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Dear Work Therapist - how do you encourage a culture of improvements from within?

Dear Work Therapist,

Management often asks me to drive productivity improvements for teams or departments. While delegated authority lowers the resistance of those I'm trying to help, I'd rather encourage change collaboratively.

How do you grease a guerilla campaign to galvanize groovy habits?

p.s. And since you can't just have one "Dear Work Therapist" post, here's a bonus submission!

What tactics have you found helpful to set boundaries between work and home?

Disclaimer: This post may be inspired from personal experience or my imagination. But I won't admit it.


Dave Liao Community Leader Aug 01, 2021

FYI This is actually a two-in-one post, but my second question was already asked by @Liam Green 

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Did we say we were awarding points for poetic inquiries? Because you now have 11 poetic points for alliteration and imagery ;)


Dear @Dave Liao,

Re: How do you grease a guerilla campaign to galvanize groovy habits?

By definition, the grassroots approach requires team member participation and input. If you're catalyzing change through retros, feedback sessions, actioning on survey data, etc, the team will inevitably be part of the process. The way I see it, your authority simply encourages that team participation that leads to suggested changes (as opposed to dictating the changes you'd like to see).

I'd like to get underneath the reason for your question though. It seems to me that you may (or may not, if you're asking for a friend), be uncomfortable with the authority you're given. If true, I'd love to know if that discomfort is because of how you see yourself or how others see you. And if not true, what is the dissonance of having both authority and encouraging change collaboratively? Because good leaders can have both leadership roles while still working with and for teams.

Porque no los dos.gif

Re: What tactics have you found helpful to set boundaries between work and home?

I've got a few for myself.

  • Do you have an understanding of what a good day's work is?
    It's easy for me to keep working until I absolutely need to stop to attend an event or do something time-dependent. So what I try to do (not always successfully), is skim my day's to-do list and meetings. And because my day never ends up the way I imagine it to be, I ask myself what outcome I need to achieve to be happy. I write that down, and when I achieve that, I legitimately stop working. 
  • How do you timebox your daily workload? 
    I make meetings with myself by plopping work blocks on my calendar with descriptions of specific tasks to accomplish in the title. To the best of my ability, I estimate how long it will take and block that exact time on my calendar. If I take more time, I stretch that meeting block and if it takes less time I shrink the block to how long I actually spent on it. Also, I put my final deadlines in the title of the meeting request so that I can drag my work block to another gap later in the week. By doing all this, if I don't have another work block or meeting, I give myself permission to call it a day.
  • How do you manage your non-work time?
    I think it's fascinating that workers who micromanage their work calendars but don't do that for their non-work lives. Based on my previous bullet above, I'm a planner. And I apply that trait to both my work and personal life. By knowing what I want to do in my personal life, I can block that time on my calendar so that I nudge myself to do "life things" as well.

And I've seen a few good ones from others.

  • I have a few colleagues who use Trello to manage their tasks lists, moving cards to days later in the week and ensuring they don't take on more than 3-5 tasks per day.
  • Some enjoy dressing for work, so that when they're in their "work clothes" they stay in work mode as opposed to letting one world slip too easily into others. Personally, I enjoy the context switching, which is entirely why my style is pajama chic ;)
  • Workers who I think are extremely structured adhere to strict 9 to 5, 10 to 6, or other defined workday. They also designate a specific physical space for work. When the time parameter expires, they step away from their work location and it frees them from being in work mode. Kind of like how they say to not bring work into your bedroom or to not bring fights with partners to bed. There's got to be boundaries for work to enforce when you have permission to work. I'm not disciplined for this style, but I see it work well for many.


Thank you for these universal questions! Excited to hear from others on what they think.

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Dave Liao Community Leader Aug 02, 2021

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa - appreciate your attention on this post! I should have made this a Question instead of whatever-this-is (article? discussion?).

I have a pretty good separation of work-life afterhours - my instant messenger app auto-silents, and I can't set up email on my personal phone right now. Regarding email, it's my "fault", not the company's - long story - which is comical from an IT perspective. 😂

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@Dave Liao closing the door to work life "after hours" is clutch. 

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I have a few points to make:

1. "How do you grease a guerilla campaign to galvanize groovy habits?" - this may be the best worded question I have ever read!

2. Sorry for stealing your other question!

3. @Christine P_ Dela Rosa you're really amazing at answering these questions - have you thought about a change in career?

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Flattery will get you everything, @Liam Green

Jack Brickey Community Leader Aug 06, 2021

For me I think one of the most effective ways of driving change is to lead by example. If you can find some good examples of things that need to be improved and you know people would appreciate the improvements, then take those on and demonstrate how each of the team members can contribute to that improvement. Also success breeds success - if you can get one good improvement under your belt then you can leverage that for the next improvement opportunity.

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