Tag Archives: management

Mentoring: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 2 of 2

This is part two of a two-part article.  The first installation was published on June 6, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you to in times of frustration.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating frustration at work.

My favorite gems from AL, with my own perspective woven in, included:

  1. A manager, even a great leader, has only a small role in an employee’s career success.  Ultimately, the employee is responsible for using the opportunities given her or him.  And it is that individual’s responsibility for having the “fire” in her or his belly. Continue reading
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About 90 days . . .

Has it really been that long since I wrote a blog post?  That is appalling and precisely the sort of absentee blogerism that leads to declining readership.  I am ashamed and embarrassed.  But mostly, it shows I have been too busy applying all the lessons and best practices I typically try to share.

So in one respect, the application of knowledge is worthwhile.  On the other hand, it will not make me look like such a thought leader tomorrow when I present on how readily a person can manage social media for personal, professional and business growth.

Within an hour of waking up tomorrow, I will attempt to string together enough cogent statements to convince several social media fence-sitters that they can own this domain — pun intended — without having to sequester themselves in a Nerd Bunker for hours at a time.  I will further try to impress upon them that the relationship side of their respective businesses can be well-served by using tools such as blogs, social networks and other technological options.  Whether existing employees, potential workers, clients or potential buyers of their services, the Return on their Investment would have to be relatively high, since most of the acquisition costs are approaching zero ($0).

So here are a few points I plan to make:

1.  If you can’t commit the time to building deep, intimate relationships (Facebook), you surely can build some basic ones (Twitter) and invest where it might be most profitable (LinkedIn).

2.  You don’t have to be Ashton Kutcher to build a successful social network.  Use it to engage and reward your most loyal customers.  When all else fails, FOCUS your content on the most important customers/potentials.

3.  Leverage staff strengths and let leaders emerge.

4.  Efficient management can make you appear more consumed than you are with creating content.

5. Being a content distributor can be a better entry strategy than being a content creator (Copy and Share Everything).

Using these strategies should allow you to establish a social media presence, and learn how your organization and staffing can best manage this powerful tool.

One man’s race toward a conquered e-mail inbox

E-mail has ruined my life. Well, it nearly ruined my ability to be effective at my real job. An inbox that always hovered near 300 unchecked emails had become a real obstacle to effectiveness. All those missives felt like a few hundred gnats flitting about, each waiting for either a swat, a blast of creative problem solving, or an observant eye followed by studied response. While I may never control all of the factors contributing to my inbox infestation, I did strike back today.

ZERO TOLERANCE
I feel like I earned my first merit badge for mastering a particularly distasteful task. After many fits and starts in which I would create modest goals — “today, I get my inbox down to below 200 unchecked email,” or “this week, I want to dip below 100 before I leave for the weekend” — today, I got up the brass to make the only meaningful strike in the e-mail wars: ZERO to go. Yep, I chose to conquer instead of divide.

I owe the inspiration to my wife, a regular witness to my anxiety attacks. Her good counsel over the weekend helped finally make me commit to eliminate the stench of outdated text, rotted requests, stale suggestions, and Cover-Your-Ass “Reply-to-Alls.” And the final push came from a trusted colleague who suggested I had to set my mental picture firmly: ZERO survivors! Every email must be dealt with today.

First, it bears noting that I have repeatedly documented my frustration with my email inbox. Organizational mavens I trust and seek out for counsel have provided websites, blog entries, DIY tactics, professional gurus, and more to kick me into high gear. None got me where I needed to be. But today, it all came together and I conquered my massive mail maelstrom.

There are two ingredients I used to beat back the fatal funk of forlorn documentation: the time to focus, and the willingness to take immediate action on every untended email..

FIRST: A DISCLAIMER
The success of the plan was keyed by the fact that today is a holiday, which rendered many vacationing Time Bandits (colleagues) powerless to interfere with my self-centered project. No impromptu meetings, no hallway deliberations, no email tidal waves or Carbon Copy-fests that create inbox litter. The relative solitude of Labor Day turned into the perfect opportunity to focus on the beast beast.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
1. Seniority Rules. I inverted my inbox and sorted it by date, oldest on top. I normally deal with email based on recency, so the newest issues get my attention first . I do this because in reading the most recent emails first, I can follow the preceding thread in sequence in one email, thereby eliminating both the propensity to respond to an early post without the benefit of the latter submission; and reducing the number of posts I have to read to get a complete situation report. Looking at the oldest stuff meant I could quickly assess which had already been concluded by face-to-face chats or the “recency” solution above.

2. Dump the dead weight. I set my sights on the target and promised to take no prisoners. I took advantage of Outlook’s nifty preview panel to quick-scan each email. I . . . and its still hard to say . . . I decided a nominal amount of social and professional dialogue and educational tips would be sacrificed for the greater good. I may miss a blood drive or movie night, but its a risk I can accept.

I isolated and quickly deleted list-serve discussions, sales mail, Outlook Updates, group distributions, and old event invites. I used the CTRL + DELETE buttons to kill single posts and the SHIFT + DELETE combo for mass email destruction. Few of these were from real individuals whose work depended on my response. So I didn’t bother to give them one!

This lightened my load from a staggering 360 emails to a manageable 200. And it gets better. I realized many of the untended communiques were progress updates on staff projects; things I had spot-checked along the way, then ignored because they didn’t require my response. Why I didn’t just delete them I will never know. But there went another 50 or so.

3. SPEED ROUND. Finally, I gathered the remaining 150 emails and began a triage exercise. I would either delete, file or respond to each. About 20 percent of these were CYA responses from others. These got deleted with glee. Another 50 percent simply needed to be filed; and the remaining 30 percent required some action or engagement on my part.

With the inbox count hovering in the low-100s after deleting and filing, I was quite motivated to power through and provide quick, but careful responses to the remaining posts. Most of these were less than one week old, suggesting my system of stockpiling dead mail in my inbox was frustrating but not negligent.

FINISHING STRONG
By 5:30 this evening, I had the list down to one unread email. As the street light came on, and the crickets started to chirp outside, I got the sign to get my butt home for dinner as I hit the OPEN button on that final unchecked email. I responded sweetly, mildly, succinctly, and with pleasant salutations. Just like in the old days.

Today, I won. For however briefly, I tasted the sweet nectar of control.

Thanks to Teri, first and foremost, for instilling in me the vision over the weekend to attack this challenge. Thanks to a trusted friend and colleague for helping drive home the need for me to quit stalling and take immediate action. And thanks for those who were part of the journey to get to this point. You each made a difference, and I finally did it.

If you have to manage mountains of data, content and news daily; then distribute, delegate, or delete it all to keep the balls balanced, you will appreciate the feat. “Nothing” never felt so good! And I left ZERO survivors.

Enlightened Hospitality

As promised, this is the first in a week-long series of reactions to the Danny Meyer book Setting the Table.

The first of his concepts I will address is, for me, the central theme of his book. By dealing with it first, you can better wrap your mind around the fundamental, but brilliant, observations about being in the business of taking care of people.

Meyer says enlightened hospitality begins with treating your colleagues right as a first priority (p. 109). While many people today have embraced the notion that the customer is always right, I agree with Meyer’s implication that customers are not always right, but that in order for a business to take care of its customers, it must first put the front line employees in a position to succeed.

Too often, staff are viewed as cogs in a machine; people whose opinions are marginalized, their strengths exploited with little recognition, and their weaknesses amplified obscenely. And yet we insist that these people put their best foot forward to present a united, positive image for the organization.

But Meyer makes a brilliant observation: customers will always be better served by an empowered, positive, motivated staff. Amen.

Enlightened hospitality goes beyond that, though. It extends to capture the spirit with which a great team of employees or service providers approaches serving the person or people in front of them. I like to call this the “one step forward” approach.

If every member of a team felt empowered and motivated, they would insist on always taking one step forward to meet their customer. Moreover, they would flex their observation muscles to determine how to address the person. They would use their trained empathy not to coddle the guest, but to ensure they handled their needs with the right amount and tone of intimacy, humor, speed and interactivity.

Once the employee is cared for, the customer is better served. Once the customer is best served, the succeeding priorities are serving the community, serving their suppliers, and finally, ultimately, serving investors.

Its a profound reversal of the type of corporate behavior that has crippled so many companies in the United States. It refutes the type of corporate behavior that leads to ethical and moral conflicts. Its a model for doing business that syncs with my own sense of propriety.

Look forward to the next chapter tomorrow. But first, let me know what you think about enlightened hospitality. Where does it fall apart? What is not well explained? Will this impact the way you approach your customers?

For excerpts from Meyer’s book, or to purchase (I get no benefit): visit