Managing Yourself

Busy, aren't you? Sure you are. So is everybody else. And having to produce more with less - fewer people, more projects with faster turnaround times, more direct reports, bigger territories, less staff support, etc. -  all making it even tougher to keep up.

At Midwest Consulting Group, we have more than 30 years experience in helping individual contributors, professionals, managers, executives and the self-employed crank up their own personal productivity. This really IS working smarter, not harder.

We can help your entire organization become more productive, creative, and successful. Our approach provides practical advice and proven techniques for unleashing the peak performers within you and your team members. For more information, please contact us today

Improving Productivity for Businesses and Professionals

In this era of sweeping change, down-sizing, reorganizations, and increased demands, most of us face the reality of needing to “do more with less.” At the same time, the amount of information, communications, reports, memos, reading, and sheer paper that comes into our place of business has increased dramatically. The press of day-to-day “get it done,” “crank it out” frequently makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get to the real priorities in our personal and business life.

Personal Productivity Enhancement (PPE) is a proven process for creating order out of chaos, systems out of clutter, and focus out of confusion. We work with you through individual and group coaching and teaching sessions using systems, techniques, processes, and products to substantially improve productivity.

The PPE process can be introduced with individual or small group sessions, which focus on specific systems and techniques for increasing productivity. We focus on breaking up that mass of “stuff” that has been stuck in your office for weeks (months??) — projects that have not moved forward, communications that need to be handled, information and data tracking, commitments made and forgotten, that overdue report.

Through the PPE process you will be the creator of your own system — a system that fits you and the way you work, your job, your life. Because you are involved so completely in the process, the amount of lasting change and productivity improvement can often be phenomenal.

During Personal Productivity Enhancement, you will:


  • Create effective paperflow and information tracking systems
  • Develop your ability to manage a wide variety of simultaneous projects
  • Reduce delays in responding to requests, assignments, and information
  • Organize office reference and file information
  • Improve your ability to make good decisions quickly
  • Learn to process information quickly and effectively
  • Enhance your ability to focus on the truly important issues and projects

Your Personal Productivity Enhancement process will typically take two or three days. Best results occur when you make the commitment to move through the entire process at one time. PPE is not a class or seminar program — it is an intensive, “roll up your sleeves and get to it” kind of process. The resulting increases in productivity, satisfaction, clarity, and focus can have a major impact on your effectiveness and that of your team.

Workshop Series: Personal Productivity

There are lots of productivity and "time management" workshops available. What makes this course different? Throughout this workshop you will build your own system for successfully managing your work and your life — a system that fits you as a unique individual. And because you are involved so completely in the process, the amount of lasting change and productivity improvement can be phenomenal. The results we’ve seen with our clients during the past 15 years demonstrate a simple fact: the techniques we teach you work. Based on years of research into the teachings of experts like David Allen, Stephen Covey, Charles Garfield, Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, and a host of others, this course will pay dividends above the cost of participation - the productivity increases you are able to install in your world will repay your investment of time and dollars many times over.

Each session will be jam-packed with tips, tools, and techniques to help turn you into the high-powered successful person you are meant to be. This course can be delivered in a variety of formats with each session lasting from two hours to a half-day. In each session participants will learn, practice, and review progress. The weekly sessions build upon each other, providing you with the skills to become significantly more productive and successful in every aspect of your life.

By the end of this course you will be ready for new challenges, new opportunities, and new ways of seeing yourself and those around you. Contact us for more details and scheduling options.

Managing Change

Change does not happen easily and painlessly because the status quo is strongly attractive to both individuals and organizations. We are driven to think and act by how we view the world around us. We look for information, interpret events, see opportunities, and make choices based upon our mental model or perception of reality. Information that does not fit into our mental model is often ignored, discounted, or viewed as just plain wrong, if we are willing to even recognize that it exists. We are stuck to the super-glue of our own mental model and are often unaware that we are stuck.

Why do so many change initiatives fail so miserably?

  • We do not understand the nature of change
  • We fail to grasp the fact that change is a process
  • We neglect to identify our own (and our organization’s) mental model(s)
  • We do not determine the stage of change we are currently in
  • We give up too easily on the new approach – our desire for a “quick-fix” makes us impatient

Over the past decade we have learned a lot about the process of change and the ways in which change affects people.  Understanding how the change process operates helps us understand our own reactions to changing circumstances and events, especially when we had little say in the actions or events that caused the change. And, simply stated, the bigger and more global the change, the less influence we have on the outcome. That builds frustration and fear, especially when the effect upon us is negative.

There are Five phases to the change process, these are:

  1. Pre-contemplation of change
  2. Contemplation of change
  3. Preparing to change
  4. Active change
  5. Consolidation & Maintenance

To often we neglect to fully integrate the new way of getting things done; it requires continued effort until the new pattern is fully ingrained in our individual or organizational behavior.

The relative success of a change initiative depends upon the individual’s or the organization’s readiness for change and willingness to be flexible. For a more indepth look at managing change, click here.

At Midwest Consulting Group we are all about personal and organizational change. Let us help you and your organization to turn today’s rapidly-changing environment to your advantage. Contact us today!


Managing People

A primary – most would say critical – focus for any manager is to achieve the results needed by the organization and the people it serves.

There is a vast difference between filling out some form about a team member’s past behavior and actually managing a team for consistent performance. It is the cumulative effect of your day-to-day interactions with those you supervise that produces a high-performing team. And that is where real leadership in management is demonstrated every day. Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to lead your team effectively unless you are adept at managing the performance of the people you supervise – both as individuals and as a group.

To manage others successfully, you need to:

  • Create an environment where others are able to perform well.
  • Understand what sustained, good, solid performance means in your organization.
  • Realize how your expectations and attitudes affect others’ performance, and then behave accordingly.
  • Provide effective feedback to team members, some of whom may not be performing well at any given point in time.
  • Use a variety of techniques to help employees improve their performance

Unless you supervise only one other individual, you probably will use a variety of approaches to managing. As Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey first suggested many years ago, different people are at different points at different times. Their Situational Leadership™ model suggests that you will be more successful if you determine where each of your employees is right now and then proceed to manage them  where they are – rather than where you would like them to be. Whatever your approach to managing your team, a large part of your success will be driven by your ability to get your people to perform well.

As a supervisor and manager, you create an atmosphere – a climate – in your daily interactions with your team. The attitude, commitment, and results of your people are hugely influenced by yours. You are an example to those you supervise, whether you think so or not. You may be a great example or a poor example, but you are an example. And if your subordinates are not producing the results you need, and if you want things to be different, look in the mirror first.

At Midwest Consulting Group we have extensive experience in helping supervisors, managers, teams, executives, and entire organizations manage and lead their people. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you and your team.

Managing Projects

If you are like most people you have plenty of “projects” on your plate at any given point in time. I use a modification of David Allen’s definition of a project – any task that has more than one step or requires more than a few minutes to accomplish. Completing a project (especially a complex one) is really just a matter of doing a series of little physical next steps that create the desired result or outcome.

When a new project shows up there is often a temptation to jump in and start “doing” rather than taking a few minutes to do a little project planning. You may want to usethe 4-step process we teach in Personal Productivity in a Multi-tasking World

  1. What’s the “Big Picture?” What is the purpose of the project or outcome we are looking for? What are the expectations, standards, or constraints associated with the project? How does the project relate to our mission or purpose? How would you define “success” (or wildly wonderful world-class success!) for when the project is complete? What would you/we/our customers be doing, experiencing, or seeing when finished?
  2. Creative Project Planning. This is the time for free-form brainstorming around a central theme. With no criticism or censorship, use open dialog, gather input, mind-map or use cluster diagrams to capture ideas, issues, and thoughts. What would make the project particularly special or unique? Go for quantity without regard to quality at this point; even wild and seemingly impractical ideas may have within them a kernel of greatness.
  3. Organization. Based upon the results of the Purpose and Creative Project Planning phases, some of the basic structures, components, priorities, timetables, resources, and assignments will have begun to emerge and form. How will you track the assignments and commitments in order to make sure the project stays on course? Who needs to be kept informed of the project’s progress (occasionally? routinely? on an “exception” basis?) and how will that communication occur?
  4. Next Steps. What are the specific next physical action steps needed to move the project forward? Who will be responsible and by when?  

There are plenty of project management tools available. We have found mind-mapping or cluster diagramming to be particularly useful during the Creative Project Planning process. To create a mind map you start in the center of the paper with the major idea or theme of the project, such as “create strategic marketing plan,” or “move the office,” or “plan trip to Europe,” etc. Then you work outward in all directions, producing a growing and organized structure made up of key words and images. (sample)

Unlike linear planning and note taking (which are primarily logical, left-brain tools), mind maps make use of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Often the result is a more creative and comprehensive exploration of ideas, possibilities, resources, and outcomes than would have occurred with the “this is just like project X” approach. Mind mapping is a technique that takes a bit of practice if you have not used it before but it is well worth the effort to get comfortable with the process.

For multi-phase projects covering an extended time period we find Gantt Charts to be a big help. A Gantt Chart displays sequences and completion dates of action items or project phases. It can be very useful to turn the creative results of brainstorming or mind mapping into a linear timeline or plan for implementing a project, especially one that has a number of steps or phases and will last for some time. It is a highly visual and relatively simple method for communicating implementation plans, scheduling project activities & resources, tracking progress, and estimating timelines & milestones.

When you have one of those big, new, unusual, and mission-critical projects land on your plate, you might want to make use of the Project Action Plan Form to describe and flesh out the project so others can take on their particular piece of the project. This 4-page form walks you through the project planning process and can be a valuable communications tool when delegating or handing-off various tasks or sub-projects to others on your team.

So, what projects do you have on your plate that could benefit from a few minutes invested in a bit of planning? Want to know more? Contact us today!

For more information about managing yourself, your team, and your organization, please contact us.