Actions that Work

writing ideas, taking notes and doing the right things

Every week you have the opportunity to move the needle and get your business notching up a level. Not only do you have to get the necessary work you committed to others done in your projects and tasks, but you have to make space and time to work on your business in addition to in your business.

It’s why your weekly checklist needs to have the important stuff to get attention as well as the known urgent items.

So, if you want to move your business forward, here are actions that work and should be scheduled into your week to be able to execute:

  1. Read and think. Check out how Ramit Sethi made this a priority in his own business to develop new strategies, products and direction. He learned, “But at a certain point, you can’t just “hustle” your way bigger. You have to completely change your thinking, your strategy, and even your team. This is what separates constantly hustling entrepreneurs…from true CEOs.”
  2. Write on legal pads. I’ve been moving a lot of time to legal pads, not just for taking notes, but to think and have time for creativity. It has worked wonders to get back to the brain-paper connection and watch ideas flow freely. There’s science in the handwriting act and how it develops and clarifies thinking. I’ve come to learn the keyboard is for productivity and output; the legal pad and pen is for creativity.
  3. Enjoy action-oriented people. Getting out for times of fun, relaxation and conversation with people that like to move to action motivates me and opens up opportunities. When ideas are flowing and people actually want to entertain and explore something more, new projects emerge. I like taking action. And it’s more likely to happen when there are people that are focused on future opportunities. Talkers may be entertaining and social to hang out with. But, doers tend to make ideas happen quickly and decisively. Find those people and hang out more.
  4. Eliminate commitments. Most things don’t work out. And working on yesterday’s commitments, as we are constantly doing, needs continual re-evaluation. You can always be more busy. That’s not the point. It’s to do less, not more. Every week, eliminate a commitment or project. It makes space for the new. You just have to be clear and decisive. That’s what good executives do. And in our work, we must be good executives to avoid allowing second-rate options to overtake our time and energy.

I have integrated these habits into my weekly workflow because they get above the noise beyond the obligations I will already get done with my time. These regular actions get me thinking about the direction I am heading. Too often, we are simply reacting rather than taking action on what we have defined as important. That can be stressful and disorienting.

What do you think about using some of these strategies for your own work?

Why I Blog and Share

First blog post circa 10/15/2005

My first blog post was on October 15, 2005. I was exploring what blogging meant. At that time, the blogosphere was exploding to tens of millions, and I started that humble process of writing and sharing to help my friends and clients with things I was learning.

I used to gift books that I liked when I would meet people. I believed the quote found in that post,

“The only difference from where you are right now, and where you’ll be one year from now, are the books you read and the people you meet.”

Well, it’s been 13 years and about 1,500 posts later and I am in a completely different place because of the books I have read and the people I have met. They are a part of me, and I am grateful.

I wanted to have a place to solidify my thoughts as well as help people that are trying to grow their businesses and improve their lives.

Blogging has been a wonderful, simple medium to focus the strategies, approaches and insights I gained not only from what I have learned, but also from what I have put into practice in the trenches. There are lessons about business, people, strategy and execution I have been able to test and tweak over the years. And those articles simply capture some of those learnings for those that are trying to grow as well.

I consider it a shortcut. You can skip the figuring out part and grab the good stuff.

For me, I can clarify my thinking while sharing.

I do agree that reading blogs is, “The last great online bargain,” as Seth Godin stated. With the Delete Facebook calls and social media fatigue, reading, writing and testing in the real world has fundamental value as we push for what we want in life.

I am grateful there are still simple ways to think, share and reflect on what is happening in this immense world of opportunity. It’s all continual learning and I blog and share to keep on that journey.

Don’t Confuse Leadership And Salesmen

SalesmanshipIf a person sells leadership, is your assumption that they are a leader?  Perhaps, they know that the topic is hot and they are really focused on selling you leadership.  If a person is a good salesmen, they can also persuade a lot of people to see the world their way.

Whether it’s an organization, an author, a book or some program bent on leadership, look for congruence.  People that sell leadership should demonstrate it.  They are business people as well if they are selling it and packaging it.  Business is messy.  In the midst of business interactions you should see the following qualities:

  • Taking responsibility.  If there is a mistake, a misunderstanding or something went awry, does this person take responsibility or just blame?
  • Humility.  If a person cannot humble themselves in light of facts or probability, then what does that say about them?  Are they truly leading?  Leaders acknowledge reality and what is in their control and what is not.
  • Empowerment.  Do people around this person speak their mind?  Or is there fear of repercussion?  Leaders build up others and helps them become better.  If it is command central, any insecure person can do that.  Empowered people are the fruits of good leaders.
  • Perseverance.  Life throws curveballs.  Leaders push through and persevere.  They keep pushing against failure.  When mistakes happen, they have enough security to apologize.  If you don’t see this, you are likely being sold an image than the real thing.
These are some observations I have from assessing people I do business with and products I buy on leadership.  Sometimes, I can look at the promise rather than the person behind it.  I have found it’s important to differentiate between someone selling leadership and one that truly is leading.  Then you can avoid being disarmed in your perspective and manage the relationship accordingly.  Respect a leader.  Beware of salesmen.

Information Age Publishing

Publishing in the information age is easy and convenient.  Yet, there are still corporate overseers trying to control, rather than grow their talent.  It’s comical that organizations can see the speed and efficiency the internet has afforded everyone around them.  Yet, their strategies are latent because of fear.

The Old Economy

In the industrial age, we all lined up.  We had the factory mindset.  In school, we learned how to be compliant and line up for everything.  It was complete order and control.

Work had the same structure.  We had bosses, hierarchies and cubes all lined up in rows.  We were working hard and waiting our turn because of an information gap.  What those above us knew was held close.  By paying our dues and waiting our turn in line over many years, we could get this special knowledge and access.  Be a good boy or girl and you would be entitled to a promotion.  That was the game.  That was the deal.

When Publishing Became Self-Serve

If you shouted a message in the old days, it might be heard by a small audience depending on your shout and your budget.  You would have to shout loud and work hard.

Today is a different story.  Your thoughts can be published instantly and found readily online.  People are thumbing their mobile devices and consuming content continually.  Publishing in blogs, websites, social media and forums became convenient.  If you have something valuable to offer and to say, then you are found.  You are not hassling with distribution like the old days.

There Is No Line

While there may still be some artificial barriers in corporate policies, your own fears or old mindsets, there is no line.  You don’t have to wait to bring value to the world.  The line is in your head more than it is in reality.

We are in the information age.  Anything we want to learn is accessible.  Knowledge is everywhere.  Putting the pieces together for something valuable is still a challenge, but the access has sped things up and loosened the grip of the old guard.

If information is easy to get and information age publishing allows you unprecedented distribution, then what’s stopping you from changing the world?  You can win more fans, gain more revenue, increase your influence and promote your cause better than ever.

If you are still standing in line, then the relics of the industrial age need to be destroyed in your mind.  Get going with bringing value to the world.  It’s a challenge of leadership and diligence more than it is of convenience, technology or reality.

What have you done with the great opportunity of self publishing today?

Strengths: Ideas Over Pragmatics

There are people who lean towards ideas and others who are grounded in pragmatics.  This is known as the Cognitive scale in our strengths testing.  You are somewhere on this scale and your scoring shows up in your tendencies.

Planning may be more enjoyable than visioning.  Principles may be more appealing for conversation than how your day went.  Your preferences come from how you think and influence the world around you.

Your tendencies are your strength.  The speed and ease by which you are able to think of a new idea or come up with a procedure is based on how your brain is wired.  It is cause for celebration and caution. There are instances where you shine.  Living in that space allows for opportunity and prosperity.

There are also instances where you can falter.  You might be slower, less enthused and drained of energy.  You are playing in your weaknesses rather than your strengths.

Mastering the area of your natural gifting and living in that space is key for success.  I have observed so many people who play outside their strengths in the work they do or pursue.  It is unfulfilling and frustrating.

For you, it is important to know who you are.  If you like to see the big picture, then living in that space should be around strategy and vision.  Put yourself in a position to engage problems on a daily basis around conceptual issues and questions.

If you are more pragmatic, then concrete work is more satisfying.  Accounting, IT work or secretarial work may be more of what you find enjoyable.  Put yourself in roles which fufill your need for clear definition and deliverables.

We are most successful when we work in our strengths and love our work.

What do you tend towards in your thinking?  Feel free to comment below.

Irrelevant Uncertainty In Your Decisions

Actions and decisions are what drive you forward. Many of these will be wrong or wasteful. It’s difficult in a fast-paced or changing world to get all of the data to make perfect decisions and act accordingly.

Uncertainty can impede your decision-making. However, uncertainty is often present. With advice and counsel in what next steps to take, you are trusting another to move forward. Without this, you have your own intuition and experience.

Here’s my take in most matters – excluding the space program, drug research and other life-threatening, low margin endeavors – regarding you to take action. Make a decision and be comfortable with uncertainty. Taking small steps helps you determine the next steps. Be flexible and adjust.

If you don’t know what job to do next, what business to start, then decide on what your gut is telling you. Work it for a time and see what develops. If you find a straight path and more clarity along the way, then proceed.

If you find yourself with more friction but clarity on new things you want, then proceed. Don’t mistake adversity for wrong decisions, by the way. It’s often part of anything worth doing.

I like action people. They make the world move, and their embrace of failure sets them head and shoulders above the mass majority of people uncomfortable with uncertainty. Don’t miss the shots you don’t take.

Build Something

If the economy is doing badly and you can’t find a job, then why are you wasting hours that could be used to build something?  Everything you do is about converting work hours to something valuable.  Valuable things translate into fans or money.  Complaints and laziness translate into lost opportunity.

The Nature of Knowledge Work

You really are without excuse.  There are too many people out there doing what you may not have the guts or diligence to do.  We live in a free society.  Noone is stopping you from going after your dreams, your passions or your freedom.

We live in the age of knowledge work.  A keyboard and an internet connection affords you the opportunity to change the world.  Take this article for example.  You and I are connecting through this medium, though I write in a time and space distant from you.  We can still connect.  Multiply that by the thousands of hours I have spent repeatedly connecting and it accounts for the head start I have gained by being willing to execute and doing the hard labor of thinking and building something.

What’s stopping you?  Fear?  Laziness?  Those are the typical culprits which are not called out in our society.  We sympathize rather than articulate the truth.

Knowledge work is the game we are in today.  You have a sea of knowledge to consume and redistribute into something worth buying.  You can learn to build sites, give advice, promote products, assess hardware, code software, broker deals, or whatever your heart desires.  All the knowledge exists.  The question really comes down to ….

Will You Work

I teach my children a deduction every day.  They complain, as all children do, of how hard something is.  I push back.  I ask, “Do you have to do this work anyways?  How long would it take you?”  The answer may be 30 minutes or an hour and a half.  They know what’s coming.  I say, “Then just work the hour and a half.  It’s just work.”

The emotion is gone.  The laziness has a spotlight on it.  It’s about whether they will just hunker down and execute.

Your work is the same.  Everything can be broken down into segments of time.  I don’t sympathize with your fears or excuses.  There’s too many other people who don’t care and just execute.  They are your competition and your accusers.

Here’s the message: stop feeling sorry for yourself and just execute.  You may surprise yourself on how far forward you push the ball if you just build something.  Surprise me and leave a comment that you actually did something instead of waiting for someone else to do something for you.

Talent Is Required

Marketing Automation requires talent. There is a combination of different disciplines involved in successfully connecting with and nurturing a potential or existing customer. This talent can be part of an existing marketing team or hired via a marketing automation agency. Too many organizations focus on the tools and their feature sets and overlook the most important aspect of a successful marketing program – talent.

Here are the areas of talent which need to exist:

  • Strategic Thinking: Marketing automation campaigns involve thinking creatively about how the buying process works. Understanding the buyer and their mindsets is critical for success. Gaining attention and relevance must be mapped strategically by the successful marketer.
  • Information Technology: The systems involved in delivering messaging and triggering actions requires a knowledge of how workflows are executed. A systems thinker who can understand the cross-impacts of changes and the repercussions of links, landing pages and database management helps to ensure not only a speed of execution but clean management of leads. The setup of various campaigns requires talent in the area of system navigation and management. It is the skill of both an architect and an engineer.
  • Graphic Design: If the artwork, layout and presentation are not appealing and remarkable, then the communications of a marketing automation campaign will suffer obscurity and ineffectiveness. Skill in graphic design is a must when there is so much noise hitting people’s in-boxes and there are too many websites.
  • Thought Leadership: Writing is a key differentiator. Poor copy will result in wasted effort and is also a reflection of your brand. Writing to sell turns off the buyer. Writing to persuade and bring value positions your company and offering. The talent of articulation and bringing a relevant message are critical to connect with a buyer. This is especially challenging in an age where there is a plethora of good and bad content.
  • Leadership: Marketing automation is not a fulfillment function. If it turns into menial output, then the marketing will die a rapid death. Buyers today are too sensitive to their inbox and exert triage on their information world. They are looking for leadership. The most important ingredient is to lead the customer and your team with conviction around your brand and offering. A person who is only seeking to accommodate has very little chance of bringing an effective connection with an audience that is starved for leadership, conviction and clarity.

In all, the realm of marketing automation is cross-disciplinary. There is a convergence of various talents. It is rare to find this in one person, much less two or three. Typically, a team approach which creates the results of effective marketing automation is what is required.

Larger organizations may have some of the talent pieces within their own time that comes from traditional means for engaging the marketplace. Often times, the gaps need to be filled with outside consultants that have the expertise to augment the existing team for true success.

If you are making decisions for implementing successful marketing strategies, pay much more attention to what is required in talent than in the tools. The former makes more of a difference. The tools are approaching parity and can enable what talented teams can drive via their ingenuity and passion.

Change: Same Old Script

In our management consulting, the process of change is the hardest part of success.  Implementing business systems, designing process or creating new strategies pale in comparison as far as the effort and challenge of helping people adopt new behaviors for the better.

In the new book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath, the authors give concrete examples of how to effect change.  One of the myths is that increasing knowledge is effective.  Findings and experience have proven the opposite as Jerry Sternin, a person who affected malnutrition positively stated, “Knowledge does not change behavior.  We have all encountered crazy shrinks and obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors.”

Change happens at a much more fundamental level.  The Heath brothers state it succinctly,

“To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant and shape the Path.”

There are three elements that continue to pervade the book in story form.  Concrete, highly emotional and directed convenience is the key.  Otherwise, we operate out of our comfort zones and execute the same old scripts.

There are things we would like to see different in our business and life.  Change management is the challenge to move towards this new reality.  Post a comment on what challenges you are seeking to overcome in your business or life.  I would love to hear some of  your challenges and if they are changes I like, I’ll send a copy of the book to you as part of your strategy and approach.

Break the scripts and change your world.  There is a method to the madness.