Article: Kory Kogon: Ways to be extraordinarily productive


Kory Kogon: Ways to be extraordinarily productive

Kory Kogon, FranklinCovey’s Global Practice Leader for Productivity on her executive experience in competitive industries, motivating people, key learnings and more
Kory Kogon: Ways to be extraordinarily productive

What runs a leader through the test is how (s)he effectively manages a team to do good work without them realizing they are being controlled


With 25 years of business expertise and a focus on research and content development on time and project management and communication skills, Kory has co-authored ‘5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity’, ‘Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager’ and ‘Presentation Advantage’. Prior to FranklinCovey, she spent six years as the Executive Vice President of Worldwide Operations for AlphaGraphics, Inc. 

How did your journey with FranklinCovey start and what has been the association like?

It’s been nine years with FranklinCovey and the journey has been outstanding. I came in as a consultant and was initially just doing facilitation. Moving forward, I realized that I was good at teaching people, and as Stephen Covey, as part of his 7 habits, says that ‘teaching also helps you learn’ – it was a win-win situation for me. Also, I have always believed that apart from teaching to learn, I also had to practice what I preached before I could teach that to someone else. As a leader or a speaker, I never wanted to get on stage telling the audience what to do and what not to do. What makes me successful is that even though I am by no means perfect, I have worked really hard to achieve things that I could, so that I can impart that knowledge to others.

‘Being busy is not being productive’. How do you differentiate between being productive and being busy?

The answer is fairly simple. All of us keep doing tasks which keep us busy – it could be answering (work-related) phone calls, exchanging emails or attending long meetings. But such tasks are highly unproductive. However, what makes you productive is that even while doing all these tasks, you are able to write a great story, close a big business deal or work on that important report. Being realistic helps too, don’t over-commit yourself to something you think will be able to handle but grapple with in the end. One also needs to be clear on what is really important. Therefore one has to prioritize. And not just in your mind. Get it out on a piece of paper – write it down or get it on your calendar. I strongly believe in the power of visualization, so if I visualize that I have completed a task, I find it easier to do the same. 

How can individuals become more productive, both personally and professionally? How can that be leveraged to build more productive organizations?

Although the amount of everything coming at us seems overwhelming, there is order in the chaos.  It is critical to understand that the brain requires a “system” in order to filter the important, less important and not important. Using the Time Matrix, the evaluation of urgent and important for all things “incoming”, allows people to methodically and consciously decide how to invest their time attention and energy.  It is necessary to do the urgent ‘right now’ first (Quadrant 1). But if it is just a tempting distraction that needs to be avoided (quadrant 3) or a sheer a waste of time (Quadrant4), then that which is really important that needs to be scheduled and planned needs to be given priority.  Getting really clear of what is truly important (Quadrant 2) is an important exercise to name your “productivity” and allows you to consciously mitigate or eliminate investment in some of the other activities that you may not need to be engaging in.

Another key to personal and professional productivity is the actual planning and scheduling.  Everything is coming at us so swiftly if we don’t schedule the most important things in a coherent planning system weekly and daily, we are apt to get lost in the ‘whirlwind’ of the day to day.

How can individuals who are disengaged become productive and emerge as effective individuals?

First, question is for the leaders here…. what are we doing that may be causing the dis-engagement.  Do we know this individual? Have we provided any recognition to his/her work? Have we shown interest in them personally and professionally? Do you know what contribution they would like to make on the job?  Studies show that recognition is more rewarding then a gift or money. In the 21st century it is difficult to “make” people productive. They have to WANT to give their best. So how do we help them do that?  First, by what was just described.  Second, provide them the “system” of productivity in the knowledge age. Provide them with the thinking and methodology of the time matrix, help them determine what is most important to them, help them re-kindle their fire, their purpose, their contribution and then help them mitigate some of the unimportant things they may be doing, or that may be foisted on them unintentionally by leadership.  A survey of 350,000 people around the world tells us that they feel like they waste almost half their time. This is extremely disengaging and can be changed for the better with putting productivity systems in place.

How can leaders identify highly effective/high potential individuals? What are some of the signs of a promising individual?

Productivity is no longer measured by number of widgets per hour.  Today, a great portion of the workforce worldwide is made up of knowledge workers; people who are paid to Think, Innovate, Create and Execute. And so, real productivity is about the potential any employee is willing to give to achieve quality work and contribution.  So the signs of a promising individual are passion, clarity of purpose and openness to learning.

One of your key areas of expertise is workforce management. How can organizations do it more effectively?

Well, organizations need a reality check when it comes to how to effectively manage the workforce. While some organizations set benchmarks for people to do great work, others can barely manage to hold their employees for even six months. What needs to be done is that organizations need to let go of some of its hierarchy (I said some because hierarchy is important too) and learn to see employees as humans – not machinery that is churning out an ‘x’ number of products every day. Most employees worldwide say that they just feel like a social security or an employee ID number at the workplace – this needs to change. Just like people look for validation in personal life (a birthday phone call, a heart-felt thank you card), it’s the same principle at work as well. “The word harder, work faster” approach does not work with human beings. Leaders need to value and appreciate their employees and smartly oversee and manage their work, rather than micromanaging them, all the time. And one has to learn this. A good leader is someone who can call a spade a spade without demoralizing or bringing someone down. Leaders don’t need to be flashy or hold placards saying that “I am the leader”. What runs a leader through the test is how he manages to effectively manage a team to do good work without them realizing they are being controlled. My advice to all leaders is that always offer help when asked for but never micro-manage – and if you must (many leaders tell me they can’t help it, it’s in their nature!), do it smartly.

You mentioned good work. What makes it different from extraordinary work?

All of us do good work. It is expected of us and there is nothing wrong if we stick to just what needs to be done. What makes it extraordinary is the way we approach it and the way we remove the barriers out of the way. Extraordinary work for me is nothing but recognizing what your highest priorities areand sticking to them, even while a barrage of other (read unproductive work) is putting you down.

Finally how do your sharpen your saw?

It is really about the little things that help – spending time with my family and dogs, going for a walk and most importantly getting my alone time when I need it the most. 

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, Performance Management

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