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Playbook

Personal Effectiveness: Small Changes Can Deliver Big Results

February 1, 2017

Personal effectiveness at work

Mastering personal effectiveness and productivity is a fundamental part of every employee’s success, no matter where he or she is in the corporate ladder.

A 2015 study by AMA, “Business Skills That Set High-Performing Organizations Apart,” found that as leaders advance in the hierarchy, some of their basic personal effectiveness skills suffer. The same study indicates that employees at high-performing organizations consistently score higher in areas such as goal setting, time management, and emotional intelligence.

This is why personal effectiveness is one of the four core areas in AMA’s new Total Professional Framework: It’s a critical part of leadership development.

Personal effectiveness skills help employees:

  • Identify and prioritize projects
  • Simplify and automate everyday tasks
  • Stay focused and respond quickly to shifting priorities
  • Manage interruptions effectively
  • Make good decisions under pressure

Teams are made up of individuals, and small changes in individual behavior can really add up and push organizational productivity forward. Teaching employees to focus their energies on tasks that have a high return for the organization energizes them as they see their contributions directly affecting the bottom line.

Consider how much time employees waste in meetings. In a survey by Harris Poll, 23% of employers said meetings were “productivity killers.” That’s a huge opportunity for companies to both save valuable time and improve employee engagement. Teaching the meeting facilitator to use basic time management and project management best practices not only makes meetings more productive, it refocuses the rest of the employees on high-return tasks.

Real change requires more than setting goals

If changing behaviors were as simple as setting goals everyone would be thin, fit, and rich. Creating real improvement is challenging. Research from neuroscientists such as David Rock shows that people are hard-wired to resist change. It not only requires effort but also invokes fear of failure and the unknown. It’s painful. Compound that with the way most employees think of productive behaviors—that they are more work and often require sacrifice—and it’s no wonder so few are able to achieve lasting change.

Real change requires a conscious and deliberate shift in the way we think about goals and the habits that lead to success. These changes in thinking don’t focus on eliminating negative behaviors—they focus on positive behaviors and results. There has to be enough of an inherent benefit and reward for employees to overcome natural resistance to change, and that requires the altering of mindsets. It requires inner work on the part of the learner, the kind that only comes with in-depth training.

Equally important to teaching employees these skills is teaching them in a way that allows them to be remembered and implemented. All of AMA’s programs, whether in our classrooms or as part of an onsite training program, provide experiential learning. Employees learn best practices, have the opportunity to reflect on them, and then practice their new skills with feedback from industry practitioners. Studies show this is the best way to train adult learners.

To learn more about AMA’s unique approach to talent management, visit www.amanet.org/organizations/our-approach.aspx

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You can better manage yourself—and lead your team to success—when you practice effective behaviors. Learn the principles that have guided the world’s foremost business leaders.
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About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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