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Productivity tips from top UK business leaders

Triana Jarman
As part of an exclusive series of high-profile interviews, Sift Talent recently spoke with senior leaders from leading UK and Global brands, including SuperGroup, IBM, Poundland, LB Group and Imperial Tobacco. Each interview investigated key business issues and explored the approach by some of the people behind the country’s largest and most successful business organisations. 
 
Over the weeks and months of interrogating multiple business leaders a number of similar questions were asked around productivity, talent retention, and culture; and while every respondent gave different (although equally valuable) answers, there were a number of common themes. Here we summarise some of the most enlightening insight gained from responses relating to productivity:
 
The interviewees were asked, “What is the best productivity tip you have ever received?”
 
Jim McCarthy, CEO of Poundland
My advice would be to train and delegate. Train your colleagues, delegate sensibly and measure them along that path. In overall terms if you employ superb colleagues you find their productivity and their outputs are beyond expectation – a great place to be.
 
I have a very good board, individually they are very talented but collectively they are superb.  There may be individuals out there who might be technically better in certain areas but when you put this team together it has a very enviable and compelling chemistry and the team output is superb.
 
In terms of getting great results, it is imperative that you put the right teams together. Clarity of purpose and strategy is key to all that. 
 
Spending time with people is a wonderful investment. I am the sort of individual who finds that my own creativity and productivity increases when I am with people. I tend to bounce off people and they can bounce off me. I find that my brain becomes much more active when I’m interchanging with other talented individuals in the business. 
 
Jonathan Cormack, Global Director Organisation Capability, Imperial Tobacco
“Only touch a document once” was a piece of advice I read somewhere. That’s the way I try to deal with things, be it email or paper documents. Just touch it once and deal with it. Now that has its drawbacks; it means that maybe you haven’t reflected enough on it and maybe if you slept on it and came back to it you may have a better solution but by and large it suits my temperament to focus, deal with something and then move on. 
 
Mark Rolfe, Leader of Performance Management Europe, IBM
I think a couple of things come to mind.  Number one, and I think this is absolutely critical these days, is to prioritise – focus on doing the important things well.  As the world becomes faster moving and with so many different data sources and demands on your time focusing and prioritising becomes ever more important. I think the other thing that sticks in my mind is something that a CEO in an earlier role said to me, which was “I would love it if finance could spend 80% of their time focusing on the future rather than the past”.  I see so much of that desire in organisations now to move away from spending so much time on manual process and looking backwards at results and instead to move to a position where they can start to help the organisation make decisions.
 
Stuart Sheldrick, Director, LB Group
The best one I would suggest, and one which I am trying to embrace here at LB Group, is to empower staff more. Give staff responsibility, let them make mistakes and hopefully they can grow and develop.  Also encourage delegation. If everyone is working to their absolute ability by learning from their mistakes it should make a more productive office. 
 
 
In summary it is clear that delegation, training and prioritisation are key to the success of business productivity. That these common themes should come from a number of organisations with such a different nature further emphasises the value in this advice, and suggests they’re recommendations that can be applied to all areas of business.
 
The general aim of working as efficiently as possible and avoiding procrastination is sage advice, but perhaps more insightful is the recommendation to spend more time looking forward to the potential of the future than reflecting on the past. A glance at results of the past to help steer the business in the right direction is important, but once the trajectory has been mapped out a business must remain focused and work towards hitting that objective.
 
To read the Sift Talent interviews in full visit their blogs pages