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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Leading change you don’t agree with? Rise above your emotions

Follow the LeaderI frequently blog about leading change, and in the past I’ve explained how people’s reaction to change follows a classic model (How to manage change in the workplace).  What happens though if you are responsible for leading and implementing change that you don’t agree with yourself?  What then?  Leading change you don’t agree with is not as unusual as you might think, and the bottom line answer is that you have to rise above your own emotions.  Yes, I know, easier said than done, but getting past your own reservations is critical if you’re going to maintain your credibility with your team.  You can’t move forward until you do.

You have to start first by looking inwards at yourself.  How do you really feel about the change?  You have to come to terms with the change yourself before you can play an active and positive role in implementing it.  How do you accomplish this seeming impossible task?  Here are three ideas.  Continue reading

When email is not the best choice …

For the last few weeks, off-and-on, I’ve been blogging about the things people do when they send email that negatively impacts both their credibility and effectiveness.  My last post was on how it’s critical to offer your phone number as an alternate way for your email recipients to contact you.  Today I thought I’d make one final point that’s been at the back of my mind ever since we started on this subject.

NoEmailIn my opinion, the biggest blunder that people make with email is sending one when they shouldn’t!  There are times when picking up the telephone or walking down the hall to talk to the person is a far better alternative than sending an email.  Sure, email may seem easier at first blush, but if your message is likely to escalate emotions, then email should never be your first choice, or for that matter, any choice.  In fact, email in such situations is more likely to deteriorate into what I call “email warfare” – a rapid-fire exchange of emails, each one more emotionally-charged than the last, and usually cc’d to additional people in each round.  Never a recipe for a positive outcome!  As powerful as the written word can be, it simply cannot reflect the nuances that exist in facial expressions, body posture, tone, pace, pitch and volume of voice.  Which means that emails can be easily misunderstood, particularly when the topic being discussed is emotionally-charged.  The alternative: talk to the person face-to-face, or if that’s not possible, pick up the phone.  Even a voice mail is preferable to an email in such circumstances.

Well, have you observed situations of “email warfare” gone horribly wrong?  Do tell.

Even with email, make it easy for people to phone you

TelephoneSince we’ve been talking about email effectiveness here on the blog for the last little while (getting the subject line right, not sending FYI emails, and the importance of grammar and spell check), here’s one more.  Make it easy for your addressee to get a hold of you.  Make sure your signature line has at least one alternate way to contact you.  You want people to act on what you say, right?  So make it simple.  Sometimes, the other person will realize that a back-and-forth email exchange is not the best way to resolve whatever it is you’re discussing.  Give them easy access to your phone number so that they can pick up the telephone and get things dealt with.  Don’t make them hunt for this information, make it effortless for them.  Here’s the odd thing about this – people may not notice that you’re offering up this alternate way to contact them.  But they sure as heck will notice if you don’t.  Do you really want to be remembered because you irritated them?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  So make sure that you have your phone number or other easy way for people to contact you right there in your email signature line.

Next blog post I’ll have one final idea in this series.  But in the meantime, what else do you have to add to the list of how people (unknowingly) sabotage their credibility through their email communication?  Tell us, so that we can all be warned!

Poorly written emails will sabotage your success

Earlier this month, I penned a couple of posts about things people do that sabotage the effectiveness of their emails – specifically, not getting your subject line right, and sending email that is “Just FYI”.  Given some of the interest it generated, I thought it would be worth covering some more in the next few blog posts.

HandsKeyboardPoorly written emails will hurt you, and hinder your career success.  This one is so obvious that I can’t believe I have to say it … but I do.  Mainly because so many people don’t!  Check your email for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar before you hit “Send”.  Yes, I know it’s only email, but the honest unvarnished truth is that other people are constantly making judgements about you.  About your credibility, about your reliability, even about your intelligence.  And whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, people make judgements about you based on the quality of your writing.  They do.  So if your email is sloppily written, then guess what immediate assumption they’re making about you?  For the few moments it takes to write full sentences and quickly proofread, don’t jeopardize your credibility in the eyes of others by sending out poorly written emails.

It’s just email, isn’t it?  Does it really require the same high level of writing skill as a formal letter?  You know my opinion, but what about yours?  Do you agree or disagree?

Final chance for open-enrollment professional development in Alberta

CPAIf you belong to an association that requires you to attend ongoing professional development programs, then don’t miss out on your final chance (at least until next fall) for cost-effective leadership and workplace communication training. Last September, I announced a series of “open enrollment” full-day leadership training programs in Edmonton and Calgary that I would be delivering in partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) until March 2016. We are now down to the last three, scheduled to run in Calgary at the end of this month.

If you’re based in Alberta, do NOT miss this opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost, and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors. These are offered in partnership with CPA Alberta, but you DO NOT have to be a CPA member to register. If you work in a smaller organization that normally doesn’t have the budget to conduct onsite leadership training programs, then don’t miss this cost-effective opportunity to get what you need. Click on any program link for further information or to register directly at the CPA Alberta site. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register, a very quick and easy process.

Let me know (leave a comment or send me a tweet) if you’re planning to attend. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Compensating for Parkinson’s Law – good practice or disingenuous?

parkinsonYears ago, when I was still at university, I experienced first-hand the validity and strength of Parkinson’s Law. This time-tested adage – Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion – stand true even today, as it still very aptly describes what repeatedly occurs in workplaces. And if you’re managing projects or leading teams, it’s definitely worth your while to not only be conscious of it, but also deliberately adapt to counterbalance it.

Parkinson’s Law doesn’t usually occur with any sinister or negative intent, or for that matter, even deliberately. It just happens. Conflicting priorities and other responsibilities mean that work expands to fill the time available up to the pre-determined deadline. Which means that if you’re a leader or project manager, you need to assign target dates to team members so that you are left with some “buffer” should things go off the rails. Not everything works out perfectly the first time (understatement of the year!), so creating a “false” deadline is a prudent business decision. Continue reading

Don’t send email that is “Just FYI”!

JustFYILast week I blogged about how you need to get your email subject line right if you want to be taken seriously. Today I thought I’d cover another email blunder people make that just completely destroys their credibility. Don’t send email that is “Just FYI”.

Yeah, I’m talking to those of you who go “cc crazy” – copying everyone and anyone who might have a passing interest or faintly tenuous connection to whatever it is you’re writing about. Yes, I realize that some of you might do it to “cover your ass”. Don’t. If you want your messages to really matter, word of advice – don’t copy too many people. Think about it, just about everyone today I know gets far more email than they know what the heck to do with! So … if you are cautious and thoughtful about who you send your emails to, if you are judicious in the amount of email you generate, you WILL stand out from the crowd. Consider this – if your track record is that you send out a lot of email marked Just FYI, or just for your information, then people begin to assume that everything you send them falls into that category. And the few emails you send that really do matter simply get lost in the crowd. Prudency in who you choose to cc on your messages will give you a well-respected standing amongst your peers, your staff, and senior executives in your organization.

So … do you agree? Is “Just FYI” creating an email deluge that dilutes a message? Or does it serve a useful purpose? Share your thoughts please.

Get your email subject line right if you want to be taken seriously

EmailI’ve always said that, right or wrong, people judge you based on your writing skills. So today’s post focuses on one specific kind of business writing – yes, email! While there are many situations where email is not the best way to communicate, email can still be an efficient and effective way to convey your message, particularly if you need to get the word out to a group of people. But don’t make the one mistake that can significantly dilute the effect of your message. Don’t botch the email subject line!

If you don’t make your email subject line descriptive enough, not only are you jeopardizing the likelihood of getting the outcome you desire, but you’re also likely to run the risk of losing credibility in the eyes of your reader. Your subject line should always contain enough information to let your reader know what the email is about and whether this is something they need to address now or can defer to later. Continue reading