of their control.

There are two ways to do that:

  1. Lower your goals so that they are easier to achieve. Do this when the goals are not essential to your organization’s success and/or you don’t expect to generate an ROI if you choose option two.
  2. Provide your employees with additional resources to overcome the constraints. Just because there are barriers, doesn’t mean you have to be less ambitious - you just need to invest more in your team to enable them to be successful.

For example, let’s say you’re leading a B2B marketing team and your goal is for them to increase leads by 5% every month. However, December is an historically slow month for your company since so many of your prospects are busy and/or out of the office for much of the month. Ad costs also skyrocket during this time.

You could accept that December is going to be a slow month and significantly lower your lead goals. Or, if you still want to see high leads, you can address the constraints and empower your team to offer a steep holiday discount and/or significantly increase their budget for the month.

It’s important to approach external factors on a case-by-case basis to determine if you’ll generate a greater ROI from lowering expectations or increasing investment.

Read More: 4 Compassionate Ways to Boost Employee Efficiency

Give your Employees a Sense of Purpose

According to bestselling author and futurist, Jacob Morgan, helping employees have a sense of purpose in their work is one of the most effective ways to sustain their motivation and engagement.

Here are some ways to set goals that give employees a sense of purpose:

  • Share how the goals enable the company to have a positive impact on society. For example, if your company donates a percentage of sales to charities, you can share the impact that your company’s contributions have on those organizations.
  • Explain to individual employees how the projects they’re working on contribute to your organization’s success.
  • Celebrate small successes on a regular basis so that while your team is working to achieve long-term goals, they can feel proud of what they’ve accomplished so far.

Constantly reinforcing the deeper purpose of the goals you set encourages your employees to remain committed to your organization.

However, intrinsic incentives alone likely won’t be enough to sustain employee motivation as they pursue challenging projects. As you’re setting goals, you should also plan extrinsic incentives such as free lunches when milestones are completed and bonuses when goals are achieved.

By involving your employees in the goal setting process, creating structures that empower their success, and providing incentives, you'll be able lead your team to continuously perform better. 

Become A More Effective Leader

Join executives, entrepreneurs, and industry-leading professionals from around the world who use our research-backed advice and services to become more effective and productive leaders. Download our free guide: 

How to Use Delegation for More Impactful Leadership

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About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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Knowing how to delegate effectively is what sets apart stressed, overworked, and uninspiring leaders from those who love their jobs and motivate their teams to achieve great success.

As a leader, there’s always far more requests demanding your attention than you have time to do. If you feel like you’re the only ones who can tackle your workload, inevitably some things will slip through the cracks.

However, if you delegate tasks that don’t require your expertise and/or authority, you can focus on your most critical initiatives while ensuring that all of your miscellaneous projects and tasks get done. This creates five powerful benefits of effective delegation.

1) Grow Your Business Faster and More Reliably

Gallup found that leaders who are effective delegators achieved 112% higher growth rates than those who don’t delegate at all or who delegate poorly. Effective delegation provides such a huge advantage because it:

Together, the benefits of effective delegation create a company culture that motivates everyone to contribute their best work to the company.

Don’t know how to delegate effectively or what types of tasks you should offload? Download our free guide How to Use Delegation to Become a More Impactful Leader:

2) Focus on the Activities that Matter Most

A survey of 500 managers found that 36% of them spend an average of 3-4 hours per day on admin and other lower-level tasks including scheduling meetings and travel, generating reports, filing expenses, organizing their inbox, coordinating key parties, and doing other tedious tasks. An additional 23% of managers spend 5+ hours per day on those tasks.

This is a huge loss of productivity since that time spent on urgent but unimportant tasks pulls you away from the strategic activities that drive your success.

Effective delegation enables you to maximize your success since, instead of wasting time on admin tasks and low-value projects, you can focus on the strategic activities that require your expertise and authority.

Even if you only delegate half of your admin work and lower-level projects, you’ll still save an hour and a half to two hours per day which can translate into significant productivity gains.

Worried that your employees are too busy for you to delegate tedious tasks to them? Consider hiring a virtual assistant. They can reliably tackle all of your sudden and ongoing admin-related tasks so that you never have to worry about doing them. 

Download our guide to learn how a virtual assistant can help you: 

3) Create Learning Opportunities that Improve Retention

Sitel Group’s Future of Work and Employee Learning Report found that 37% of employees would quit their jobs if they were not given opportunities to learn new skills. Delegating new tasks is an easy and effective way to retain your growth-driven employees since it gives them the experiences they’re looking for and requires minimal effort on your part.

Most managers avoid delegating higher-level tasks to employees because they’re afraid that the individual is going to do it wrong and they’ll have to spend more time fixing the mistakes than they would have if they completed the task themselves.

However, if you give clear guidelines about what you’re looking for and delegate to dedicated employees, they’ll likely succeed. The same report found that 83% of employees prefer learning through hands-on experiences and will teach themselves the skills they need to tackle new projects.

So, whenever you need extra time to focus on a critical initiative, offload some of your smaller projects to junior employees who are eager to learn new skills and prove their value to the company.

4) Assess Your Team’s Promotion Potential

Choosing who to promote can be extremely challenging because being successful at one position often isn’t a reliable indicator that an employee will be successful at a different one.

Delegation can solve this issue by giving you the opportunity to test multiple employees’ skills prior to entering the selection process. The key is to have all of the senior members of your team delegate small projects to your junior team members on an ongoing basis.

Doing this ensures that as soon as one of your senior employees leaves, they can make an objective recommendation for who is the best fit for replacing them. It can also minimize some of the politics surrounding promotions.

Be aware that your senior employees may not know how to delegate effectively. Before you instruct them to start delegating to junior employees, coach them on the following:

  • What kinds of projects are appropriate to delegate
  • How to give clear guidelines for projects
  • Who they should delegate to
  • How often they delegate to each junior person (make sure they delegate equally to everyone)

The upfront work to coach them will be well worth the effort since not only will it give you a plan for when your senior employees move on but, it will also empower them to be more productive since they can spend less time on lower value tasks.

5) Improve Your Relationships with Employees

Often, delegation is just viewed as a way for leaders to reduce their workload. However, it’s also a powerful way for leaders to improve their relationships with employees. People crave validation that their managers respect them and entrusting people with key tasks and information is a great way of doing that.

Not only does the validation from delegated tasks improve morale, it also makes them more receptive to their managers.

Research shows that when managers effectively delegate tasks on a regular basis, employees are more likely to seek feedback and act on the advice they receive. This behavior is driven by employees’ desire to meet their managers’ expectations so that they are continuously trusted to handle important work.

Become an Effective Delegator

Download our free guide How to Use Delegation to Be a More Impactful Leader to learn:

  • What kinds of tasks you should delegate
  • Who you should delegate too
  • How to set up the people you delegate to for success

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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Turning your B2B clients into company evangelists is one of the most effective ways to earn more customers. A Neilsen report found that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people in their network more than they do company advertisements.

B2B buyers are especially motivated by referrals since hearing that your company produced great results for their colleagues in the industry reassures them that your offering is a worthwhile investment.

Keep reading to learn how to turn your B2B clients into company evangelists.

Provide Exceptional Account Management

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, strategic account management programs create a 20%+ increase in client satisfaction and a 15%+ increase in revenue.

Exceptional account management helps turn your clients into company evangelists by:

  • Helping your clients get the highest possible ROI from your product/service
  • Quickly solving client issues so that they’re 100% satisfied with the results you deliver
  • Developing strong relationships with key stakeholders so that you’re able to become an essential provider for them

When your account managers quickly address all of your B2B clients’ ideas and concerns, it proves that your business is reliable - a trait that’s absolutely necessary for clients to refer you to others.

Read More: The Secret Sauce Behind Powerful Client Relationships

Collect Customer Feedback and Use it to Continuously Improve

One of the most effective ways to turn customers who ordinarily wouldn’t talk about your company into brand evangelists is to take the time to listen to them and transform their feedback into product/service improvements.

Throughout your engagements with clients, have your account managers and/or account executives ask your clients how they’re enjoying your offering and see if there’s anything else they’d want from you.

If possible, immediately act on their feedback and show them the improvements your team is making. Doing so proves to your clients that you’re committed to their success and encourages them to share their positive experience with others.

Even if you’re a product company and can’t immediately implement customer feedback, you can still create goodwill by collecting feedback. The key is to create the results your clients want to see instead of the specific improvement they requested. For example, if they ask for a feature that your product team currently doesn’t have the bandwidth to develop, suggest workarounds that enable them to achieve similar results.

Read More: 4 Strategies to Ignite a Culture of Continuous Improvement

One of the companies that’s great at doing this is Lately. They’re a marketing management software company who is constantly improving their product based on customer feedback.

Every week, their customer success manager hosts webinars explaining how to use a product feature. At the end of it, they answer questions and invite customers to share their feedback about the service. If someone wants a feature that’s not currently available, they’ll share the idea with their development team and create it if possible.

Customers are loyal to Lately because they feel like the company truly cares about their success and is always improving their product.

Sustain a Strong Company Culture

Company culture plays a powerful role in the quality of service your B2B clients receive. Research from the Korn Ferry Institute found that companies who have a strong culture with highly engaged employees grow revenue twice as much as those with poor company cultures and disengaged employees.

They found that company culture has such a powerful impact on business success since highly engaged employees are:

  • An average of 43% more productive than disengaged employees which enables them to produce better results for your B2B clients faster
  • Demonstrate a positive, helpful attitude when interacting with your clients to give them a great experience
  • Go out of their way to address client needs so that they feel supported the whole time they’re working with your company
  • Spend more time collaborating with other teams so that they can develop holistic solutions to your client needs

Taking actions to keep your employees engaged ensures they deliver the positive experiences and exceptional results that drive clients to become evangelists for your brand.

Exceed Your Clients’ Expectations

According to Sujan Patel, Voila Norbert co-founder, you should always exceed your clients’ expectations. Here’s why:

"Exceed your clients expectations by smashing the KPI's you've set. You'll seamlessly turn your clients into company evangelists if your results are greater than what you had laid out at the start of the engagement."

To exceed your clients’ expectations, you need to do two things:

  1. Set appropriate expectations with clients. If they think that you can achieve results that are impossible or they have unrealistic ideas about how long your work is going to take, then you’re set up for failure. Prior to finalizing your agreement, make sure they have expectations that your team is capable of exceeding.
  2. At the start of client engagements, strategize how you’re going to exceed their expectations. Having a plan from the start ensures you’re able reliably wow your customers while adhering to time and budget constraints.

Here are a couple of ways to go above and beyond your clients’ expectations

  • Exceed the KPIs you promised. To do this, you need to start your engagement by setting goals that you know you can meet and work with your team to surpass them. For example, if you’re a web development agency, you may promise your client that you’re going to increase site speed by 15% and lower the bounce rate by 10%. However, you and your team need to work hard to hit those base KPIs as early as possible in your engagement so that you have time to surpass them.
  • Accommodate your clients’ sudden and urgent needs. By occasionally stepping up and helping clients with projects that are outside of your agreed upon scope of work, you eliminate stress from their lives and prove that your business will do whatever it takes to support its’ clients.

Here’s an example:

Recently, we had a former client come back and they were scheduled to start service in the beginning of the following month. However, before their onboarding date, they had a backlog of expenses that needed to be done.

Though our contract with them hadn’t officially started, their former virtual assistant stepped up and worked overtime to file all of their expense reports by the deadline. Our client was super grateful and impressed that we got the work done on short notice. They’ve since referred us new clients.

Ultimately, the secret to turning your B2B clients into company evangelists is simple: provide an outstanding customer experience and deliver results that are so impactful that they’re eager to share their success with others in the industry.

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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The Aberdeen Group’s CMO Agenda Report found that companies with strong sales and marketing alignment generate 32% more revenue than those who don’t. That impressive result exists because when sales and marketing teams work collaboratively together, this will:

  • Ensure prospects receive consistent messages in all of their interactions with your company.
  • Enable you to give the right prospects the right content at the right times.
  • Let your sales team focus on fostering connections with prospects instead of educating them about your offerings from scratch.
  • Alignment begins with the annual budgeting process, when both teams should be planning in tandem for their own budgets and to support the objectives of the other teams.
  • To the extent that marketing is clear on the goals for sales, they will be much better positioned to support those goals and all of the discrete activities involved in executing on sales plans.
  • As the sales leader, it is incumbent on you to “open your kimono” to marketing and vice versa. It can be so easy to live in our own worlds and silos, but opening up these two silos will go a long way toward achieving goals.

In this article, I’ll share research-backed and actionable strategies to improve your sales and marketing alignment to grow revenue. Whether you are running the sales organization or the marketing organization (or both together), creating alignment between the two groups is a fundamental ingredient in maximizing the customer experience with your company, and in turn optimizing revenue.

Establish Strong Communication Channels Between Sales and Marketing

Kapost found that only 35% of sales people think marketing listens to them. That may be the case or salespeople may just be ignoring the content that marketing produces. Regardless of which side is right, if your organization has this issue, the teams aren’t communicating effectively.

Here are some ways to establish strong communication channels between your sales and marketing teams:

Getting your sales and marketing teams in the habit of communication, coordination, and collaboration will have a direct impact on your bottom line. According to Forrester, 43% of B2B companies report losing sales due to not having the right content at the right time and 77% report experiencing delays in the sales process due to a lack of relevant content.

When your sales and marketing teams communicate regularly, you dramatically reduce the risk that a lack of content will hinder a sale.

Read More: Want to Be More Productive? Use These Communication Strategies

Engage in Ongoing Discussions About Buyer Personas

56% of marketers don’t plan their content based on buyer personas. Instead, they choose content based on its SEO potential, similar to other successful content, or other non-buyer specific reasons. This occurs despite the fact that marketers who focus on filling gaps in persona-based content achieve better results.

The reason most marketers don’t focus on buyer personas? They only have a vague understanding about the types of prospects their sales team is targeting.

Here’s how to remedy this:

  1. Have your sales team create written profiles that define their buyer personas, if they don’t have them already. Share these with the marketing team.
  2. Host a meeting where a couple of members of your sales team explain the key features of your buyer personas with your marketing team.
  3. Have your sales team get into a habit of sending your marketing team persona information and content requests. For example, sending articles about shifts in an industry they’re focused on, common questions they get from prospects, requests for one-pagers, blog posts, etc.

Ultimately salespeople sell to people, not faceless corporate entities. These people have their roles and interests, ie users, IT, Finance, Legal, Operations, etc. As such, they are personas with specific hot buttons that can and should be addressed.

Read More: The Secret Sauce Behind Powerful Client Relationships

Encourage Sales Teams to Make Marketing Suggestions

Research has found that the average salesperson wastes over 400 hours per year searching for the right content to share with their prospects and 65% of them complain that they can’t find relevant content.

To boost sales productivity, your team needs to be able to quickly find content that’s relevant to their prospects.

Here’s how to make it easy for your sales team to find content:

  • Choose a file storage tool that your sales and marketing teams both use and create a folder for marketing communications materials.
  • Have your sales and marketing managers work together to create subfolders that are easy for both teams to understand. You should create several so that your salespeople don’t have to waste time going through dozens of pieces of content.
  • Tell your marketing team to add all of their existing and up-to-date content into the folders.

Marketing will always win huge support from their sales colleagues by making it easy to access all materials in a single and organized space.

Teach Your Sales Team How to Use Marketing Content

The Content Marketing Institute found that 80% of companies with strong sales and marketing alignment actively teach their sales teams how and when they should leverage marketing content.

Incorporating marketing content into your sales training boosts your sales productivity by:

  • Making your team aware of where to find different types of content - this prevents them from wasting time searching for materials.
  • Encouraging them to request custom content from your marketing team.
  • Getting them in the habit of reading marketing materials so that they can be sure that their messaging to prospects is consistent with what’s being published.

There is certainly a risk in having a well organized, centralized hub for all marketing material – without really knowing what’s inside the content. This risk is sending your prospects material which may not support your own messaging effectively. Be sure your sales people have read your collateral before they send it out. This will ensure messaging is consistent, and thus your customer’s experience is optimized.

Read More: 4 Customer Appreciation Tactics that Will Drive Revenue Growth

We cannot underestimate the importance of alignment between the sales and marketing teams, irrespective of which side you’re on. When the two groups are not in alignment, we typically see conflicting messaging, confused clients and prospects, and a waste of time and money.

On the other hand, alignment goes a long way to optimize our go-to-market strategy, competitive positioning, and overall value proposition to our clients.

About the Author: Andrew Miller has more than 25 years of global experience in enterprise sales and scaling companies.  He leads Prialto’s sales and business development organization. He spends much of his time helping our enterprise accounts and their teams to better leverage Prialto’s assistance

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According to LinkedIn research 80% of professionals think networking plays a critical role in their success and actively work to build new connections. With the abundance of online groups, meetups, conferences, etc. it’s easy to meet lots of new people on a regular basis.

However, most people value to generate value from their efforts because they struggle to establish lasting relationships.

Creating a contact management system enables you to build and develop a successful network by ensuring you remember to stay in touch with all of your connections. This article will walk you through how to effectively manage your professional network and sustain strong relationships.

Consolidate All Your Contacts Into a Single System

The first step in managing your professional is consolidating all of your contacts into a single system. You can do this by leveraging your company’s contact management software or adopting your own.

Need help choosing a tool? Check out our article: 

How to Choose the Most Valuable CRM for Your Business

Here’s how to consolidate your contacts:

  • Gather contacts from all of the places you store them and upload them to your software
  • Delete duplicate contacts
  • Verify that old contact information (email addresses, phone numbers, companies, etc. ) is still accurate
  • Add missing contact information

Thoroughly completing these steps creates the foundation for you to be able to effectively manage your professional network moving forward. Once all of your contacts are in one place, it becomes much easier to stay in touch with all of your connections. 

Don’t have time to go through all of those steps of consolidating your contacts? A virtual assistant can do it for you and drive all of the tedious aspects of managing your nhttps://info.prialto.com/get-started-generaletwork so you have more time to focus on fostering strong relationships. Contact us to learn how.

Organize Your System to Achieve Your Networking Goals

Having a database filled with contacts is useless if it’s not set up to achieve your networking goals. To be able to find relevant connections, send targeted campaigns or leverage your network in other ways, you need to organize your contacts based on the types of relationships you have with them.

Here are some examples of contact categories you might have:

  • Prospects - People whom you’d like to sell to
  • Strategic Partners - These are people who you want to foster mutually beneficial business relationships with
  • Colleagues - Everyone you currently work with
  • Potential Recruits - Individuals whom you’d like to join your company when relevant positions become available
  • Professional Connections - People whom you’d like to keep in touch with but you don’t have a specific goal that you hope to achieve with them
  • Vendors - People who offer great services that you may purchase again in the future

Categorizing all of your contacts based on the type of relationship you have with them enables you to create communication strategies for each of those groups and send mass messages when appropriate.

Identify Conversation Triggers

When your schedule is packed, it’s easy to lose touch with contacts - especially those that you don’t have pressing reasons to speak with. However, failing to communicate regularly makes all of your marketing efforts go to waste.

The easiest way to stay in touch with everyone in your network is to build conversation triggers into your contact management system. This way, you don’t have to remember to reach out to your connections; your system will send you reminders when it’s an appropriate time to reach out.

Here are some standard triggers:

  • Three months since last contacted
  • Birthday
  • Major holidays
  • One year since you started working together

Since each of triggers are based on fixed dates, you can create automated workflows to remind you to reach out. Keep in mind that, depending on your CRM, you may need to manually add contacts to your workflows.

If setting up these workflows sounds tedious and time-consuming, offload it to a virtual assistant. All of our VAs are trained to use popular CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot and our training team will teach your assistant how to use any contact management software that you choose.

Though those conversation triggers are easy to use, they’re generic and may not appeal to everyone. To establish lasting, authentic relationships, you should consider following these spontaneous conversation triggers:

  • Job changes
    • There’s a chance you’ll hear about this from others in your network, however, to ensure you don’t miss anyone’s promotions, check your LinkedIn alerts at least twice per week. Alternatively, you can have your assistant let you know whenever someone in your network changes jobs.
  • You’re visiting their city
    • Whenever you’re traveling, check your contact management software and/or LinkedIn to find connections who live in the city you’re visiting.
  • Their company is in the news
    • Sign up for Google Alerts to get notifications whenever your connections are in the news. I recommend only setting up alerts for contacts that you’re very eager to establish a stronger relationship. If they have a somewhat generic name, Google may confuse them with other things in the news and send you additional emails. You reduce email clutter, you can also have your virtual assistant subscribe to Google alerts instead and pass along relevant news stories about people in your network.
  • They post about an accomplishment or major life event
    • Congratulating people for accomplishments is a great reason to reach out. If you’re not very active on social media, you have your assistant monitor your feed and let you know when one of your connections posts about an accomplishment or major life event.
  • You read an article that may interest them
    • This trigger is self-explanatory, just make sure that you’re only sharing high-quality content.
  • You’re going to an event they may be interested in
    • When you get tickets to industry events, reach out to others in your industry and see if they’re going. If they are, it creates a perfect opportunity to meet up and, if they aren’t, they’ll most likely want to hear how the event goes.

Paying close attention to your network enables you to spark authentic conversations and build mutually beneficial relationships.

Read More: The Secret Sauce Behind Powerful Client Relationships

Save Time with Message Templates

Whenever you reach out to people in your professional network, your message should be authentic and personalized. However, you can still use templates to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to reach out to your connections.

To maximize the efficiency of your networking efforts, draft message templates for all of your conversation triggers. The templates should include spaces for you to add personalized comments.

Here’s an example template for the conversation trigger “a contact got a promotion”:

Hey [first name],

I heard you got promoted to [insert position]. Congrats! I’d love to grab coffee sometime this month to catch up and hear more about what you’ll be working on.

Best,

[Your name]

Whenever a contact reaches a conversation trigger, you can pull one of your templates and send a quick message. Or, if you have an assistant, they can do it for you.

To make your message more personalized, you can add additional commentary based on your prior interactions with the contact or knowledge about the subject you’re reaching out about.

Keep Your Contacts Fresh

Your contact management system will quickly become obsolete if you don’t keep it up-to-date. You should update your contacts every time:

  • You have a conversation with them - add notes to your contact record.
  • One of their contact properties changes - for example they start working for a new company or they get a new phone number.
  • You learn something new about them - Ex. their birthday, they launch a side gig, their kids love superhero movies etc. Noting these types of random facts helps you establish a more personal connection since it enables you to spark conversations about topics other than work.

Keeping your contacts fresh can be as simple as adding a couple of quick notes, updating a field or changing the contacts group. As with everything else in this article, you can offload this to your virtual assistant - you just have to keep them in the loop with your contact interactions.

Want to learn how a virtual assistant can manage your contacts and support you with a wide range of other tasks? Contact us to schedule a discovery call or download our free guide to learn what it’s like to work with a Prialto VA.

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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Improving employee productivity is arguably the most effective way to reach your business’s growth goals. Not only do highly productive employees accomplish a lot of work every day, they also:

  • Solve problems faster
  • Come up with more innovative ideas
  • Identify ways to streamline existing processes
  • Make fewer errors

All of these characteristics make productive employees key drivers of business success. Thus, strategically investing in your team will enable you to achieve your organization’s goals. However, there’s a fine line between enabling your team to be more productive and causing them to burnout.

This article contains actionable tips that increase your employees’ productivity by empowering them to stay motivated and work as efficiently as possible.

Foster Employee Happiness

To boost your employees’ productivity, you need to start by making your office a great place to work. Studies show that happy employees are significantly more productive than those who aren’t. Since happiness is strongly tied to company culture, managers have a lot of power to influence it.

Here are a few simple but highly effective ways to boost your employees’ happiness:

  Be Abundantly Transparent

Research shows that transparency is the greatest predictor of employee happiness. Unlike common motivational tactics like bonuses, employee recognition, free food, etc. that give employees a temporary boost of happiness, transparency impacts your team’s overall psychological well-being. Here’s why:

According to the NeuroLeadership Institute, access to information plays a powerful role in employees’ perceived status, their ability to understand and influence what happens to them at work, and their perception of fairness within their organization.

The more transparent leaders are, the more employees feel included, appreciated and empowered to do their jobs well. Thus, to boost your team’s productivity, give them access to all information that doesn’t have to be strictly confidential. You can also consider hosting monthly Q & A sessions where employees are invited to ask questions about anything that interests them.

Read More: Want Employees to Embrace Feedback? Improve Psychological Safety

Recognize Their Achievements

The traditional method of recognizing employees when they reach major milestones isn’t enough to keep them satisfied. The Mercer Global Talent Trends Study found that 97% of employees want to be recognized more frequently and for a wider range of contributions.

To keep your employees happy and productive, privately and publicly celebrate them for reasons including when they:

  • Solve a problem your team has been struggling with for a few months
  • Improve one of their metrics
  • Complete a major project
  • Have a work anniversary
  • Receive great feedback from a client
  • Plus other achievements

Providing these kinds of ongoing recognition ensures that all of your employees feel like valued members of your team and are motivated to be productive at work each day.

Encourage Employees to Take Breaks

Research shows that taking breaks boosts employee productivity, motivation, and creativity. Despite this, a survey from Tork found that nearly 40% of employees feel like they would be negatively judged for just taking lunch breaks.

To ensure your employees have the mental stamina to sustain their productivity, you need to make them feel comfortable taking breaks. Here’s how:

  • If you notice that one of your direct reports is stressed out, encourage them to take a break.
  • Have leaders at your company set a positive example by occasionally spending their lunch breaks in shared spaces around the office.
  • Create comfortable spaces in your office where employees can take breaks away from their desks.

Though empowering your employees to take regular breaks reduces the amount of time they work, they’ll accomplish more since they’re able to complete work faster and more accurately.

Set Clear, Individual Goals with All Your Employees

A Gallup report found that only about half of employees fully understand what’s expected of them at work. This stat is surprising given how performance-oriented most business are. However, only 12% of managers helps employees set individual work priorities and only 13% help them set performance goals.

Read More: 4 Goals Every Growth-Driven Manager Should Have

As a result, the majority of employees don’t know if they’re focused on the right things and it’s negatively impacting their productivity by 5%-10%.

To maximize your team’s efficiency, you need to set clear, individual goals for everyone on your team. Here’s how:

  • Create a set of quarterly and annual goals for your team. They should be objective, action-oriented, and tied to your company’s overall goals.
  • Break your team’s objectives into individual goals. As you’re creating the goals, consider each of your employees’ strengths and interests. This will allow you to assign priorities to the people who are most likely to succeed at them.
  • Share the goals with your team. Give every employee a clear outline of the projects and metrics they’re responsible achieving.
  • Review your employees’ goal progress on a monthly basis. These meetings give you an opportunity to assess your team’s performance and clear up any confusion or other issues they’re having.

Giving your employees greater clarity about their goals will immediately boost their productivity by ensuring they’re focused on the tasks that drive their success.

Provide Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities

Studies show that providing ongoing professional development opportunities improves employee productivity, loyalty and engagement.

Now more than ever, employees want and need to be constantly learning to be able to do their jobs effectively. To sustain a productive workforce, you need to invest in ongoing skills training.

If your organization doesn’t have the time or financial resources to create professional development programs, you can leverage existing courses on elearning sites such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, SkillsSoft, and Coursera.

To get a greater ROI from those programs, curate courses that are directly aligned with the skills your employees need to improve and sustain their productivity.

Read more: 4 Strategies to Ignite a Culture of Continuous Improvement

  Empower Your Employees to Adopt the Productivity Habits that Work Best for Them

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when trying to improve workforce productivity is creating a culture where everyone feels forced to conform to a strict ideal of what being productive looks like.

For some organizations, this means having frequent business lunches, attending as many meetings as possible, and constantly collaborating with others - regardless of if people actually need their help for their projects.

For others, being productive means eating lunch at your desk, working long hours, and constantly striving to ensure your work stands out from the rest of the team rather than collaborating with colleagues to ensure everyone succeeds.

Regardless of what the cultural productivity standards are, they hinder the performance of a large portion of your workforce whose natural work styles don’t fit your expectations.

To increase employee productivity, you need to empower your team to develop productivity habits that are best suited for their personality and energy rhythms.

Often, employees have spent most of their careers adapting to their environments so, at first, they may not know what works for them. Here are some questions you can ask in your one-on-ones to help your direct reports figure out how to work most productively:

  • What time of day do you have the most energy? Do your most challenging work then.
  • Do you prefer working alone or in groups? To the greatest extent possible, empower your employees to change how frequently they collaborate with others.
  • Do prefer taking several short breaks or one to two long breaks throughout the day? Encourage them to do whatever works best.
  • Do you resonate with a particular productivity system? Tell your employees to research various methods and consider adopting one that’s a good fit for their personality.

As a leader, you should engage in an ongoing dialogue with your employees about what you can both do to maximize their productivity.

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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Time blocking is a productivity method that calls for you to schedule every minute of your work day. It’s a great technique for real estate agents because it:

  • Encourages you to spend your time on the activities that have the most impact
  • Enables you to use every working hour of the day productively
  • Gives you a clear understanding of how you spend your time so that you’re able to make improvements

In this article, we’ll explain how you can successfully adopt this time management method.

Use This Time Blocking Template for Real Estate Agents

To time block your schedule, you need to plan every minute of your work day - including mundane activities like driving to properties and eating lunch. Knowing what you should be doing at all times ensures you stay focused on high-impact activities instead of reacting to everything that comes your way.

Here’s an example time blocked calendar of a real estate agent:

Though every day is filled, you don’t have to be extremely detailed. As you can see, many of the blocks are vague such as “Follow-Up with Potential Buyers” and “Document Preparation.” There are many small tasks that fall under both of those blocks, however, rather than adding every activity to your calendar, group similar ones together to give you the flexibility to catch up on different areas of your business.

Plan Your Client and Vendor Activities

As a real estate professional, your top priority is serving your clients. Thus, meetings with them and the vendors who are working on their properties should be the first activities you add to your calendar.

Strive to confirm all meetings about a week in advance so that you can time block the remaining hours of your day. This may be challenging since some clients make unpredictable meeting requests. However, reinforce with them that you have to meet with many other clients and that planning a few days in advance enables you to be best prepared to support them.

Identify Your Business Development Priorities

Once you’ve scheduled the majority of your client and vendor activities, you need to identify and schedule your business development priorities. Blocking time on your calendar to focus on these activities enables you to secure more clients since it holds you accountable for working on strategic growth activities that may otherwise be pushed off.

Start by creating a list of all the projects you’d like to work on ranging from small tasks like following up with Zillow leads to large ones like redesigning your website. Then, estimate the shortest amount of time it will take to make meaningful progress on each one and the total amount of time you think each will take.

Thinking about the minimum amount of time you need to make progress makes it easier to find times on your calendar while estimating the maximum amount of time lets you know how many blocks you need to reserve on your calendar for each activity.

Here’s an example of what your list might look like:

  • Following up with Zillow leads - 10 minutes / 1 hour
  • Creating Facebook ads - 30 minutes / 1.5 hours
  • Creating a new brochure - 20 minutes / 45 minutes
  • Planning a community event - 30 minutes / 6 hours
  • Launching an email campaign - 20 minutes / 2 hours

Keep in mind that times you reserve for these projects are flexible. If a client decides they want to meet during a time that you had blocked off to work on marketing activities, give them that time. However, to be successful, you need to ensure your business development projects still get done.

Read More: Struggling with Real Estate Marketing? Here's How a Virtual Assistant Can Help

Continuously Improve Your Time Blocking Strategies

If you’ve never tracked your time before, you’ll likely struggle to estimate how long tasks. This will cause a lot of your blocks to be inaccurate and make it difficult for you to manage your time effectively.

There are two ways to become better at estimating how long projects take:

  1. Use a time-tracking tool such Toggl to track how long everything that you do each day takes.
  2. Whenever a task doesn’t take as long as you thought it would, make a note of how far you were off.

While you’re working to become better at estimation, don’t let small gaps of your time go to waste. Here are some tasks you can easily complete while you’re waiting for your next meeting or activity:

  • Calling or sending an email to a couple of contacts that you haven’t spoken to in a few months
  • Creating a few social media posts
  • Reaching out to leads that just came in
  • Catching up on emails

Overtime, you’ll become better at creating time blocks and be able to spend your entire day on high-impact activities.

Delegate Calendar Management to Your Assistant

Though time blocking is a highly effective way to manage your productivity, many real estate agents struggle to use it consistently because it can be time-consuming to organize all of your responsibilities.

A real estate virtual assistant can solve this issue by time blocking your calendar for you. Here’s how:

  • Give them a list of people you want to have meetings/calls with. They can schedule those meetings on your behalf or block time off on your schedule if you’d prefer to schedule them yourself.
  • Give them a list of activities you’d like to work on throughout the week (ex. Marketing, working on contracts, following up with leads, reaching out to old contacts, etc.)
  • Give them your schedule preferences. Ex. you prefer to work on business development and admin in the mornings and have all of your calls/meetings in the afternoons. Or, you need an hour in the afternoon to take your kids home from school.

They’ll take all that info and use it to organize your calendar in the most efficient way possible. If you’d like they can also send you reminders about upcoming meetings and to-dos.

A VA can also add more time to your day by tackling tasks including:

  • Formatting documents
  • Creating templated marketing materials
  • Updating listings
  • Keeping your contacts organized and up-to-date

Plus a variety of other admin, transaction and marketing support tasks. To learn how a VA can help you, download our free guide to working with a real estate virtual assistant:

About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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Maximizing your work efficiency is one of the most effective ways to achieve professional success, happiness, and work-life balance. Doing it requires you spend your working hours laser-focused on high-impact activities so that you’re able to spend your time on the things that matter most.

This article will dive into six action-packed strategies to help you become more efficient:

  1. Adopt a productivity management system
  2. Boost your ability to focus
  3. Communicate more efficiently
  4. Limit the amount of time you spend in your inbox
  5. Become a master delegator

In each section, you’ll learn the benefits of the strategy and how to implement it.

1) Adopt a Productivity Management System

One of the biggest challenges people face when they try to boost their productivity is not knowing where to start. Productivity management systems solve that problem by giving you a clear framework of the actions you need to take each day to be successful.

The key to successfully adopting a productivity management system is choosing the one that works best for your work style and personality. Here’s an overview of a couple of the top productivity management systems and who they work best for.

Agile Results

Agile results is a goal-oriented system that has you commit to achieving monthly, weekly and daily goals. These goals ensure you stay focused on high-value activities and, the weekly reflections this system calls for enable you to pivot your goals based on your progress and new information you gain.

Who it’s great for:

  • Leaders, creatives and other professionals whose work can be difficult to into specific, timed increments
  • People who are highly goal-oriented
  • People who don’t like following a strict schedule

To learn how to adopt the agile results technique, check out our article:

How to Use the Agile Results Method to Achieve Your Goals

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity by eliminating distractions. It has you work in twenty-five minute uninterrupted periods known as pomodoros. After every four pomodoros, you take a break to refresh your mind before you resume work.

Over time, you’ll learn how much work you can complete in twenty-five minutes and be able to plan your day based on how many pomodoros all of your tasks take.

Who it’s great for:

  • People who struggle with distractions
  • People who want to become increasingly effective at estimating how much time their work takes
  • People who work on relatively consistent projects

You can learn more about the pomodoro technique here.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

GTD is a five step system that helps people take all of their miscellaneous responsibilities and convert them into clear action steps. It begins with capturing everything you want to complete - from ambitious projects to small chores - then instructs you to organize and prioritize those tasks into to-do lists.

Who it’s great for:

  • People who are often overwhelmed by their many different responsibilities
  • People who love to-do lists
  • People who enjoy having a clear picture of all of the tasks they must do

You can learn more about GTD here.

2) Boost Your Ability to Focus

Research shows that setting goals is one of the most effective ways to improve your work efficiency since they show you what you need to focus on each day to be successful.

To achieve positive results, your goals must:

  • Be specific and offer you a clear picture of what you’re striving to achieve
  • Challenge you to learn new skills and try new approaches
  • Offer intrinsic and/or extrinsic rewards

Setting quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals that meet those criteria will maximize your productivity by ensuring your short-term activities are aligned with your long-term objectives.

Despite working toward clear goals, you’ll inevitably have days where it’s difficult to focus. To be more efficient, follow these tips when you’re feeling distracted:

  • Complete your most important task as early in the day as possible. This prevents lower value tasks from consuming all of your time and attention and ensures you accomplish something meaningful every day.
  • Limit the amount of trivial decisions you make. Your willpower is limited so, you shouldn’t waste it on trivial decisions like what to wear, what to eat for lunch or how you should respond to an unimportant email.
  • Turn off notifications. Email, slack, and other notifications are a huge distraction. Turning them off while your working is an easy way to boost your efficiency.
  • Schedule time for daydreaming. Daydreaming at work is difficult to avoid but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Psychologists have found that when professionals allocate time to daydream - such as during brief periods of time between meetings, while they’re working on basic admin work, etc. - they’re able to work more efficiently. Daydreaming helps your brain refresh and contemplating work in an unstructured way often enables you to come to conclusions that you often wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

As you take actions to improve your ability to focus, you’ll become increasingly efficient at work.

3) Communicate More Efficiently

A study published in the Journal of Communication found that professionals spend an average of 50%-80% of their time at work communicating. This includes all time spent interacting with others - responding to emails, chatting, attending meetings etc.

With so much of your time spent communicating, you need to take actions to ensure that time is used productively.

Here are some ways to communicate more efficiently:

  • Opt out of meetings that you don’t play a role in. Atlassian found that the average professional attends sixty-two meetings a month and about half of those are a waste of time. By opting out of unimportant meetings, you can immediately gain a dozen or more hours of extra time. Those hours will go a long way in boosting your work efficiency.
  • Prevent miscommunications. A Siemens Enterprise Communication study found the average employee at mid-sized companies wastes seventeen hours per week dealing with miscommunication. This includes conversations spent clarifying messages and setbacks caused by them. To prevent poor communication from slowing you down, include all necessary information in all of your messages, ask clarifying questions, and verify that you have a mutual understanding before moving forward with tasks.
  • Mute chat notifications. Though chat is often seen as a more efficient alternative to email, the constant pinging can be incredibly distracting. Muting your notifications and checking in every half hour to an hour ensures you receive messages in a timely manner and are better able to focus on your work.

If certain communication channels or people consume lots of your time, think of additional ways to limit the impact that those channels/individuals have on your work efficiency. For example, you might remove yourself from distracting group chats or give a direct report access to resources so that they’re less dependent on you.

4) Limit the Amount of Time You Spend in Your Inbox

Your inbox is one of the biggest inhibitors of your productivity. An Adobe survey found that the average professional spends five hours per day in their inbox. While a portion of that time is spent engaging in critical conversations, much of it is wasted reading and responding to non-urgent emails.

Here are some email hacks to reduce the amount of time you spend in your inbox:

  • Check email in batches instead of checking notifications throughout the day. This enables you to work more efficiently since your attention isn’t constantly being pulled to your inbox.
  • Unsubscribe from all newsletters you haven’t read in over a week. This reduces the clutter in your inbox, making it easier to find important messages.
  • Write lengthier emails that include all necessary details the other person needs. Though they take longer to write, these emails are more efficient since they limit back and forth questions and miscommunications.
  • Don’t reply to emails that don’t require a response specifically from you. If the message requires a response, forward it to an appropriate colleague. If not, delete/archive it.

To learn more about how to efficiently manage your email, download our inbox management guide:

5) Strengthen Your Problem-Solving Capabilities

The faster you can solve problems, the more efficient you’ll be.

Often people’s first response to a problem is coming up with solutions since that seems like the fastest way forward. However, according to MIT, the more effective approach is to identify the root cause of the problem first. When you know the cause, you can take actions to prevent it from occurring again instead of just mitigating negative outcomes.

Here are some questions you can ask to identify the root causes of problems:

  • What actions did I (or my team) take that lead to the undesirable outcome?
  • Are there any smaller mistakes that lead to the outcome?
  • Did I do anything differently with this project as opposed to other similar projects?
  • Are there any external factors that affected the outcome?
  • Are there any internal factors that affected it?

Once you’ve identified the probable root cause of the challenges you’re facing, you’ll be able to find the most efficient solutions to move forward with your work.

6) Become a Master Delegator

Leaders often avoid delegating because they think the most efficient way for work to get done is for them to do it themselves. In reality, the most productive leaders are the ones who delegate the most.

As a general rule, you should delegate all tasks that:

  1. Don’t require your authority, access to resources, or relationships
  2. And have a clear objective so that the person you’re delegating to knows exactly what they’re expected to achieve

Delegating tasks that meet those criteria improves your work efficiency by giving you more time to focus on higher value tasks. To yield positive results, you need to empower the people you delegate to to be successful. Here’s how:

  • Choose the right person. For best results, delegate to someone who has bandwidth, works efficiently and has skills and/or interests in what you’re delegating.
  • Give clear instructions. Your subordinates can’t read your mind so it's critical to give them clear expectations and describe what you expect of them in terms of results and deadlines.
  • Maintain open lines of communication. Often, people won’t have questions about a project until they start working on it. Let the person you delegate to know when you’re available to answer questions so that confusion doesn’t slow them down.
  • Check in periodically. You don’t want to find out near the project’s deadline that the person you delegated to misunderstood your instructions. Periodically checking their work enables you to catch issues before they become major problems. Keep in mind that the purpose of delegation is to save you time, so you should only get involved if they’re doing the work incorrectly.

To learn more about how to become an effective delegator, download our guide:

How to Use Delegation to Become a More Impactful Leader

About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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One-on-one meetings are one of the most effective ways that managers can boost their direct reports’ productivity. Gallup found that employees who have regular 1:1s with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.

That increase in employee engagement has huge impacts on your business’s bottom line. When GE replaced their annual performance reviews with frequent 1:1s, they saw a five-fold increase in productivity. Other companies, such as Adobe, have seen similar results.

1:1s are capable of having such a powerful impact since they enable managers to:

  • Build trust
  • Identify and solve problems
  • Help their employees scale their careers

To yield these benefits from your 1:1s, you need to ask questions that provoke deeper answers instead of the concise, fact-focused responses that employees often give managers.

The questions in this article are intended to spark conversations so, instead of trying to ask multiple in one meeting, plan on one or two and ask lots of follow-up questions to get more insightful answers from your direct reports.

Build Trust Via Caring and Competent Questions

 To have productive relationships with your direct reports, you need to start by earning their trust. Research shows that trustworthiness is based on three factors:

  1. Competence
  2. Benevolence
  3. Honesty

To build trust with your employees, you need to display these characteristics. One-on-one meetings are an ideal environment to do so since they’re one of the few opportunities you have to connect with your employees on a personal level.

Learn More: 5 Proven Strategies to Build Trust with Employees

Keep in mind that building trust with new employees requires a different approach than sustaining trust with existing ones. Below are some one-on-one questions you can use in each scenario.

Ask these questions to earn the trust of new employees:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What made you interested in pursuing this line of work?
  • What traits do you most value in a manager?
  • Is there anything that I can do to help you be successful?

These questions can help you quickly build rapport with new team members so that when you’re engaging with them in other contexts, they have a positive view of you.

If you’ve already established relationships with your team, you should still use your one-on-one meetings to sustain trust. Here are a few questions that will help:

  • How is your family doing these days?
  • Is there anything I can do to help with [challenging project]?
  • What can I do to be a better manager for you?
  • How do you feel about your big upcoming project?
  • Our team has the following upcoming projects. Do you have a preference which one you’re assigned?

Frequently checking in on your direct reports’ well-being and offering to better support them helps you maintain strong relationships with them by reinforcing the factors that build trust.

Drive Conversations that Identify and Solve Problems

While one-on-one meetings are great for building rapport and maintaining team morale, the most productive conversations you can have in them revolve around solving problems.

If you ask the right questions, you can use your expertise to help them identify the most urgent problems and solve them in a faster, more cost-effective way than they would have had they worked on it alone.

Despite the benefits, many employees are reluctant to bring up their challenges in one-on-ones. Here are some questions to drive problem-solving discussions:

  • Can you walk me through all of the steps you took that lead to [undesirable outcome]?
  • Why do you think [result] occurred?
  • What do you think would happen if you tried [suggestion]?
  • How can I help you fix this problem?
  • How does this project compare to a similar one that was successful?

Your goal with these types of questions should be prompting them to think critically about why they produced certain results and what they can do to improve. Using their answers, you can help create action plans to move forward and give them access to any resources they need to be successful.

Read More: How to Create a Successful Productivity Management System

Help Your Team Achieve Meaningful Success

Research shows that 68% of workers want their employers to provide them with on-going professional development opportunities and 32% of employees quit for higher-level opportunities elsewhere.

To prevent discontentment and turnover among your best employees, you need to learn what their goals are and help them achieve meaningful success.

Here are some questions to help you spark those conversations in your one-on-one meetings:

  • What do you hope to achieve in the next year? In the next five years?
  • What projects do you enjoy working on most?
  • What projects would you like to work on in the future?
  • Are you interested in receiving training on [offer them a few topics related to their role]?
  • We have a few internal job openings. Are you interested in any of them?

Using the answers to these questions, you can create employee development plans that give your top performers a clear professional growth paths within your company.

Check out our article to learn how:

How to Create Employee Development Plans that Drive Success

 

About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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If you’re a busy professional, following a productivity system like GTD or the Pomodoro method seems like one of the most effective ways to sustain your productivity.

However, if you’re in a creative role or leadership role, these systems can be extremely challenging to adopt since your work can’t always be broken down into specific tasks and time increments.

If you struggle with traditional productivity management systems, the agile results method will likely work for you. It’s a goal-driven system that uses continuous improvement to ensure you’re always focused on the tasks that drive your success.

The system consists of five steps:

  1. Plan the top 3 results you hope to achieve each month
  2. Choose the 3 results that will make your week a success
  3. Identify 3 tasks to make each day productive
  4. Engage in Friday reflections
  5. Tackle the most difficult tasks first

This article will walk you through how to implement each of these steps and suggests tools to implement it.

1) Plan the Top 3 Results You Hope to Achieve Each Month

Coming up with three goals to focus on each month can be challenging so, agile results uses hot spots to focus your brainstorming. Hot spots are the areas of your work that are most important to you. They can be long-term projects, KPIs, responsibilities etc. that play a huge role in your success.

Limit your hot spots to three to five areas that directly contribute to your goals for the next one to five years.

Here’s an example that a department leader might have:

  • Hiring eight new employees and getting them 100% up-to-speed within three months of their start dates.
  • Improving your overall team performance by 8% this year.
  • Launching two to three new initiatives to improve team culture
  • Collaborating with other departments to create implementation plans to hit your company’s five-year goal.

All of these hot spots are specific so that it’s easy to create measurable monthly and weekly goals. Once you’ve picked your hot spots, choose three results to focus on each month that directly contribute to them.

The results you pick should be broad enough to base all of your weekly and daily goals based upon them.

Read More: 6 Research-Backed Ways to Achieve Your Professionals Goals

2) Choose the 3 Results That Will Make Your Week a Success

Using your monthly goals, map out three projects you need to complete each week to achieve them. Setting weekly priorities makes larger goals more achievable and ensures you stay focused on the right activities.

To be effective, your goals must be:

  • Specific and measurable
  • Realistically able to be completed within the designated week
  • Able to completely achieve your monthly goals when combined

Depending on how dynamic your schedule is, you can choose all of your weekly goals in the beginning of the month or at the beginning of each week. The benefit of doing the latter is it allows you to shift your priorities based on your progress the previous week, new information you gain, and other occurrences that may influence your ability to achieve your monthly goals.

3) Identify the 3 Tasks You Need to Do to Make Each Day Productive

Weekly goals give you focus, however, it’s easy to get so busy putting out fires and dealing with miscellaneous responsibilities that, by the end of the week, you haven’t made much progress.

To avoid that, the agile results method recommends choosing three tasks each day that directly contribute to your goals. The tasks can be small as long as together they enable you to achieve your three weekly priorities.

Not only does completing daily results-oriented tasks boost your productivity, it’s also a great motivator. Leaving work every day knowing that you’ve accomplished something significant lets you experience sustained satisfaction in making progress toward your goals.

If you regularly fail to complete your daily results, be honest with yourself and determine if you’re not finishing them because they’re too ambitious or if you’re not setting aside enough time.

If it’s the former, reevaluate how realistic your monthly and weekly goals are and adjust them accordingly. However, if it’s the latter, block out some time on your calendar each day to work on achieving that week’s results.

If your schedule is packed, use times that are often underutilized such as between meetings, gaps of time before or after lunch, the first hour in the office, or other times that are specific to your schedule.

4) Engage in Friday Reflections

Continuous improvement is a core value of all agile methodologies. To ensure that you’re focused on the right projects, you need to constantly reflect on your progress and assess if you’re tracking to reach your goals.

Research shows that people who frequently reflect on what they learn at work perform an average of 23% better than those who don’t. This performance boost exists because engaging in reflection enables you to frequently pivot your approaches and drive better outcomes.

Here are some questions to drive your Friday reflections:

  • What went really well this week? Why was it successful?
  • What failed? Why did it fail?
  • What did you learn this week?
  • Did you fully achieve your results for the week or did you fall short? Why?

Your goal for your Friday reflections is to identify ways to improve the following week. So, you should be deeply critical about what you’ve accomplished in order to learn as much as possible.

Read More: How to Use Continuous Improvement to Catalyze Success

5) Tackle Your Hardest Projects First

Since the agile results system is based on achieving progressive goals, falling behind on just a couple of weekly tasks can prevent you from achieving your goals.

One of the most effective ways to stay on track is to tackle your hardest projects first. According to the American Psychological Association, willpower is a limited resource and, as time goes on, you’re increasingly likely to avoid difficult tasks and give in to distractions.

To prevent a lack of willpower from hindering your progress, you need to:

  • If possible, schedule your most challenging weekly priorities for the beginning of the month
  • Complete your most difficult weekly tasks Monday through Wednesday
  • Do your hardest tasks in the first half of the day

Completing your highest priority tasks as early as possible increases the likelihood that you’ll consistently achieve the results you need to reach your long-term goals.

Using the agile results system, you can reliably all of your long and short-term goals without dealing with the logistical and time burden of mapping out your entire day.

Tools to Implement the Agile Results System

If you’ve decided to give the agile results system a try, the first step is setting it up. Below, I've explained how to do so using three different tools. 

Trello

I’ve found that Trello is the easiest way to implement the agile results system since it allows you easily see your monthly, weekly, and daily goals in one place.

Here’s a screenshot of my setup:

At the start of every month, I review my team’s quarterly goals (my hot spots) and use them to choose my monthly results. Then, every Sunday night/Monday morning, I pick my three weekly goals and my fifteen daily tasks. Choosing all of my daily tasks gives me the flexibility to pick which ones I complete each day based on my bandwidth.

However, if you prefer more structure, you can pick which tasks get completed each day at the same time that you choose your weekly goals. If you do this, you can add daily due dates to the cards.

To track my progress, I add red (not started), yellow (started), and green (complete) labels to each of the cards.

Standard Calendar Apps

If you don’t use Trello, you can adopt the agile results system using your calendar app. Here’s how to track your results:

  • Monthly - List your monthly goals on the first of the month or a notes section.
  • Weekly - List your weekly results as a week-long event that covers the entire day but shows you as free. This should create a banner over your week to keep your goals top of mind.
  • Daily - Block off time every day to complete your three daily results.

If your calendar has other features, you can customize these steps to make your goals look more organized and/or to track your progress.

Goal Tracking Apps

If you want advanced features such as getting sent reminders, the ability to easily track progress over multiple months, or the ability to easily track milestones (such as x weeks of successful goal completion), then you may want to use a goal tracking app like Strides or GoalsOnTrack.

Since the features vary based on which one you choose, the key to using them is starting by setting up your monthly, weekly, and daily results. Once that’s done, enable any other features that will help you be successful.

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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