Values Leadership and Ethical Productivity

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> Have you ever felt frustrated by a staff member who moves too ...s...l...o...w...?

I have found asking slow workers to rush a key behaviour for just a few focused minutes on a regular basis can speed up their overall work without them feeling overwhelmed.

Research tells us we can trick our brain into changing its perception of speed. Think about when your brain has tricked you in the past:

  • You are sitting in a train looking out the window and you appear to be moving, but then you realise you are still and it's the train next to you that is moving.
  • You push yourself to read really fast and find that when you move back to your normal speed it is actually faster than before. (This is a common exercise in speed reading courses.)
  • You go for a short fast run and strangely long runs get quicker.

There was this one time when one of my team leaders normally took an inordinate amount of time to type up her monthly team report. However, on one occasion Jane was completed her report at a much greater speed and handed it in early as she wanted to leave early to attend her son's school play.

That evening I was doing my running speed work in preparation for a marathon and I made the connection between speed work and how it had increased my overall running speed helping me to run my first sub 4-hour marathon.

Before doing the running speed work I hadn't realised I was capable of running faster, but after the speed work training my mind realised my body could go faster than it thought and so it naturally ran faster.

So the next day I tried this experiment: I asked Jane if she was willing to try an experiment for me. The experiment was simply to spend 3 minutes every day typing as fast as she could without concern for mistakes or accuracy. Jane did this for one week.

From that time on Jane completed her report much quicker. The experiment had helped Jane realise that she had been typing at a much slower capacity than her capacity.

As a result of this experiment I have asked others to experiment with small changes and in most (but not all) cases this has resulted in changed behaviour. Examples include:

  • A worker who procrastinated with decisions. I asked him to make three quick decisions at the beginning of each work day, it resulted in quicker decision making in other areas of his work.
  • A worker who found change difficult. I asked him to experiment with using a different driving route to work each day. This small change in routine helped him be more comfortable with change.
  • A worker who was overly negative. I asked them to write down three positive ideas before they were allowed to make a critical comment in team meetings. This worker became known as a highly creative and positive team member.

If you want to try this follow these simple steps:

  • List the behaviour that is causing frustration.
  • Consider how you could rush that behaviour for three minutes.
  • Talk with the staff member and say something like. "Hi Sue, I wonder if you would be willing to indulge me with an experiment for the next five days? (Wait for response.) I would like to experiment with increasing your speed at X. Would you be willing to try Y for three minutes a day for the next five days?
  • Ask that they keep a record of completing the experiment.
  • Thank them for their willingness to complete the experiment.
  • Check in with them a couple of times during the week and simply ask if they have been able to complete the experiment.
  • At the end of the experiment review how it went and thank them for their participation.

Article by Peter Watson, of Impact Facilitation. Impact Facilitation provides innovative training solutions with a special focus on not-for-profits in NSW, Australia. You can find out more at 

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