Want more productive employees? Give them blank time

Want more productive employees? Give them blank time | practice | 4 ways to set up your company to thrive when you exit
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December 7, 2023
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Leading the Way
Want more productive employees? Give them blank time
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Data show that employees feel productive -- if they're not attending too many meetings -- but bosses still worry, especially over their remote employees, writes Anne Helen Petersen, who says the solution is encouraging "blank time" -- uninterrupted periods for creativity and downtime so work quality improves. "You can obsess over what your employees are doing -- tracking their online movements, calling more meetings, enforcing arbitrary in-office times -- or you can be thoughtful and expansive about what habits foster good work," Petersen notes.
Full Story: Substack/Culture Study (12/6) 
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Put it into practice: Encourage your team to schedule "blank time" -- everything from focused work to a walk around the block -- and model it by scheduling some for yourself, Peterson writes. "Emphasize that blank time doesn't mean 'still responding to Slack or Teams Messages' time -- or that walking your dog or doing a puzzle isn't 'being lazy,' it's letting your mind take a break the same way your body needs sleep."
SmartBrief on Leadership
4 ways to set up your company to thrive when you exit
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Preparing your business to thrive after you relinquish the helm is much like preparing a child for adulthood -- you have to lay a lot of groundwork, Steve McKee, co-founder of marketing advisory firm McKee Wallwork, writes. A succession plan starts with identifying a successor -- which McKee did 10 years ago -- but four more subtle moves, such as not being greedy, can help the process.
Full Story: SmartBrief/Leadership (12/6) 
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Put it into practice: "[L]ook for character and capability in a successor more than credentials and experience," McKee suggests. Remember that trust is a two-way street, and it's never too soon to start the process.
Read more from Steve McKee on SmartBrief on Leadership
Smarter Communication
Artificial intelligence seems to be the antithesis of personalization, but it actually can help with it, asserts Megan DiSciullo, a communications leader for PwC. Feeding information on audience persona and a key message into AI lets you tailor insights more efficiently and with broader reach, which gets messages out faster and offers "a fresh perspective on how to position messages in ways that resonate and generate the greatest impact," DiSciullo explains, stressing the importance of responsible use and expert oversight.
Full Story: Ragan (12/4) 
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Put it into practice: The groundwork of providing detailed profiles is time-consuming but will make future projects go faster. Check out ChatGPT's own advice for working with generative AI on a project like this.
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In Their Own Words
The best leaders are those who live into their values, take care of those around them, make the job look easy so others will want to follow in their footsteps and lead with humility, says Jaswinder (Jassi) Chadha, CEO of Axtria. "Humility gives you the confidence to accept that you made a mistake, because if you don't even accept the mistakes, you're not going to learn from them," Chadha says.
Full Story: LinkedIn (12/6) 
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Daily Diversion
Mice recognize themselves in the "mirror test"
(Pixabay)
Mice are able to recognize themselves in the mirror, a new study finds, similarly to other mammals such as apes, dolphins and elephants, according to a study in Neuron. Scientists observed that mice were able to recognize themselves when their fur was marked with white ink, though only in certain contexts, finding that the mice must be habituated to mirrors before the experiment and raised alongside similar-looking mice.
Full Story: Gizmodo (12/5) 
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SmartBreak: Question of the Day
The creation of Kingsford charcoal is intertwined with what industrial giant?
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VoteHenry Ford
VoteJames Watt
VoteThomas Watson
About The Editor
Candace Chellew
Candace Chellew
Chellew
If only I had the wisdom of Steve McKee ten years ago! When I stepped aside last September as the leader of the spiritual community I founded nearly 14 years ago, there was no succession plan. It's not that I had not had the time to think about it!

To their credit, the board has stepped up and taken over all the roles I once filled. In addition, members of the community and board are delivering Sunday messages. They are struggling, of course, but the adage is correct: when a leader steps back, it creates opportunities for others to step forward and fill the gaps.

A succession plan would have made everyone's lives easier, though.

If this newsletter helps you, please tell your colleagues, friends or anyone who can benefit. Forward them this email, or send this link.

What topics do you see in your daily work that I should know about? Do you have praise? Criticism? Drop me a note. And don't forget to send me photos of your pets, your office and where you spend your time off.
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I made a few shows in my day.
Norman Lear,
screenwriter, television producer
1922-2023
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