4 posts categorized "November 2013"

November 22, 2013

An Investment Plan For A Strong Business Support Network

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In 2002, when I published Love Is the Killer App, I proclaimed: "Your network is your net worth." My point was that it was our greatest resource and number one fallback when times get tough. 

Each one of us is part of a network of relationships, where we serve as a resource for each other. We protect, promote and inform each other.  We advise, connect and encourage each other.  It's a support base that can help you overcome extreme adversity or complete a moonshot project.  

We do not inherent these networks, nor do they appear like magic for the chosen few.  It's not a legacy or a lottery.  We build them, like homes, one brick at a time.  Sometimes, if we ignore a network node, his or her support levels wane.  When we invest in a relationship with someone in our network, our synergies and mutual support grows.

Ignore or invest.  While this reads like a simple choice, where the no-brainer is the latter, we don't act like it.  In our face paced go-go life, we often finish our work weeks, ignoring our personal networks unless prodded by mutual opportunities.  If we don't plan for it, our chances to make new connections or add value are occasional. 

If you want to build up a strong support system and widen your world, carve out a minimum of 4 hours every week for relationship development.  Put four one hour blocks on your calendar.  During each block you can:

1. Mentor people via phone calls or email.  They present themselves to you with questions, problems or requests for help.  Do some homework.  Send some help.  Solve some problems. 

2. Make helpful introductions.  Connect people that should meet via phone or email.  Keep a running list of "should meets" on your phone.  Always be building introductions.  Accomplish three connections per week. 

3. Reconnect with dormant connections.  According to Adam Grant in Give Or Take, they will be glad to hear from you and will possess a unique perspective and set of experiences.  That's the value of catching up!  

4. Give encouragement or say thanks.  Send out thank you cards.  Be on the look out for friends in need and deliver encouragement high touch (phone, face to face).  

Don't relegate this exercise to your weekends, evenings or free time.  It's a real business investment that's right up there with long meetings, hour long status calls and TPS reports.  Surely, you can find five wasted hours in your current biz-life that's a weaker investment than your support network!  

In just a few months, you'll see a change in your business ecosystem.  More opportunities will suddenly appear in your Inbox.  Complex problems will be solved with just a few phone calls, instead of countless hours.  You'll eventually realize that investing in your network is a way to save time, and extend your horizons.  


November 15, 2013

The Best Way To Deal With Your Fears: Put Them In Order

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Often, we are told to dismiss or ignore fear.  Or, we are admonished to overcome it … whip it down! In reality, those tonics almost always fail to quell that worry that eats away at us.

Fear is often cast as a bad thing, never to be fed or encouraged.  But that is an oversimplification.  Fear comes in many flavors, driven by its source.  Some sources are healthy, some are illusionary and others are destructive.  That’s right, some fears are quite healthy for your sense of balance.

Fear is the acknowledgement of a formidable threat and substantial stakes.  If you don’t really think it can hurt you, you aren’t afraid.  If it doesn’t matter, you can sluff it off as a casual concern.  If you lack ANY fear, in many situations, you aren’t dealing with reality or you are overconfident.  By recognizing the constructive fears, you’ll find proper direction.

For example, when consultants or journalists asked former Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle ‘what kept him up at night’ in 1999, he would reply, ‘two college kids in an apartment, tapping out code that will disrupt the industry.’ In other words, he feared irrelevance.  It was a legitimate fear too, as Google was being hatched on the Stanford campus at that exact time.

On the other hand, I’ve worked for several CEOs that put more of their energy against the fear of failure.  They worried that the proposed product might not sell well, giving them a black eye to investors.  They worried that shifting to the new technology platform might lead to downtime, alienating legacy customers.  Were these fears legit? In all situations, the greatest risk wasn’t a botched release or a short outage in services. It was competitive innovation. 

The best way to manage fear in your life is to prioritize them by their legitimacy and urgency.  The healthiest fear for a modern day business leader is obsolescence.  As Koogle pointed out to me, “for every company that goes down due to a few bad product SKUs or sloppy accounting, there are nineteen that die a sudden death because their customers flee to the new-new thing.” 

Takeaway: Your fear of getting lapped in the marketplace should be the one you pay attention to and lose sleep over.  If you want to be a modern day innovator, your fear of obsolescence should be greater than your fear of failure.  

What do you do with these fears?  Face the worst case, and resolve to do better than it.  Deploy resources to overcome its source (competitive innovation).  Talk about it as a burning platform to your colleagues. 

For more, watch this video clip from 2005 where I share Tim Koogle's insights and the Paul Galvin story. "Do not fear mistakes.  Wisdom comes from them!" 


November 07, 2013

How Thanksgiving Can Supercharge Your Business Life

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It's only three weeks until Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays.  Most years, we huddle up with family and friends, and give thanks for the bounties in our life.  In too many cases, we are thankful for stuff: home, possessions, luxuries. In some cases, we are thankful for the people in our lives. That's when it has the greatest impact on our psyche. 

In Today We Are Rich, I wrote that gratitude is a muscle that we need to exercise often.  Otherwise, we get spiritually flabby, lose our gratefulness and nosedive in our relationship lives.  This applies to work as much as it does our personal life, too.  

So here's a simple exercise you can give your gratitude muscle over the next few weeks: Buy a box of Thank You cards (nice collection here).  Create a list of professional connections that have made a real contribution to you or your work over the last year.   Write a short note in each card, itemizing what he or she contributed, and what it has meant to you.  Send the card so that it arrives the week of Thanksgiving.  Your entire investment will run you less than $30, including postage.

Do not take any shortcuts here.  Don't send an emails or an electronic cards to save time/money.  They don't have nearly the impact as a real card that you've signed with a pen.  Don't limit giving the cards to those that report to you or work side-by-side with you.  Find people that might be surprised by your gratitude, yet deserve it for their contributions.  

This exercise is inpsired by my friend Brian Palmer, who has surprised me on many occasions with a thoughtful Thank You card.  When I've told him what a classy move it was, I could sense that he got just as much out of the exercise as I did.  And now I know why.  

The whole experience will force you to turn up your noticing knob, trying to locate the recipients for the 20 Thank You cards in your box.  The act of writing a short note to each person on your list will cause you to recollect the times when he or she was there for you, and it will fill you with positive feelings.  

Like any work related gratitude exercise, the experience will also drive something deep into your perspective: You are not alone.  There are people in your life that are helping you, supporting you and caring about your future.  This will bolster your sense of confidence about your future, knowing that you are not in it alone.  

You'll also see your mood lifted and your behavior influenced by the process.  One taxi driver I met in Denver told me that he was taught to believe that gratitude is a compound word: Gracious + Attitude.  He's right too.  When you are dialed into what people are doing for you, your ability to bounce back from life's little obstacles will be greatly enhanced. 

Check out this video from Soul Pancake, which demonstrates the emotional benefits of expressing gratitude: 


November 05, 2013

Mastering the Lost Art Of Phone Excellence

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More than ever, telephone mastery is the key to success. In my work, the phone is my number one tool to close deals, network, conduct deep research and build relationships.  It's a magic medium that allows me to connect deeply without the time-space requirements of face to face meetings. 

A phone call is much higher touch than an email exchange. You can hear someone's intentions in their tone of voice, unlike reading one of his or her emails. The interactivity of a phone call allows for adjustments, explanations, retraction and exploration.  While this might make common sense, in reality, it's not a common practice in the digital age. 

Over the last decade, many of us moved our conversations from the phone to the Inbox, thinking we would be much more efficient and less interruptive.  Generation Y doesn't like to make or receive calls, instead preferring a text.  The idea of voice exchange to many feels like 1999. 

As a result, many of us conduct our phone calls on-the-go, usually over our smart phone.  We call people in our car, while we wait on our next flight, when we eat and whenever we can squeeze it in. We likely think that the quality of our work isn't suffering, but in fact, it is.  

Our calls are often garbled, as reception varies when we are on the move.  We are constantly distracted by traffic, people interacting with us, our computers and anything that crosses our periphery during the call.  At best, we are giving 50% of our attention to the call.  If you've been on the other end of one of these mobile calls, you know exactly what I mean.   

While calls on the go might work for simple transactional work, it's no way to make friends and influence people.  Your mobile phone work gives very low ROA (Return On Attention), which will cause you to lose access to them in real-time.  And real-time is the new face-time in business.  

If you are going to schedule a phone call with someone of any length, consider the following appraoch: 

* Schedule calls for no more than 30 minutes.  Send information prior to the call, so the entire conversation is about reaching a decision, understanding a situation or charting a plan of action.  

* Conduct the call on a landline or via a super dependable connection.  If you are Skyping, make sure you have an ethernet connection.  

* Conduct the call in a closed door environment with no distracting noises or window scenery. 

* Create a written outline for your call so you can begin it with your computer screen OFF.  Never do any computer work during the call unless you are looking something up by request or looking at a website for the purpose of the conversation.

* If the call is part of a project or a sale, get permission to record it so you can capture all of its value. Send the audio file out to Rev for inexpensive transcription.  You'd be surprised how much gold you'll find in the transcripts.  For your conversational partner, it's pretty impressive when they receive an edited transcript from the call.  Really values their time (and content) highly! (PS - Rev only charges $1 per recorded minute, no minimum.) 

* Send an email after the call, highlighting what was agreed upon and next steps. 

The keys then to a great call are preparation, focus and followup.  If you adopt this practice, you'll find that your phone is your best weapon to acquire new business, delight customers and gain valuable insights.  You'll leave the thumb warrior smart phone crowd in the dust.