Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Email: how to cope with your addiction

Emails are a source of much stress in the modern workplace.  Technology was meant to make our life easier, yet most people become slaves to their inbox.  If you insist on using emails all the time, be aware of the following tips:

Remember the telephone: unless a written record is required, the telephone can give a personal touch which can have greater impact.

Set times: as a general rule, if you are checking your emails over 15 times a day...you are an addict!  Try to check your emails less than 10 times a day.

Turn off email notifications: if you are constantly being distracted by your computer informing you that you have an email, it is very difficult to work effectively.  Check your inbox after you have completed tasks or when you return from a break.

Be brief: sum up your emails in two sentences.  If you need to add more information, attach a report.

Summarise: precede a long email with a short summary. If you can't summarise in three/four sentences, you never will be able to clearly communicate your idea.  Call the person or have a meeting instead.

Use folders: establish folders where you can place emails to read at an appropriate time.

Use Auto-Preview: scan the first few lines of the email.  Either then read fully, file or delete.

If it is urgent: say so.  Write URGENT in the subject line.

Formality: match the formality or style of the sender to avoid offence. If unsure, err on the side of caution and address them quite formally.


Apply the ‘three times’ reply rule: if you have to reply to an email more than three times, choose another communication method.  Email hasn't solved the problem yet, so you have to change your approach to dealing with this person.

Use the subject line: place key information in the subject line to make it easier for the reader to refer to your email in the future.

Respond promptly: don’t leave email unread for more than two days.  If the email is long and you do not have time to respond to the entire email, send a brief email acknowledging its receipt and your intent to reply in more detail.

Errors: spelling and grammatical errors are unprofessional.  Proof read everything before sending. It is not cute to make spelling mistakes, it just makes you look stoopid.

Never send ‘flame mail’: this is the email that you send out to someone who has annoyed you and you immediately regret it.  If you are angry with someone, it is best to speak to them face to face.

CC: if you love to ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ people – you have a problem.

Junk Mail: remove yourself from newsletters you don’t read or need. It may take a few extra seconds, but it can save you a lot of unnecessary emails in the future.

Final Thought: consider if the other person is a Reader or Listener

Management guru Peter Drucker suggests recognising someone as either a ‘reader’ or ‘listener’ as a way to help you get the best out of the person.  Readers learn and respond best to written messages; Listeners learn through oral communication.

If you sometimes find it difficult to communicate, or you just can’t understand each other, maybe you are writing to a listener or talking to reader.  Take this into account when trying to communicate with someone, and at the same time you should convey your preferred means of communication too.

So basically, if the person is quite chatty and enjoys talking to you (LISTENER), make sure that the emails you send them are quite brief and always follow up with a phone call.  If the person tends to look uncomfortable in meetings or has a tendency to write quite long emails (READER), highlight your ideas initially with a clear email.  Identifying people's preferences can help save you a lot of time (and emails).

Become more influential!

Below are some ideas and tips that can help you become more influential and persuasive.  Before starting out, realise that if someone is in complete disagreement without, you can't automatically persuade them straight away.  After your initial discussion, they may only slightly move towards agreeing with you.  So it may take a few discussions before they are in the right frame of mind to start buying into your ideas (and eventually your products).

BE HUMAN: Treat the other person as a person, not a ‘customer’ or someone who is just there to line your pocket with cash.

FREE STUFF: Remember the law of reciprocity: people love to get things for free.  If you give someone something free (a pen, a bit of advice, a contact of someone else who can help) they will feel more obligated to you.

CHARM: People like to deal with people that they like.  Nothing gives you a greater advantage than being nice and pleasant to be around.

BODY LANGUAGE: Be aware of the emotional signals that people are always sending you.  By paying attention to their physical cues and clues you can demonstrate powerful listening skills.  Also, if they are bored or want to speak, you will be able to adjust your behaviour accordingly.

CONSISTENT: Do you do what you say you are going to do?  Do you fail to follow up on a promise.  It is important to under-promise and over deliver to your clients.  If you fail to call them back when promised or ‘forget’ to send through that information you mentioned, good luck ever getting them to buy your services.

VALUES: What you find most important, the other party may find completely boring.  If you value success and they value friendship, be sure to highlight how client relationships are important to you.  Make sure you have a good understanding of your values and those of the people/company you are aiming to build a relationship with.  Many influencers fail because they aim to persuade using their own values and not the values of the other party.

STYLE MATTERS: Do you push?  Should you pull?  If you are too forceful, you may put people off by being too intimidating.  Pullers tend to be more successful because they appear to be more sensitive to their client’s needs.  Develop an awareness of when you are pushing too hard, when you could pull a bit more information from the other party and when it may be best to withdraw (one of the least commonly used styles but often the most effective).

SCARCITY: ‘Oops, sorry that item is no longer available.’  This is the last thing a client wants to hear but suddenly, for some unknown reason, that client wants that item even more.  And they are now willing to pay more for it.  Research has shown time and again, that the scarcer a product/service is, the more in demand it will become.  As long as there is a demand, then the supply should be heavily regulated.  Be very clear about how long something is available for or about the difficulty of getting something to the client straight away…and then see their faces light up when you deliver it sooner than expected!

EVIDENCE: People like proof.  If your neighbour bought something and it worked wonderfully, then you are likely to buy that product.  9 out of 10 dentist can’t be wrong, so get some evidence together that people love what you and your company do, and they will be happy to try it for themselves.

BE YOURSELF:  Believe it or not, you are probably quite a nice person.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You may even have a few friends to prove that you are not a complete loser.  People buy from people.  The more natural you are, the more likely that people will trust you and the products you represent.

And finally...LISTEN!  Rarely do people listen to us.  So when we meet someone who is prepared to listen to our problems, it can be something special.  So listen to the other person and make them feel like you truly care.

Goals: secrets to success

Nothing can guarantee success more than using a structured and disciplined approach to achieving your goals.  Using these tips as a guide can help to take you closer to your dreams.  Focusing your attention towards what you want out of life can help you to achieve your goals more regularly.

1. Identify your values.  Spend some time to identify who you are and what are your values.  It is useless to pursue a goal that doesn't reflect who you are truthfully.  Becoming a top sales person will prove very difficult when you really enjoy working with your hands and creating new objects.  Some key questions that you can ask yourself include: What type of work do I enjoy doing?  Where does my passion lie?  Do I prefer to work with people, data or things? How would I like to be remembered when I die?  Answering some of these questions can help you to identify your personal values and save you a lot of time and heartache by pursuing goals that don't truly reflect who you are.

2. Set SMART goals. A commonly used structure for goal setting is SMART

S = specific: what exactly do you want?  Can you describe it? In detail?  Do you want a house or a three bedroom detached cottage by the sea for £450k?  The more specific you become with what you want, the more likely you are able to visualise you goals.  Visualise is a powerful tool to achievement.  The more you can 'see' yourself living you goals, the closer that goal will become your reality.

M = measurable: can you measure your success using numbers, percentages or amounts of money.  The more you can measure your success (i.e. reduce your personal debt, save a certain amount of money, complete a certain number of tasks), the easier it will be to persevere.  Remember that most people are 'off track' most of the time when pursuing their goals, so by having some form of measurement...you can keep yourself 'on track' a bit more regularly.

A = achievable: Your personal beliefs are very powerful.  Think about how likely it is that you will be able to achieve your goal.  If you need a little more time, don't be afraid to adjust your timescale.

R = realistic:  Are you delusional?  Is this goal something that you can see yourself realistically doing in your lifetime?  If you want to be a great astronaut but you find basic math a bit difficult, maybe you should consider another goal?  Be honest with yourself.  Recognise that trying to achieve something that you know you will never succeed at can be a waste of time and lead ultimately to disappointment.

T = timebound: What is your deadline?  A cheesy saying is, "A goal is a dream with a deadline." If you wanted to make a million, by when?  Get as specific as you can about your goals, including when you want to achieve your ambitions.  Is it by the end of the month, end of the year or your 50th birthday.  Any deadline will do.  Just ensure that you believe it is achievable and realistic.

3, Challenge your beliefs. Although you should avoid setting delusional goals, it is sometimes useful to stretch your beliefs.  Beliefs can be explained as, 'what are your expectations?'  Could you expect more out of life?  Do you constantly set yourself up for failure by telling yourself that you will never achieve what you want?  Check into your inner thoughts and become aware of any negative attitudes that may be preventing you from achieving more in your life.

4. Move forward or work backwards. Goal planning can help you bridge the gaps from 'where you currently are' to 'where you want to be'.  Drawing a map outlining the key steps you need to complete before you achieve your goal can help you plan for the necessary steps that are required achieve your dreams.  This map can be drawn from where you are right now, moving to where you want to be.  Or you can draw it backwards, starting with the goal and then ask yourself, 'what has to happen just before I achieve that?' This backwards goal planning can be a very powerful visual guide to help you plan a path to success.

5. Phone a friend.  Try interviewing people who are successful to understand the habits of high achievers.  People love to talk about themselves, so feel free to ask them how they accomplished their dreams.  You never know, this person may become your mentor or an advisor.  An invaluable asset towards success!

6. Persevere and get creative. Do something.  Anything.  Just start your journey and avoid giving up.  It is important not to fixate on 'how' you are going to achieve your goal.  The 'how' tends to present itself after you have committed to the 'what' you are going to achieve.  Being flexible and creative when you are required to solve problems or overcome difficulty will help you to stay positive.

7. Broadcast. Don't be afraid to tell people about what you want to achieve.  This can increase your luck!  Luck is often describe as: preparation meets opportunity.  Once you have started on your path to achieving your goals, you might meet a person that can give you an unexpected opportunity.  So tell people about what you are doing.  If they can't help you, they may be able to give you advice or recommend you to a friend/colleague that could assist you.

8. Celebrate and give recognition.  Enjoy your success and acknowledge all of your hard work.  Also, we never achieve anything entirely on our own, so thank hose people who helped you.

Friday, 17 December 2010

How to deal with nerves: at work, on stage or just about anywhere

We all get nervous.  It is absolutely normal. 
Whether it's before a big presentation with clients, when you have to stand up and sing or even when you have to deliver good news to a large group of friends, 'If you're not nervous,' as Lawrence Olivier said, 'you're dead'.  And you will be dead to your audience if you don't care about the information you are about to share with them, so it is important to realise that nerves are necessary for a great performance.
However, be aware that nerves are an indication that you might need to prepare and rehearse your presentation a little bit more.
Also, most people think that they have a body, not that they are their body.  Nerves are there to protect you in case of threat, so your body is instigating 'Fight or Flight' and a few physical stretches can help your body cope with the enormous levels of chemicals produced by your brain to help you in case you come under attack.
AND BREATHE...low 'belly' breathing will help you to stay calm.


  • Focus on the message when you become nervous, not what the nerves are doing to you and your body.
  • Accept what your nerves do to you (and your body) and realise that nerves are necessary for presenting successfully.
  • Stand Centre Stage at the beginning and the end of your presentation.  It shows courage and conviction in your message.
  • Warm up your body before you get on stage.  Think more yogic than athletic in preparing your body for a 'performance'.
  • Say a few tricky words aloud from your presentation before you start your presentation.
  • Find a private space to yawn and stretch: this will help your body prepare itself.
  • Say a few tongue twisters such as 'Will you Wait for Willie and Winnie' or "Eleven Benevolent Elephants'.
  • Don’t be afraid to look at your audience and engage in small talk with them before you start speaking.
  • Maintain eye contact and ‘lighthouse’ the space with your eyes: making eye contact with everyone. Don’t stare just at one person.
  • Focus on the friendly faces initially, and then move to look at others (even if they are not looking at you).
  • Memorise your introduction.  This will help because people are usually the most nervous at the beginning of a presentation.
  • If you can influence the order of presenters, don’t follow a great presenter. Go before them.
  • Smile if appropriate.  If you want to know how you look to your audience look at them...if they look miserable, usually you do as well.
  • Stand up in meetings occasionally to make a point, to get used to how if feels to stand up and communicate to an audience.


Remember that most people in the audience want you to do well.  There may be a few horrible people that are praying that you fail miserably however the majority of the audience is on your side and they wouldn't be in the same room with you if they didn't at least hope that you could give them something of interest to them.  So give the audience what they came for and then get off stage.