Fifty Ways to Work Wiser

Fifty Ways to Work Wiser is a must-read for anyone that cares about designing a path that leads to a more fulfilling career.


  1. Are you a young professional trapped in a job and feeling like a wage-slave with no path to bigger things?
  2. Are you a many-seasoned professional who has finally achieved leadership positions only to discover you really aren’t ready to lead?

Well don’t panic…yet. The skills introduced in Fifty Ways to Work Wiser are the tools we all need to achieve meaningful work and lead like a hero.

Written by the coaches at Minerva Work Solutions, Fifty Ways to Work Wiser is a collection of the fifty most commonly encountered workplace challenges and provides you with explicit behavioral tools and tips, in the form of two-minute briefs, that you can reference as you need them. (A well-worn copy of the book is always on my desk at Mitton Media for easy access.)

Here are a few examples of the common challenges and workplace wisdom to be found in Fifty Ways to Work Wiser:

Death by Meeting: (“Meetings are totally boring and accomplish absolutely NOTHING!”)

  • It helps to lead and participate in meetings in ways that make the most of limited attention spans.
  • Focus on no more than six things, grouped in two to three chunks that are associated with particular leaders or functions.
  • Structuring meetings this way makes the most of our limited attention spans by focusing our time and energy where it counts the most.
  • It also allows team members to form a shared picture of what leaders are working on and why, which enables better management of shared resources and enables more helping behaviors to occur.
  • Every presenter has 5 minutes to briefly state 2 biggest concerns today, 2 major projects or accomplishments impacting this week, and the 2 resources/ help needed most this week.
  • To do this, you must come prepared so write everything down at least 15 minutes before the meeting.
    • EXAMPLE: “My biggest concerns are dealing with product shortage and meeting the repair deadline on our cafe’s freezer. We did manage to get all of our kitchen employees “Safe 2 Serve” certified last week, which is a major accomplishment. That helps ready us for my main focus, national hospital health inspection next month. For help, I need supervisors to make sure that we are recording temperatures in the logs for every refrigerator and freezer on site at least eight times daily on even hours. I also still need approval from accounting to purchase the rest of the personnel protection equipment required to meet hospital standards for the lobby cafe.”

Clueless In Seattle!“I don’t understand what they want and they don’t understand what I want.”

  • This is almost always caused by a mutual failure to share, negotiate, and check priorities over the course of a project (i.e. before, during, and after).
  • Usually, we don’t prioritize because we’re to uncertain to make a definite numbered list; and even if we do, then just presenting this numbered list doesn’t help anyone quickly understand which priorities might be traded given a crisis or shifting deadlines.
  • The Action Priority Matrix is a nice, simple tool that helps us order our priorities and share them in a way that people can easily understand:
    • Draw a four-square grid.
    • The top two boxes are where you put priorities that have a lot of potential to impact your business.
      • The top left box is for “Quick Wins” or projects that won’t take much time (under 3 weeks) or effort but are still very meaningful (like reconciling all the cash drawers in the store).
      • The top right box is for “Major Projects” that will take more time (3 weeks to 6 months) and are very immediately meaningful (like closing out the quarter).
  • Filling in these boxes or buckets and sharing them gives you, your boss, your colleagues a clear view of what you need to work on and why you value it.
  • This is also a good way to check your own priorities and how impactful you’re being at work:
    • 80% of your time should be spent doing Quick Win priorities
    • 10 to 20% should be spent doing Major Project priorities.
  • The rest of your time can be spent picking up priorities from the bottom two boxes on the grid as you have the time to spare. Those bottom two boxes are:
    • “Fill-in” projects that don’t take much time but aren’t going to impact your business very much (like mailing clients birthday cards), and
    • “Hard Slog” projects that are very meaningful to the business but too far in the future or too beyond your control right now (like lobbying congress about those trade tariffs driving up your supply costs).
  • Once you have a clear picture of what your priorities are, it becomes a lot easier to get people to understand what you want and what you can give them.

Blind-sided by an “Open Door”: “No one told me there was a problem. Then…WHAM-BAM!”

  • Spoiler alert! That Open Door policy you heard was a sign of good management or leadership…it’s not.
  • Psychology shows that humans (no matter how awesome and educated they are) don’t readily step up and announce bad news or claim responsibility for problems.
  • We’re not very good at pushing information to other people, and if you don’t believe that then just ask yourself when was the last time you thought, “They would have asked me if they wanted to know about that.”
  • If you want others to tell you there might be a problem in time for you to do something about it and prevent disasters, then you have to get good at pulling information from other people.
  • You have to develop a routine of regularly asking a random sample of co-workers, employees, leaders, and customers the right questions.
  • This is called, “rounding,” and it’s much like a doctor does rounds in a hospital. You walk around and pick two people at work each week to ask four questions:
    • 1) What is working well this week?
    • 2) What isn’t working well this week?
    • 3) What do you think we can do to keep making things work better?
    • 4) Who did something helpful or amazing that we should recognize?
  • The answers that you get may not be all that informative at first because it takes people a while (and some repetition) to believe that you really want to listen and know about these things.
  • But science shows us that if you persist in “rounding,” you will start to learn about issues before they become problems and discover more ways to turn challenges into advantages.

Closing Note

Knowing these skills is half the battle, and you can win that half by reading the book. The other half is all about practicing what you read and, when you’re ready, Minerva Work Solutions has some coaches who can help with that. If the Minerva coaches can help NASA astronauts prepare for missions to Mars  in the most extreme of  “workplace conditions,” just think about how much they can help you develop your career!

Order a copy of Fifty Ways to Work Wiser online from Amazon or directly from Minerva Work Solutions at 


John Mitton is President of Mitton Media. Known as the originator of Broadcast Classifieds, producing and placing job ads on Radio and Television, Mitton Media today is a full-service recruitment advertising agency with services and capabilities that cover all traditional and non-traditional media resources.

“We do the work. You get the credit®”

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