On Leading: Keep productivity up when staffing is down

Adapted from What's Working in Credit & Collection.

If you had everything you wanted, you'd have twice as many people and everyone would agree with you all the time, right?


But most managers are scrambling to make do with fewer hands on deck, and working hard to communicate their own ideas.  So whether you’re a department of one, five or 50, you can boost productivity – and support – by following this advice.

Managing time effectively
It's basic, but it's proven. One of the trickiest parts of doing more is developing – and sticking to – a good plan.
  • Make a list, but be prepared for last-minute changes. No matter how detailed the plan,  something could crop up. Whatever the priority, always strive to build some flexibility into the day.
  • Meet with other departments  first thing in the morning. Remember, everybody is their own No. 1 priority, so let them know if they want to get stuff done, the should  see your early in the day
Partner with your in-house adversaries
 At the end of the day, you're all in it together no matter how competitive you may be with other departments head to head.  Don't overlook the bigger goal:
  • Keep people  informed on all major goings, especially new projects or staff changes.  Others will be more likely to keep you in the loop if you already make this a habit. Try sending regular reports and start expecting them in return.
  • Ask for help or insights when you’re  experiencing a particularly difficult challenge, or maybe getting mixed messages from on high. You might be surprised how willing you in-house adversaries are to help in these kinds of situations.
Know your customer

This is the most critical to business success – understanding who your customers are and how the are doing.

When you  know what’s going on with your customer and your industry, you’ll be able to spot red flags and the trends much sooner – and ultimately spend less time and money chasing after business that isn't there.

It always pays to:
  • Makes visits. You can't say enough about the value of visiting customers.  Take advantage of opportunities to build relationships and of course, to look for signs of trouble. Try to offer your own expertise and find out if customers are having any problems you can help with.
  • Stay involved with industry or trade groups. This can be the best source of info about the customers you depend on most.