October 30, 2009
One of the most zen things you can do for your mind is to do a deep-clean of your entire work space. Mine is at home, where a 3 year renovation is reaching its end. Over the last few months my desk became a holding place for cards, receipts, gadgets, coins, pens, pads and what not.
I could work around everything, and kept putting things into piles to neaten it a bit. One thing I've noticed, though: I really don't feel creative in this space. When I sit here, I'm wading through contracts, emails, projects and I feel like I'm weed-whacking more than value creating.
Often, I write my posts at a coffee shop, on a hand recorder on the deck or on a plane. Today I decided to restore my creative space in my work space. I took everything off the desk. Threw out the garbage and filed the keepers. I wiped down every surface, each piece of equipment down to the cords and the power strips.
Then, when I put my workspace back together, I went for sleek over stacked. Now I feel like I can seriously get both kinds of work done here: functional and creative. Also: The act was both inspiring and meditative. I decided to clean up my work space with the same level of detail I need to pour into any project I'm hired to do. I took pride in finding the smallest details to attend to (such as blowing the dust out of all the electrical in/out sockets). Because it was a mindless activity, my mind was alert but not engaged. It buffered in the background, giving me creative thoughts later -- like this post.
I got this idea from research I did for my keynote address for ASBO last Saturday. I found compelling research (Greening America's Schools) that demonstrated a link to healthy/clean and organized study spaces and increased creativity and productivity. When I saw my junk pile yesterday, I decided to leverage this insight and "eat my own dog food."
You should do this too. You can find the time. If you can, do it yourself, it's a healing experience. Focus on:
1. Surfaces free of loose paper. A good productivity rule is to only handle a piece of paper twice (once to read, again to file/return/dispose). It's time to lose those piles.
2. Get rid of all the dust. The above research directly talks about clean and dust free workspaces.
3. Don't forget your equipment, especially your laptop. Dirty keys and screens are not inspiring. Their existence stands as a reminder that you don't have a minute to even wipe off your stuff.
4. Clean up all the cords. Wipe them down and make more sense out of them to avoid both clutter and fire hazards.
5. Let the sunshine in. If you've kept your blinds closed, open them to let daylight lift your spirits. Your eyes will adjust and the screen will still be readable (unless there's direct light).
October 29, 2009
I'm getting ready to launch a podcast (Sanders Says).
One of my segments will be "Ask The Lovecat." If you know me, you know that I love to give professional and business advice. That's what I do in my books and during my keynote presentations. If you have a question you'd like to submit -- send it to me. We can keep your name anonymous so your question can be very specific. If I use your question, I'll send you a book!
Questions could include:
* Advice on how to get things done at work
* Advice on how to move up in your company
* Advice on how to effectively manage or lead people
* Advice on marketing
* Advice on managing your perspective, attitude and outlook
* Questions about points I've made in my books
October 28, 2009
Recently, I gave a talk on the subject of finding opportunity from this recession.
History is dotted with stories about companies that leapfrogged their competitors immediately after a major recession. Kellogg did it to Post during the Great Depression. Nokia did it to Motorola after the '91 crisis. Google did it to Yahoo after the dotcom crash. Ditto for Apple vs Sony in the audio consumer space during the same period.
How did they do it? Leadership style, focus and values. In short, here's the six ingredients for capturing the opportunity that the current economic meltdown offers the bold and creative:
1. Leadership balances reality with hope - They are practical, but foster a positive mood state which creates a good backdrop for innovation.
2. User experience is the unifying purpose that the entire company rallies around.
3. Leadership cultivates a deep sense of self-team and industry confidence.
4. Leadership cultivates a culture of execution. Non promise keepers are excised out of the organization in favor of people that finish what they start.
5. Phoenix companies are interdependent with their partners and customers. It is a win/win/win arrangement where one's success grows the pie for all parties.
6. Phoenix companies are efficient in communications and operations. There is little duplication and even less misunderstanding.
October 26, 2009
Last week, I talked to a group about the concept of trust-building.
There are several books on trust, ranging from psychology to social media to leadership. In many cases, the secret sauce for building trust is authenticity combined with accountability. However, I've learned that you can be yourself and perfect on the finish, but if you fail to trust others they will reciprocate by distrusting you.
Trust is a two way street, triggered by the Law Of Reciprocity. People can tell if you trust them, especially if they are your customer. You let them choose. You let them decide when to interact with you. When you begin to "act on their better interest" by taking away choice or privacy, they begin to feel like objects instead of people. And they are right.
Too many companies talk about building trust when all they care about is extracting revenue or desired outcome. To these companies, trust is one of the hurdles between product and revenue. While it's true that trust can help overcome objections and fears, it can do so much more. Trust, if properly approached, can build a two way relationship where a customer can give you more than money. They can give you feedback or be word-of-mouse evangelists.
Companies that are sincere about trust building need to practice the fine art of letting go. Letting the customer have self-service. Letting the customer have privacy. Letting the customer contact the big cheese if they have a problem. A few years ago, I told the story about University of Texas football coach Mack Brown, who established a trust bond with his team by letting go of his conventional tastes and preferences.
October 22, 2009
If you live in the positive feedback loop, you are happy, confident and effective.
I've been thinking about this loop a great deal lately, and this video reflects my emerging ideas on how to feed the positive feedback loop. The #1 fuel for the loop? Encouragement. (PS - I'm having fun with this, I shot, edited and scored it myself!)
October 21, 2009
Here's some advice on how to travel safely this cold and flu season.
Every year I travel between 100 and 150 days. The key to my year is remaining healthy. The way I see it, every major bout with a flu/cold will cost you about 5% of your annual productivity. Over the last few years, I've built up habits that reduce the number of colds I get per year. Currently, I average only one! I won't dump all the ideas on you at once, I just want a few to sink in.
Please don't think I'm a germ freak or Type A to even think about these things -- but in my business sick time is down time is lost time. Here's my first installment of tips for effective business travel:
1. Wash your hands like Howard Hughes. Seriously. One the most common ways you will catch a cold is through touch. When you travel, you would be shocked to know how many commons you touch along the way. The pole in the train. The pen at the ticket counter. The laptop tray in security. Too many times we only wash our hands when we go to the bathroom. When I eat out, the bathroom is my first stop, to wash my hands. The rule of thumb is that you wash your hands for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
2. Sub out sugar throughout your diet. One physician devoted a lifetime of research for a book to study the relationship between sugar and our resistance to bacterial infections. The more sugar you eat, the less bacteria your body kills. This explains (along with extremem weather) why the holiday season yields more colds and infections. A few years ago, mostly in response to the South Beach Diet, I replaced sugar in my diet with Splenda. From coffee to candy, I purged sugar out of my diet. Things that turn to sugar, especially potatoes without any oils, I stopped eating too. Not only did I shed a few pounds, I also resisted bugs that knocked other people over. This holiday season think diet = immune system fuel. Russel Stover makes a killer sugar free chocolate. Brocolli and ranch make a great substitution for fries and ketchup.
That being said, I'm getting a standard flu shot, then later the nasal H1N1 spray. Combined with preventative practices, hopefully I'll get through to next spring healthy and productive!
October 19, 2009
On Saturday, during one of the college football games, one of the TV commentators described a hit on the field as being pernicious in intent. He repeated himself as he declared that #22 on the defense was filled with perniciousness as he set his sights on that wide receiver.
The other commentator asked, "what do you mean by pernicious?" The reply to his question was funny, but typically off putting: "Pernicious means to have intent to harm or destroy. I can't believe you don't know what that means, maybe you should have come out of college early for the NFL after all!" They both laughed and moved on to simpler language for the rest of the game.
Why did the commentator use 'pernicious' in the first place? I suspect that somewhere in life, he learned this word, realized many others don't use it much and loaded it into his smart-pants arsenal. He probably thought that by using that word, he'd come off smarter and teach everybody a new word. That's not really how it works in the real world. In fact, a study at Princeton conducted by psychologist David Oppenhemier concluded that the more flowerly or smarty pants your language, the less intelligent you are perceived. Really.
This makes sense to me. If I use language with you that you don't understand, I use words to put myself on a pedestal whereby you must look up to me. This pushes you away from me, and often causes you to believe that I am purposefully trying to impress you. That pushes us further apart, and usually you'll conclude that I am at best book smart. This is why I use very simple language in my writing and during my keynote speeches. I want to speak to every body in the room in a common venacular that everyone understands. People connect with visuals, emotions and language. If they disconnect with language, you'll usually lose them eventually. Lofty language can alienate more often than it educates.
I'm not saying that you should only use high school level language. In many cases, you can find a word that is more specific or illustrative than common talk. Instead of saying that someone told a story in a moving way (general), one could say that she was 'cinematic' in her story telling. That's an effective word substitution that is helpful and not off putting. Here are a few rules for using big or non-common words:
1. Always consider your audience. What is their level of education, sophistication and self-confidence? Are they prone to boredom? Do they need to be intellectually stimulated to be engaged with you?
2. Make big words fight for their life. When you edit or before you speak, always require a case for a new word's use. Is it more specific than the commonly used word? Is it more helpful in illustrating your point?
3. Define non-common words, in a sentence if possible. If it's a big time smart pants word, acknowledge that it's one of those scientist or university words, but you use it in a attempt to illustrate the point.
Always keep in mind that people are impressed by ideas, not words. If you are a big thinker, it shines through regardless of your vocabulary. When you start to use big words as a substitute for creative thinking ... you are being self-pernicious ... if you know what I mean.
October 16, 2009
Earlier this week, I taped a segment for the local edition of Headline News.
My host is long time pal Brad Pomerance. He focused his questions on my first two books and we talked about success in this economy and how to think abundantly in our business life. I explain that "The Secret" for business is the Law Of Reciprocity -- which requires giving.
October 15, 2009
Today, more than ever, effective marketing is the key to staying afloat and building a solid 2010 and beyond. In the "old days" the three P's were the plan for marketing any product: Product, Placement and Promotion. While those are still true, the internet and social media have flipped placement and promotion on its head.
Shot in my home studio (Duff's old studio from Guns & Roses days), I took a few minutes to update my marketing ideas for you. My advice is to: Listen, Improve and Give A Helpful shout.
October 13, 2009
Via Twitter and the blogosphere, you can learn a lot about your company and its products or services. In addition to being an author/speaker, I'm also an internet strategy consultant. Currently, I'm building a social media listening solution for a major financial services brand. They want to tune into the conversation about their company and either gain insight from it or engage with detractors and fans.
Currently, you can search blogs, web sites, wikis and Twitter. Facebook is not yet searchable as status updates are protected from non-friends. On Twitter, there is also a protected view feature, but only a few percent of all Tweeps turn it on. Many search tools are still in their infancy, and the depth of data is quite shallow -- for now. Even with these limitations, my client will likely gain an intelligence advantage by setting up a listening station. You can do this too. The trick is to identify your objectives, the tools that will make it easy and the process for utilizing your new found insights.
The first thing I did for my client was to conduct a sweep of web/blogs/Twitter to find out what's been said. This was time intensive, but helped me understand the positive and negative sentiment language -- giving me a set of keywords to add to the brand for future searches or notification tools. Icerocket provides a simple solution (Big Buzz) that allows you to search web + blogs + Twitter at the same time for a single word or phrase. It's manual, as you likely want to track multiple phrases, but it covers most everything that's indexed on the web.
In the beginning, I used Tweetgrid to create a dashboard view of up to nine searches. These included: "Company Name" Sucks, "Company Name" Upset, "Product Name" review, etc. The nice thing about Twitgrid is that it hits the same database that Twitter Search uses, but allows you to create a Tinyurl of your dashboard view. This is great because you can share this with others. Example: My Name/Product
One drawback to Tweetgrid and Twitter Search is that they only provide results from the last ten days or so. This means that if you use these tools, you need to check them every few days and archive the results. One solution for this is Tweetscan, which goes back over a year! If you are starting your listening project from scratch, start with a thorough Tweetscan to get current. If you want to follow historical tweets by a specific twerp (or his/her/its followers), check out Searchtastic.
Once the initial sweep is done, it gets easier to maintain over time. I researched different listening tools for companies, and the range of services was mild (free without much functionality) to wild ($10,000 a month with a lot of hand holding). In the end, I went with ScoutLabs (see screen shot of dashboard view above). This is an excellent service that can identify discussions, which ones need to be attended to and the competitive buzz. At only $249 a month for up to 24 concurrent searches, it is a steal for even a small business.
Each company has a different tolerance for detractors. Some companies only care about detractors (people upset with the company or its products) if they have a big bullhorn (followers, readers, etc.) My client, however, has a much lower bar and wants to engage with them right away and "let them be heard" ala Covey's 8th Habit. Many of the Yelp or Amazon reviews are not addressable as there is no way for the company to contact the detractor to work it out. With blogs, it's easy to contact the owner. In that case, I set up a Google email alert for a set of keywords and phrases that indicate an upset customer.
For Twitter, it's a little trickier. First, your company needs to setup a Twitter account (Company Name Listens is a good one). Then, publicly reply to the detractor, showing empathy and inviting them to contact you (when you post your email say it is tim at tim sanders dot com to avoid spam spiders). Next, follow the detractor, which will get you followed back at least sixty percent of the time. Once the detractor follows you back, you can message them with an offer to talk. If you want to follow all Twerps, included prospects, you can use Twollo to auto follow people based on keywords that might indicate they are a purchase intender. As a speaker, I auto follow "looking for" "keynote speaker" and it draws meeting planners into my web. In any event, it is easier than ever to engage with detractors, or if you prefer, your fans.
Along the way, as you tune to the conversations on the web, you'll also get great product or service feedback too. In the case of my client, we also discovered some rouge recruiters offering the sun and moon to prospective employees, which was a violation of hiring policy.
Are you listening to the conversation? Have you Yelped your service to see what people think? Have you used Twitter search beyond the mentions of your @? The best listeners in business usually have the happiest clients and the most progressive brands.