6 posts categorized "May 2013"

May 31, 2013

How To Deal With An Epic Fail At Work

Worry Free Zone
If you work long enough, you'll be part of an epic failure that petrifies you.  You won't know how to deal with it, and likely, you'll respond by trying to hide it or deflect the blame to someone else. 

That will not make you stronger, happier or healthier.  

Many positive thinkers might tell you to ignore bad news, not think about it, and just assume the best. But the worst-case scenario tends to grow in its enormity when you haven’t faced it. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie shares a foolproof technique that Willis H. Carrier (founder of air-conditioning giant Carrier) used to conquer worry thoughts.

Early in Carrier’s career, he was put in charge of installing a device at a factory that his employer owned. After Carrier had spent twenty thousand dollars on the installation, the device failed. Initially, he was petrified with worry, but after a few days he realized that worry wouldn’t get him anywhere.

The first thing he did was to clearly define the worst-case scenario: He’d lose his job. The second thing he did was to accept that idea and declare that life would go on—there would be other job opportunities. The final thing he did was resolve to do better than the worst-case scenario.

With a sense of calm he fessed up to his boss about the situation and asked for additional funds to fix the botched installation. In the end, he kept his job, and the device was soon in working order. He beat the worst, and from that day forward, he dealt with all his worries the same way.

The next time you are filled with worry, try Carrier’s strategy:

1. Define the worst case. Ask yourself honestly, What’s the worst thing that can happen? Once you do that, you’ll find that your imagination is getting the best of you. The reality is usually not that bad, once you clearly define it. It has the most power when it remains a mystery.

2. Accept it as survivable. Act as if the situation were a foregone conclusion, and let it go as a lesson to be learned. At the very least, admit that there will be some negative repercussions, regardless of your best efforts.

3. Make a goal out of beating the worst-case scenario. Develop a set of responses that can help you trim your losses and mitigate damages. 

May 29, 2013

The Biggest Email Mistake You'll Ever Make

Email is likely your top communication tool at work, adding up to 75% or more of your communications. Sometimes you do email well, other times, not so much. Much has been written about the nasty-gram emails that circulate around the office, killing off relationships along with your professional reputation. 

Most of you are too smart for that gaffe under normal circumstances.  You've learned to save it to draft, think it over, and never hit Send.  But there's another gaffe that you can easily make and it's the biggest one of all: Threaded Relationships.  

By this, I mean that you transmute a real-time relationship into an endless email thread of asynchronous existence.   This often happens in your project work, especially if information plays a big part of it.  You start out building up a work relationship via meetings or phone calls, and at some point, the threaded relationship starts. 

Instead of picking up the phone, you reply to an email (or a thread).  Instead of having a chance or scheduled meeting, you craft an email status report and throw it over the fence.  Your ePartner falls into that rhythm with you and the thread(s) begin.  Eventually, your entire set of information transactions lives in an Inbox or folder.   You feel smugly efficient, thinking that the other people at work are wasting valuable time having conversations, often riddled with small talk.  And then it happens.  

A seven layer thread (an original note with six back-and-forth RE's) turns into a misunderstanding. Sometimes capital letters, question marks and passive-aggressive smiley faces are used.  The subject line is so outdated, it reads like a line of RE: RE: RE: code.   User frustration sets in, as you and your pen pal grown tired of having to cursor down six feet to review the thread prior to answering the last "HUH?" reply. 

Even worse, thread relationships start to build up latency.  At first, you are quick on the reply, answering emails in an hour or two.  Then, you or your partner shift to four hours or more for our replies.  At some point, work-time email requests are answered over a glass (or two) of wine at 9pm and the language gets a little pointed.  Eventually, you have to forward previously sent emails to jog a reply.  And resentment starts to build up. 

Then, the worst can happen.  Our common sense mutually fades, and you both start to lob nasty-grams at each other.  You assume that given your email volume going on, there are shock absorbers that can smooth over the biggest bumps.  And that's when the threaded relationships descends into a bad one - usually culminating in a scathing set of emails that finally lead to a real-time fight.  And when you get to that point, you wonder how such a thing could happen!?  

Takeaway: To avoid this mistake, routinely break the thread with a phone call.  Likely, you'll solve any misunderstandings quicker than you will behind your laptop.  If you've fallen out of regular real-time interactions, ask yourself, "how's that working for you two?"  Fall back into the habit of regular conversations, even if you decide to limit then to 15 or 30 minutes for the sake of productivity. 

It makes sense that our gravest errors with technology are subtle ones that occur due to a lack of knowledge on our part.  But now you know, which may just save you from your over-efficient self. 

For more: Check out my Email Training Course for companies 

May 28, 2013

New Directions For Sanders Says

I've been writing Sanders Says since 2007, mostly based on what inspires me and informs my readership.  I've stuck mostly to issues related to work, leadership, marketing and spirit.  Certainly, there hasn't been an editorial calendar, and maybe that's why my following hasn't grown as quickly as it could have.  While the diverse and whimsical may work for some (Seth does it brilliantly), for most...a little focus can go a long ways. 

Recently, I've decided to make this my main publishing platform, posting content for you three times a week.  This will provide more for you, and get me back to author-form.  Here's what I plan on doing: 

New Media Mondays - From mobile to social to interactive...I'll write about ways businesses and entrepreneurs can leverage new media.  I'm going to be doing quite a bit of writing on what I call "The Social Opportunity" for businesses.  It's the #1 topic I'm being hired to speak at conferences about.  

Work On Wednesday - From perspecitve to best practices to leadership...I'll write about how we move our careers, groups and companies forward in this topsy-turvy world we work in. 

Friday Forward - Some weeks, I'll recap current business/tech events, and what it can teach us. Other weeks, I'll write about how we can move forward into the uncertain future.  Will include tips and hacks on knowledge gathering, personal development and dealing with disruption.  

I'm also going to have some guest posts, interviews with experts and more video.  Stay tuned and/or subscribe to the feed or email distribution.  Let me know in comments what you'd like me to write about. 


May 26, 2013

Lytro Magic: Click To Focus

May 22, 2013

How To Deal With A Deficit Of Time

This week, I’m going to write about how deficits, those times in our lives where we feel malnourished, depressed, overextended, can actually be a great benefit to future success. The truth is, there’s no better time to reevaluate your process than when things aren’t going well. We’ve all heard very successful people say they learned more from failure than success and there’s a reason for that. Because it’s true! The trick is to efficiently breakdown the reasons for your deficits, rectify them, and then utilize that knowledge so that when the surpluses come roaring back (and they will), you can manage that success with more efficiency and, hopefully, more longevity.

One of the most basic “deficits” that almost everyone faces, is time.  We are all over run by obligations, by our schedules, by our calendars, that keep telling us we have a meeting, a new employee to train, a work lunch with a VIP investor, dry cleaning to pick up, etc., and the stress of these various duties can be overwhelming. So, how do we deal with 25 hours of need-to-get-done tasks when we all know we only have 24 hours to work with?

Here are a few ways guidelines that I’ve utilized in my life that have helped me manage my time deficits:

  1. Glass VS Rubber? – You’ve checked your calendar. You have ten things to do and two hours to do it. What will break if you don’t do it? What’s made of glass? What will bounce if you don’t do it? What’s made of rubber? Identify these two distinct outcomes and act accordingly. Get the Glass Items accomplished first. Put all your energy on those tasks. Prioritizing is crucial if you want to get out of a deficit cycle. As for the Rubber Items, one way to get those things done is to...
  2. Delegate – In many cases, you run out of time because you weren’t able or willing to delegate the task to others. You have people in your life, professionally and otherwise, to help. Use them! If you’ve had people drop the ball in the past, take this time to retrain or instruct more thoroughly. Let go! If you’ve done your job in selecting and training those that you delegate to, you should be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
  3. Push Back – In many cases, you can’t delegate the Rubber Items. So what then?  It’s okay to admit that sometimes we over extend ourselves. Call the VIP investor and tell him you have to reschedule. Be apologetic, but firm. Find a new time and place that you KNOW you can commit to. Make that next week’s Glass Item. This isn’t what we want of course, to cancel or delay, but sometimes it’s the best possible option. Instead of the 3pm today, when you’d be frazzled, distracted, and otherwise not fully present, make it next Monday, when you can be at your best.
  4. Redesign For Simplicity – Now that you’ve delegated or postponed a few of those Rubber Items, you might STILL feel a time crunch.  At this point, you have to look at yourself. Are you being the most efficient version of YOU? My guess is maybe not. Take this time to redesign your efforts to simplify your work process. Often, this might mean resetting expectations. So, if you can’t postpone that VIP lunch, let him know that the lunch might just be coffee. Make this known as soon as possible, so no one is surprised by the edited outcome.
  5. Learn From the Experience – In some cases, you’ll burn a bridge or disappoint others with approaches 2-4.  That’s the price of overcommitting yourself. Learn from this! In the future, when you are approached with assignments and/or opportunities, be vigilant about accepting them, remembering the triage you had to go through last time your stretched your schedule to the breaking point.

Do you have any tips on how to solve a calendar crunch?  If I choose to add yours to the above list, I’ll send you a $15 Amazon gift certificate!

May 14, 2013

Are You Following Your Top Priorities?

Recently, I realized that there's a big difference between our priorities and our values. Oftentimes, you set your priorities based on external requirements (what does the world expect from you?). Values are the criteria by which you allocate resources and make decisions.  Your hold them high or low at a personal level.  You act them out.  You don't write them down in a bullet point list (like priorities).  But it's your values that determine the actual order of priorities you follow in life.

So, instead of trying to list priorities in order, I grouped them into Top, Secondary and Elective categories.  My tops are health and family.  They give me my life, happiness and are the basis of my energy and effectiveness.  

My secondary priorities are career and service.  They are secondary because my top priorities are not dependent on them.  Sure, if your career fails, your family suffers -- but you don't lose them.  My elective priorities are sports and hobbies.  I follow them when I have the time as they are luxuries to me.

After doing the exercise, I realized that too often, I've let a secondary priority trump a top priority, which risks killing the golden goose!  I let career take a greater value than health in several situations, skipping exercise or traveling beyond my body's capability.  Then there are the sacrifices I’ve asked my family to make for my career or my service to others.  In some cases they are necessary and the family is up for it, but at what point am I getting it wrong?


Here's my takeaway.  I'll never let my secondary priorities trump my top ones, unless it's a pretty extreme situation.  Sure, we want them all to work out, but there will be times when you have to look at things over the long view and say, "No, my family comes first."  You need to act like you believe, and find the time for check ups, proper exercise and time with family.  Each time you say to yourself, "I don't have enough time," look around for a pesky secondary priority gone out-of-control.  It's just waiting for you to put it in its place.