A recent Accountancy Age article showed that half of all accountants are looking for a new job, perhaps in the hope that they can leave these “frustrations of work” behind and get on with their real job somewhere else.
But that is unlikely. Having spent the last ten years coaching and consulting in businesses large and small I can guarantee that the frustrations you feel exist in almost every workplace.
Don’t despair though. There is something you can do about it. And you don’t have to be a Finance Director to make a big difference. You can bring about change no matter how junior (or senior) you are by first impacting the people you work with directly and then allowing your successful ideas to catch on, a small piece of your company at a time.
Where to start?
I have identified five major frustrations which prevent people doing their best work and some ways you can reduce your frustration today.
Frustration 1 – Waste-of-time meetings
We spend approximately 60 hours a month in meetings and 30-50% of this time is wasted. If meetings were more effective your whole working week would suddenly be more productive.
If your meetings are mainly focused on sharing information, they are a poor use of your time. The best meetings are those where competing opinions are aired. Look at the agenda for your next meeting and take out any items which are purely intended to update the chair or discuss issues where there is already consensus. Focus on exploring the conflicts instead.
If you can’t influence the agenda, you can influence whether you attend. If you don’t add value or get value from attending, agree that you will not be there.
Frustration 2 – Poor leadership
About one quarter of people merely tolerate, or actively dislike, their boss. Perhaps you feel this way about yours. Equally, you may be a manager yourself, wondering if this statistic applies to you. The leader casts a large shadow and the results achieved by their team members are often a direct reflection of their relationship with their manager.
Understand what drives other people. Some people are more structured, others are more flexible. Some people have an eye for detail, others are more “big picture”. Understanding and adapting to the motivations and work-style preferences of the people around you may seem “soft” and unscientific but you will see the results straight away.
Frustration 3 – Lack of vision
Most of us can’t remember what our company’s vision statement says. But without a roadmap that makes us feel part of something, we tend to veer off track.
The vast majority of employees want their leader to be visionary. If you manage people, you need to give them a direction. It doesn’t have to be the same as the company direction, although if these align, so much the better. Having a theme for the year or a challenging and meaningful target that every team member can be part of helps people feel connected with their work. Performance always improves.
Frustration 4 – Silos
When different parts of a business are separated by thick walls that information cannot penetrate, you have a silo. Competition between different offices in the same company, wariness between complimentary functions like sales and marketing and downright hatred between teams certainly doesn’t help you get things done every day. Silos get in the way of our best efforts.
Draw up an influence plan based on the people (or the job titles if you don’t yet know the names) who would be of most value for you to know. Now pick up the phone and schedule a coffee. Sharing knowledge in this way means you make better informed decisions, develop allies around the business and have someone to sit with at lunch.
Frustration 5 – Unfairness
No one said work was fair. But is it a requirement of work that we have to behave in ways which conflict with our values just to get the job done? Today’s employees find it more and more distasteful to compromise their sense of what is fair. But how do you know if your behaviour is fair?
One test is to ask yourself whether you would mind if your actions (or the actions of your colleagues) were printed in the national press. If you could not justify the decisions you’ve taken – given that you are often choosing between a rock and a hard place – you may need to rethink your positon.
Alternatively, ask whether your mum would approve.
Any of these five areas would make a great place to start if you want to make the workplace more productive, for the good of your business, your colleagues or your own sense of fulfillment. But wherever you choose to start making work work better, I recommend you start today. Instead of complaining about it or hoping a change of job will solve your problems, taking a bold decisive action will not only make you feel more in control of your professional life, it could improve the professional lives of the people around you too.
Blaire Palmer’s new book What’s Wrong with Work? The five frustrations of work and how to fix them for good, is published by John Wiley & sons
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