15 Things Managers Can Do To Help Their Teams Truly Work Smarter Not Harder

You’ve likely heard the advice to “work smarter, not harder.” But if you’ve ever tried to put this into action, you know it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Finding ways to get more done while keeping stress levels low often proves to be more difficult than it seems.

But in order to make your team more productive, it’s important to find efficient ways to help your workers tackle their tasks and achieve their goals. To help, Forbes Coaches Council members shared some important steps leaders can take to increase their team’s productivity while minimizing stress.

Forbes Coaches Council members offer 15 ways managers can make their team more productive, efficient and happy in the workplace.


1. Model And Encourage Daily ‘Recovery Time’

It is not stress that causes burnout and lessens our effectiveness—it is stress without recovery. Business leaders who model and expect their team members to “recover” throughout the day will encourage happy, healthy, high performance. Real breaks at lunch, 10 minute breaks each hour and phone-free evenings actually enable more, not less, success! – Ann FarrellQuantum Endeavors, Inc.

2. Create A Culture Of Inspiration And Fun

Leaders get more out of their teams if they hire people who are inspired to do great work and offer an environment where they can do it. Inspired people need no motivation. It’s within them. Create an environment where people can play at their jobs. You’ve gamified it and created joy. People do great things when they are inspired and have fun. – Jeff AltmanThe Big Game Hunter

3. Prioritize The Priorities

Stress is often the result of having too many priorities. Instead, focus on two or three game-changing initiatives and projects and steer energy toward this short and well-defined list. Reducing the to-do list noise will provide a laser-focused team the energy and creativity needed to produce the best results. – Deborah HightowerDeborah Hightower, Inc.

4. Promote Emotional Intelligence

The ability to minimize stress implies having a certain level of awareness and control over it. This capacity is directly related to emotional intelligence (EQ), which deals with being smart about emotions. The ability to recognize one’s stressful emotional state and effectively manage it leads to less stress and more productivity. EQ is the other kind of smart that makes everything else easier. – Jamelle LindoPARADIGM People Development

5. Use New And Emerging Technologies

As a leader, spend time or task someone with looking for tools and technologies that can help people work more effectively, as individuals and teams. Don’t just spring a new tool on everyone either. Talk about the goals, ask your employees what tools they like to use and see what works in your environment. Employee participation helps get the right tools in place with time to learn and excitement. – Larry BoyerSuccess Rockets LLC

6. Assess Your Meeting Culture

Many workplaces and employees cite unnecessary or lengthy meetings as a huge waste of time. To avoid excessive and unproductive meetings, create clear guidelines around the culture of meetings in your office. Be clear about the purpose and a desired outcome. Set an agenda ahead of time and follow it. Identify and invite only those who need to attend. Have a hard stop time and stick to it. – Molly WalshStandout Consulting

7. Identify A Single Priority Objective

If you’re looking to make progress versus work hard, discuss, agree upon and establish a “Top One” objective—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. When you achieve one key objective and then allow a Top Two and Top Three, you make progress, rather than chase small activities. Focus less on quantity and more on higher quality progress. – John HittlerEvoking Genius

8. Empower Your Team To Manage Energy, Not Time

Leaders can positively impact productivity and business outcomes by helping their team members manage energy rather than time. Help people notice their own biological rhythms and empower everyone to do the hard thinking and analytical work when they are their most alert. They may not be able to control this all the time, but with attention and practice, teams can achieve incredible results. – Jill HauwillerLeadership Refinery

9. Offer A Flexible Work Environment

Be flexible in allowing people to work where they are most comfortable. Prevent long commutes by allowing people to work remotely. Encourage community and collaboration by creating common spaces for people to work in. By hiring for character and building the right systems, your employees will perform at a much higher level and be significantly less stressed. – Ryan MillerRyan James Miller

10. TheBuild A Resilient Culture

Help employees understand what they need to remain resilient and build agreements among employees that allow them to meet the agreements that will keep them healthy and productive. By supporting one another in setting limits, such as working hours beyond which email responses are not required, allows people to take the downtime necessary to show up at work refreshed. – Maureen MetcalfInnovative Leadership Institute

11. Assess And Optimize Your Project Management Processes

Business leaders should assess their project management processes to ensure that their team members are not duplicating efforts. As a leader, you do not want to micromanage your team and get in the weeds. People feel empowered when they are given the appropriate autonomy to figure things out on their own and even have the space to make mistakes and learn from them. – Carolina CaroCarolina Caro

12. Establish Open Lines Of Communication

Encourage your employees to share their ideas abou how to do their tasks better. They may have thought of innovative ways to streamline duties. Let them know you are always available to brainstorm and troubleshoot problems. Hold brainstorming sessions with the team, as their synergy may inspire innovation. – Aaron LevyRaise The Bar

13. Encourage Exercise In The Workplace

When possible, leadership should provide an opportunity for all to break away from tasks and exercise. A quick walk inside or outside gives them an outlet to release the stress that builds up over the course of a workday. When employees are refreshed, they are likely more focused, more productive and generally healthier overall. Even better, this is a benefit that has a minimal cost to a bottom line. – Dr. Danielle JenkinsIntegrity Management & Consulting Group, LLC

14. Incorporate Meditation Time Into The Workday

A company-wide initiative to focus the team on meditation can be beneficial for the company’s productivity and lower stress levels. Incorporating a five to 15-minute meditation time each day will allow employees to calm their nerves, their minds and their bodies, allowing them to better focus on their tasks at hand. – Jon DwoskinThe Jon Dwoskin Experience

15. Acknowledge And Appreciate What They’re Doing Right

It is common for leaders to point out what their team is doing wrong rather than what is right. It’s important to acknowledge that they are already working hard. Be specific about what they are doing correctly and express your appreciation for them doing so. They will then feel valued, know what to keep doing and be open to hearing what they should also be doing. – Julie Kantor, PhDJP Kantor Consulting



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job

No BS Management Advice | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
No BS Management Advice | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2200 episodes. He also hosts Job Search TV on YouTube, Amazon and Roku, as well as on BingeNetworks.tv for Apple TV and 90+ smartsets.

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