The top 5 things every workplace must do to ensure they have highly productive staff

Employee engagement is such a big issue for most businesses in Australia. In business surveys, securing and retaining good staff is always one of the top problems. Reflecting on my work as a Business Mentor, here is my list of the top five things that every workplace must do to ensure highly productive staff

1. Make sure each new staff member is onboarded well.

They need to be introduced to people and systems and all the practical things related to working in the company. They need to understand who they report to and with whom they need to build good working relationships. The induction process also needs to include helping them know what the company is about: the vision, values and culture. This will help them understand from the beginning not only what their role is, but why their role is important. Without a good onboarding process, new staff members can struggle unnecessarily and may never settle into the work environment.

2. Create Position Descriptions which are ‘outcome’ rather than ‘task’ focused.

To empower staff members, they need to know exactly what they are responsible for, not just a list of duties they are meant to complete. They need to know why their job is important, and the scope of their role, and how what they do contributes to the success of the business. They need to know how to measure when they are being successful at their role, so meaningful KPI’s are crucial, not so much for compliance but for a sense of achievement. KPI’s set this way form the basis for regular healthy conversations about performance and productivity.

3. Make sure the business has a clear direction and a strategic plan.

A clearly articulated strategic plan makes it easy for all team members to fit in and flow. Plans should be set and followed consistently, without continual chopping and changing. If last minute changes sometimes do occur, team members should be involved in the changes, and understand why the changes are necessary, so they have a context for the change and can adjust accordingly.

4. Help them understand what is flexible and what is totally inflexible and non-negotiable.

This is about creating clear expectations and agreements. g. if they need to arrive at the work premises by a certain time every day to open or for a team meeting, then that is inflexible.

1. Inflexible times might include: strategic team meetings, client meetings, training times, anything where others are dependent on them.
2. Flexible times could be almost any other time. In the 21st century workplace flexibility is one of the most important benefits of a workplace. E.g. Is it possible to work from home, say, if they have a sick child, or have flu symptoms they do not want to share?

It is vital to establish clear boundaries and guidelines around how flexibility works. The boss who is less organised and just likes to have his full team around to call a snap meeting whenever he or she likes will not be comfortable with any level of flexibility. The more organised leader who empowers their team to work to a clear strategy will be more able to allow some flexibility as long KPIs are being met and the culture of the organisation remains strong and healthy.

5. Create a healthy environment in which to work.

One of the most important roles of a leader is to set the tone for their organisation. This requires consistency. Consistency of vision, direction, strategy and plans are important. So is consistency of mood, focus, energy, encouragement, relationships, communication, and care. Many business leaders do not seem to understand how their own demeanour affects the environment for their team. Consistency requires a level of self-discipline, and some honesty and vulnerability to apologise for a temper tantrum or to explain a low mood. When the leader is consistent, and real, it is easier for everyone to be themselves and to settle into a role and a team. If there is a happy mood one day, and the next everyone is tense and on edge; if there is strong compliance required one day and people get away with poor attitudes the next; if some people get treated well and others seem to be disregarded; then the workplace becomes very confused and dysfunctional. No-one enjoys working there. It is an unsafe place emotionally.

If you as a business leader do these five things well, you will have a healthy workplace and highly productive staff.

If you are struggling with any or all these things and would like to have a free 30-minute conversation about it, please click here to book a time that works for both of us.


The reason why work-life balance is painfully difficult for many people

Marcella says she loves her job. She certainly used to. Being given the opportunity to start a new design business with another Director was like a dream come true 2 years ago. However, the pace of growth has meant no time for anything beyond work. Any sense of work-life balance has been left behind long ago. Marcella is 40 and single and has forgotten what it feels like to be asked out on a date. She spends all day working and most nights as well. The growth was at first very exciting but now it is simply wearing. Their team has grown but that has added all kinds of challenges for Marcella and her other Directors. She is not sure about the quality of the team’s work. She cannot check everything anymore. Most days are a mad scramble to get things done. She is often responding to mini-crises and rarely gets her to-do list done.

Where does work-life balance start for someone like Marcella. It is not simply a matter of managing her time better. Or being better planned. Basically, the way it stands, Marcella has lost control of her life. Her work role has crushed the life out of every other part of her life. She feels a bit trapped. Their company is making money, but the human cost to the rest of her life is huge.

Work-life balance is not about better time management

Marcella is working hard but has little ability to control her time. She has allowed a situation to develop where she is responding to people and issues all around her. Her plans are disrupted almost every day. The only way to change this situation so that Marcella’s work role is better integrated with the rest of her life is for her to take a stand. She could do lots of time management courses and purchase all the best productivity tools, but they would not change a thing, if she does not do some work on her inner sense of self and her values that will help develop her self-respect.

Work-life balance starts with self-respect

In order to be able to stop the avalanche of work issues overwhelming her day, Marcella must change her behaviour. She must learn to say ‘No’ to those things that invade her world and change her plans. To date she has been too insecure to say ‘no’. The consequences of not responding to an issue could be challenging. Her company may lose clients. This is why I say work-life balance starts with self-respect. Self-respect is all about knowing your values and living by them. It is about being true to yourself. It is about keeping an appointment with yourself. It is about delegating work to staff members, training them well, and trusting them to do their role. This way, you can get to the gym and go for a walk or see the kids school performance. Unless the work premises are burning down there are ways to integrate work with the other important people and things in your life.

Work-life balance is an unhelpful term

Most people know what it is supposed to mean, but work-life balance is an unhelpful concept especially for people who love their work and want to be successful. Work is part of life not separate from it. And if you are passionate about your work, your mind will think about work issues often. Therefore, I prefer to use the word ‘INTEGRATE’. Finding the ways to integrate your busy work roles with all that is precious in your world is possible. Work-life balance is not possible. To make this happen successfully requires busy high achievers do some work on themselves and develop their self-respect, as a starting point for taking back control of your life.

If your life is a bit out of control like Marcella’s then there is hope for you to take back control if you are willing to do some work on yourself and develop healthy self-respect.

Why a mentor is helpful for business success

Who makes a good business mentor?

A mentor is someone who has experienced business success related to whatever endeavour you are undertaking. They will have reflected upon their experience, their successes and failures, in such a way that they have developed the wisdom that comes from perspective. A mentor can ask great questions borne out of their experience that make you think more deeply about what you are doing. They may tell you how to do on some things, but mostly they will ask great questions and be a valuable set of experienced eyes helping you avoid pitfalls and maximise business success.
“The key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are — not to make them more like you”. — Suze Orman

What are the benefits of a mentor?

By asking great questions, a mentor enables you to think more deeply about what you want from your business. Typically, when you are working hard you are focused on parts of your business. A mentor helps you see the whole; and they help you understand the wider business context for what you are doing.
A mentor is a bit like a zoom lens. They will help you zoom out to see the big picture panoramic view of your business dreams, and they will assist with the close-up view of the problems and roadblocks that need specific attention as well. The power of the mentor is they are not working in the business, so they are able to see both views to enable perspective and wisdom all the time. The business owner is often too engaged with the operational details to maintain that clear view all the time.
A mentor will also help you see your potential and believe in yourself. They are less emotionally involved in the business. They will encourage you and also challenge you to be better, and help release your potential.

Who has a mentor?

Almost every well-known name who has achieved business success credits a mentor (or several mentors). Think Richard Branson of Virgin, Michael Bloomberg (entrepreneur and 3 times mayor of NYC), Mary Barra (CEO of General Motors), Suzie Orman (Television host, author and financial advisor).
While we expect that elite athletes and sports stars and teams must have a coach it can still be viewed as an admission of failure or weakness in business. Somehow many business people feel that their stories are meant to be self-made.

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Small Steps Are Best

Small steps can feel too easy
Last year I was experiencing excruciating pain in my knees especially if I had to sit still for more than 30 minutes. Driving became a huge challenge. After I had to stand through a movie at a local cinema I decided it was time to get this checked out. My local Osteopath is excellent. Dr. Dan checked me over and told me the problem in my knees was actually due to inactive butt muscles (gluts) and overactive quads. This was the result of sitting for too long without regular breaks while working at my desk. He gave me a set of 11 simple stretches to do each day. They took me less than 15 minutes. I felt they were too easy and wondered whether these small steps were achieving anything. After a week my knee pain was still there as bad as ever. Dr Dan had explained that my problem had developed from bad sitting habits over several years and that the pain would not disappear overnight. After 4 weeks of diligently doing my stretches each day I noticed I could drive 2 hours before the knee pain became bad. And after 8 weeks of diligently doing my innocuous stretches most days I realised the pain had completely gone. Almost a year later I still do my stretches about once a week. I can report I have had absolutely zero pain in my knees even when I flew 14 hours Sydney to San Francisco in economy class.

It is often surprising what can be achieved by consistently taking small steps in the right direction. Doing a small number of the right things every day can achieve great results.

Consistently taking small steps is the best way to achieve any large goal.
Like my grandpa used to say, “You can cut down a large tree in your back yard with a blunt axe if you take 5 decent swings at the tree in the right spot every day! It might take a few weeks but eventually that tree will come down if you do something every day.” He was trying to help me learn the lesson that large projects are always easier when broken down into small steps.

Small steps do not always feel very effective
In a day when we want things done quickly we can easily fall into one of two traps:

We are seduced by the silver bullet – we can easily be seduced by the one sized fits all answers. I have learned that the so called ‘silver bullet’ does not exist. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Con men rely on this lazy side of our human nature that wants to believe there is a quick and easy way to growth and riches.
We do not understand how to build to a plan – often if a business does grow fast it overwhelms the capacity of the owner and current team. Growth brings more challenges. Bigger is not automatically better. The riskiest time in a business is if it is growing without a plan. It is important to make sure you have good foundations in place to support any growth that comes.
Consistently taking small steps is the best way to achieve sustainable business growth
Small steps that you could be taking to grow your business might include:

Create a workable business plan that helps you and your team know where you are headed
Write a regular weekly blog or run a webinar that serves the needs of your market and helps you grow your marketing list
Invest the time to listen to and encourage your team members for a few minutes each day
Go through every regular function in your business and establish a clear written procedures and process – so everyone knows what to do and ideally why each function is important to the business
Take the time to train every new staff member in all aspects of their role. It will feel like extra work for a while but save many headaches later
Make sure you know your costs and monitor them for everything your business does. It is amazing how profitability is frittered away if costs are not monitored.
Work with all permanent employees in terms of their personal growth pathway that helps them see their future in the business
Take a few minutes each day to think, so you know what are the 3 most important things you must achieve each day.
Knowing the right small steps
I needed some professional assistance to know what small steps I needed to take to fix my knee pain. I could have battled on and suffered the pain for a bit longer and I could have damaged my knees permanently too. It is good to have the services of a professional business mentor. This will ideally be someone who has real business experience.

A good mentor will help you see the big picture of your business clearly and also help you solve those stubborn ‘nitty gritty’ problems that stubbornly refuse to go away. A mentor also helps keep you accountable to do what is really important, which most of us seem to need with so many demands and distractions all around us.

Free offer:
At we start the 2017 work year I would like to offer you a free 30 minute conversation to help you solve a problem or to check over your plan to grow your business. Click through to: and fill in the short questionnaire and I will call you in the next few days.

How To Build Your Resilience

What is Resilience?

Resilience is your ability to bounce back after a setback of any kind. It enables you to persevere through tough times, and those times when you feel you have failed. Self-respect is the foundation for resilience.

Resilience enables you to:

1. Stand firm with things go against you or people disrespect you;
2. Stop from turning on yourself when you feel awful
3. Step back and regain perspective during tough times
4. Step up with renewed determination and vision after setbacks, failure and seasons of struggle.

There are three types of challenges that require resilience:

1. Random hardship or trauma
2. Failure and loss due to the competitive market economy
3. Failure to due to self-sabotage

The Resilience Model

Resilience takes courage to face up to painful truth and circumstances, grit to hold your course, and empathy to think and feel beyond yourself to deal appropriately with anyone else involved.

When you hit a challenge or suffer a setback in business you will be positioned for resilience when you do all you can based on three elements, shown in the Resilience Model.

1. Knowledge – what you know, which comes from your training, experience, skills and available resources.
2. Wisdom – what is appropriate, which is that sense of the best thing to do or say in the moment that will bring healing or closure to any situation. It comes from yourself and trusted advisors.
3. Values – what is right, comes from what is important, what matters to you, and what you believe is right and wrong in the situation.

As you will see in the figure:

• at the intersection of knowledge and wisdom comes clarity.
• at the intersection of wisdom and values comes a sense of peace
• at the intersection of values and knowledge comes certainty

When you meet a challenging situation, you will be positioned for resilience if you approach it asking yourself: ‘What do I know here?’ ‘What is appropriate here?’ and ‘What do I believe is right here?’

Example 1

Situation: A team member is causing relationship issues in the rest of your team.

Knowledge tells you that this person is good at their job and valuable to the team, but has poor people skills, especially under pressure. Wisdom helps you take them aside and ask if there is anything going on in their world. Values guides you to treat them with dignity and compassion and to give them a few days off to sort out the personal issue they revealed to you. Wisdom also helps you talk to them upon their return to coach them around better ways handling this in the future.

Outcome: Acting according to the Resilience Model allows you to act with clarity, certainty and peace, which positions you and the persons involved to bounce back well from what could have been a huge challenge.

Example 2

Situation: Your sick child has made it impossible for you to make a few evening meetings recently, and a large client has expressed their disappointment.

Knowledge tells you that this client really wants you on the contract and appreciates your skill. Knowledge also tells you that your child’s illness is relatively short term. Wisdom guides you to speak to the client and tell them your situation, state that you are as committed as ever, just need a couple of weeks’ grace. Values tells you there is nothing more important than being there for your child and your family even if you lost the client.

Outcome: A difficult and stressful situation is made easier by applying knowledge, wisdom and values from the Resilience Model.

Example 3

Situation: A prominent CEO wrongly accuses you of speaking negatively about them.

Knowledge says this person is influential and it is better to stay in their good books. Wisdom helps you to go personally and quickly to them so you can understand their problem. If they are aggressive, wisdom also guides you to take along a suitable witness. Values tells you that integrity in relationships is always important.

Outcome: The Resilience Model gives a framework for you to handle the situation and to bounce back from the associated stress even if the other person remains upset.

Transforming Tough Times into Staying Power

1.Deal with the initial setback
• Hold your ground
• Be aware of your internal chatter

2.Take time to process
• Take a moment, an hour or a day to absorb the shock, and process your emotions
• Seek appropriate support
• Discuss the matter with appropriate people

3.Make steps to move on
• Write out what you have learned
• What would you do differently if you face this again?
• Now let it go

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People pleaser or people helper?

People pleaser vs People helper

Before I started working with one of my clients he changed our meeting time several times before we actually met face to face. There were two main reasons he felt the need to keep postponing our appointments. 1. He could not say ‘No!’ to clients and felt bad if he could not meet them at the time they suggested. 2. Because of reason 1., he had no time to complete his pre-work and so felt he needed to postpone our meeting to maximise the benefit of our session. I discovered he was a people pleaser. In his desire to serve his customers and his team, he had fallen into the trap of always being available to others and never creating space for his own growth and the growth of his business.

I persisted because I knew this man has a great desire to serve people. I wanted the opportunity to work with him and help him become more secure about how he works with people. And once we started working together, he learned that if he wanted to change his meeting time with me at the last minute he forfeited the session.

People Pleasers:

• Struggle to say “No’ to others
• Are often running late
• Do not make time for planning
• Are unsure of their priorities
• Rarely keep appointments with themselves
• Often work after hours when there is no-one to interrupt them
• Worry about letting people down
• Often feel a bit out of control

People Helpers:

• Make time to think and prepare well
• Have clear priorities and can keep their word
• Have trained their team to respect their preparation and planning time
• Are well planned so they can let their customers know when they will next be available
• Are not driven by fear that they will lose clients
• Make it to their children’s school activities and other family commitments more regularly
• Mostly feel in control of their schedule and life

A people pleaser is more likely to burnout

Responding to the needs of people all the time as your first priority sounds like it would make you an awesome people helper. While helping people is a great motivation, responding to people as your first priority each and every day, will always eventually become unsustainable. And it is the pathway to burnout. Unrealistic expectations are created that will cause you stress and mean that the people you are trying to help are let down and become disappointed. Like my client, you will create your own kind of chaos, that stops you from investing time in developing your skills, or planning for the future.

A people pleaser needs to work on their self-respect

Everyone needs to learn this valuable lesson: In order to serve people well, you cannot always please people. If you try to please everybody all the time, you will end up frustrating everyone most of the time.

It is a valuable lesson to learn. If you develop healthy self-respect you will serve people but not be willing to tie yourself in knots to do so. You will carve out the time required to plan and organise so you know your priorities and can keep your word.

Are you a people pleaser? Or a people helper?

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Work-life balance is an important and increasingly dangerous topic

In my book, INTEGRATE, I show how you can achieve significant business success AND build a great lifestyle.

I am writing this sitting in Fukuoka International Airport in Japan, as I wait for my flight home to Australia. I have been visiting my daughter who lives here with her husband and little girl. My daughter is also expecting another baby.

I work as a business consultant and have clients all over Australia. So, while I have been playing Dad and Poppy, I have also been working. I have been keeping up to date with emails and doing some thinking. I also had one client meeting via video link ( after which the client reflected via email how it was a great session which really helped him focus on his business. I also had a 90-minute sales call with a prospect with whom I have been relating for several months. During our session, he decided to engage my services (which is for me a sale that pays for my trip 5 times over). I have been relating to my website designer about changes to my website and a whole new marketing plan I am implementing. I find travelling and staying in hotel rooms is a great time to think. I am taking notes for upcoming blogs and my second book which will be written later this year.

Did I mention I came to Fukuoka via Malaysia where my step-son and I climbed the highest mountain in SE Asia (Mt Kinabalu 4095.2metres)? This has been on my bucket list for over 10 years. My wife and I enjoyed our quarterly holiday in Kota Kinabalu, after the mountain climb. She went back home with our son, and I travelled on to Japan. On this trip, I have also read a novel by one of my favourite authors (Daniel Silva). I have eaten some great food and seen some amazing places. I have connected with my other children and grandchildren via facetime. Each day I have averaged over 12000 steps and I have played lots of games of ‘Words with Friends’ on my phone.

For me, this is all about living a life where my work serves my lifestyle. It takes some planning and discipline to make it happen well. When I am home I work hard. But I always make sure that I am making progress across every area of my life, not just in my business. The benefits are huge.

Work-life balance is a myth
It has never been about work-life balance! Anyone who is passionate about their work will find balance an unhelpful concept. In fact, I believe there is no such thing as work-life balance. It is a myth. To be successful there are times you have to put your head down and work very hard to complete a project or finalise a deal. The work-life balance idea can make passionate high achievers feel guilty because they are meant to stop thinking about work when they are at home or at a movie or out with friends. High achievers can have a business idea spark anytime. In a busy season they are thinking about that difficult email they have to send while they are reading a bedtime story to their child. For high achievers this is normal.

The challenge is to make sure you do not allow work to dominate everything that is precious in your world.

Ignoring work-life balance is increasingly dangerous
People who are passionate about their work usually have clear business goals and plans. However, I have discovered that many are much less structured about the rest of their life. They expect it to just work out. Their only plan is to hope for the best. As we know, hope is not a strategy. The result is that many high achieving business owners and corporate executives have successful work lives but very chaotic and stressful personal lives.

The juggle of life is very challenging, especially in the years from 35 – 55 when you have dependent children, a partner who is seeking to further their career, health issues presenting themselves, parents who are starting to need you more, and friendships and personal growth you would like to pursue.

The kicker is that 90% of the issues that undermine and sabotage your business success come from neglected issues in your personal life.

Everyone finds the demands of a busy life stressful, but for an increasing number these issues are leading to mental health issues. TAL insurance (2015) reports that psychological injuries (stress, anxiety, depression) now account for a similar number of Income Protection Insurance claims as physical injuries and twice the number due to cancer and other diseases.

INTEGRATE is a much better word that ‘Balance’
In order to make sure I live a fulfilling life while I build a successful business, I have developed a process to assist me integrate my work with ALL that is precious in my world. It is not about balance. It is about integrating my work with all that is important in my life. In the internet age, I love that I can do that every day, anywhere in the world.

I find that my life roughly falls into 8 key areas of focus: business/career, wealth creation, life-partner, family and friends, health and fitness, personal growth and learning, leisure and recreation and looking after my physical environment (house and yard).

5 tips to integrating work with all of your life
1. Do some personal development work on yourself. I love helping busy people do this. Fulfilment in life starts with self-respect. You need to regularly re-clarify what you want from life. And make sure you live true to your values, build on your strengths and guard your weaknesses. It is important to be secure and confident in your own skin.
2. Map your world. Establish a boundary around all that is important to you. This assists you to overcome your FOMO and say ‘No!’ to other things that are less important
3. Set goals across your life – set one or two goals with clear plans each year for each of the 8 key areas of your life
4. Develop a ‘whole of life’ plan for your life and track your progress every 90 days
5. Learn to co-operate with your natural life rhythms so you can ensure you always have energy for when you need it. This requires knowing yourself well and being courageous enough to set some margins (space for you) in your world.

If you will do these things, you will find that you will have increased health, energy and capacity

John Drury is a Business Mentor based in Sydney, Australia, who works with busy high achievers (business owners and corporate executives) to assist them achieve sustainable business success AND create a great lifestyle for themselves and their family. John is also in demand as a keynote speaker, and author of ‘INTEGRATE – why work-life balance is a myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle’. To connect with John go to and follow him on Twitter @JDBizMentor and Instagram @JDBizMentor

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