Alexander Graham Bell Day

It is March 7, Alexander Graham Bell Day. Pick up that telephone and call someone.

It is that simple and yet it is still hard.

Three ideas to get you going and lower your energy barriers:

Check in on how the last order, service call, or project was received by their customer. I had a consultant in a previous life who was really good at this. About every six months, if I had not called her, she would call me and ask “how is it going?” Not only did she get feedback, I usually had another project to give her and get off of my desk.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, derives from the data presented in a 1953 psychology paper that our short-term working memory is limited. People forget to reach out, even when they need to. Save them the time, energy, and embarrassment. Call them first!

The “Did you know we also do?” call. Just this weekend I was speaking with a general practitioner friend, and he was telling me a story about a patient who needed a doctor to see her kids. She had never thought her GP could be their GP until it was mentioned during a routine visit. He had never asked her if she was happy with her kids’ doctor. We often forget that the people with whom we do business add services, do more than one thing, or already have the solution to a problem we have.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, re-iterates that when you do not need the information, you let it go out of your easily accessed memory. This is especially true for customers who associate you and your company with a particular solution or product. If they had no need of other products or services when you mentioned it, they immediately lost the ability to recall that.

“Did you know” will place a new memory in their brains — especially if they need it now!

Calls trump email. Follow up with a quote, a trade show call, or a inquiry.  You never know if the email got lost in the ether or they forgot it was in their inbox.

In the rule of remembering, 7 ± 2, your customer has probably already forgotten your email. That email got forgotten about the time she suddenly remembered to pick up milk on the way home the other day.

“It’s been xxx days/weeks since we last spoke and I was wondering if this project was still under way.” Who knows what you will learn.

It’s called “dialing for dollars” and it works. What are you waiting for? You can always start with “Happy Alexander Graham Bell Day”!

Electricity of Ideas

Ever feel energized by coming up with a cool new idea?

Or do you feel energized by completing a project?

The Data

For fans of Myers-Briggs, the introspective self-report questionnaire for sorting out differing psychological preferences, the most quantifiable of its characteristics is extroversion versus introversion — or “where you get your energy from.” Though I must say I was a bit shocked when I did research on the research behind Myers-Briggs; I learned that the data was not terribly credible.

The Gallup Strengths Finder assessment ranks you on 34 “strengths”. The theory being if you play to your strengths you will move forward faster and be more personally successful. As with Myers-Briggs, the data can be sketchy. However, it is fascinating to contemplate the top 5 strengths the survey will reveal to you and how you can focus on them to achieve greatness or at least (your) world domination.

Extroversion/Introversion

According to the MBTI-school, extroverts get their energy from being with people; introverts get energized by being alone. Some of us can be energized by being in a group of people coming up with cool ideas. Others find energy reading a book or analyzing data.

Regardless of what MBTI tells you, you probably have a sense that you fall into one of those buckets more often than the other. Make note of it as that is your energy source.

If you work with a team, think about your team mates. Have you noticed where and when each member of the team “finds” his or her energy? Have you asked?

Gallup’s Strengths Finder

Based on a book written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, StrengthsFinder is the theory that there are a certain number of “fixed universal personal-character attributes” sometimes called ‘talent themes’. By focusing on your strengths, you move forward faster.

For $10 you can take the quiz online and your top 5 strengths will “pop out”. Spend a bit more and you can get all 34 ranked. Every strength has a dark side. Activators get stuff done; however, they rankle people who do not have highly ranked activator attributes as “rushing”.

Spooky? Horoscope like? Maybe. The placebo effect is real. Use what you can, right?

Strategies to Harness Your Energy

Now that you have figured out what you think your strengths are (ha-ha or ask a trusted friend to tell you the truth!) — how do you use that to further your efforts?

Strategy is the overall campaign plan; tactics are the means to achieve the plan. 

  1. Develop a plan to use your creativity at your highest energy point
  2. Plan your teams’ efforts to use their highest energy points
  3. Balance your team (if you can between introverts and extroverts) to make best use of each skill set/personality trait.

Examples:

  • Plan to use a large event like a trade show to get the team’s energy behind a new initiative, like creating a catalog of products, new literature pieces, or new displays and videos.
  • Use an organizational change to re-vamp the website, launching the new website with the roll-out of the change (if possible).
  • Plan your content marketing in trade journals for the whole year
    • Work out a schedule with the journals & product managers
    • Schedule around key events (trade shows or new product launches)
    • Commit to the plan

Tactics to Find Your Energy (when slightly lost!)

Tactics are the day to day things you do to keep going, keep innovating, keeping to that schedule & strategy you worked so hard to develop at the beginning of the year.

  • Use a strength from strengths finder. For example, I get completely energized when I analyze data. In that 3 o’clock slump, if I can find some data to review, slice, and dice, before I know it I’m re-energized. Weird but true.
  • Start a 30 minute task. If you get energy from starting projects, pull out your planning tools and start planning. Pretty soon you’ll go from planning to executing (or getting the team to execute.
  • Learn something new. Learners can “find” energy by learning something new. Now is the time to try that new program, app, or to find the new program or app that will make this year easier & better.
  • Do a no-brainer. Expense reports? Cleaning off your desk? Filing your paperwork? When your mojo has left the building, sometimes doing mindless tasks will open up the creative flood gates.  This is why Einstein worked in a patent office.

Fill your glass

If you see your glass as half empty, pour it into a smaller glass and stop bitching.

Half empty

In the past three years alone:

  • my accountant passed away from pancreatic cancer
  • my photographer passed away from too many cancers to count
  • three close neighbors died from heart-related surgical complications
  • my dad had a catastrophic heart attack and died instantly
  • my in-laws passed away within 24 hours of each other from dementia
  • my 95 year-old grandmother passed away in her sleep
  • a client passed away from a neuro disease
  • several former colleagues passed away
  • we experienced a flood that caused extensive, expensive damage
  • three computers have fried or melted their hard drives
  • my doctor threatened me with a statin

Time for a new glass

Appreciation time.  My neighbors, Roger and Diane, were lovely people. They had lived in China, Turkey, Finland, and Nigeria. They survived coups, Russian wire-tapping, amputations, and the death of a child.

They hung out on their porch, invited neighbors for a glass of wine, and eventually started a weekly Friday-after-work bring your own wine and tapas tradition. They worked hard to appreciate what they had, their neighbors, and their family.

While my recent three years have been spent on appreciation exercises and expeditions to visit people who have been important in my life, your appreciation time can be with customers, potential customers, past colleagues, or influencers.

I had a colleague once tell me that our most difficult customers made us better. He was right. Appreciate the customers who make you better. The bosses that made you work hard.  The colleagues who were difficult.

Be funny. Be memorable. Ed, a client who recently passed away, once told me that I was really funny. He thought his organization needed that humor because he thought that humor would be memorable. We remember humor:

Where’s the beef?
We’re gonna need a bigger boat!
Queen Elizabeth II parachuting into the Olympic Games.

Injecting a bit of humor if your brand can tolerate it (if Queen Elizabeth can be funny, probably everyone can be) is a great way to become memorable.

Do your best, even when you think no one is looking. Actually, Stu Schmill, Varsity Lightweight Men’s Coach used to shout, “Do not allow yourself the luxury of pain.” The first time I heard that I was sitting in the stroke seat of the Women’s Varsity 8 for the very first time. It was a cold, rainy, grey (did I mention wet) morning —  I was trying out for the stroke seat, completely nervous (wet and cold) and afraid of failing. Melissa Norcross, the coxswain of our boat, dutifully repeated the chant: “Do not allow yourself the luxury of pain.” Years and years later, at a master’s rowing event, “Coach” who had also been witness to that same practice, retold the story of that morning to his companion, saying “It was the best practice racing I ever saw. Lynore never gave up, she just coming back, pulling even, pulling ahead, and coming back.”

Do not give up. Sometimes we all need help with this. Is it time to out-source a difficult task? Or one that’s not getting done?
– I hired a personal trainer so I could not “allow myself to feel the luxury of pain”
– I found and deployed a new computer back-up system
– I asked everyone I knew for an IT support person referral
– I asked everyone I knew for an accountant referral
– We have a new and improved first floor after renovations

Work hard. In rowing we do what’s called a Power 10. 10 hard strokes. It helps pull focus into the boat; it gets everyone in sync; it gets the swing back to keep working hard.
– I eliminated the bad foods from the house
– I stock and prep good foods to make it easier to eat right
– I enabled the Fitbit feature that tells me to go to bed
– I enlisted my son to help me stay the course

What can you do for yourself or your team that would be your metaphoric Power 10?

It rains on everyone. Today, our ski area has had only 8 inches of natural snow. All of the Colorado and New Mexico ski areas have had paltry snow this year. If the ski areas give up, they go out of business. They are playing to their strengths (bike & ski with the same lift ticket!) — as should the rest of us.

Complaining about the snow is not going to improve the snow, help my skiing, or improve my mood. I am personally using this ski season as my time to get stronger, get better at telemarking, and improve my turns.

Play to your strength or shore up a weakness. Pick one. Right size your glass.

Find a new glass if you see your glass as half full.

Just Do It!

Get ‘er done!

Execute!

Press Play!

Lots and lots of sayings, inspirational quotes, even advertising campaigns to tell us what we already know. We must move to create change.

Move.

Kick your saboteur to the curb. The little voice in your head that says “it’s not perfect” — tell it to shut up.  If you must, call a friend who can help you quiet the saboteur (it really all is in your head).

What first step can you take today? Ok. Now. do. it.

Perfect comes with practice. Practice comes from doing. You gotta do. And we’re back to Nike….

Create.

Crossing things off our list, ticking things “done”, are not just to track what’s done versus left to do — it is a pat on the back that says “I did it”. Tracking also helps us keep going when going seems like too much energy, not working, or whatever else your saboteur is telling you.

  • Crossing off each day you worked out (even if you dialed it in) will help you push to work out each day. Fitbit pushes out reminders “2,838 steps to go” or makes a badge each time you work out 5 out of 7 days. Woo-hoo it says.
  • Keep yourself honest: Scheduled 1 push email a month; Executed 1 push email a month. While not each push email is going to have the same results, collectively they are far more powerful because it is about touches, repetition, and staying top of mind.
  • Discipline is a muscle than needs to practice and be trained. Our moms told us to pick up our clothes, make our bed, and put our dishes away. Mom was right — it becomes easier, quicker, and just better if we keep practicing our discipline.

Change. 

Change happens slowly.

Depending on what it is it happens while we sleep, while we are driving to work, over long periods of time. One day we wake up and notice we have muscles where there used to be flab; more people are acting on our emails than last year; sales are going up.

We are impatient for change; Amazon and the internet have taught us instant gratification. We need to keep ourselves busy executing and tracking that execution. With time, we can and measure the change. But for now — you gotta lean in to the process — and do. it.

Plan to Plan

New Years Resolutions, sigh

Isn’t it always the case? You plan to go to bed early, get up early, work on those sit-ups and back stretches. Then, it all goes pear-shaped. The kiddo throws up; you spend 8 hours in the emergency room.

Now you are not only NOT getting ahead, ticking off the items on your to-do list, you are behind. Sigh.

In a time management class I took a long, long time ago, they said make time in your schedule for the upsets, schedule buffers. They gave an example of a client whose day looked perfectly organized at 8 am. By 10 am, fire fighting on that day’s problems had blown up the schedule. After 10:05, nothing on the “To-Do” list ever looked the same and most did not get done.

The time management expert said, “then why plan at 8 when you know you don’t know what you need to know until 10:05?” Duh.

At 10:30, the client would look at the new fires, schedule the appropriate time to put out the fires, and then schedule the highest priority items from the standing To-Do list. Success!

When I, personally, am most successful, happy, and in control, it is because I scheduled out my blocks of working time, work-out time, and other tasks on my calendar. I know they will change. When life interferes, and it always does, I don’t delete the block, I move the block.

The time management people also said to prioritize A, B, and C tasks. Sometimes B tasks turn into A tasks; sometimes they turn into “nice to have” C tasks. If a B task keeps getting kicked to the curb…. it’s a C task.

Quick Tips to do right now:
  1. Schedule time with yourself to mark up your calendar
    a) pick a time that is quiet where you WILL not be interrupted, like in the morning before the family wakes up or that first hour you are in the office
    b) pick a spot that is good for thinking, where you like to think
    c) treat yourself. Hey I’m all into bribes. I use a nice warm cup of coffee.
  2. Put on that calendar appointments with yourself to work/execute/plan your 2018 Resolutions
    a) last year I started scheduling my jogs on my calendar (I jogged more!)
    b) in January I scheduled time to work on my personal finances, business finances, and taxes. All that stuff that I like to ignore and procrastinate on. I learned a lot about where I was losing money, spending money I didn’t need to, and got my financial house in better order. Talk about stress relief.
  3. There’s an app for that!
    My friend the executive coach has an exercise where she has you imagine how your cell phone, light switch, chair or other random object would solve your current problem. I am a big fan of “is there an app for that”.Last year I found:

a) 5k training plan/app for 30 minute finish time. Every day I did what it said to do. I did not think, stress, I just did it. And voila! it worked.
b) this year I found the “clicklist”. A personal shopper for groceries. It’s like magic: the food goes on the list, I drive by the store, stop for 5 minutes, and the groceries are magically transported into my car. No wandering around the store looking for where this particular store hides rice milk, mole sauce, or tikka masala sauce.
c) ski distance, runs, speed app. It makes skiing more entertaining and more like a work-out (i.e. it makes me work harder).W

What app could you find that would make your life easier, simpler, less-stressful?

Plan to Plan