Accountability Is Key


Increasing Accountability and Decreasing Burnout With Empowered Productivity


While Stacey Duff loves her work as president of Turner Designs, she noticed she repeatedly ran up against the same problem: How to hold her team accountable.

Turner Designs is a 15-person company, based in San Jose, California. The rapidly-growing company makes scientific instruments that monitor the quality of water and are used in a variety of industries ranging from aquaculture to water quality monitoring.

When Stacey accepted her position two years ago, she already knew about Maura Thomas and the Empowered Productivity System from her previous job. “I heard Maura speak about five years ago. I was super impressed,” she says. That led Stacey to start a book club at her previous company that was based on discussing and implementing the strategies in Maura’s first book, Personal Productivity Secrets.

“We tried learning the system together,” Stacey says. “The problem we encountered was that change is hard, and we’re so used to doing things a certain way that we would try some of the things she recommended but we would all fall back when we got busy or things got hectic. We would just revert back to our old ways, so it was really hard to try to get some sticking power.”


Getting Buy In

Still, with an awareness of the strategies and tools used in the Empowered Productivity System, Stacey was confident it was just what she needed to increase accountability at Turner Designs.

She also thought that using Empowered Productivity might reduce the symptoms of burnout that she saw some employees experiencing. So Stacey reached out to her employees to see if they would be interested in Empowered Productivity training with Maura.

Once they heard about the potential benefits, the team agreed that two days of training with Maura would be well worth it.


Setting Up the Training

When Stacey reached out through the website to inquire about Empowered Productivity training for her company, she voiced her concerns about ensuring that the new program would actually stick. After all, she already realized how hard habits are to change.

What Stacey didn’t realize was that unlike just using the books independently, Empowered Productivity training is built on the understanding that change is hard, and Maura offers change management support for companies that are looking for long-term results.

In her initial call with Maura, Stacey learned about EPIC (Empowered Productivity Implementation Coaching), which Maura offers as follow-up to training. Through EPIC, leaders get 1:1 coaching on implementing the Empowered Productivity System in their organizations. Plus, EPIC teaches the group how to overcome obstacles to implementation, successfully create new habits from Empowered Productivity, and abandon those work behaviors they learn aren’t supporting them.

Reassured by the EPIC offering, Stacey then corresponded directly with Maura, where she was asked about her objectives for a training engagement.


 Stacey told Maura her frustration with getting team members to follow up on their commitments. “I had always taken the approach that, “If I told you to do something, it would get done.” But I didn’t have any way of holding my team accountable. None of my systems seemed to work,” she said.

Sometimes, a month after Stacey assigned a task to a particular person, she’d suddenly realize the person never completed the assignment; then Stacey might feel upset and disrespected.

Solving this issue was one of Stacey’s primary objectives for an Empowered Productivity training engagement with Maura.


Also, Stacey told Maura she was quite concerned about a few employees in particular who seemed to be burning out.

She described one team member who used to be bubbly and always in conversation with other coworkers, but lately she seemed unhappy and overwhelmed. And she described another team member who reacted to any additional work with a reflex of anxiety.

Stacey said that in addition to wanting a system for holding each other accountable, she really wanted to create an environment that would support the mental health of everyone in the office.


Participating in Empowered Productivity Training

Maura spent two days with the staff of Turner Designs. Although many teams participate in virtual Empowered Productivity training, Stacey felt that in person training would work better for her team because of the company’s in-office culture.

“Maura came in each day with super positive energy for the team,” Stacey says. “I think she talked to all of us in a way that we were able to connect with her as a person, not just a speaker. It was engaging.”

The piece that Stacey liked the most was that the training was solution-oriented. “Maura welcomed pushback,” Stacey says. “If someone says, ‘I don’t really think this is going to work for me, Maura talks people through that instead of being very rigid and saying, ‘This is my system and follow along.’”

Stacey adds, “Maura was really invested in my team’s ability to embrace her system and be successful with it.”

Addressing Burnout

Because research shows that when workers feel in control of their schedules they are happier and more productive, Maura taught Stacey’s team the foundational approach of Empowered Productivity: attention management skills. Maura’s belief is that these are the skills that improve on more traditional time management training, and when implemented, put team members back in the driver’s seat of their daily lives.

By learning attention management skills, the staff at Turner Designs now have the ability to be mostly proactive (which is energizing!) rather than mostly reactive (which is depleting!) throughout their work days. They know how to resist distractions and unleash their genius in service of achieving their most significant results.

Maura also included the Burnout Management module of Empowered Productivity, which provides skills to achieve a work-life balance that helps knowledge workers feel most productive and fulfilled both at work and at home.

Addressing Accountability

Another module of the training delivered to Stacey’s team was Action Management. This is where the team learned how to manage every detail of their personal and professional lives with less stress—like how to store, organize, prioritize and execute on all of their commitments, communication and information.

Through the Action Management module of the training, Maura helped everyone at Turner Designs understand that they can have the best productivity tools in the world, but if they don’t use them within a workflow management system like Empowered Productivity, the tools alone will never deliver the desired results.

Maura taught the team the importance of setting and tracking due dates, not only for keeping their own commitments but also for holding others accountable. And she gave them a structure for meetings, too, in order to ensure that no one’s time was being used inefficiently.


Following Up with EPIC

Stacey felt that the EPIC Program would be the key to making the changes stick long term.

Through the EPIC program, a subset of the team—including the department leaders— had weekly follow up meetings with their Empowered Productivity coach. The group  assessed what was going well and what areas of the Empowered Productivity System weren’t getting traction within the organization.

The group was coached on how to overcome resistance to the new behaviors, so the team members could make an honest assessment of what worked.

Stacey describes how, after coaching from Maura, she was able to help the team make incremental improvements, which then fueled long-term change.

The goals of the coaching meetings were to ensure proper implementation, overcome any stumbling blocks team members encountered, and celebrate wins. For example, someone might say, “I’ve been trying this all week and I just can’t get it.” Or, “I tried your suggestion but I don’t think it’s going to work for me.”

This allows the coach to help troubleshoot and offer any necessary tweaks to the implementation.


Getting Results

When asked if she’s achieved her training goals through her Empowered Productivity engagement, Stacey smiles and says, “Yes, absolutely!” She’s more than satisfied with the return on her investment.

She articulated the following benefits:

  • Accountability is vastly improved.
  • Team members are better able to control their workload.
  • Coworkers support each other better and teamwork has improved.
  • Guidelines for communication have been created and are followed.
  • There are fewer, more efficient meetings.
  • There is noticeable improvement in symptoms of burnout.

Since the Empowered Productivity training, Stacey has noticed her team’s new skills in overcoming communication debt, which in addition to being stressful, is also wildly distracting.

Another example is that team members have regained productive time back into their days, due to fewer meetings and more clarity around priorities.

Since the training, Stacey says that coworkers who need her attention interrupt her far less frequently. Using techniques of the Empowered Productivity System, Stacey’s team members now know exactly when and how to approach her for help or feedback.

Also, the team members who seemed to be burning out now appear happier and less overwhelmed.

“I think Maura has a way of connecting people through her heart, which is not common for consultants or trainers,” says Stacey. “My team felt like she was invested in them. And I think that another reason why they wanted to succeed is because they felt like they needed to give her back what she gave them. I’m grateful for that.”

Maura Thomas headshot

Speaker, Trainer, Author

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