Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Look me in the eye when you say that.

A drive by email is one that comes at you out nowhere and kinda hits you in the side of the head. The tone is flat. The words are poorly chosen. Demanding. Not courteous. Careless. Insensitive.

I love email, texting and the conveniences of communicating through technology as much as the next person.  But way back in the day, when I was a communication officer under the watchful and eagle eye of my boss at the time, we would have gotten our butts kicked for communicating in this careless manner. In fact, we would have, and did, get called into the office where we were corrected.  We would leave her office with her trusty green pen markings all over the email.  I know I walked out of there a few times with a few lessons on how to communicate responsibly.

That was about 15 years ago.  When email was a newer thing in business, and we needed to have communication and usage policies so that people would know what was expected, and what would not be tolerated.

I would recommend for anyone hoping to have a larger career than they currently have to hire a communication coach.  Someone who can help you get your point across without offending the free world. Some of the smartest people and greatest leaders I know have done this, and it has worked to their credit. A CEO for example, that cannot communicate, can't inspire.  Nor can anyone hoping to get the co-operation of others.

I can't stress the importance of this enough.  A good communication coach can help you to see and hear yourself the way others see and hear you.  Good and bad.  But we all need that. Because everything we do communicates a message.

Here are some pet communication peeves that I have observed:

1.  Look me in the eye when you say that.  When someone is talking to you, where are your eyes. If you are talking to me, look at me. If your phone rings, ignore it. If you are the kind of person who is distracted, then place yourself in an area where you can't be distracted.

2.  Save your breath. When someone is talking to you, and you inhale before he or she is even finished talking, you have effectively stopped listening and are now listening to the words that you plan on saying next. First the inhalation, then the words come out. Whether the person has finished talking or not, you are now interrupting.

3.  Be nice. If you need someone to do something for you, the last thing you should do is hurl an email their way. All that does is demonstrate that you couldn't be bothered to actually spare a second of  your precious time to communicate in a respectful manner. What's worse, when you hurl email, you may affect the other person, with no accountability for your own actions. If you are treating your employees this way, you probably don't get much co-operation, or they are looking for jobs.

Communication faux pas like this are generally unintentional but the impacts are lasting.  As a rule of thumb, it is good to remember that everyone is having  "a day" and when we enter their day, even if it is by email, or text, we should be part of what makes it better. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just Jump

Standing at the ledge of a rock, you can feel the cool breeze of the air and the water swishing, wistfully against the shore line.  You lift your arms overhead, and you fall, immersing yourself.

That's one approach. Another is you can run as fast as you can, and throw yourself in. Another is waiting to be pushed in.  But hey, it's a vacation, so anything goes along as it feels good. In fact we take vacations to feel this freedom, this reckless abandonment, this sense of courage and to live in the moment.

But then we come back to our lives and the vacation ends. We are met with responsibility, accountability, and people who depend on us.  We are no longer adventure seeking, fun in the sun lovers. No, we are land and ledge lovers.  We pride ourselves in stability and knowing where the next dollar is coming from. We like to plan our vacations, and we want to raise our children.  Those are the reasons we work.

When we jump, we have to have some degree of comfort that the water will be the right temperature, and that it can sustain us.  We need to know that if we take that dive into a new place, a different place, we must accept the risks of possible loss of income, possible loss of identify, and possible loss of the comfort of what we have every day.

The funny thing about standing on the edge of this pool is that we might want to jump more than anything. We might want to take a head first leap into a new place.  I admire people who can do that.  And I admire the people who support those people when they do that.

But the bottom line is, one needs support to take that dive. When people ask me - "should I change  . . ." I ask, are you happy with what you are doing?  Do you feel that you have something more to offer? Do they have something they can offer you?  Is it worth your while to stick around? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you have to leap, I tell them.

I am an advocate for jumping in one's career if the job is not helping the quality of life.  I remember once reading the back page of an annual report which accounted for the employees who had passed away that year, and the number of years those people worked for the organization.  One of them worked right up to the day he died. I remember thinking - "Poor Guy, Poor Family."  I hope these people loved their jobs and got immense satisfaction from the experience.

I am dedicated to living while I am alive.  I feel very strongly about being challenged in my work and liking my work.  I work according to the principle that we are each obligated to grow, and if work is not challenging, or it is taking time away from our lives that should be spent living, then it is time to move on.  This is important, because by definition, if one is not moving forward, one is standing still and possibly moving backward.

But alas we find ourselves on the ledge of our own making.  What if taking the leap means tomorrow will be different? What if landing hurts?  What if  . . .

So what's a ledge lover to do?  How does a ledge lover leap?  One of my former colleagues who leaped landed in a very happy place. He is a financial strategist. His specialty is making money make money.  He says that people tend to need less money than they think and that you need to know what your costs are, and you need to have a plan.

I knew that word would find its way onto my ledge. Plan.  I always have a plan, you say, but not right now.  I can relate.  Plan development is my specialty. I am very good at seeing the cracks of other people businesses and lives and helping them to fill them. The funny thing about those cracks is that they are difficult to see when they are underfoot.

Plans are specific and goal oriented, so you can see progress.  Here's my plan: My plan is to work with  two - three clients who want to get somewhere by helping them create and implement plans, help them get the word out and market and brand themselves.  My plan is to gross $100K in the first year.  My plan is to do work that aligns with my values. And my plan is to look forward to every morning of my working life.

Now I stand upon the ledge of the watering hole of my own making, and I am thinking, what would happen if I jumped . . . now.  Would this plan hold water?  I believe it will.