Archive for the ‘Managing your energy’ Category

Curbing email rage at the office: some golden rules

February 6, 2010

Email is an important communication tool today in all organizations. However, abuse and misuse can contribute to poor performance and poor team spirit. Organizations often neglect to set simple rules and guidelines to help managers and employees communicate more effectively through emails. Managers and team members often fail to understand the negative impact bad practice can have on colleagues and subordinates in this important area. Here are some golden rules I would always promote and include in an email-users charter for all organizations:

  • Always remain calm and cool-headed. Expressing anger and frustration in writing only makes things worse and aggravates the problem (supposing there is one in the first place). Talk to the person directly if there seems to be an issue. Don’t react to an email that seems to offend because it’s only stoking the flames.
  • Always remain polite. Using insulting or derogatory terms serves no purpose. Think twice before reacting and again, putting something in writing only makes things worse and only devalues the author of the comments.
  • Always be positive. Don’t berate or criticize ideas expressed by someone in a previous mail. Again, comments made in writing have much more impact and are more enduring than anything said in haste. Be hard on the problem and not on the person. Be direct and frank by all means but do not criticize the person.
  • Keep it simple and use normal police and characters. Never put whole sentences in capital and/or bold letters to ensure your reader gets the point. THIS IS OFTEN EQUIVALENT TO SHOUTING AT SOMEONE BY EMAIL. People can read and don’t need to have the important points highlighted. Such practice also sends the message that you don’t trust them to understand the point you feel is critical.
  • Keep it short. Don’t confuse emails with internal memos. Emails should be short and to the point.
  • Don’t write if you can speak directly to the person. If the person is in the next room, note the point down and go and see the person. Direct contact is always best.
  • Limit the number of persons you copy. Putting the world and his wife on copy creates information overload. If you have to copy others, be selective and decide on who really needs to know (think RASCI if necessary for important subjects).
  • Set limits as to when to send emails: if the user has a blackberry or other means of sending mails out of office hours, he or she should wait until a civilized moment to send a mail. There is no point in sending an email at 1 am in the morning if the person won’t open it before 9 am the same day. This doesn’t give the right message to team members and invades the private sphere because it supposes that the team member receiving the message is prepared to do the same. If you have to work late, OK. But save the mail and send it at the appropriate moment. If the message is really urgent, use the phone and apologize for the disturbance.
  • Solve the problem, don’t write about it: If there is a problem, don’t hide behind emails. Step in and address the problem or speak to the person responsible. Don’t hide behind an email because the problem will remain unsolved and only get worse.
  • Use Globish : if you work for an international organization and need to communicate with team members in different countries, use simple English and avoid slang, irony and abbreviations as readers from  different cultures won’t necessarily understand the slang or abbreviations or be able to decode the subtext behind irony or understatement.

What golden rules would you promote?

Personal Success Factors: some golden rules

February 20, 2009

Work is more and more stressful and leaders have a responsibility to do all they can to reduce the impact of stress on themselves and their team members. Key is maintaining a good work/personal life balance. Also critical is the relationships a leader creates and maintains at work with team members,his/her managers and internal customers. Here are some simple golden rules and suggestions to help you get the human relationships right both on the personal and professional level. This list is not comprehensive and is open to debate.

Look after yourself
• Don’t forget your family is your number 1 customer.
• Keep in shape: keep fit!
• Don’t smoke! Keep well.
• Always take your holidays. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy!
• Dress well! Look the part. Pay attention to your appearance.
• Practice a sport and/or a hobby regularly.
• Reinvent yourself every year: learn something new or do something new. Develop your creativity. Be a work in progress and not a finished article.
• Read and study continuously. Keep on learning.
• Laugh, enjoy yourself.

Set your course
• Accept to do the difficult job nobody else wants to do: develop your willpower and determination.
• No goal, no medal. Give yourself SMART objectives.
• Always keep within budget.
• Build your internal and external client base and take care of it.

Manage your communication
• Ban all irony, sarcasm and bitterness from internal memos, mails, communications: always be positive. Never badmouth or criticize others, no matter what!
• Always call people by their first name.
• Send hand written letters whenever possible. A personal touch is appreciated.
• Be careful of your image and appearance: smile!
• Don’t use bad language.
• Be direct: say it as it is while remaining correct.
• Never speak in anger. If angry, hold your fire.
• Never put in writing offensive or negative comments. What’s said is quickly forgotten, what’s written sticks.
• Don’t overuse emails. If you can give the message directly to the person, do so.

Manage your work
• Set aside 30 minutes a day for thinking and planning
• Note down your ideas systematically
• Isolate yourself once a month to plan ahead and organize yourself
• The idea may be imperfect, not the implementation. Execution is everything. Don’t be half-hearted. Do it well or not at all.
• Practice the 6P rule: Personal prior planning prevents poor performance!
• Insist on the company products, not on the paperwork
• Don’t try to build an empire. Focus on getting the job done.
• If it works, keep it. Don’t change for change’s sake.

Manage yourself
• Always be prepared to go the extra mile: always say yes and figure out how to deliver the expected results.
• Always keep your door open.
• Don’t bury your head in the sand: deal with problems immediately.
• Always be ready to do a favour.
• Reduce your business knowledge gap: constantly learn the business
• Do your homework and close out open tasks. Get the fundamentals right.
• Don’t panic, don’t get angry. Practice keeping calm.
• Learn to speak and write well.
• Be a lender, not a borrower: give other people credit for success
• Hard work comes before glory
• Search, correct, try again. Be creative and don’t be afraid to fail.
• Hurry up at your own pace. Decide in haste, regret at leisure!
• Stand back, observe, listen. Seek to understand before being understood.
• Collect your errors carefully and proudly. 7 times down, 8 times up! Only those who have never tried anything have never failed!
• Live the present moment to the full. Plan tomorrow, forget yesterday. I’m better than I was yesterday, not as good as I will be tomorrow!
• Keep out of power struggles.
• Refuse to join the club of the forever regretful: join the club of the forever optimistic and persevering.
• Never underestimate an opponent.
• Don’t be discouraged by those who try to kill ideas.
• Look on work with the eyes of a sales rep. Don’t forget to sell your ideas.
• Be a super sales man, whatever your role.
• Support your company fervently.
• Arrive at work 45 minutes before everyone else and leave 15 minutes later than everyone else.
• Don’t make staying late a habit.
• Don’t bring work home.
• When you travel on business, wherever you are, in a train or plane, use the time and work!
• When away from home for work and if alone, don’t waste time in the hotel restaurant. Have dinner in your hotel room and work.

Manage your boss
• Trust your manager
• Be loyal. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.
• Don’t buddy up with your boss(es). Business is business. Build a professional relationship.
• Give all the credit for success to your boss and the boss of your boss. They’ll reciprocate.
• Never surprise your boss. Always keep him/her informed.
• Never let your boss make a mistake.
• Imitate, study and take care of good bosses
• Get your boss to visit the team to thank team members regularly and personally.

Manage others
• Trust your team members.
• Recruit the best according to 3 criteria- integrity, determination, intelligence.
• Pay your employees more than their market value: Pay more and you’ll get more
• Give surprise bonuses for work well done and vary the method.
• Treat each person individually.
• Be polite and say thank you.
• 10 things to say to make people feel at ease
– please
– thanks
– Introduce a team member to your boss by “you remember Mr X…”
– you did a great job
– I appreciate the effort you made
– I keep hearing lots of good things about you
– I’m delighted to have you in the team
– I need your help
– Well done, congratulations
• Don’t spread rumours and don’t tolerate people who spread rumours
• Point the spotlight on the good idea, not on the person
• Never forget the spouses & families of your subordinates
• Teaching others means continuously studying and leading. Accept roles which allow you to train others.
• Let people know where they stand. Be clear and direct.
• Set SMART objectives and follow up regularly on progress
• Don’t use bad language and don’t tolerate bad language in others.
• Never take things personally.

Manage your network
• Get yourself recommended by senior managers in the organization.
• Keep a file “connections/relations” and update regularly.
• Every Friday: have lunch with someone outside your service.
• Build a network of allies within your organization
• Keep in touch with your network and help out when you can.

Manage your Career
• If you have a choice, always choose the best paid job
• Avoid if possible functional work, always seek operational responsibility
• Don’t wait for HR to plan your career. You are responsible for your own career development

What principles would you add or subtract from the list above?

Jeffrey Fox: The 75 laws
Stephen J. Covey: The 7 Habits of highly effective people

The martial art of getting things done

February 9, 2009

We’re all confronted with the daily challenge of getting things done, not only in our professional lives but also in our private lives. Getting things done is not always so easy but throw in a constantly changing environment and this becomes very challenging indeed. Quite often, our environment seems to conspire against us and countless “unforeseen events”, interruptions, sudden requirements spring upon us to dislocate our plans and throw our system into a spin.

Our managers change, our teams change, company strategy changes, objectives change, business partners change, the environment changes, customers change, technology changes, everything around us seems to be in a constant state of change. We’re constantly being interrupted by some sudden cause or problem which requires our attention and disrupts our schedule and/or plans. The only thing that seems permanent is change itself and we may often feel we spend our day firefighting and dealing with only current and immediate tasks, short-term tasks.

It’s easy to understand why so many people may experience anxiety when they look around and see how fast their world is constantly evolving and/or how often they are interrupted. This constant and increasingly rapid change and rate of interruption conspires against action because it’s difficult to act if the world around you changes quicker than your ability to implement and embed your actions to deal with that change. Why fight to follow up on objectives if the changes to the business environment make those objectives redundant? But failing to act increases anxiety because it creates a sense of lack of control, organization and preparation to act.

Even more ironically, the very tools we use to organize and track our work and commitments seem to conspire to add to the disorder through information overload and we risk getting bogged down with what seem to be sometimes very non-added value tasks: cleaning our email inbox, sorting our voice mails, sifting through the huge pile of brochures and booklets of all sorts that wash up on our desks on a daily basis, dealing with correspondence and admin tasks, etc.

So how can we deal with this constant change and overcome this feeling of anxiety which is an obstacle to effective action and getting things done?

How can we get above the clouds and plan long term? How can we improve our personal productivity and that of our teams so that we all feel we are not only getting things done but getting the right things done? Peter Drucker teaches us that efficiency means doing thing the right way and effectiveness means doing the right things. How can we spend more and more time doing the right things which add value and which give us more control over our changing environment?

This is the challenge that David Allen explores in his study on “Getting things done” and the very interesting thing about this book is that while it presents many tricks and tips that we all may use spontaneously and/or instinctively to organize our work more productively , its great merit in our view is that it is systematic in its approach and defines a comprehensive system for managing all the multiple inputs into our professional and private lives and structuring them into an operation system which allows us to sort out the essential from the secondary, prioritize all our actions and decide on the key next actions which will move us forward.

Indeed, one key message that can be taken from David Allen’s work is that the faster the change, the more we need to build a structured and comprehensive system to manage all the various inputs because if we don’t manage change, change will manage us!

Here are some key points summarizing David Allen’s approach to getting things done:

Collect all the “stuff” on your mind and write it down. Anxiety is caused by a feeling of lack of control due to a failure to meet commitments or a feeling that you need to do something but you don’t know what. The first step to alleviate this anxiety involves collecting everything on your mind and putting it into a clear system. You can only manage what you have identified so you need to write all your “stuff” down and classify all the different items in different actions lists. This of course requires discipline and method.

Process what all this stuff means and decide what to do with each item and how to organize all your decisions into one system. David Allen defines a basic system with the following components:

If you decide NO:
you have 3 possibilities:
* Trash: delete an item that has no value
* Incubate: put the item on hold in a “Someday/Maybe” box or “Tickler” bow
* Store for review at a later date in a Reference box

If you decide Yes:

Decide which actions can be taken and closed immediately and which need more planning:

You have 5 possibilities:
*list of long term projects: is the item a project you wish to undertake?
*list of project plans and materials. Is the item a plan or a change to a plan?
*calendar. I sit an event you need to put in your calendar?
*list of reminders for next actions. Is it a next action that needs to be implemented in the very short term?
*list of reminders of things you are waiting for from others. Is it something you need to receive from someone else?

– Do :Once you’ve decided on your immediate actions and sorted all other actions in the appropriate boxes, implement the actions.

– Discipline yourself to review all your “stuff” on a weekly basis and update your system and different lists.

We all perform these 8 phases of workflow management more or less: collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing but not perhaps so systematically as David Allen advocates.

Above all, we may not always apply systematically the question “what’s the next action?” to each open item in the yes category above.

It’s only when all open items have been identified, processed, organized, reviewed and a concrete next action has been defined for each item that the workflow management process is really operational.

Even if David Allen encourages the reader to classify actions in the short, medium and long term, his approach is nevertheless very pragmatic and urges the reader to adopt a bottom up approach which begins with immediate next actions.

His advice is clear: to get things done, seek to employ next action decision-making because next-action decision making rooted in the short term contributes to increased productivity, clarity, accountability and empowerment. Because if you ask the question “what’s the next action?”, you immediately decide what needs to be done, by whom, when, how, where and why. The longest march begins with one small step and one small next action decision.

To conclude, David Allen in turn quotes a certain Sidney J. Harris:

An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run“. Don’t allow things not done now undermine your long term.

Check out David Allen and “Getting things done“and read more about the “martial art” of getting things done and the power of the next-action decision.

View the video of David Allen giving a presentation on getting things done to Google team members.


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