The PMA Blog

Overcoming your Busy-ness Addiction

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 8/4/22 9:53 AM


Person A: How’s it going?

Person B: I’m insanely busy.

Person A: Yeah, me too. I’m scheduling into next year already.

Person B: I get it. I haven’t taken a real unplugged vacation since before Covid.

Person A:  I hear you.  I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up.

Person B:  I know.  I'm considering leaving.  I'm so burnt out.



And just like that, we are falling back into the patterns of pre-pandemic workplace and homelife imbalance.   2022 "come back to the office culture" has brought with it a pace and volume of both communications and information that would overload anyone.  Financial upheaval, supply chain issues, talent shortages and overtaxed healthcare systems have workplaces feeling more overwhelmed than ever.  So, we respond by trying to simply catch it. How do we catch it?


    • We practically sleep with our phones in hand. 
    • We schedule days so packed with meetings, calls, emails and texts, that 85% of our days are spent before we even get to our desk in the morning. 
    • We literally begin the day knowing that we'll get about an hour to actually make any kind of progress and if there's any kind of crisis or emergency, we can kiss that plan  goodbye.
    • We multitask so hard that we barely focus on anything individually anymore.
    • We work longer and faster and try to fill in every gap with a glance at email or chat.
    • We give up vacations in the fear that the workload will finally overwhelm us if we dare to take time off.
    • We set aside and procrastinate anything that might be a time-suck, like relationship building, creativity, process improvement and project work.
    • We forfeit being truly present, while we stay constantly connected.

The result is a life of complete busy-ness, both at work and at home.  Tony Crabbe, in his book "Busy", speaks to the issue when he says, "Busy is a terrible brand."  Yet it's the most common response heard in elevators and in zoom calls everywhere.  Not just busy either.  We're "crazy busy"!  For many of us, our self-worth is tied to our level of busy-ness and we’re not able to easily give that up.


The answers are not simple.  They will require us to develop better process, better tools and a willingness to release a personal brand that feels comfortable and familiar.  We'll need to consider more of a “systems” approach to work and we'll need to start saying "no" or at least "not now" to the many things that don't fit and don't add value to a more priority driven day.  And even when that's all done, we will feel the nag of our addiction.  We will feel guilty for sitting or thinking or playing or deepening a relationship.  The struggle is real.  Keep fighting my friends and we'll be here to support you along the way.  All the tips and tricks in the world won't have the impact of making some true changes in what you consider and treat as a priority in your life. 


 We can help you to overcome the obstacles and challenges of Busy-ness Addiction. Click below to schedule an Executive Overview with us to assess your needs. 

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Topics: Productivity for All

Avoid Losing Talent in the "Great Resignation" from Change Overwhelm

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 6/21/22 12:01 PM

During Times of Change, Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The flight was just about to take off, when abruptly it turned around and headed back to the gate.  The pilot told us it was a mechanical problem and that they'd get back to us.  And then they didn't.  For the next 15 minutes I watched people begin to spiral into a panic.  Should we call customer service?  Should we get off the flight?  What kind mechanical?  Any time estimates?  Finally, the pilot came on to let us know the status and everyone calmed down.  The funny thing is that he told us he really didn't know much and that he'd get back to us soon.  But that's really all we needed at that moment. Ultimately the flight took off and landed with out a problem, but, it was with a single communication that the pilot avoided people's panic.

During times of change, your staff needs to hear from you more than ever.  Make it a habit to check in on the status of changes with them regularly EVEN when nothing has changed.  If you don't, they may assume you are out of the loop or even worse, they may believe you know and are just not caring enough to keep them informed.

Organizations Don't Change.  People Do.
Individual change management means understanding how one person successfully makes a change.
No matter how large a project you are taking on, the success of that project ultimately lies with each employee doing their work differently, multiplied across all of the employees impacted by the change. Effective change management requires an understanding for and appreciation of how one person makes a change successfully. Without an individual perspective, we are left with activities but no idea of the goal or outcome that we are trying to achieve.
Use the four components of change to help people through their individual change journey:
    • Awareness - do they have a clear awareness of why the change is necessary or happening?
    • Motivation - do they feel any motivation to change?  Have we discussed the personal benefits of the change to them?  How do those benefits align with their values?
    • Knowledge - Do they have the information they need to make the changes?
    • Skills - Have they had an opportunity to practice in prep for the change or actually do the things that will be necessary?
Pull Your Sponsors in as Needed for Maximum Engagement
It's pretty typical for change sponsors to be involved heavily at the inception of the change, communicating and acting as a champion for the soon to be rolled out initiative.  Then, they hand it off to middle managers and move onto the next big strategic move.  The problem with that scenario is that the front line staff will continue to need to see those sponsors periodically in the preparation and execution of the changes in order to feel their commitment and backing.  
So what's the answer?  This is where you come in.  There are several critical roles for middle managers in implementing changes and this is one of the most valuable.  Determine when your team needs that infusion of motivation or even recognition from the change sponsor.  Act as a true liaison, and let the sponsor know how they can best engage, while being respectful of their time.
    • Is there a team meeting coming up, where the sponsor could give an update and take questions from the team?
    • It might even be helpful to ask the sponsor to kick off (either live or virtually) the training program if your team is learning the new skills necessary to change successfully. 
    • If the change is rolling and starting in different areas at different times, invite the sponsor to visit with your team within the first week of any changes to show their support.

Keeping people motivated and positive during changes is not always easy, but you're not in it alone.  An engaged and visible sponsor is the number one factor in change success and they just need a little help from you to know when is the right time.

Be an Advocate for Change.
It's not always easy for managers to know what their role is during changes.  Here are two big ones.  Be a role model and an advocate for changes.  Even when you have not been actively involved in planning the change, it's your role to dig in and figure out how to advocate with others for the change.  As a leader, people will be watching and listening to see how you respond to the change and will often follow your lead.  But what if you don't agree with the change?
Then it's even more important that you don't play a passive role.  You have the opportunity to dig in ask for the information about why the change is necessary and really investigate in order to convince yourself.  In doing that, you'll often find exactly the information that others are missing too.  Or you'll point out and important barrier that may have been overlooked and help the change sponsor make adjustments.  It takes courage to be that manager, but be that leader!

Expect Resistance
It has been said many times that people hate change.  I don't really believe that's true.  I believe they hate pain.  And unfortunately, many people perceive that change equals pain, and therefore must be resisted.  The fact is that they come by this belief honestly.  For many, life has shown them that workplace changes can bring anything from the unpleasant experience of having to unlearn a process or system that they "knew so well" to devastating changes that lead to relocation and even job loss.  So, what can you do about it?
To be proactive, try to anticipate where resistance will come from for your team.  In other words, can you see where this change might cause loss or fear for each person affected?
 Be supportive and empathetic.  Expect resistance and give people time to talk about their feelings about the change. 
Be creative and look for ways to mitigate negative consequences of changes.  Small accommodations can make a huge difference for people and turn a negative response to a positive one very quickly.

Don’t Fear Their Voice; Fear Their Quiet
Have you ever had someone get so fearful or frustrated that they simply shut down and refuse to talk to you about it?  This is often the warning sign that managers and leaders miss. When people experience fear of change, they may argue and complain, but they may also become very quiet and pensive.  In extreme cases they may take time off and even quit.  Like everyone else, they need an opportunity to talk about their concerns but may not feel like they can bring it up.  How do we handle it as a manager?

  • Stay alert for the quieter responses to changes and approach individually to determine if resistance exists.
  • Surface the resistance by asking for feedback on the change and how they might see it going.
  • When they do share, be very appreciative of their honesty and validate their point of view or feelings.
  • Try to explore ways to mitigate their concerns or gather information for them that they may be missing.
  • Plan to circle back and check in with them frequently during the change process as they may need a little extra support.

 We can help you to overcome the obstacles and challenges leaders encounter everyday, with our Change Management knowledge. Click below to schedule an Executive Overview with us to assess your needs. 

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, All About Teams, Leadership Matters, Change Happens

Speeding up to Slow down

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 4/29/22 1:29 PM



"She must have that backwards!  For years she's been teaching us to slow down to speed up and now she says it’s the other way around?"

Every day I ask people to invest in themselves and their process improvement.  This requires slowing down, learning, tweaking, changing process, and changing behavior so that they might accelerate their growth and results. 

Today it occurred to me that people are not always truly leveraging their results to move the biggest rocks.  Learning to triage and process email twice as fast has very little impact if you use the time saved to do low priority items.  Only by taking that extra time and using it to slow down will you truly achieve quantum leaps. 

How do you slow down?
By slowing down I mean taking the time required to work on hard things.  Things like relationships.  Complex problems, systems and strategy vs tasks.  Taking the time to really understand what will move the dial and then using the extra time to make those things happen. 

In 2016, Cal Newton changed my life with his book, Deep Work.  It was the best summer reading I've ever done because the simple concept of carving out time to think and work deeply was simply not a point of consciousness for me.  Since then, I've built in "focus time" almost every week, month and quarter with the duration increasing as needed for the most important work. In fact, I used it to write this blog today.  This practice simply would not be possible without an equal and opposite practice of moving very quickly through the things that do not require intense focus.

So how do you speed up?
Take the areas of work that do not require intense focus and begin to streamline, automate and develop a practice of rapid triage!

Rapid Triage Method

  1. Clearly identify all the inbound sources of work.  email, chat, meetings, calls, your brain, CRMs, etc.
  2. Develop a clear understanding or your sort choices for any inbound source.  Here's mine:
    • Delete or let go
    • If less than 2 mins, take action right away
    • If action needed, Stage it (Outlook Task or Calendar)
    • If recall needed, Store it (Teams or OneNote)

By being crystal clear about the choices and the locations of where things will go, I can move my pace into double time. I've come to love the day after a Focus Day or vacation week because I can plow through a massive amount of inbound work and traffic in a very short period of time. 

Next, you need to add some automation wherever possible. How can you start using email templates, rules, quick steps, quick parts, search folders to take your triage to warp speed.  If these seem overwhelming, join us in our next WorkingSm@rt + Outlook program for a little help navigating. If you're interested please feel free to contact Gene Venuto at

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, Productivity for All

Ramping up Quickly with Microsoft Teams

Posted by Stephanie Sibille and Deb Cullerton on 3/16/22 7:25 AM


So, you just got Microsoft what? It’s just another Skype, right? Not really.

 We've all heard it by now. The low-pitched "ding" that comes through your speakers, usually accompanied by a concurrent purple pop-up window. It can mean lots of things - a response to a question that you have been needing to get answered, more work that you need to complete - or random chatter from a distribution list that you have never signed up for. But dig a little deeper, and things can start to get messy. There's a flurry of IMs coming through, and you can't keep up. Or you've been added to channels than you don’t even recognize, and you don’t know why. Or you get notified any time a file or tab gets added to a team, and you have no idea if you should ignore it or if you are suddenly missing something important that you need to be diligently checking.

 So, the big question becomes: Is Microsoft Teams a productivity goldmine or a reactivity trap?

 While it may feel like Teams has quickly gone from instant answers to firefighting central, there are some ways to bring it back to what it was designed to be – a central hub for all of your internal communication, where you can find what you need in an instant.

 While that may sound too good to be true, our years of using Teams and many conversations with internal experts have allowed us to build a strategy to get a handle on your Teams quickly.

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, Productivity for All, All About Teams, Leadership Matters

7 Ways to Improve Your Virtual Team Meetings

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 3/13/20 4:50 PM

With many of us moving to home offices for a while, the number of virtual meetings has skyrocketed leaving many people feeling ill-prepared to run high quality meetings.  Use these 7 tips to improve the results immediately:
1. Do the basics that we all should do whether the meeting is live, virtual or hybrid.  Send the purpose and objectives for the meeting with the meeting invitation, then consider ways to engage your meeting attendees.  Be sure to end with actions committed and decisions made.  Then, you're in great shape to make the transition to hybrid or virtual meeting format.  To double check your meeting fundamentals, download our meeting facilitation job aid for a helpful checklist.

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, Productivity for All, All About Teams, Leadership Matters

Accountability - The Missing Link in Executing the Strategy

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 2/19/20 9:57 PM

I've been coaching and working with Senior Leaders across many industries lately, and keep hearing the same concern when we talk about delivering on the strategies they have worked so hard to develop and communicate across their organizations.  Lack of accountability is hurting our ability to execute.

If you've noticed this creeping into your team or organization, it may require some focused attention before it's too late.  Let's review six techniques that can help stem the tide and turn your team into an executing machine!


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Topics: Leadership Matters

Our most popular blog of 2019: Is the People Stuff Getting You Down?

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 1/14/20 9:35 AM

The votes are in for 2019 most popular blog! This blog is full of tips for taking your work relationships to a new level of success. Be sure to take advantage of the download "Know Your Colleagues"!  

I was coaching a client last week and asked about his progress since he went to our WorkingSm@rt class.   He said, "Well, I'm more organized and more focused but I haven't solved the one issue that takes up more time than almost anything else -- the people stuff!”.

I knew he was saying it tongue in cheek, but he winced a little as he said it and I knew there was more truth there than he was comfortable with.  I wish I could say it was the first time I've heard this complaint, but it's not.  It's impossible to focus on people's productivity without consistently running into the challenging people issues that can take up significant chunks of our day.

 So, without ado, I thought I’d outline three people areas that waste significant time in our workplaces with a few solutions that can make a significant impact:

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Topics: Productivity for All, All About Teams, Leadership Matters

Coaching for Transformation not Transfer

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 11/26/19 1:00 PM

It happens all the time.  Two people are using a word and believe they are aligned on its definition, but their different interpretations lead to big misses in execution.  When this happens with a common word like coaching, the results fall short and leave people scratching their head.  I was recently in New York teaching a Coaching for Peak Performance class with a group of front-line managers.

"How many of you actively coach your team members?"  (80% of the hands went up)

"How many of you coach both proactively for development and reactively for "just-in-time" learning?" (60% of the hands went up)

It didn't make sense to me.  I was missing something.  How could they be coaching and still not getting the results? 

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, All About Teams, Leadership Matters, HR Executives, Change Happens

6 Ways to Scale Up Your Team Capacity

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 9/10/19 7:58 AM

Automate your repetitive processes.

Identifying all repetitive tasks in a process is a great way to quickly surface opportunities for automation.

Consider templates, checklists and rules in Outlook, Gmail, OneNote, Keep and other applications as a non-programmers option for automating. With increases in communications, an automated process for client contacts can save a team a bunch of time. Scheduling applications like Fullslate, AppointmentPlus, Acuity, TimeTap and Bookings (free in MS 365) can save everyone on the team countless hours playing phone tag and emailing people with new appointment options when you work with external clients or vendors whose schedules you can't see.

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Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, Productivity for All, All About Teams, Leadership Matters, HR Executives

Stop Working So Much!

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 5/8/19 6:50 AM

It's in my blood!  I grew up in a family that rewarded it.  For many years I believed it was responsible for everything good in my life.  I have always put it in my top 3 values and traits.  And, I now believe (and it kills me to say so) that I was wrong.  In fact, it may be my biggest limitation in achieving both my professional and personal goals.  While I have spent years jumping in and working more and harder when things get dicey, I realized now that this hard work ethic has, at times, caused me to:

  • Make the wrong prioritizing decisions at times when my health, my family life and my spiritual needs were on the line.
  • Become judgmental when others chose differently.
  • Measure "hours in play" instead of results.
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Topics: Productivity for All

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