Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to Achieve Your Goals in One Step: Reverse Engineering

Where do you want to go this year, quarter or month, or your life? Do you have a particular goal or outcome you want to achieve?  70% of people who set goals, which is only 20% of the population, will fail to achieve them.  There are many reasons, such as: failure to plan; fear of success/failure; unrealistic; no support; genuine commitment; and/or failure to accurately assess the gap. There is a valuable self-help document you can download for free to actually do this activity. Click here for the PDF link to the worksheet.       Click here for the Word version.

One step to ensure success is designing your outcome by "reverse engineering" it.  It's similar to using the SMART model in business, or the "power of intention" in your personal life.  What do you intend for yourself or your business?  If you already know what you want to achieve, then you can jump direct to this link on reverse engineering.  Although note that there is a "Vision Board" described below.

If you're uncertain about where you want to go, but you know that you want to achieve a change, then start by answering your vision of the future:
1) What is my vision of the future?
2) What am I passionate about?  When do I notice my energy level go up?
3) Do my actions align with my passion?  You'll get a much more truthful answer if you ask a friend for input and perspective.
Throughout the process commit to having an open heart that allows you to listen and notice your resistance without your blind spots filtering or distorting your truth.
 
Writing a vision statement should be descriptive and visual.  It should be written with future orientation, such as when you wake up, this is how it will be, look, feel and be noticed by others.  Write it from the perspective that an unbiased person would read it and formulate the same visual if they observed you living your vision.  Include in your vision the last time you felt this same way.  Describe what was happening, how and why it felt this way.

This is an incredibly simple activity that produces the greatest reward.  Yet it's the one thing that everyone tends to avoid.  Most people feel that writing or expressing what they are truly passion about, or how they would envision their future would violate what they believe is important for survival.  If you stay within your current paradigm to write your vision, then it won't produce the genuine outcome you desire.  Staying within the paradigm means that you describe your vision with the constraints of your current life, such as being more happy with your job, versus being more happy (period), or using language from the past to describe how you have been and how things should be.

Challenge yourself to move outside the paradigm. The experience of surfacing your inner passion for what drives you and expressing it on paper can be a transformational experience, particularly if it means letting go of safety and security nets to express it.  The feeling deep in your heart, such as believing you must keep the job to have the income that allows you to be what you envision, instead of letting that go for the purpose of this activity.

One example is a client whom I had been coaching for the past year.  He has been experiencing tremendous growth on multiple levels professionally and personally.  He's been an incredible pleasure to coach and a true example of achieving multiple levels of amazing success by intention.  With recent developments, it was time to take him through the process of creating his new vision.  As I described the assignment he expressed incredible discomfort that lasted for hours.  He said that reconnecting with his vision felt like he might have left his passion in the past, which brought tremendous sadness.  But the next day he said it was a "profound" and "life changing" experience which "opened my eyes and gave me a very concrete direction to write down my (description) and practical tools to do it properly (effectively)."   

A majority of every person and business that I coach, or do Organization Development ("OD"), tends to be so busy "running" in pursuit of what they believe to be appropriate, that there is no time to connect the dots on where they're going.  There's no time to check if the actions today support the true intention or outcomes desired for the future, regardless if it's for business, relationships, love, money, health, or peace. One step back to leap-frog forward.  Beyond believing that what you're doing, or the actions that you're taking feel right, take the time in a quiet place to design it up front and exert your intention.

Writing this down forces you to connect with your inner self, whether it's for your business, or for you personally and get it out.   Writing down your passions and what success means to you or your business will functionally translate to:
Vision & Mission - for business
Performance Objectives - for employees
Resolutions - for individuals

Then, routinely check your actions to ensure that you're giving the most power towards your intention/vision.  When you truly desire something you'll do whatever it takes to get there.  Having it written down keeps you aligned to your intention and tells your subconscious to pay attention.  Have you ever taped a new car ad or yellow sticky note to your wall as a reminder of your target objective?  Every decision you subsequently made about your time and money was aligned with that intention.  We do the same thing at work when creating performance objectives.

VISUAL REMINDER:  VISION BOARD
The more creative method that engages the subconscious is to create a VISION BOARD by cutting out words and pictures from printed sources, such as magazines.  Then tape them as a collage onto any size paper or board that you can either carry with you, create as a screen saver, or hang on the wall.  It's your visual reminder of how your vision looks, which creates the internal feeling that causes alignment and action. (Example to right courtesy of Sebastian Skinner.)

Self-reflect on your daily actions to notice what you might be doing to get in the way of your intention.  Take the time for this now and you'll experience a much better year.

Don't obsess with a form or the process.  Particularly in companies where the focus is on the methodology such as SMART objectives versus the intention.  Commit it to your intention of being extraordinary.

Also see the article "How to Reverse Engineer" on this blog.  

Click here for the private link to the valuable MS-Word document to conduct your own self-assessment and "Personal Vision Statement." 

-Ken Sergi

(c) 2013 Ken Sergi updated (c) 2017

Note that images and graphics used in this blog are copyrighted and licensed for use to Ken Sergi. 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Manager As Coach



Managers and leaders can easily improve performance by 70% when using a few basic coaching principles with employees instead of the traditional management or communication style.  Particularly with annual performance reviews, re-framing your conversation can also improve communication by 72%, and team effectiveness by 51%, relationships by 73%, time management by 57%, in addition to satisfaction and return on investment by 86%.  If you invest a lot of time or energy managing your employees, then the coaching approach can make your job significantly easier while simultaneously improving performance and satisfaction.

Coaching is a much more powerful conversation that helps employees create solutions through the skilled use of challenging questions and action-oriented planning.  It can be spontaneous to a specific situation or a structured long-term development plan with accountability.  Click here to read more about ‘What is Coaching?'

Although coaching is a skilled profession, there are some fundamental principles and questions you can use to elevate your competency to make your conversations much more influential and effective. 
  • The best coaching approach asks questions to facilitate the coachee solving their own problems.
  • Coaching engages active listening with a variety of questioning styles.
  • Coaching is future-oriented and positive. 
  • Coach the person, not the problem.

FUTURE-ORIENTED AND POSITIVE
Regardless if your conversation is spontaneous or scheduled as part of a long-term plan, issues and goals should be solution-oriented.  The approach is how to move forward in a positive way.  A simple example:  "I want to be better organized" versus "I want to be less disorganized."  Another Example:  "I want to be more happy" versus "...less angry."

REPHRASING "WHY" QUESTIONS
>Why did you do that?  Say instead -->  What were you hoping to gain?
>Why did you tell her that?  Say instead -->  How did that work out for you?
>Why are you going to analyze it for the third time?  Say instead -->  How will running a third analyses increase your confidence in the number?


EXAMPLES

EMPLOYEE MIGHT SAY
TYPICAL MANAGER RESPONSE
COACHING QUESTION
The meeting was a disaster (blah blah blah details)

What happened?  Did you have the hand-outs?

How do you want your meetings to run?  What do you need to do differently?

I can't believe I let her get to me like that!

What did she say when you...?  Why didn't you tell her...?

How would you like it to be when she's like that?  What do you need to do to keep calm next time?



ACTIVE LISTENING
A critical competency of effective conversations is Active Listening.  It is the ability to focus completely on what the speaker is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the speaker's desires, and to support the speaker's self-expression without judgment.


EXAMPLES OF QUESTIONS
Open-Ended
"Tell me about the relationship with..."
"How are you feeling today"
"How would you define success"

Closed-Ended
"Is the relationship with your boss good?"
"Are you feeling better today?"
"Is that your final answer?"

Clarifying
"What are you expectations?"
"What did you mean when you said...?"
"Could you please repeat?"
"How did you know that you were being successful?"

Connecting:  "Is the text error similar to the email error?"

Leading:  "Were you at Macy's on the night of June 5th?"

Behavioral:  "Describe a time when you were successful?"

Reflective:  "I heard you say... is what I said accurate?"

ASKING QUESTIONS THAT CHALLENGE 
"What if the opposite were true?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"What if you were able to ....(do or feel the opposite / positive)?"

OTHER EXAMPLES OF COACHING-TYPE QUESTIONS
These examples are from SocialMedia.com
-What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
-What have you tried so far?
-What haven’t you tried so far?  What’s another solution/approach that may work?
-How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
-What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)?
-What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you?)
-What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)?
-When should we reconnect on this to ensure you achieved the result you want?

Posted on the blog http://mycoachken.blogspot.com/2013/10/manager-as-coach.html


SELF-ASSESSMENT: How to Write An Easy Self-Assessment

HOW TO WRITE AN EASY SELF-ASSESSMENT

OVERVIEW
No one knows what you’ve accomplished better than you.
  Your input provides a more accurate insight of your effort and could determine a better rating.  Your performance review will follow you for years and influence your career success both internally and externally.  Now there’s no excuse to say you don’t like what your boss wrote, regardless of your job or position.  Here are targeted tips how you can influence your own performance review with a Self-Assessment (“SA”) that is easy, consolidated, benefits your career, but doesn’t come across as self-effacing. 

IT'S THE BOSS' JOB
Have you ever thought “It’s the boss’ job to write my review, not mine?  He should know what I did!”?  Your SA fills in the gaps regarding your level of effort, accolades, and contributing factors that provides a much more clear and accurate picture for how you achieved success.

IF YOU DIDN'T MEET OBJECTIVES
I recently had an employee who did not achieve any of the required outcomes on his three work objectives.  Should he receive a “failed” rating on his Review?  He received a good rating because he did everything within his sphere of control and level of skill to produce results.  

SUMMARY
If you don’t contribute to your performance review, then you’re letting others document your results and determine your destiny.  Even if you’re not required to produce a SA, don’t leave it up to the boss to decide and document what you achieved. 

SA FUNDAMENTALS
Just as you don’t like reading long emails or lengthy company memos, neither does your boss.  That can be a particular challenge when you’re summarizing a full year.  So keep in mind a few fundamentals:

  • Report on results, not activities.
  • Ratings are based on substance of the contribution, not how well it’s described.
  • Know your job performance requirements/expectations. 
  • Keep track throughout the year, such as saving accolades, emails, and other documentation.

    GUIDELINES
  1. Correspond each result to either your goals, projects, or organization strategy.
  2. Highlight significant achievements, not the day-to-day activities.
  3. Make the connection between what was accomplished and why it matters to the organization.
  4. Provide perspective of the achievement, such as why it exceeded expectations and how you faced challenges.  
  5. Don’t exaggerate or try to cover up.  Don’t justify bad results by explaining why it wasn’t met.  Describe your level of effort to try and get it met.
  6. Start each bullet with “Met” “Exceeded” or “Didn’t Meet” Expectations.
  7. When describing the level of effort, include:
a. Statements of fact that support the results. 
b. Describes perspective of the value.  
c. Addresses contributing factors, such as communication, team work and customers and extenuating circumstances.    

EXAMPLES  (these are abbreviated to provide a starting point)

1) Met expectations for the Help Desk call response times.
          Average weekly call wait time was 1.4 minutes, which was slightly better than the requirement of 1.5 minutes as reported by the call tracking system.  Objective achieved despite extended absences of two call center reps mid-February through mid-August. 

2) Exceeded expectations for the Help Desk customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction averaged 4.6 on a 1 – 5 scale, which was significantly better than the requirement of 3.0 as reported by the weekly Customer Satisfaction Survey.  My supervisor reported in an email on 6/15/13 that customers consistently report positive comments regarding my communication style and friendliness.

Posted on the blog http://mycoachken.blogspot.com/2013/10/self-assessment-how-to-write-easy-self.html 


Do not post or publish without permission.  It's ok to link.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Determine Your Value

HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR VALUE


A well-known speaker started off his seminar holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." 

He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, "Who still wants it...?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. 

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE. 

You are special-Don't EVER forget it." Count your blessings, not your problems.  


Can you write at least 6 things for which you are grateful?

1. _____________________________________

2. _____________________________________

3. _____________________________________

4. _____________________________________

5. _____________________________________

6. _____________________________________


Posted on the blog http://mycoachken.blogspot.com/2013/10/how-to-determine-your-value.html

Monday, May 20, 2013

MYTH OF 21-DAYS TO CHANGE A HABIT


MYTH OF 21-DAYS TO CHANGE A HABIT


Have you heard the myth that it takes approximately 21 days to change a habit?  Although “The Secret” with whom I worked as a coach advocates 30 days, plus an additional 30 days “will definitely fix it.”

If changing a habit were that simple then everyone would be eating healthy, demonstrating great leadership, excellent teamwork and communication skills, exercising daily, avoiding over-indulgence on alcohol and all the other habits we’ve considered changing. 

There is research and evidence that you can rewire the brain.  Evolution has shown our ability to change.  Years of my own coaching practice and conducting training programs has demonstrated the ability of people to learn new habits.  But it takes motivation for self-awareness and conscious practice of new behaviors to make habits automatic. 

The speed at which you can change and sustain a habit is based on your individual personality, physical make-up, age, environment and other systemic considerations, which are also the weak links to relapse.  Particularly for your personality, it could require ongoing vigilance.

Changing a habitual emotional response, such as anger, is much more of a difficult long-term challenge than something like reducing sugar consumption and junk food.  Anger and fear can significantly impact your habits and thus your ability to effectively communicate, lead and perform in the work place.  Once you begin to demonstrate better habits or skills, then it takes ongoing practice to internalize it as automatic, and awareness to avoid relapse when you’re under pressure. 

If you want to improve bad habits start by first knowing yourself, how you operate, and what tends to block or disrupt you.  After you identify one outcome or habit, then you will reverse engineer the plan.  Start by describing the specific actions you will take to achieve the outcome using small steps that can be executed daily.  Determine how you will measure or evaluate your daily success and how you will hold yourself accountable to stay on track.  Repeat the practices until it becomes automatic and internalized.  Here are two additional articles to help:





Posted on the blog  http://mycoachken.blogspot.com/2013/05/myth-of-21-days-to-change-habit.html


Do not post or publish without permission.  It's ok to link.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Top 2 Reasons People Stay or Leave Their Job

LEADERS, MANAGERS, AND OWNERS: CAUSE AND CURE
(A pdf version is available at the bottom of this article.)

Job searches are up 40% from December to January1.  Why are some people willing to stay or leave their current jobs, companies, or move to other departments?  Research consistently shows over the years that it’s NOT because of the money.

On the contrary, people are willing to stay in their job, department, or company, even when the pay is not very good, when these two primary qualities are present:  1) Exceptional Leadership (people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers); and 2) Opportunity for development.2   

What are you doing that contributes to the employee staying or going?  If managers knew the answer, it’s likely that the statistics shown above would not be so high.  Your greatest strength can be your most dangerous blind spot.

FREE LUNCH CHALLENGE
Go to lunch with employees and ask how their job maps to the business strategy, or how the manager supports their personal vision for the future.  Offer to buy lunch if they have a concrete answer.  According to research, you have at least an 86%3 chance they will not know the answer and you won’t be forking over any lunch money. 

THE MISSING LINKS
Among the qualities that define exceptional leadership4, people want to know and feel that: a) there is a plan; b) they have a role to play that supports the plan (e.g., meaningful work); c) there is empowerment to function independently; and d) there is opportunity for professional development to achieve their best.  “Opportunity” does not necessarily mean promotion.  Along the way they want transparency, to be respected and supported.  How do you define success and encourage the people you manage or lead?  If you verbally define what is expected, then that’s your first warning flag.  Effective performance management tools, measurable objectives, cross-functional opportunities, training, coaching, and mentorship are a few answers.  An empowered employee has a multi-dimensional process that helps them control their work and fosters power in managing their success and failures.

LEADERSHIP STRENGTHS CAN BE DANGEROUS BLIND SPOTS
A successful leader and manager can blend the skills of leadership, to inspire vision, confidence and stability, with management to produce work results, while creating opportunity.  However, most follow the cultural norm of “command and control” to get the job done. Ask anyone who was promoted, or manages a business about the different skills required.  We tend to rely on the skills that were great strengths that made us the success of today.  But those strengths are a liability going into the future.  High-performing people don’t want to be micro-managed.  But, like most leaders, managers, owners, and entrepreneurs, the solution tends to be running faster, pushing harder, working longer, communicating ineffectively, and creating more procedures to fix problems.  In the process they push away the greatest assets that could help achieve the sustainable success they’re desperately seeking.

TAKE ACTION TO BE INFLUENTIAL
What have you done to influence success and retention or departures?  Small business is able to easily attract and retain high quality talent from large stable organizations when the company demonstrates the missing links.  Everyone has their own internal motivation.  What drives one person is not the same for another.  Leadership can inspire and tap into human potential.  To achieve greater success and employee retention, know how you operate and how you affect the people around you.  If you’re not absolutely certain, then find out.  If you are the obstacle to employee success, then you will continue attracting employees that support your style, but not retain people who can achieve your plan or vision.

1Corporate Executive Board (CEB) quarterly research of currently employed people seeking jobs, which is up even though unemployment is down.   This also considers that January and February are the highest months for hiring according to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 Forbes 1/2/2013 “Top Five Reasons Employees Will Quit in 2013 
4 8 Signs of an Extraordinary Boss”  

Posted on the blog  http://mycoachken.blogspot.com/2013/03/top-reasons-people-stay-or-leave-job.html

Click here for a PDF version of this article


Do not post or publish without permission.  It's ok to link.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Communication: How to Reduce Incoming Email - It Increases Productivity

(This article is also available in PDF at the bottom of this page.)


Do you get a lot of email?  Do you want to reduce how much email you receive?  Well, buried in this article is the simple secret answer in three words.  See if you can find it.  

Oh, you want me to get right to the point and tell you the answer?  [“Ding!”] Hold please; my phone just said I have a message that has to be read.

Here you will not get information on the proper writing of email, and this make the English majors and self-anointed grammar police crazy.   They’ll forcefully argue against this contemporary eroding of proper English in the name of brevity, complicated with technology that only allows brief tweets and single letters to mean whole words.  But, it’s that same technology at our fingertips 24/7 that allows our thoughts to instantly flow into tweets, and email to fly at the speed that our thoughts or experiences will allow it to happen.


FACTS
#1 The average business user receives 19% irrelevant mail daily and spends 1:36 hours on non-company websites.
#2 No one seems to have time to read long email, but we all seem to have the time to write email.
#3 The need for validation tends to have people writing messages to CYA (cover your 'assets') documentation.
#4 The fingers are in gear before the brain is engaged.  We data-dump the moments we’re having.
#5 Most people won’t remember whatever email, text or post they read one hour ago.
#6 We assume that because it was sent, it was received AND/OR comprehended.  Email communication gets lost in translation.  80% of communication is non-verbal.  This doesn’t mean it comes via electronic method; instead it's all the subtle methods of voice, tone, body language, eye contact, etc.
#7 Email is one-way communication.  We think at approximately 800 words-per-minute, we talk at approximately 125 wpm, and generally type less than 65 wpm.  It actually takes more time to achieve an end-result via email.

Do you have friends or colleagues who send you so much email, or Facebook posts, or Tweets that you have developed an auto-pilot reaction to ignore them, or always read everything they send?  We have an internal instinct that when certain people send a message we know what to expect.  Maybe you’re one of those people.  When you send messages you’re creating an image and reputation for yourself that impacts your ability to be heard or influential. 

What impact do you want to have when you’re sending a message?  "Wait!" You're thinking... isn't the question supposed to be how to get everyone else to stop sending you email?  You are also part of "everyone else."  When you are deciding to send a message how quick do you go from thought to action?

HOW PEOPLE READ
We “data mine” the computer screen looking for highlights.  Google has great research on the topic.  The best web designers know how the human eye scans for data and the “hot spots” on the screen that gives them less than 0.2 seconds to capture your attention.  Speed-readers look down the center of each page mining for highlights.  Each morning the US President receives a state-of-affairs briefing that is summarized on one page.  If he can do it, so can you.

REAL SITUATION – STOP TRYING
A client that I was coaching recently asked for advice on how to get his emails read by upper management.  He is a brilliant man with a senior position at a mid-sized company.  He had a lot of great business ideas that could significantly help achieve strategic objectives and grow the organization.  But he was very frustrated that he felt ignored and ultimately disrespected.  I gave him one simple suggestion that completely changed everything.  He was suddenly experiencing responses to his messages, respect for his input, and seeing actions taken as a result of his ideas.  What changed?  He stopped trying so hard and started by reducing the number of emails being sent.


The one thing he wanted the most was the one thing he was harming the greatest.  The more he tried to be heard, the more he was being ignored.  He was creating a reputation for himself of someone who always bombards people with email messages and ideas.  As the ideas flowed, his fingers typed.  His most significant ideas were getting lost among all of his other ideas the he simultaneously presented. 

The solution: He created structure.  He wrote down all the ideas and held onto them until the end of the week.  He emailed them to himself or saved a draft message and updated it throughout the week.  Then, at the end of the week, decided which idea was the top most important one that should be sent.  He was discovering that the idea he had on Monday was not as important on Friday.  This structure flowed into his personal life.  He stopped providing comments to a majority of emails he received.  And he wasn’t getting distracted by posting regular Facebook updates.

End result:  Instead of trying to change others, my client created his own self-development that raised his ability to be influential.  He simultaneously reduced email and was getting more of his ideas through upper management.


TRY THIS GAME
Next time you’re with someone at lunch or dinner, tell everyone to put their cell phones in a stack on the table.  The first person to check their phone for any purpose has to pay the check.  (Talk about a deterrent!) We create the world around us, and how people perceive us by our everyday actions.  What have you done to self-observe the impact and influence that you have?  Have you lost the ability to control what’s happening around you?  




WE’RE ALWAYS “ON”
The constant need we have to be activated is pervasive.  Look around and see people together in public, but relating to their devices versus each other.  Apps are constantly feeding us and getting us to respond.  We have a primal drive to be attentive.  It’s why the negative news is more engaging than positive and commercials are intended to stimulate a response.  It’s also why we recommend not having any “activating” activities at least 30 minutes prior to bed, and thus no TV, computer, email, text, or phone in the bedroom.  This technology stimulates us and we’re compelled to respond.

ORGANIZATION CULTURE BY LEADERSHIP – THE STATISTICS
Regardless of your type of business, internal and external email volume impacts productivity.  The average business user receives 78 email messages per day of which 19% are considered spam and 24% contain an attachment. If an employee is checking personal email via external websites, then this further reduces productivity.  The average user spends 1.36 hours per day on external (i.e. not business-related) websites, and spends 41 minutes per day on instant messaging. 1 

Leadership within an organization has a significant influence on the volume of email in the culture.  Email overload is a symptom of a larger issue, such as ambiguous decision-making processes, lack of clear protocols, and people not getting what they need from peers.  If your culture is to drop everything and regularly check email, or you feel compelled to “CYA” (cover your ‘assets’) then your leadership team has the opportunity to reshape the culture.  Email overload becomes a performance management issue that impacts efficiency, effectiveness and the financial bottom line.  It must be addressed systemically beyond issuing a set of rules.  
#1   -  Don’t create a broad set of rules or policies that won’t stick.  Creating a set of guidelines or protocols that can be demonstrated without contradiction, such as “Don’t CC anyone as an FYI” can go a long way to reducing email and establishing trust for employees who feel compelled to include others on their messages.
#2   -  Establish if, when, and how someone should update you and others.
#3   -  Evaluate how decisions are made and give clear direction on work assignments.
#4   -  Incorporate a simple protocol in meetings that establishes how follow-up actions will be communicated.
#5   -  Create standards, such as labeling the Subject line with “Action Required”
#6   -  Provide training, such as communication styles and how to handle meetings. It will reduce the time to generate or reply to email. 


MESSAGE BLACK HOLES
A "message black hole" is the abyss where your message went without any acknowledgement that it was received, understood, appreciated, or acted upon.  Navigating these black holes requires more about knowing yourself (personality) and your needs, than about techniques or actions to achieve less email.  But the end result will still create less email.


PRACTICES – CREATE STRUCTURE – GET CONTROL

DON’T
#1   Do not check email first thing when you wake up, or when you arrive into the office.  Set-aside “start-up” time to plan your day and know “What are the most important things I need to do today?”
#2   Do not reply unless you were asked, or unless you expect action. 
#3   Do not be quick to reply.  “The mouth is in gear before the brain is engaged” is equally dangerous with a keyboard.
#4   Do not “Reply All.”  What’s important to you is not to others.
#5   Never use the "High Priority" flag unless it requires immediate attention and action.
#6   Do not send jokes, cartoons, or motivational messages.  You’re creating a reputation that your messages are intermingled with unimportant meaningless content that doesn’t warrant consistent respect.

DOs
#1   Send less email, (those are the three magic words!), and it will generate fewer responses.  If you send less, you will get less
#2   Create structure for when you check and send email.  Spontaneous checking keeps your brain always “ON” and one message leads to another.  The mail becomes your driver without you in control.
#3   Before sending, ask yourself “What do I want as a result of sending this?”  Do I need an action?  If this message isn’t high priority, then keep it in DRAFT to send 3 – 5 days later.
#4   Get to the point.  Try to use bullets.  Remind yourself that the message recipients have just as much going on in their day as you do in yours.  Put action items in an obvious location.  Put “Action Required” or “FYI” in the Subject line.
#5   Communicate expectations with staff, senders, peers, etc. Let them know that you check email at specific times.  Then, be consistent about it.  If you reply during evenings and weekends then expect undesirable consequences.
#6   Turn off the audible or tactile (vibrate) notification that you have email and/or text messages.  Don’t become a slave to your device's “ding!” You're disrupting your ability to be focused, and you're telling others that you’re always available and to "contact me anytime."
#7   Unsubscribe to email newsletters and notifications, such as from Facebook and Twitter.
#8   Recognize your style.  Your personality type impacts your communication style.  It determines what you need to say; how much you say; the type, style and frequency of the message; and thus impacts how others will respond to you.  Know yourself and your personality that drives you, and how it shows up in the way you attend to mail.  If you don’t know your personality type, then find a class, take a test, or locate a professional that can help you know it and how to effectively self-manage to be more influential.  One example is if you like lots of facts and data, then you’ll tend to share that in your communications, resulting in excessive time writing email without consideration of the receiver, who might not care. 

We’ve evolved into the modern day “Pavlov’s dog’ of automatic response to technology commanding our attention.  The “ding!” of incoming email gets our attention and we move into auto-pilot response.  The technology drives us instead of us staying in control of it as a tool.  Challenge yourself to do it better to self-manage your personality style while adapting to the styles of others.  Don’t let your blind spots impact your success or negatively affect your ability to be influential.

1 = Radicati.com Aug 2012 – A technology market research firm. 


- (c) Ken Sergi

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