October 29, 2010
You have: Voice mail, email, direct messages from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., comments on your social media posts and text. All of them demand your attention.
Here's the rub: It's time consuming and highly unfiltered. In the past, it was just phone and email. Now, you have to login to three to ten places to 'make the rounds.' In many situations, they don't offer ANY message filtering except blocking, etc. That's a little draconian. I'm fed up. So here's what I'm doing about it, and it's working:
1 - Setup Boundaries - Tell people how you like to be messaged. @garyvee does this on Twitter, telling all of his followers that if they want to contact him, to do it via an email account, directed either to a business dev person or him. He will not respond to any Twitter DMs because of the landslide of auto-direct messages he's receiving. When you get alot of followers, your 'inbox' fills up exponentially. That's the new way with me - Take it to my email. I can filter it, file it and archive it that way, and besides, I can now include attachments, cc's, etc.
NOTE for managers: Tell your people what your communication preferences are. "Put it in an email, fit it into the preview pane," is a great way to streamline the tide of cc's, cya's and quick questions that your extended team fires at you.
2 - Use filters and prioritize. If you have them on email, you can use a robust solution (I use Entourage and hit the Junk button like Whack A Mole) to dump the junk and rank the gold. Review your auto-filtered 'spams' on a monthly basis (scan quickly) to make sure no biz-ops are slipping through the cracks. Setup a few priority filters: NOW, SOON, ACT. Look at the NOW folder, along with your day's calendar, at the start of each work day. Read Inbox Detox for more on this.
3 - Every single time you receive an email you didn't ask for, go to the bottom of it and unsubscribe. If someone in your social network sends you too many "I want" DMs or markety messages, give them one warning to stop, then unfollow/unfriend. Of course, unfriending can be a severe response to Uncle Spam, but if you are clear in telling people to leave you off the list, he deserves to go.
4 - Break the thread with a phone call. This is from my Email Training Program. If you go back and fourth three times with someone on an issue, pick up the phone, you've got a problem. The endless thread is less efficient with your time. It's an illusion to think that 30 texts = one three minute phone call.
5 - Push Back! For the internal 'friendly fire' spammers that are killing you with noise, read my CLEAR SYSTEM post and cut the volume in half.
October 25, 2010
In every conference room, there were white boards with dry erase markers. During any meeting, you use it to outline, illustrate or just jam on ideas. Write, erase, refine then record. At companies like Panasonic, they had boards that recorded, then printed out jam sessions. Later, I discovered that my digital camera was quick and easy way to record white board sessions.
It revolutionized my business brain, taking me from linear notes to conceptual ideas that could be later delivered in a linear way. It helped me see what I was working on, and through the magic of motion, induce myself to be more creative along the way. For many people I know, the white board did the same for them too. It changed the way meetings were held at work.
Today, using a simple white board on a tripod, I use this tool to outline everything I do. I plan my days on it, outline articles or creative projects and look at problems graphically, thinking more at a system or concept level.
In this application, I am working on an iPhone application to correspond to my next book (Today We Are Rich.) I needed to generate a concept, where I could break down my tips and techniques into four quadrants or categories. The point of the exercise was to develop a program that is never completed. It's a loop, where you finish the fourth quadrant (Person), then start over with the next level of advice points for the four categories.
Now, I'm diving into each of the four categories, with specific tips or techniques. I'm using the whiteboard to drill down to the tactical items. Now, I can create a Word document that records everything, rearranges to taste and further outlines for the actual taping/recording session.
Napoleon Hill once wrote that when you put your pen to a problem, you put your mind to it. Same goes with white boarding: When I approach the problem or challenge with a erasable marker, I'm free to approach the solution creatively, where anything can be changed or turned on its head and everything can/should be illustrated. If you don't have a whiteboard, you should get one today. If you are an iPad user, you should buy the Penultimate app and a stylus - then you can do the same on the go.
October 22, 2010
This would be like the police issuing guns to new beat cops, only training those that accidently shoot the wrong person or fail to tag a fleeing felon. But companies do this, and I should know, my company's Email Etiquette Program has been administered to over 50,000 people at this point. In almost every case, there was no formal training in place.
I suspect that it's just a matter of time until email is recognized as the dominant corporate communication channel, making excellent/etiquette training a no-brainer. Until that time comes, expect to see:
* Endless email threads that only complicate projects * Lawsuits for inappropriate content
* Relationship misunderstandings via emails * Wasted time and missed opportunities
Does your company have anything in place to teach style, values, branding and rules to your people? It starts with a point of view:
1. Email is weak when it comes to conveying emotions.
2. Less is more, don't wear out your Inbox welcome.
3. Email is forever. When you hit send, it's going to be archived somewhere.
Those three points give your training group a framework for helping your people master the fine art of digital one-to-some communications. In my case, Deeper Media identified twelve rules that capture these three points, starting with #1: Stamp Out Reply To All.
Recommended read: Send: Why People Email So Badly, And How To Do It Better
October 19, 2010
This is something Libby Sartain (former Chief People Officer, Yahoo!) taught me, from her days running HR at Southwest Airlines. Hire people based on their social fit, not just their qualifications. Too often, leaders see customer service as a CRM, management or training issue. But if you have the wrong type of people on the bus, I wonder, what difference will all those investments really make?
Here's a few ways to integrate customer-centricity into your hiring practice. PS - For small companies, this is exponentially more important as one bad egg can stink up the place.
1. Don't focus on the resume during the first interview. If you can, force the hiring manager to have a paperless interview to screen for personality and fit.
2. Never hire an unhappy, insensitive or anti-social person. The labor pool has too many people for you to choose from. Even if he/she is not customer facing, culture is impacted by each personality introduced into the group.
3. Make 'customer attitude' a part of your marketing for candidates - eg: "Customer service enthusiasts preferred.'
4. Lesson from Zappos via Delivering Happiness: During the onboarding process, preach customer-service as THE core value of the company. Make the case that people deserve good service, and it's a noble profession to deliver it to them. At the end of the process, offer new-hires a chunk of change to quit the company. That way, you'll ensure that your people are willing to 'pay for the the right to deliver happiness with customer service.'
October 15, 2010
Often, when we talk or think about mentoring, we see it as a broadcast model.
We talk, our mentee listens and knowledge is transferred. While that is technically true, to operate this way misses the synergy of knowledge sharing. Think, instead, of mentorization -- the interaction between two people, where information is traded.
Many times, you offer important information to someone junior to you in the value=space. In almost every situation, though, he or she can teach you a thing or two. When Stanley Marcus Jr. hosted a mentoring lunch with me a decade or so ago, towards the end of it, he asked, "What should I know that I may not know?" He then went silent, while I contemplated what I could actually teach him.
Then, I started to talk about customer experience, and the idea that satisfaction surveys failed to measure the customer's emotions - which was the heart of the experience. He nodded appreciatively, took note of the book I mentioned (The Experience Economy) and paid the bill. Then, as we left, he asked me for feedback on the advice he'd offered a few months previously. I shared the pro's and con's of what he told me, based on my real world experience. By asking me for feedback, he closed the info-loop.
He gained as much as me, even though he was clearly the mentor in this situation. Do the same with the people you are trying to help. Let them teach you and ask for feedback regarding your advice. If you do this, you'll prove out what Mr Marcus told me one day: "You will never get dumber by making someone else smarter ... so long as you are a good listener!"
October 13, 2010
Face it; your emails are part of a snow storm blowing into someone's Crack berry or smart phone. Instead of carefully reading through the items in your inbox, your recipients scroll them like spinning a roulette wheel. I see it every day on the road.
They open a few, answer even less, and your carefully written action-required email is ignored.
If you want to jump out of the e-noise and improve your readership with your email buddies, you need to hone your skills at writing good subject lines. Think about newspapers, their MVPs are the people that come up wit eye-grabbing headlines. We've been trained our whole life to scan for must-reads. Same goes with emails or blog titles. Good headlines drive click through.
The basics are:
* Vague is bad
* Hey! is not a real subject line
* RE: RE: FW: FW: is not attractive and will not be read right away
When I know someone well, I will make a call to action in the subject line if my email is intended to get someone to do something. If I need to change a call, I put it in the subject line. If I need you to send me a file, I put it in the subject. You'd be amazed how your response rates jumps.
When I am in a less intimate business relationship, I work on a three to five word subject that zeros in on why I'm sending the email. If we are working on an event together I'll put "About the sales conference" in the subject.
When you reply, feel free to start a new subject (too often we just reply and the subject line stays the same, except now with a RE: before it.) Let the new subject line redefine where the email thread is going. This not only helps to focus the email exchange on a real outcome, it keeps the conversation going. This is especially true if many of your email buddies are usually mobile. They scroll through subjects and make their choices almost on impulse.
Now let's talk blog posts or FB Notes: Banal titles don't drive click thrus or retweeets. You need to grab them with either a provocative statement or a relevant promise (my approach, usually). If you improve your headlining to gather attention, you'll see your statistics jump like you did when you learned or outsourced search engine optimization. Don't be lazy here, you've done a great deal of work on that great post you want everyone to read.
To sharpen your headline skills, visit Daily Beast or Huffington Post and study the relationship between clever headlines and retweets or comments. Do the same over at Yahoo sports. Don't bother with visually driven sites like TMZ as the gossip is the draw.
This is one of the ideas I teach over at my Email Training Website. Email is the vast majority of your knowledge output, so consider yourself a publisher that need to focus as much on form as content.
October 07, 2010
I just finished having my Twitter profile page redesigned as part of my brand-unity campaign. Now, it matches my blog and website in look and feel.
Then, yesterday, I noticed that there's a 'new Twitter' I can try. And when I do, my redesigned Twitter page doesn't fit the specs anymore. Ouch. So, like many do in this situation, I click back to the old Twitter and all is good. At least for me, in this situation.
Do I really think that the old Twitter will end up winning? No way. Eventually, we'll all convert to the new Twitter, just like we did the the new Facebook(s) or Yahoo. It's the unstoppable force of continual improvement. The longer you wait to use it or produce for it, the bigger the window of non-functionality you'll have. For many of us, we still have the "New Coke Hope" syndrome, where we try and convince ourselves that the honchos will reconsider their move, wipe out all the redesign work and just keep things as-is for several (more) years. Don't hold your breath, Coke's cancellation of New Coke was an 'outlier event.' There's better research tools to avoid that now.
So, today I'm going to buck up and ask my friends at OutThink to go back to the drawing board, so our new Twitter profile page matches the new Twitter design spec. I'm not going to sit around complaining about it or pining for the status quo. You should too.
There's a bigger point here: Don't grow attached to your work. Things change, and sometimes, we've wasted our time. Consider it practice. The ability to let go, when letting go's the order of the day, is the difference between growing or dying during times of disruptive change. Grow attached to your purpose, your mission, your accomplishments. That's something only YOU can redesign.
October 04, 2010
At Chik Fil A, there's a leadership question: "Do you know how to recognize people who need encouragement?" Answer: "If they are breathing!" Here's the point - your best people need constant encouragement to maintain their energy and creativity.
The difficulty lies in credibility. Too often, we think of platitudes like "you can do it" as a form of encouragement. At work, this just isn't enough. If you show, through your actions, that you care about that person's success, then you are giving them reasons to believe that things will get better in the future.
One of the best ways to be encouraging is to commit yourself to building up your talent. Even for a small business owner, this applies beyond your employees to vendors and partners. By building up, I mean that you make a conscious investment in them, to better them professionally and beyond. It's very organic, and has a long term impact on the psyche of the recipient.
We like to do this when there's a significant milestone, an annual review or a surplus in the bank. But lately, we've likely come up short in this area. Here are five ways you can build up someone at work:
1. Share a great book. When you share knowledge, you create hope in others. Great business books offer keen insight and useful how-to's that can help people create solutions or drive innovations. Pick out one that you've recently read that applies to someone, talk to him/her about it's value prop, then give a copy as a gift.
2. Call out a person's accomplishment at a public meeting. In fact, start out your next meeting with 'a review of contributions,' thanking someone for a specific accomplishment.
3. Create an Good Job! case study. On one page, outline the mission, tactics and results that one of your people executed. At the end of the page, put in a few sentences sincerely thanking this person for a job well done. Include a graphic - print out, and give to the person.
4. Put someone new in charge of the next meeting/project. Always a bold move, but can surprise and delight someone that feels like all he/she does is take orders. Give him/her plenty of time to prepare, and be smart about who you select for this ad hoc leadership position.
5. Network someone to a potential mentor/mentee. The act of mentorship builds up both parties every time. Create a lunch where you can introduce on of your people to a perfect match, where there's value to be exchanged. Don't limit this to co-workers, in fact, be willing to cross pollinate vendors with each other. Who knows, you might also create an independent business opportunity.