We recently had one of our managers out for training. When he was away and no one was around to watch how things were going, a couple guys thought they could slack off. How do we get folks to understand that it’s about getting the work done, that’s their job?

Thoughts of the Day: Using time wisely is something that some people have learned how to do while others have not. Set goals to focus intention on the right objectives. Speak honestly about what’s expected, and whether those expectations are met, or not. Make sure the work has a purpose. Team up the less productive people with the most productive staff, so they can benchmark their performance and pace.

Talk about hours as something perishable.

Once an hour has gone by, there’s no getting it back. And the work that could have been done, but didn’t get done, is still there to be dealt with.

Look at potential distractions and eliminate as many as possible from the work environment. Get people to set aside cell phones except on breaks. Box out a couple time slots during the day to look at emails, and that’s it. If people walk through the work area and stop to talk, set up barriers to minimize the interruptions. If the work area is sloppy and time gets lost searching for equipment or supplies, take time out to get everything organized.

Make sure that each day, each hour, is filled with purpose.

Engage your people in goal setting in order to get their buy in. Set them on a mission to accomplish the workload in the time available.

Ask your people to figure out how they think they can best get through the tasks of the day or the week, rather than handing out miniscule assignments over which they have little or no control. Some shop managers act as overlords, in control of every decision and action, robbing the people who work under them of the need to think or act responsibly. Instead, engage people by giving them responsibility for what needs to get done and control over how they go about accomplishing it.

Make it clear what’s expected each day, each week.

Circle back mid-way through and at the end, to discuss how things are going. Ask people to propose suggestions for how to catch up if things get behind. Identify team leaders who can hold group meetings to discuss work progress. When the manager is offsite delegate authority to those team leaders to keep the work on track.

People look for meaning in what they do, and when they find it they tend to be much more highly engaged.

Help people make the connection with the importance of what they are doing by talking about how other parts of the organization depend on this department doing its job well.

Taking pride in one’s work is human nature. But some people have been badly trained to overlook that value. Or they just don’t connect the dots. Set goals for the department, track the department’s ability to perform and use charts to show how things are improving or falling off. Set up a competition with other departments for which one can have the best quality and be the fastest at completing work on hand.

Help people who are struggling to pick up the pace by having them work alongside more productive peers.

Encourage people to tackle the hard work early to get it out of the way. Ask your most productive workers to be teachers who lead the department as everyone practices at building muscle to work at a better pace.

Looking for a good book?

Try, “On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out“, by Eric Chester and Nido Qubein.