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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Proven ways to manage email overload

The emails you want (or need) are clogging your inbox and sapping your time. Try these techniques for taming the monster.
No matter if you're a manager, small business owner or salesperson, as technology expands email will continue to be an overwhelming presence in your day to day routine. In fact, when I conduct workshop for managers and salespeople, email overload seems to be an all too common thread.
Here are some ways to manage your inbox, save time, and conquer email overload.
·        Two-minute rule
It basically states that, if an email will take two minutes or less to answer, answer it and get it out of your inbox. If an email will take more than two minutes to answer, file it in your follow-up folder. Just be sure to follow up.
·        Email organization
One reason our inboxes become inundated with emails is that we don't have the proper organizational system in place. I have more than 20 folders for keeping track of messages. Start by creating a follow-up folder, a hold folder, and an archive folder. Having these three folders in place will help you to clear out your inbox and manage your messages more effectively. You can create a variety of folders to meet your needs.
·        Brevity
Don't worry about crafting the perfect reply; just keep your emails concise. Along with this, remember to craft a descriptive subject line that will help the individual determine what your email is about. (This will help with getting quicker replies, too.)
Example: "Question — About Advertising Prices." If you need to explain something in detail, where there could easily be a miscommunication, pick up the phone and give the individual a call. Sometimes email isn't the best tool for the job. 

·        Templates
No matter what your business, there will most likely be questions that you get asked over and over again. There are a couple of ways to solve this problem. You can create a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section on your website. You can also craft a template of responses that can be easily copied and pasted into the body if an email. By taking some time on the front end, you can save yourself loads of time on the back end.
·        Slowing down to read
Often we are in such a hurry that we end up skimming emails and missing important details. Slow down, and read the email in its entirety. Many times just by taking a few extra minutes to read thoroughly, we can clear up misunderstandings, reply with a more focused answer, and save time by following directions.
·        Creating an email schedule
If you keep your email open all day long, every time you get a new email, you'll be distracted from what you're doing at the time. Letting email distract you all day long is a huge time waster, not to mention that it is controlling how you work.
·        Unsubscribing
How much time do you spend deleting unwanted emails from subscriptions that you've outgrown, no longer need, or have been automatically been signed up for? Take a minute (or 15), go through your newsletter subscriptions, and unsubscribe yourself. Most companies have made the process easy, and it takes just a few seconds. If you must keep the subscription, set up email filters so the email is placed in a reading folder for later.
With any good plan, it will take a few weeks to make these changes a habit. Once you start taking control of your email, you will notice an increase in your productivity.

All the success,

Peter Mclees

Friday, September 23, 2016



1. Stop Referring to Us So Much as “Millennials”

If you’re thinking and referring to the college students or twentysomethings in your classroom, office or home as Millennials, you’re already starting off on bad terms.
“Millennials” is marketing speak. It’s a broad-scope label, bound and gagged with so many stereotypes that it instantly puts bad tastes in everyone’s mouths.
Researchers will say Millennials are those born between 1980-2000, or 1983-2000, or 1985-1996, or…gosh who knows??

But the vast age range and the amount of change that has taken place within this span of time makes me offer a slight guffaw when trying to lump us all in together.
I was born in 1983. I made mixed tapes. I played Nintendo (and not because it was ironic). I didn’t have an email account until I was a sophomore in college. I didn’t have a cell phone until senior year of college. Yes I can remember exactly where I was when 9/11 happened, but I don’t think it became the collective generational rallying cry that events like the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Woodstock, elicited.

Basically the vast array and scope of events, technologies, and individual experiences that have shaped this generation are too much to contain into the newest, scathing research article that polled 1,240 “Millennials”, so is somehow going to accurately describe all 80 million of us.
So stop with all the Millennial language. And stop with all the stereotypes. If you’re going to come at us with the angle of “entitled, narcissistic, and lazy” then that’s all you’re going to see.
Instead of referring to “those Millennials,” call them (enter their first names here)

2. Relationship First. Everything else Second.
Before you spell out office protocol. Before you ask for a volunteer, a sign up, or a purchase. Before you come downstairs with your agenda. Before you lay out the “this is how we do things here…” Even before that dreaded syllabus is handed out.


Spend time with us before you try to lead us. Ask questions. Get to know our story and we will more receptively hear and understand yours.

3. Share Your Story (flaws and mistakes definitely included)
Whether you’re a  a manager, a president, or a parent, I think you’d be surprised how interested the twenty-somethings in your life are about your story. And not really about the successful parts.
No, they want to hear how you screwed up. How you don’t have it all figured out. How you’ve questioned, feared, and failed. They want to know what you’re currently wrestling with and the strategies you are using to overcome.

The age of the super-human leader with no flaws is dead.
Twenty-somethings don’t want leaders who are super-humans, they want leaders who are super-human. Have heart. And learn to speak from it. (tweet that)

Twenty-somethings want leaders who can admit their mistakes, ask for forgiveness, confess weaknesses, can you look you in the eyes and actually talk to you beyond the latest status reports and deadlines. Beyond what your “title” at work says you deserve.
You know, an actual human.

Twenty-somethings want to follow real people with real chinks in their armor who are still really moving forward.
They want someone they can trust and it’s your mistakes openly shared that become that great connecting point.

Vulnerability will beget vulnerability. Create a safe space for your college student or twenty-something to open up about their numerous fears by sharing a few of your own.
If you can’t honestly talk about your own struggle, then twenty-somethings, honestly, won’t listen to your solution.

4. Create Community and Clarity (and yes don’t skimp on the positive re-enforcement in the process) I hear from countless twenty-somethings all over the world who feel lost, confused, directionless, and most of all ALONE. I repeat, the most common phrase I hear is “I feel all alone.”
If your twenty-something (possibly living back under your roof) seems unmotivated, I’d argue it’s not stemming from laziness; it’s coming from a lack of purpose and place. They don’t know where they’re going or how they’re going to get there, and the fear,failure, and overwhelming anxiety is suffocating them.

Can you help them create a vision for their life? Can you help ask them important questions? Can you create a place where they really feel understood?

Can you create an environment that is fluid and flexible, that is more dedicated to the end goal than it is to policies, procedures, and “this is how we’ve always done things.”
As I wrote in my book 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, “The life of a twentysomething is that of a nomad. Picking up your tent and continually traveling to locate the herd and test the soil so that you can find the right place to land, the right place to call home.”

Can you create a place that feels like home? Can you create a work environment that gives a twenty-something room to grow, explore, be heard, and create?

If you make a twenty-something feel like they’re in a foreign country, they will continue to travel. (tweet that) If you make a twenty-something feel more isolated, they will be looking for the quickest way to escape.

And yes, they don’t want you to hold back the affirmation in the process, if it’s authentic. Twenty-somethings are struggling to figure out who they are and where they fit, and they could really use some positive affirmation from you. They will respond better to positive affirmation than they will to the negative or demeaning authoritarian leader.

5. Give Twenty-somethings a Place at the Adult Table (and don’t surround it with a bunch of barriers and flaming hoops of fire to jump through)
Too many twenty-somethings feel like they’re still sitting at the bright orange kids table using plastic forks, while the real adults decide the important matters.

I think a twenty-something’s biggest fear is insignificance. They want to have a role in something bigger than themselves.

Leaders, managers, parents and pastors – let twenty-somethings be a part of the bigger discussion.
Be confident enough in who you are as a leader to stop minimizing who twentysomethings are as followers and future leaders.

Sure twenty-somethings don’t have the experience others do, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t give valuable input based on their strengths and experiences. They see problems from a different perspective, with a different lens.

Let them be heard and they will want to stay. Don’t put a two-year-long obstacle course in front of a twenty-something for them to prove their worth before they can open their mouths. Or they will just start running a different race.
But I can hear you know – the twenty-somethings in my office think they know everything and won’t shut up about it!
Yes, the twenty-somethings in your office might need to learn more tact, humility and how to be better listeners. But wouldn’t you rather have employees who care enough to voice their opinions and fight for them, than the employee who really stopped working for you five years ago and causes no ripples whatsoever because they stopped jumping in the water a long time ago?

6. Practice “To The Point” Communication
My generation wants you to get to the point.
Blame it on technology. Write about those dwindling attention spans.
But I think it’s because we’ve grown up in a world where we’ve had to learn to be proficient at mega-messaging-multi-tasking.

So many headlines. So many emails. So many blogs and books. So many texts, messages, tweets, you name it. When you’re sending a twentysomething a message – whether a work email, text, or article, they are mentally putting it on top of their stack of messages to hopefully get to later. Like a Hollywood producer with a mountain of scripts on their desk, your message better be sizzling and too the point if it’s hoping to rise to the top.

And writing a verbose email is not the way to do it.Leaving a long voicemail is not the way to do it.
Having a bunch of meetings with numerous “key stakeholders” who all dance around the topic with verbal calisthenics, all trying to one-up each other with their verbal prowess, is not the way to do it. (I’ve been in too many of these meetings!)

For twenty-somethings, death by meetings is a terrible way to die.

7. Paint the Bigger Picture (and give us a brush)
In your office, home, or classroom, paint the bigger picture of where things are headed and the importance of the different steps to get there. Then let this generation grab their brush and imagine what their role could look like within it.

Give them goals and assignments placed within the context of the bigger picture. Tell the story of where your organization is headed and let the college students and twentysomethings enter into it. Let them see the purpose, impact, and importance of the work, and you’ll be surprised at the passion and purpose twenty-somethings bring to their jobs, to your church, and to your home.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Real Source of Personal Change (And the role of the DiSC)

Cleaning out my office the other day - an odd thing in itself - I came across something even more unusual than the thought of me cleaning anything. 

It was the original DiSC Behavioral Profile my department and I did back in the early 90s.The chart showed that I was heavy in the “dominance” and “influence” areas with pretty much zilch in the “conscientiousness” and “steadiness” realms. It was apparently a classic “Inspirational Pattern.” This is what it looked like (over on the left).

According to the DiSC material:
  • My goal is to control my environment by “consciously attempting to modify the thoughts and actions of others.”
  • I’m adept at “identifying and manipulating other’s existing motives and directing the resulting behavior toward a predetermined end.”
  • I influence others through charm and intimidation and become manipulative and quarrelsome under pressure.
Tell me something I don’t already know. The need to control things is something I know a lot about.

So why bring up this unpleasant bit of history? Well, it’s surprising how accurately that profile described the “me” of 18 years ago. And while there were some things I would have liked to change about my behavior at the time, the truth is that I didn’t change that much after I took the assessment.

Don’t get me wrong; I have changed a lot since then. But what the DiSC program revealed, only started the change in my behavior. I really began to change when my goals changed - for reasons we’ll get to in a minute - and I realized the behavior that had served me in the past was no longer effective.

That’s what this post is about: the difference between identifying behavioral characteristics, which DiSC and similar programs like Myers-Briggs are very good at, and actually doing something about it, i.e. modifyingbehavior, which is a whole different ball game.

The real value of behavioral profiles systems
Not only was the DiSC system spot-on, it also provided tips on how I can be more effective and showed my staff why I behaved like a crazy person from time to time. That said, I think the real value in the exercise was that, for a day, we all got to be on the same level discovering what each of us was really all about. I remember it being fun and disarming and the increased understanding did help us better communicate and work together as a team.

Even so, though DiSC system told me I could be a control freak under certain conditions, was deeply afraid of “being too soft,” and would be more effective by showing some “genuine sensitivity” from time to time, nothing really changed that much because I had a job to do and that was get results, not get all warm and fuzzy with my inner self.

What it really takes to affect behavioral change
In reality, it took a couple of pretty dramatic personal crises to get me to take a cold hard look in the mirror and decide that I wanted different things out of life. And to achieve them, I would need to spend some quality time actually getting to know others around me and myself and enjoy life. I needed some balance.

An employee who used to work for Intel’s former CEO Andy Grove - a guy who was famously tightly wound - once said that Grove became a much nicer and mellower guy after his run-in with prostate cancer. A manager I used to work for also softened up after a scary medical condition. That’s the sort of thing that motivates change.

You see, DiSC profiles may be eerily accurate, but they’re still pretty limited compared to everything you and I have going on under the hood. That’s because the architecture of the human mind is complicated. It’s actually a lot like an onion. 

And just like an onion, you peel a layer, cry, peel another layer, and wail some more. In other words, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you go a bit deeper and find out you didn’t know a darn thing. The mind’s tricky like that.

You see, what it all really comes down to, the essence of how you and I behave on a daily basis, is a loop that actually goes something like this:

You can follow the loop for years, even decades, thinking everything’s fine. Then, one day, something happens - a crisis, an epiphany - and you realize that the results of all your efforts weren’t what you expected. So you change your goals and, well, your behavior won’t change overnight, but it’s a start.

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, LMFT


P. S. Smart Development Inc. has an exceptional track record helping restaurants, stores, branches, distribution centers, food production facilities, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.