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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

No tech is sometimes better than high tech

Over a recent long weekend away, I saw something weird…

It was a family of four, sat around a square table in the hotel. All were staring intently at their own smartphones. They weren’t looking at each other. Weren’t speaking to each other. Nothing.

The group I was with finished breakfast then popped back upstairs to freshen up and then we walked back past the restaurant on the way to the reception.  And, I noticed the family were still there. In exactly the same position. Staring at their phones. Ignoring each other.

Then it suddenly dawned on me: you see this sort of thing all the time.

Like, when people arrive at a meeting, and the first thing they do is put their phone next to them. Face up. This suggests to me they think “someone more important than you might contact me. If they do, I’ll interrupt you, to see what they want.”

Or when someone misses something important in a meeting/presentation, because they’re looking at their phone. And they then expect you to repeat it! (To me, this suggests “this person on the phone who I can’t see is more important than you, who I can.”)

I’ve even heard that, when some people wake up, they roll over to their phone first, not their partner (this suggests “anybody is more important to me than you.”)

Now, of course, smartphones are brilliant.


For example, I really need mine. It means I can get back to my customers super-fast.

And, let’s face it, you’re possibly reading this post on yours!

But real life is better than virtual life.

Real people are better than virtual people.

And the person who’s speaking to you – the person who has gone through all the effort and emotion of preparing what they’re saying – is more important than any virtual person who isn’t there.

So here are some things to consider:

  • Download the App “Moment”. It shows how long you spend on your phone each day. This is very useful (and potentially alarming!) to know 
  • Go and see your colleagues. As in, actually, walk to their desks and have a conversation with them 
  • In a meeting? Leave your phone in your bag 
  • Speaking to your team? Ban everyone’s phones from the meeting 
  • Away from the office? Spend time away from your phone 
  • Going out for dinner? Leave your phone at home (I remember taking my teenage son Jack and three of his friends out for pizza. When we sat down, his friends took their phones out. I said, “if you expect me to pay for this, the least you can do is speak to me”. Jack thought that was a fair enough request. They were amazed. I doubt they’d ever heard something like that before) 
  • Going to bed? Leave your phone outside the bedroom. If you need it for an alarm clock, buy an alarm clock 

And the next time you find yourself with a group of other human beings, talk to them, engage with them, show an interest and have fun...

…because they are more important than anything else.

No matter what your phone says.

Action point

Spend less time on your phone.

Encourage your team to spend less time on theirs.

And that’s it.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Super simple. Super quick. Super powerful…

Communication is supposed to cause something.

If it doesn’t, there’s no point doing it.

And one simple way to ensure your comms do cause action…

… is to change your last thing so it mentions actions:

  • Meetings – ensure the last item on every agenda is “Actions Arising”. This means there’ll be actions. Don’t end with “Any Other Business”. This just allows people to rant about whatever’s on their mind 
  • Conference calls – same as meetings (after all, a conference call is simply a meeting when you aren’t in the same room). So end with “Actions Arising”, not “Any Other Business” 
  • Presentations – Title your last slide “Next steps”. Underneath, write the actions you want your audience to do. When you do this, they’re more likely to do them. But when your final slide says “Thank you”, they’ll reply “You’re welcome. Now get out” 
  • Emails – Begin your last sentence with the words “Please can you”. And then specify what you want the recipient to do. That’s much better than “I look forward to hearing from you” – which means you often don’t 

You get the idea.

Always end by stating what you want people to do… and they’re much more likely to do it.

Action point – Super simple. Super quick. Super powerful…

Preview today’s diary. Look at all your meetings, presentations, conference calls and emails…

Ensure every single one ends with a Call To Action.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

How to write documents that get results

There are billions of written documents in the world.

It probably feels like you’ve read most of them.

But how many were exactly what the reader wanted?

How many did the writer enjoy writing?

How many had the desired effect?

Not many?


You see this everywhere:

  • Tedious emails that don’t get a reply 
  • Wordy proposals that don’t seal the deal. Or that the customer doesn’t even bother replying to 
  • Tedious Board Papers that arrive too late to read in time for the meeting 
  • Reports that people prepare for their boss, only to be told to re-do them 

Sound familiar?

If so, remember these three words…

Confirmation, not exploration.

In other words, when you write something, wherever possible, it should be a confirmation of what you’ve already agreed verbally, rather than you exploring new ideas on paper.

For example, proposals. Before you put pen to paper, you should have verbally agreed with the customer:

  • The solution they want from you 
  • The price they’re willing to pay 
  • The structure/headings of your proposal 
  • When you’ll have a follow-up call after they’ve read it 

Once you’ve agreed on these, your proposal becomes a short document confirming everything you’ve already agreed. It’s clearly miles more likely to work than you sitting in a darkened room, guessing what they want you to write, not being sure, so filling it with as much stuff as you can.

So, next time you’re asked to create a written document, say something like this…

“Yes, I’ll write that for you. But the last thing I want to do is bore you with irrelevant information. So, can I ask you a couple of quick questions before I write it?”

(Trust me, they’ll answer your questions. They are not going to say “it’s ok – be irrelevant.”)

And then ask whatever questions you need to, to get their verbal confirmation about content. Things like:
  • What content do you want in there? 
  • What do you not want me to include? 
  • What headings do you want? 
  • When do you want it by? 
  • When shall we have a follow-up chat after you’ve read it? 

And so, you know that document you’re about to write today…

Action point

… If you haven’t done so already, contact the reader, tell them you don’t want to bore them with irrelevant content and ask them about content, structure and so on.

It’ll save you both loads of time. And your document will be much more likely to impress them. And to work.

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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

How to impress the important people in your life

"All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others."

It’s the same with us…

"All people are equal. But some people are more equal than others."

In other words, out of everyone you know, there are certain people you must impress. Your boss, customers, partners, and so on.

There are lots of ways to do this, of course. And these broadly split into two categories:

  • Don’t do stupid things you know not to do. So, always be punctual; never late. Always look professional; never shabby. Always prepare; never wing it. You know… all the obvious stuff that people often forget. And… 
  • Do impressive things they weren’t expecting 

To impress them, both are critical.

For example, if you try an impressive thing, but turn up unprepared, late and shabby… well, that just won’t work.

But, assuming you already are doing the obvious stuff (the first bullet), here’s a great new way to impress them in unexpected ways (the second) – the 3Hs:

  1. Hot priorities 
  2. How can I help? 
  3. How about? 

#1 Hot priorities

Find out what their main priorities are.

The easiest way to do this? Ask them.

And the best words to use in your question? "What are your priorities?"

Once you know these, it’s miles easier to impress and influence them. You simply need to do things that help them with these priorities. Here’s how…

#2 How can I help?

After they’ve told you their priorities, ask them how they’d like you to help with them.

They’ll either suggest something, or they won’t.

If it’s the former, do it. That way, you’re helping yourself by helping them.

If they don’t have ideas, go to the third H….

#3 How about?

Here, you suggest ways how you can help with their priorities.

You might have ideas now. In which case, you say "How about I do X for you?"

Or you might need time to think about how you can help. In which case, say "How about I reflect on how I can best help, and then come back to you?" (Let’s face it, they’re pretty likely to agree to this).

I like the 3Hs. It’s easy to remember. It pretty much always works. It has never done any harm – to me when I say it, or my customers when they do.

Worth a try?

Action point

Identify the person you most want to impress.

Think how/when you can use the 3Hs with them. You don’t need to organise an official "3Hs meeting". Just drop it into the conversation when you’re speaking with them anyway. Both of you will be pleased you did.

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Are face-to-face meetings better than telephone meetings?

Face-to-face meetings are better than telephone meetings.


Yes, face-to-faces are better because they’re more intimate, you can see each other’s body language, you can often connect better with the other person, and so on.

But they also take much longer than Telephone Meetings:

  • Travel time, hassle and cost 
  • Meeting duration – people often schedule an hour for a face-to-face, but less for a call 
  • Diary delay. I can schedule a telephone call for today. But our busy diaries mean we can’t have a face-to-face for a few weeks 

So, a question for you: when you’re organising meetings, do you think “pace” or “face”?

Because, if “pace” is more important, a call now trumps a face-to-face later.

I thought about this yesterday when I received an email from a new customer – “We loved your proposal. Let’s get going. The first step is for us to have a face-to-face meeting”.

So a great email to get. A new customer. Obviously, I have to impress them. So I have to do exactly what they want, yes?

Well, no.

Much as I know they’ll be absolutely delighted when they see my face, in this case, pace was more important.

So I called her (by the way, it’s often better to reply to an email with a call – quicker than playing Email Tennis). I said the most important issue here was pace. And that, with our busy diaries, a face-to-face would needlessly delay our kick-off. So let’s agree on immediate actions, and get cracking.

She agreed. We got going. Even though I hadn’t done what she’d asked.

So remember: people are often more interested in pace. Don’t have an over-inflated opinion of your face, and think people simply must see it!

Action point

Review your diary for this week. Ask yourself, “Does every single face-to-face meeting need to happen? Or can I phone them instead?”

Then, if a phone call’s better, tell them in advance that you’re both better off, meeting by phone …unless, of course, they’re absolutely itching to see your face.

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