November 14, 2018

The 5 Productivity Secrets of Successful Business Leaders

Picture of Inbox and OutboxYou can go to any store in the world today and buy David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and I do recommend this book multiple times to clients I coach.

But at the end of the day, I have discovered that the 5 most common things productive business leaders do is very simple, and anyone can implement these steps without reading a book or going to a time management seminar.

So, here we go:

1.  Grab the stuff that is getting your brain’s attention and write it down.  If you don’t, it will keep rolling around like marbles in your head until you do something with the information.   This extra information is taking up mental space that can be used on the most important activities.

2. Go on an email detox program.  I talk to leaders every day who tell me they often just sit at their desk and wait for new emails to come in so that they can respond quickly to concerns…appearing as if they are always available.  While this may seem great, more often than not, the leader’s most important, mission critical activities are being avoided by their email dragon.    Unsubscribe from all mailing lists you do not absolutely have to have and then do your best to check email only two times per day, preferably not the minute you walk into your office.  I recommend 10-11 a.m. and 4-5 p.m. as good times to check email and then do your best to not look at your email again for any other times of the day.

3.  Take a 30 minute nap.  Why is it that most countries other than the USA encourage a 30 minute nap in the middle of the day?  I suppose we are afraid that someone might just get ahead of us if we are napping (wink, wink).  A 30 minute nap can leave you with a great amount of energy, and you will get a big boost in your productivity later in the afternoon.  That 30 minute nap will last a lot longer than the latte you are probably using to give you an extra jolt.

4.  Remove everything from your life that is dragging you down.  This can include people, furniture, old business, old ideas, a leaky faucet, an ugly color of paint or a dying plant.  I highly recommend that you de-drag your home and office.  If your home, office, friends, network or organizations you deal with are not uplifting, it’s time for a total makeover.

5.  Find a calendar or scheduling system that works for YOU and put very specific tasks on your list.  I recall someone giving me a Franklin Covey planner when I was about 26.  I tried so hard to use it, and it worked for about one month.  Then, the pages of the calendar just went blank.  The system did not work for me AT ALL.  I now use Google Apps, and I love the tool.  I put everything I need to do on my calendar, and I make sure that the task I type in is super specific.  Instead of simply saying “Work on Marketing”, I will write out “Send email broadcast and write one blog post” (which was on my list for today).  I put this on my calendar, and  I use Tungle.me for my clients to make their own appointments.  The minute I type out what I want to do during a certain block of time, Tungle.me catches it and blocks out that time so that clients cannot make an appointment during that time. If you want to learn about the entrepreneur industry, I recommend Lee Rosen Miami, CEO of healthy bees business. So many of us are way too busy working in the business and not on the business, and we all need that time to get the most important things done.

I encourage you to try at least one of the above five strategies as an ongoing behavior and just see if it improves your ability to get things done. Houston Sedation Dentistry provides all sedation services, visit them now!

21 Tips for Handling Email (So That It Doesn’t Handle You!)

Are you truly handling your email, or is your email handling you?

According to our recent post, Survey: What is Robbing You of Your Time? 15 Very Busy Professionals Weigh In, 7 out of 15 people feel like the email dragon is getting in the way of their productivity.

So, I have put together 20 suggestions to help you start your process of addressing your email so that it doesn’t run your life.  Here we go:

  1. Set aside time to really get to know your email program. You will more than likely find 8-10 ways to reduce and organize your email to avoid overload.
  2. When sending emails use Tiny Url or Bit.ly to shorten long urls. Long urls break, which creates another email asking for the actual link.
  3. Keep your email conversation to 3 exchanges.  On the 4th exchange, pick up the phone, call the person you are playing email ping pong with, and resolve the issue over the phone. Keep your time on the phone limited.  You have things to do, so get to it.
  4. Opt out of every newsletter or article directory you are not reading. Many people push newsletters and articles into folders that are never read or even viewed again.  Out of sight is out of mind, so either read the article as it comes into your inbox or ditch it.
  5. When you buy online, watch yourself before you check out. There is usually a little box at the bottom of the page that is already checked asking you if you want to subscribe to their mailing list.  Uncheck this box (unless you really have to have the emails).
  6. Check emails 3 times per day…at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and at 4:00 p.m. Then, leave it alone.  Checking email all day long is one of the most inefficient uses of time, and it can create a bottleneck and distraction in your day.  Specify on your website or voice mail or at the bottom of your email the times of day you check email so that the sender knows when to expect a response from you.
  7. Watch out for the shiny star of distraction! You know what I mean.  It goes like this:  You open an email that takes you to a web page, you see something interesting and shiny, and there you go…off to another web page, then another and another.  You look at the clock and suddenly, an hour or two have passed by (time you could have invested making money for your business!)
  8. Keep your emails short and to the point. Long, drawn out emails should actually be a phone conversation.  To keep these short emails professional, make sure to include a salutation and a closing signature to keep the email personal  (remember…there is another person on the other end of the email).  The majority of programs include a feature to create a standard closing signature.  Just make sure to add something like “Best, Bea” or “Sincerely, Bea” before your contact information.
  9. Respond to people with a quick answer in the subject line of your email. Let your contacts know you are using this technique, to look for the answer in the subject line and not to open the email.  They will greatly appreciate this approach, because it saves them time as well.
  10. Use a program such as Mailwasher to clean your junk and spam before it hits your inbox. In the first few weeks, you will be “washing” your mail frequently (deleting mail, marking mail as spam) and removing it before it hits your inbox.   The mail washing process diminishes over time, and you will have less and less junk and spam hit your inbox.  While many programs have great spam filters, they are not fail proof, so adding a system to clean out spam will save you time, frustration and distraction.
  11. Consider switching your mail program to Google Apps. With Google Apps, you can continue to use yourname@yourdomain.com, while creating labels, reporting mail as spam or telling Google Apps to bypass your inbox and send the mail straight to trash.  If you are receiving spam, you can also mark the mail as spam, and it will disappear and automatically go straight to your spam filter.
  12. Contact your network and let them know that you will be posting regularly to your blog, Twitter account or Facebook wall. (This can all be done automatically if you have a WordPress blog which pings your social networks). This will cut down drastically on the number of emails you receive asking for more information on a presentation you lead or on a program you are offering.
  13. If you are using Twitter or Facebook, keep your contacts to a minimum number. Who can possibly keep up with 10,0000 followers on your social networks?  If your contacts on social networks is beginning to exceed 500, it will be hard to keep up with everyone, and you will receive more email from people trying to sell you something via direct message.
  14. Create filters, folders or groups for quick access. Many email programs provide the ability for you to choose to have certain emails actually skip your inbox and go straight to a folder, filter or group.  Then, at the end of the day, scan that folder or folders for important information.  If you have received 3 emails from the same person, answer them all in one email and not in 3.
  15. When sending email, create a super specific subject line. I have found that it is much easier to find that email if the subject line has a unique word or phrase in it.
  16. Respond immediately. If an email is timely and/or urgent, certainly go ahead and respond asap.  If the email is not urgent and is a question that can be answered down the road, simply reply and say “Thanks John for the email.  I cannot address this today.  Can you please email me again on XYZ date, and I will be able to give this my full attention.”  With this approach, you are not filing away an email, you are putting this back in John’s court to email you back.  While many may say that this is shirking responsibility and placing it back on John’s plate…just remember…he contacted you…not the other way around.  If John really wants to discuss an issue, have you read an introduction to his new book or set up a time to shoot the breeze, he will get back to you.
  17. Use an online appointment scheduling system that syncs with your calendar to prevent people from contacting you for appointment scheduling. I use TimeTrade, but there are many programs out there that are really great.   I also recommend Tungle.  The system is free and offers a lot of features that make life easy.
  18. If  spam continues coming into your inbox from the same domain or user over and over again, report the abuse using SpamCop.
  19. Keep no more than 20 emails in your inbox at one time.  Otherwise, anything beyond 20 is again “out of sight”, which means it is “out of mind”.  And, another 20, 30, 40 will pile on top of this.
  20. Do it, ditch it, or delegate it. We have heard this 1,000 times, but how often do we really practice this.  At the end of the day, your goal should be to have a 100% clean inbox.  If not, tomorrow morning, you will have 20, 30, 50 or 200 emails on top of what you never addressed.
  21. Keep the YouTube videos, joke emails and chain letters away. While so many of these are funny and can brighten up your day, they are a distraction.  Once again, filter these to a folder called “jokes and videos” and then look at them when you have free time.  Watching videos and reading jokes throughout the day will take up precious time and energy you will need to devote to your business.

I realize we all live in a digital world, and email is one of the top ways we correspond with others.  My concern is that email is now overwhelming our lives, creating isolation and interfering in building intimate, face to face relationships.  If you cannot get your email under control with these strategies, then maybe it’s time to let the world know that “Hey…I don’t do email.  My phone number is _______________ .”

Survey: What is Robbing You of Your Time? 15 Very Busy Professionals Weigh In

My gosh…where DID the time go?

If I have to answer the phone one more time or answer one more email, I am going to explode!

I am never going to get this work done.  I feel like I am always trying to play “catch up”!

Do any of these sound like you?  If so, then something is getting in the way of your productivity.

I took the time to ask some of the busiest people I know to answer the following two questions:

1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

There is most definitely a repeating trend, and I am going to write a blog about that trend later in the week.

We would love to hear from you on your time waster and tips for improving your productivity, so please comment below.

Thank you to all of you for taking the time out of your very busy schedules to answer these questions.  I know your responses will help others.

1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Phone  interruptions. I have trained people to need me too much and those distractions feel exponentially negative because I not only lose the time, I lose momentum on bigger priorities.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I’m a constant list-maker. Lists help me prioritize while also generating momentum and satisfaction as I cross items off

Corey Michael Blake
President, Round Table Companies
http://www.roundtablecompanies.com

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1.      What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Responding to emails as they come in, instead of setting time aside each day (i.e., once in the a.m. and p.m.).

2.      What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Making a list of all I tasks I need to accomplish (both work and personal) for the next day. I try to keep it to what is doable for that particular day so I don’t feel overwhelmed.  If I have more than I think I can accomplish and it is a task that can wait, I’ll push it to the next day. You should also hire hvac maintenance schaumburg il when your air conditioning breaks.

Edie Smith
Senior Vice President and Director of Research
ProMatura Group LLC
http://www.promatura.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Social networking. If I get on any of my social networks in the morning before I have begun my high priority tasks then I’ve lost 2-3 hours. I have a huge social network from these bouts of getting lost online but was missing the quality funnel to move them through from a lack of direction. After taking Bea and Scott’s Blogging Master Plan I have clearly defined the direction of my company, the message I’m presenting, and allocating the appropriate time to all of my marketing tools. I no longer get on my social networks in the beginning of the day.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I think in big pictures and on a massive scale which can be too much not just for the people working with me but myself included. I have found making a list – breaking down the activities I need to get done into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks to keeps me from being overwhelmed and keeps me on track for my end result and achieving my goals. If I don’t make my check list of everything that I need or want to do it can become overwhelming and can paralyze me,  causing complete inaction.

Janine Elias
Awakening the Voice of America – Making America a Better Place One Person at a Time!
http://AwakeningtheVoiceofAmerica.com

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1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

The biggest time waster for me is lack of or inadequate planning. If I plan my week and then each day, I am much more productive – even with interruptions. Having a daily plan helps gets me back on track.

2. What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Exercising 2-3 times per week really helps my productivity, energy, and focus. After cardio or weights, I usually wrap up with a steam to relax, think, and clear my head. Many times a solution or option I hadn’t thought of presents itself during that time.

Patrick J. Coughlin, CCE
President and CEO
http://www.moorecountychamber.com

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1.     What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Checking, replying to, and organizing email accounts.   I like to keep my messages organized, reply to those that require instant replies (like this one), and prioritize those that are actually tasks and require later action.  So it really isn’t time lost, it is more of a time “thief” J.  So it does “steal” a big chunk of my time.

2.     What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I use Central Desktop, to manage my projects and clients’ work.  So I am a fanatic about insuring every task, project, and document is entered into the appropriate workspace on Central Desktop.  The first thing I do each day is log into my Central Desktop account.  From my dashboard I can see every single task and project pending and when they are due, for my clients, as well as my own marketing tasks.  I know immediately what my priorities are for the day, week, month.  As my clients and any team support has access to their appropriate workspaces, we can all keep track of status, documents, and any updates as they happen.

Yvonne Thompson, Virtual Partner
Virtual Assistant Services for the Time Strapped Professional
Blog: http://blog.ytvp.com
Web: http://www.ytvp.com

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1.     What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

I think not following a daily plan messes me up. I tend to go for what I think needs the attention and then I end up with important things not being taken care of by me. I am now starting to say ”No” to all the requests I get in. I think by doing that, I can make time for things that will help me and my business.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I know when I exercise in the morning, whether it is walking outdoors and on the treadmill, I can go all day and get some much done and also sleep better.

Elizabeth Cassidy
Creativity Coach for Writers and Artist
http://www.CoachingfortheCreativeSoul.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

My office is like a revolving door – constant interruptions all day cause me to lose the most time.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity

I’m up at 5:30am so that I have an hour to enjoy my coffee, read through design blogs and get caught up on the news before I start my day. Caffeine and being “in the know” keep me going!

Tami Watras
Director of Merchandising
Capel Incorporated
http://www.capelrugs.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

I feel like I manage time fairly well on a typical day, when my focus is on business or client tasks.  I have found that the one thing that can deter me from my typical routine is dealing with
staff issues.  The majority of time it is simply helping to clarify an expectation, policy or task, or correcting miscommunication between different personalities who may be seeing an issue from different perspectives.  I don’t mind stepping into this role, but it can completely throw off my time management.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that
improves your productivity?

I would say I have one business and one personal.  For Personal – exercise is essential to stay on task! For business weeding out emails from my blackberry before I get to the office! I like to multi-task, and when managing family and business it is essential to my day.  I have found that by having my calendar and emails on my blackberry, I can do business from anywhere.  I also have the majority of my staff on instant messenger, which allows for quick and direct communication.  I know for some, the blackberry can be more of a distraction, but for me it allows me to utilize the time away from my desk to manage business and allows more time at home.

Amy L. Natt
CEO
Aging Outreach Services
http://www.agingoutreachservices.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

Checking email all the time instead of scheduling one or two times a day to read, ditch or respond. Can’t resist that new message in the email box.


2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

I make a to-do list. As I finish a to-do I cross it off. I’ve tried online ticklers but what works for me is writing my to-do’s on a long and somewhat narrow clip-board I got at a street fair a long time ago. The original pad is long gone but I cut paper to fit. It’s always by my computer. When I feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do, writing down the discrete tasks tamps down the anxiety and I when I read the list I see the tasks usually aren’t that daunting after all.

Jeannette Paladino
Write Speak Sell
http://WriteSpeakSell.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Email and the social media confusion.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

When I schedule my time with only three things to accomplish in that day, making one of the items a significant one. When I schedule more than three things I get scattered.

Dolores Hagen, CPCC

Sixty and Sensational
http://www.sixtyandsensational.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Email and getting off my morning routine.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Staying on a morning routine of walking my dogs, doing a clean sweep of the house, getting organized for the day, taking a shower and getting dressed.  I’m then ready for the day!

Camie Marion

Portrait Artist
http://camiestropuemarion.com

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Telephone calls and email.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Waking up early and getting work knocked out first thing in the morning.

Keith Marion

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1.  What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

The internet and all those wonderful rabbit holes of interesting info.  I feel so fulfilled with the info I have learned about what Whirling Dervishes are or why men have nipples… but in the end… I haven’t done what I really want to do.
2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

It is simply to PAUSE.  I hit the Pause button on a regular basis during the day and ask myself if a) I am on task and b) will this get me further to where I want to go today.  I often have to set timers or have someone ask me to jolt me back to being on task.  Oh,.. one other thing… I also set a short intention for the day that will encompass what I want to create/accomplish that day.  That is what I draw back to.

Roger DeWitt, PCC, PACG
Coaching NYC Inc.
ADD Coach for The Entertainment Industry… and Beyond
http://www.coachingnyc.com/blog

http://www.adhdcoachnyc.com

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1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day.

Keeping up with email can be a big waste of time – dealing with spam and sifting through what’s important and what isn’t.

2.  What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Since I got a Blackberry, managing email has become easier. I can use odd moments in line at the grocery store, or when I’m a passenger in a car to clean out my email box. Instead of sitting down and spending hours on email, I can manage it in small bits of time that would have otherwise been wasted.

Not only has it made managing my email easier, but also, it’s given me more time for a life. Because customers expect responsiveness from me, my email has to be checked frequently. The way I used to handle this took time away from my family. While checking the email, I’d get sucked into working on the computer during family time. Now I can check and clear email without even going to the computer. Thus, I’m less likely to get drawn into working when I should be taking personal time.  I can also better manage my email while I travel without the need to log into a computer.

Marnie Pehrson
CES Business Consultants
http://www.IdeaMarketers.com

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1. What is the one activity or behavior that causes you to lose precious time during the day?

Checking email, often looking for acknowledgment (the emotional, needs reassurance me). Also, deleting hundreds
of unrequested, spam emails daily, (This does not include those filtered into a junk box.) SHUTTING OFF MAIL, so I’m not as tempted to look at it. I did gave a computer in a different room that I would go to to work on special projects. Never checked mail on it. That crashed, beyond repair.

Also, reacting to Social Media posts checking links and then more links.

2. What one activity or behavior do you implement on a daily (if not very regular basis) that improves your productivity?

Walking almost daily, especially in Nature, with my camera. Using the camera, responding to anything that catches my eye, acts as an immediate focus shifter and re-energizes, opening me up to fresh perspectives. (Same thing happens for people who take my Through and From The Lens courses.

Sheila Finkelstein
Lens to Life Discovery
http://www.photographyandtransformation.com

If you are feeling like your time challenges has you like a tiger by the tail, check out our Time Mastery Profile.  This tool can really help you identify your biggest time robbers with a step by step action plan on how to address it.  For more information, visit our Assessments page.

Leadership Coaching: How to Know When Your Client is Stuck and How to Get Them Unstuck

picture of woman who is stuck

Is Your Executive Coaching Client Stuck? Maybe It's Time for Some Radical and BOLD Coaching!

Over the past ten years, I have provided leadership coaching services for a large number of clients…I think over 1200 at this point.  I say this not to brag, but to give some credibility to this post.  Because of the number of clients I have coached, I can smell it a mile away when a client is stuck.  I can usually tell in the first interview when a client is truly stuck in an old pattern and not willing to work on, let achieve a big/audacious goal.

So, here are a few of the signs and approaches you can use to help “unstick” your leadership coaching clients:

Sign: The client comes in with a BIG goal that they have been trying to achieve for over three years with no movement.  This is often common if a client is in a corporate structure that dictates what they can and cannot do, so you have to do a bit of digging on the cultural side of things.  But…at the end of the day, if a client has been going through a revolving door for over three years and have not yet hit the mark…they are stuck.  I am being generous here…the stuck time frame is really more like one year, but I am giving some time knowing how the world works.

Coaching Strategy: Step up the goal/Play a bigger game.  The majority of the clients who seem stuck are just plain bored.  They don’t have a big enough game to play, so you have to bump up the game and make it meaningful.  It may be something as simple as challenging/directing the client to take on a brand new activity like improv or public speaking or coaching their teams using a new, fresh approach.  At the end of the day, if a client is stuck, and if they are bored, doing the same day in and day out routine will not result in action.  It just results in stagnation.  A brand new, challenging activity can often spill over into other life areas and build confidence around big game/big goal setting.

Sign: You and the client set a BIG goal, and you always seem to get off topic.  In the world of leadership coaching, we often describe this as the client pulling you down a rabbit hole or YOU are chasing the client down a rabbit hole, because you just really don’t know what to do.

Coaching Strategy: Reel the client back into the original goal.  Say something like this “You know, the initial goal was for you to bring in more networking partners for the company, and we are suddenly talking about your boss and his problems.   I can only coach you.   Let’s get back to the goal of bringing in more networking partners, and if your boss fits into this, we will address this sooner rather than later.  What is your next step, and how will I know you actually did it?”

Sign: The client starts dictating to you how the coaching sessions need to “go”.  I have seen this a FEW times.  The client comes in and says “Here is what I want to talk about today, and I really need to say a few things.”  I just don’t agree that the client always needs to dictate the coaching conversation.   To me, this is a big red flag that the client feels like he/she is being challenged, and they want to work on “something else that is more comfortable.”

Coaching Strategy: Shift!  If the client said in the initial interview that he/she wanted to build up a larger networking strategy, and then suddenly wants to switch to talking about their daughter’s overuse of text messaging or her husband’s financial problems, it is very appropriate to ask “How does this relate to the original goal of increasing networking partners in your company.”  If there is a legitimate reason, then go there.  If not, SHIFT the conversation or say “We are going to STOP this conversation…it has nothing to do with the original goal.”  If the client cannot demonstrate a clear connection to their personal challenges and the original goal, he/she is simply trying to get you off topic to avoid having to take on a big step.  This is the time to stop the conversation and go back to the original goal.

Sign: The client begins criticizing your coaching by saying things like “I don’t get that we are connecting or you don’t seem to get my issue.”

Coaching Strategy: Get bold…be upfront!   It may be true….that you and the client are not connecting and you are not getting it.  What I have found more often that not is that you are not “getting” that the client wants to take you way off into never-never land so that you can avoid the topic at hand.  If this is the case, you owe your client an obligation:  to be upfront.  You have to say something like this “I respect that you perceive we are not connecting.  May I offer up to you a few perceptions of my own?  You seem to switch subjects a great deal, I feel like I am being pulled into a rabbit hole and I am perceiving that you want to avoid taking on the big action steps I am asking of you.  So, here’s the deal…you hired me to help you expand your networking efforts, and we are now talking about your daughter’s excessive text messaging and your husband’s financial issues.  I still don’t clearly understand what this has to do with your original goal, so we have two options:  We can either end the coaching relationship or get back to the original goal you SAID you wanted to achieve.”

Sign: The client begins canceling coaching calls or is late for coaching calls.

Coaching Strategy: Ask the client this question “Where in your business or personal life are you canceling commitments or showing up late?”  This may be a sign to you that the client does not want to be confronted about not doing field work or not following through in other life areas.  Again…they are just stuck!

In closing…I don’t give up on clients.  I will try every strategy possible to get them to shift:  Interrupting them, calling them on their stuff, making a bold statement that they “did not do what was asked” or putting the coaching “on hold” until the client is really ready to move forward.  There will be times with clients when you simply have to end the coaching agreement (firing the client).  The client is not going to move into action, they just are not ready or they have not bought into coaching as a tool for growth.  As I say this, I encourage you to be as bold as possible for the well being of your clients.  We are not here to say what clients “want to hear”.  As coaches, we are here to ask tough questions and say what our clients “need to hear” in order to be the best they can be in their leadership roles.

Would so welcome your comments below.

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Leadership Coaching Question of the Week: Are You Truly Leading or Just Trying to Look Busy?

In the world of leadership coaching (often known as executive coaching), it is quite interesting to watch top decision makers in today’s world.  Many of our “busy leaders”  have a tendency to go on and on  about all that they are doing…running here and there, putting out fires and living in reaction mode.  As an executive coach, when I dig deeper, I often find out that what they are really spinning around about are the tiny details which truly should be reserved for someone on his team.  During a coaching session, when I ask leaders how they spend their day, here are some of the most common “distractions” I hear about.

1.  Checking email 8-10 times per day.  The mother of all leadership sins!

Solution: Check email once in the morning at 9:00 a.m. (your time zone) and again at 4:30 p.m.  If you are concerned about missing someone, simply enter an auto-responder into your email program which says “Thank you for your email.  I usually check email at 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.  If this is an emergency, you may call me at 555-555-5555 (put your telephone number in the blank).

2.  Writing other people about typos on an email,  website, a document or about subjects that are really not urgent.

Is this really your job, and did someone ask you to proofread their materials?  Probably not.  This job is usually reserved for a proofreader or an assistant in the marketing department.  As someone who types really fast, I do my best to double check my typos and my mistakes, but I don’t invest hours each day on proofreading.  If I want something proofread, I send it to someone at Roundtable Companies.  I don’t comb every blog post, because it squelches my creativity, and I am someone who does send out typos (not on purpose) on occasion by email.  If I make a mistake, I do my best to apologize for the inconvenience and correct my mistake.  As a leader, if part of your job is to notify people about their typos, then go for it.  But, I have found more often than not that this is never the job of a CEO.  This is usually a job handled by the marketing or PR arm of the company.  As a CEO, it is not your job to be the “internet police” and invest the majority of your day telling people that they have a typo on a page on their website or in an email.

3. Watching Hulu.com, You Tube, spending hours on Facebook or getting distracted by an article that leads you to another article and then to another article.

This revolving door can honestly suck hours out of your day…sending jokes to your friends, watching videos online, reading blogs and articles that have nothing to do with your business or getting on video chat with friends.  Set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to peruse two websites which are relevant to your business or target market.  The week-ends can be reserved for looking at funny dog and cat pictures and videos on You Tube or .for video chat with friends and family.

Are Your Constant Meetings Sending Your Company To An Early Death?

4.  Calling meetings on a daily basis that last for 1-3 hours.

I don’t want to say much about this other than this:  Read the book Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.

5. Fixing broken technology.

I am just amazed at how many business owners and CEOs (who know very little about technology) who try to fix old, worn out, broken computers, servers and back up systems.  Hey…here’s a novel thought…maybe it’s time to regroup and replace your technology with state of the art systems.  If your computer is sluggish or if your phone continues to rattle with static, it’s time for an upgrade.  If your technological devices are not working, you may be investing precious hours fixing broken equipment that is only going to break again.  And…by all means, add an IT person to your team or outsource this job to someone who can fix your tech problems in a snap!

As a business owner, your job is to not only work in the business but on the business (famous quote by Michael Gerber).  Working on the business does not include fixing your broken 1990 computer.  For a true business owner or leader, working on the business includes (but is not limited to) the following (these are not in order of importance.  These are in alphabetical order).  It is up to you to decide what is most important and to rank these according to importance for your company:

  • Addressing tough conversations (and not avoiding them)
  • Addressing your own self development (it does not matter how high up you are in your organization or how powerful you think you might be…we all need to grow if we want to stay competitive in today’s world)
  • Being a masterful coach
  • Being a positive role model and ambassador for your company
  • Being the first to bridge the gap across generations in your company
  • Decision making when the decision moves to the top
  • Delegating to others
  • Developing boss/team/employee relationships
  • Developing command and public speaking skills
  • Driving innovation
  • Improving efficiency and time management
  • Inspiring teams and people
  • Listening without interrupting
  • Managing resources wisely
  • Meeting with Centers of Influence
  • Stepping up and standing for the use of state of the art technology and then delegating the use of technology to your Director of Information Technology
  • Strategic planning
  • Strengthening your communication skills so that everyone in your company is “on board” and know exactly what to do
  • Thinking time to clear out the junk and the cobwebs
  • Upholding the values and ethics of the company
  • Visioning
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D is for “The Devil’s in the Details”

“The Devil’s in the Details.”  I am sure you have heard this expression in the past, and while there are a few arguments over the origin of the phrase, at the end of the day, this expression refers to the fact that excellence is a virtue and that overlooking details may…hmmm…”let the devil loose” causing more problems later on down the road.

Some examples:

1. Not reading the fine print on contracts or when enrolling in a phone plan

2. Not proofreading a document before you send it to your boss…I am the queen of typos, but typos can make or break an impression

3. Skimming the text before a big test, and the text you skimmed…guess what…it was worth 30 points as a bonus!  Ouch!

In leadership, it is so critical to be both a visionary and a detail oriented person.  After working with over 1200 people in a leadership coaching role, it is very rare to find a leader who is both.  I usually attract big thinkers…visionaries who see big futures and big pictures.  I a big picture thinker, so of course I am going to attract this.  My detail orientation is a bit on the slim side, and I do work on this.  I will immerse myself in a detail oriented project for days just to develop stick-ability to the process.  And…with the big picture people I work with, they tell me that they struggle with the details.  They want to jump from A to Z and “change the future/change the world.”  To be focused on the details stops them from reaching that big vision as quickly as possible…I totally get that!

So, if you are a big picture thinker, what do you do?  The first thing is this…give yourself a break.  It is okay that you are a big picture visionary and may not be the most detail oriented person.  This is why we have assistants and partners who LOVE working on details and who enjoy playing the devil’s advocate.  But…there are a few practices you can implement on a daily basis to help improve your attention to details:

1. Start your day out with a routine. My routine is to get up each morning at the same time, make my bed, quickly declutter my office, drink a cup of coffee and then go on a 2-3 mile run.  I do this most mornings (or I go to the gym as opposed to the run.)  It will take about six weeks to get into a routine like this, but it does help start your day off with a solid routine that sets a detail-oriented  tone for your day.

2. Stop living on e-mail. Trust me…this one will get you every time.  I recommend checking e-mail two times per day.  This one habit has helped me so much.  I check e-mail around 9:30 in the morning and then again around 4:00 in the afternoon.  If I am working on a client with a project, and I know we are in an e-mail conversation, I will jump back online to address that.  But…as far as going through and checking through all of my e-mail, this is two times a day.  It becomes quite easy to get both distracted and feel accomplished by spending all day on e-mail.

3. Start blogging. Yep…this one has truly helped me.  Just in this one post, my blog template has popped up about 13 typos (they are underlined in red.)  This reminds me that while I do believe blogging is a stream of consciousness process and while typos are somewhat forgiven, I do need to be mindful of the people out there who are driven crazy by typos and grammatical errors.  And…they will e-mail you and tell you when you have typos on your blog.  I wonder if they get paid to do this, and if so, who pays them?  It is not uncommon to get several e-mails from the same person about my typos, so I just wonder if this is their job for the internet?  Maybe one of you out there can answer this curious question for me.

4. Consider the consequences of “skipping steps.” You may consider skipping a step, because you don’t believe it has anything to do with your outcome.  Think again…sit down with someone who is detail oriented, and let them play devil’s advocate for you.  Ask them what the consequences will be if you skip that one step.  Talk through the process A to Z, and ask them if you are missing anything or leaving anything out.

5. Take on one new project that demands attention to detail. As an example, if you have ever caulked, sanded and painted a wall, it does require details…if you want the finished product to look sharp.  Or…if you have never learned how to use an Excel spread sheet, take this on for one month, and write out a detailed project plan for one aspect of your business.  Just working with a spreadsheet can be tedious, but it will help you develop patience and an attention to details.

6.  Take the DiSC Assessment. The DiSC will show you where you fall on detail orientation, and your assessment results will give you several suggestions on how to use your assets to pull your shortcomings up.

7. Hire an assistant or find a partner who IS detail oriented to give your work a second glance. My husband, Mike, is a very high C on the DiSC.  He is a perfectionist pattern on the DiSC, and he combs through my more important work to pull out anything that does not make sense, points out typos and helps me to make sure things flow.  We are not all meant to have every strength in the book, so just know that there are people out there who thrive on paying attention to details.  So, get them on your team.

8. Keep a list, keep a calendar and stay as organized as possible. When I finally learned that technology could help me stay focused on details, my life became so much easier and less stressful, because my productivity improved and I had more free time to do what I want to do in life.  I now use Gmail and an i-phone and I can access my calendar and contacts at any time of day.  I write down everything on my Gmail calendar.  I don’t like paper, but some people do.  The goal here is to find a record keeping system that works for you and use it every day.  If I don’t keep things organized, my detail orientation is a wreck.  So…keep life simple by keeping your details in an organized system…I don’t care if it is a wall of sticky notes or a huge whiteboard…anything that works for you.

If you are a leader who would like more information on how to improve your attention to details, please contact me today for a complimentary consultation.  I am happy to see how I might be able to help you improve your skills (and we all have skills to improve!).

Can You Answer “YES!” To These 5 Questions? If So, Your Team Will Most Probably Succeed

I talk with leaders every day who say “I just want my team to be better…I want them to act like a team!”

What the heck does that mean?  “I just want them to act like a team!”

I suppose it means that everyone is getting along, getting results, finishing projects on time and helping your company to become better, stronger and quicker at everything you do.

The reality is that most organizations don’t take the time to sit down and actually “design” the team based on 5 core principles.  So…today, I am going to leave you with 5 questions to answer.  If you can say “YES!…Absolutely” to each one of these questions, then your team stands a great chance of success.  These questions apply to both large organizations and small businesses.

Question 1: Is your team small enough to be effective?

Many leaders choose teams based on “the more, the merrier” philosophy.  The truth is that too many cooks in the kitchen can destroy even the best recipes for success.  When you have 10, 12 or 14 people on your team, everybody has an opinion, conflicts start to build and the next thing you know, your project has come to a screeching halt.   Limit your team size to no more than seven people.  If you feel you must have ten people on your team, split them into two teams of five each, and assign each team an objective which will help you reach your big vision.  You will accomplish much more with fewer people to stir the pot.

Question 2: Does your team know where you are going, and are they inspired by that direction?

I interview quite a few teams each year, and this one question usually stumps most team members.  They usually say “Well…I work for the company, and I do what the boss says to do.”  Argh!  One of the biggest favors you can do for your team is to sit down and tell them where you are going, why this is important and how you need them to get on board.  This is your chance to get really, really creative.  Ask for input on the direction, describe what the project is going to look like, and get commitment from your team.  While I am not a “rah rah” person, it is a good idea to have a 5-minute pep rally with your team each morning…reminding them of where you are going.  Will you veer off on occasion?  Absolutely!  But…at the end of the day, if your team is buying into your direction, you stand a much greater chance of finishing projects on time and under budget.

Question 3:  Is your TEAM  being coached?

In the coaching work that I offer my clients, there are two types of coaching:  Individual Leadership Coaching and Team Coaching.  They are very, very different.  It is not uncommon for an organization to call me, and ask me to work with a “problem team member.”  I then learn during the one on one coaching that a team dynamic is usually at play that is causing frustration, slackness or insubordination from this one “problem team member”.  With team coaching, everyone is involved, and the coaching starts with the team leader…usually the CEO or the Project Manager.  Over a period of six months, the entire team is being coached both individually and with the full team in the room, and it works!  Stop relying on coaching one person, hoping things turn around for the entire team.  Just as in families, teams come with dynamics…quirks, agendas and biases, and team coaching can turn your team around on a dime.

Question 4: Does your team have structure?

Teams need structure.  They need a project plan and accountability.  If your team is not structured or seems disorganized, it’s time to sit down and map out a solid plan of action.  Post this plan of action and structured tasks on a large whiteboard or on a large board that displays what everyone needs to be doing each day.  With structure, you will have less questions and less confusion.

Question 5: Is your team allowed to openly debate your challenges and opportunities?

When I work with leaders, and I bring up the subject of “open debate”,  the leader usually freezes and says…”Oh…I don’t think that’s a good idea.”  Come on…they’re debating anyway.  They are either gossiping or snipping at each other when things are going wrong, or they are smearing their leader’s reputation behind his/her back.  With open debate, you give your team the psychological safety needed to speak their minds in a supportive environment.  Open debate is not just a venting session.  It is an opportunity for your team to get what’s really on their minds on the table, and in the end, you all agree on steps you will take to ACT on a solution.  If your team is not allowed to openly debate issues in front of the team, they are probably afraid of their leader, so look closely at your own leadership and how you can grow so that open debate becomes an opportunity for strenghtening your organization.

If you are someone who is interested in team coaching, contact Bea Fields today for a complimentary consultation..

Do You Give Up Too Soon?

The thing that I think I most admired about the way President Elect Obama ran his campaign did not have to do with his charisma or calm demeanor…it had to do with his willingness to stick to the course…his perseverence was most impressive. He stayed on course, continued to speak the same message, had his same core campaign team in place at the end, and even though the media had predicted him the winner, Obama was still out (the day before the election) knocking on doors and telling people to get out and vote. “We can’t quit” were the words he kept saying over and over again, and his strategy worked!

This stick-ability is what we all need right now. With the economy heading south, it’s very easy to just throw in the towel and call it quits. But…I am here to say with confidence that there are opportunities out there that can help us all get through this time…but not if we’re going to quit!

So, today’s post will give you a few strategies that I use with my clients to help them see a project through.

1) If you are not succeeding on the third try of doing something, switch approaches. You may be stuck in a worn out groove that has become outdated. Try a new approach that others are using that seems to be working. Try a new marketing approach or a new way of delivering your message. Shave with your less dominant hand. The key here is to switch up the way you are doing things.

2) If you are having conflict with another person, talk about it, and stay on the behavior…not the person. When leaders are “stuck”, 99% of the time, it is because there is another party involved and a conflict is looming. I highly recommend the book Crucial Confrontations for every leader I meet. The book has gobs of suggestions on how to tackle those tough encounters.

3) Stop taking things personally. When you take things personally, the world is all about you! Do you think Obama let what the world was saying stop him? Absolutely not! He kept on going even in the face of backlash and doubt that he was not experienced enough to lead our county. When you depersonalize the situation, you can look at the facts, questions and answers objectively and move ahead from there.

4) Choose your battles. Are you trying to fight each and every battle that comes your way? If so, you may be “battle spinning” as I call it. There are some battles worth fighting for and some that you need to let go. Choose your battles wisely.

5) Say “no” to your own procrastination. We all procrastinate, and when we procrastinate, we are not in action. We are thinking about all that we are not doing or have not done. Look closely at your reason for procrastination and move that off your agenda. If you are going to persevere, you need to do it without a laundry list of activities on your plate..

Penelope Trunk on Productivity

Penelope Trunk has a great post from yesterday with a few tips on productivity, and I have a few comments to make.

Her post mentions that a study from Robert Half International shows that we are most productive on Tuesday. One thing I want to mention about this is that I usually have more people show up for my teleclasses on Tuesday, and I have more readers to my blog on Tuesdays. So…this study might be true, and Tuesday may be the best day to market. I know that I usually send out press releases on Tuesday. If I send them on Monday, I miss the people who away for a long holiday, and if I send it later in the week, people are already checked out (I know I am.)

On the subject of decision making…she’s got that one nailed. I find that when I don’t go ahead in making a decision that my mind keeps going through a revolving door. “Should I do this? Should I not?” That question usually results in my spending time online for an hour or talking with people about the decision, and of course, we start talking about other things in the process. I recently decided to hire a company to help pitch me to some national radio stations, and I estimate that I spent 11 hours thinking about this darn decision when it should have been a no-brainer. Hmmm…I could have been lying in the bathtub, watching movies or filing my nails during that time.

On the subject of going to church. My grandmother went to church every Sunday of her life. I loved going with her, because I loved being with her and watching her being so happy about being at church (and we also would walk to a little cafe after church and buy cokes from the bottle…now I am dating myself). But…you know what…my grandmother was the most upbeat, optimistic person I knew (she sang and played the piano constantly), and she would always make something major on Monday…a dress, a great cake, a beautiful flower arrangement or something of beauty. I have to admit that I fight going to church. I would much rather lie in bed or go out to eat (my favorite hobby), but I also must admit that I am in a much better mood when I do go to church (which is about one time per month). My minister is a fabulous speaker, and I always run into someone I haven’t seen in a while, and I just feel better during the day. So, again…this one is probably true.

Treadmill in the office. Good suggestion there…if I just had room. I am an exercise nut. I go to the gym every day (to work off all of the eating out I do.) But really…I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am more productive when I work out. Blood flow and oxygen to the brain can really clear out my cobwebs, and I just move more quickly and get er done!

So…thanks Penelope for the great food for thought..