Posts Tagged ‘personal effectiveness’

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The Ten Commandments of Email

February 22, 2011

Here are some brief guidelines on how to make sure you are using email appropriately (and effectively):

  1. Thou Shalt Not Reply All.
    Resist temptation and it will flee from you. Please enjoy the Bridgestone commercial, until the beverage cart arrives.
  2. Thou Shalt Keep it Clean. No porn, no pictures, no sharp language. Why? Look at this button, it says: “Forward”. Always use a subject line, appropriate greeting and a smart signature ~ no need for fourteen lines about your academic and professional accomplishments, if we work together every day. And, please: NO unprofessional content, language or pictures.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Rant. Freedom of speech is a right, but exercising that right means using it the right way. If you disagree with the recent policy announcement, going off in an email is probably not the best way to convey your displeasure. How will that get any meaningful results? Sure, you may feel better…until your boss comes in to discuss your attitude. Or, worse yet, an even stronger conversation about your employment! Seeking real change is about putting your emotions and passions into action, not into words …and then sending them to Jesus, Moses, and the 12 apostles. See commandment #1.
  4. Thou Shalt not SHOUT AT PEOPLE. Laziness, plain and simple. Surprising, but people still do it. Why?

    Email, after eTrade?

  5. Plan that time-sensitive info will FAIL, via email. Planning is not a good use of email. “Who can make the meeting on Thursday?” is an email topic that will create endless spin and rescheduling – assuming everyone sees the message before Thursday. What works best in email: Information, Instruction (or confirmation) and Documentation. Let people know that the meeting has been scheduled, and send out the meeting request. Verify key players via telephone or face-to-face. Email can’t do it all!
  6. Beware the “BCC” and use it wisely. When used with the “Reply All” button, you can get some surprises that no one wants and you didn’t intend. Caution!
  7. Do not covet the ability to cc: 3 or more people. It’s not always off limits, but it’s a yellow flag if you are cc:ing a multitude. Especially if you are cc:ing your boss’s boss, or otherwise going up the chain. Ranting or other violations, when combined with copying every singer in the choir, can be a real CLM (career-limiting move).
  8. Remember that email is never the first/last/only communication tool. Are you the gal who pontificates via email? Are you the dude who issues edicts, not emails? It’s easy to hide behind the keyboard and assume a different persona. Step out of the Matrix from time to time and don’t let email be your only connection to your team, your co-workers, or others.
  9. Thou shalt not choke your co-workers inbox with enormous attachments. Just put that file on the server, or use Dropbox or some other service. Be smart about large file transfer. ‘Nuff said.
  10. Send commands via email wisely. Because even if (or especially if) you’re the boss, how you ask for something is even more important than what you need.

Before you hit “send”, ask yourself if you are being lazy, or being effective, with email. Set an email policy, or open up a discussion within your department, so that others know where you stand. Email protocol is a bit of an unwritten law – there’s no ‘manual’. But, there are expectations. What are yours?

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Chris Westfall is a professional development coach for top-tier MBA programs, including Texas Christian University, and an award-winning instructor at Southern Methodist University’s Business Leadership Center. He was recently recognized as the grand prize winner of the ‘118’, the elevator pitch competition sponsored by celebrity CMO and author, Jeffrey Hayzlett. He works with companies and individuals on branding, leadership and sales strategies.

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The Interview Question

November 16, 2010

What’s the one question that most job seekers forget to ask, in the interview? Professional development coach Chris Westfall provides insight that can help you to know exactly how you compare to your competition, and what you need to discuss in the interview to move your career forward.

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What CEOs Really Want

September 14, 2010

Click the image to see more on this report

Recently, IBM surveyed over 1500 CEOs, to find out their most pressing challenges.  The complexity of the worldwide markets, combined with an increased rate of change, were the top remarks.  In attempting to deal with the challenges of the current economy, business leaders cited one quality above all others that can help employees to make a difference.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.  It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.  The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?  Creativity.

Surprising, when you consider the traditional definitions of creativity.  For “creatives”, that word is used as both a description, and an excuse (Ever heard this one? “We can’t/won’t/don’t do that, we’re ‘creative'”).  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.  Where do you find “creative” accountants, for example?  Answer: Jail.

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.  “Creative” is a department, or a compartment, reserved for individuals with unique talents that are not particularly commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  So, “creativity” is rare, shapeless, often negative, potentially dangerous and certainly counter-intuitive.  Has IBM generated a survey that appeals for an artsy-craftsy approach to business?  Or is there a deeper meaning that this author has carefully chosen to ignore, in an attempt to roll out a few one-liners? (Ah, you caught me….)  This survey actually says that it is time for creativity to turn this economy around.

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that we harness our imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey seek creative solutions to experiment and innovate.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo, and central to the necessary disruption that is required for our collective marketplace to get unstuck.

CEOs are looking for ways to shake up their portfolios, their business models, and their old ways of addressing challenges in the marketplace.

Business leaders expect complexity to increase, and the need for disruption to follow (perhaps even lead) the advancement.  Creativity is needed, above all else, in order to innovate and lead through this current financial climate.  Why?  Because business must create a new future.  That future must build on the present, but in new and meaningful ways – ways that can only be described as “creative”, because they haven’t been created yet!

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.  Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination – and new solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to churn and struggle, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill (awareness), but seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way – well, that takes some creativity.  Don’t you agree?

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The Right Way to Say Goodbye

August 25, 2010

Recently, a business partner who I respect was given an abrupt boot by a manufacturer.  Essentially, the manufacturer “fired” their business, due to lack of performance.  Despite a long history, numbers were down, and a one-sided decision was made to end the relationship. In this economy, there’s a lot more good-byes than good buys, and that conversation is always a difficult one.  Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this most difficult and final transaction.  Parting ways with a supplier, vendor or employee is never pleasant, but sometimes necessary.  For executive leaders, it’s not a conversation you have via email, text message or registered letter.

And yes, my friend John recently received a registered letter.  It was his first communication in nine months, and yes, it was a “Dear John” letter.  Is it right for a manufacturer and business partner to simply say goodbye, without as much as a conversation?  In a word, no.

Parting ways is the most difficult kind of conversation, because it always ends with one party wishing for a different outcome.  Even if the decision is a mutual one, and clearly a necessary move for both parties, there is still a sense of regret.  Here are three steps to make sure that the process goes through with dignity for those involved:

  1. Have the conversation – So, a letter (even a registered letter) is not satisfactory.  Painful as it may be, you have to show up for this appointment.  Out of respect for the (business partner, vendor, employee) you should look someone in the eye when you say goodbye.  The phone call is the next best thing, but second place is a looooong way from best practices.  It’s important to say, in person, that the relationship matters, even though it has come to a close.  Life is short and the world can be very small at times – you never know when your paths may cross again.  Face to face is the best way for closure.
  2. Explanations don’t help – Arguing a point after a decision has been made is moot.   When you hear ‘goodbye’, it is a wake-up call for change.  But turning your attention to the future is easier said than done, when you receive difficult news.   On the other side of the table, explaining a decision has little effect; after it has been made, it’s best for both parties to move on.  Still, out of respect for the past, a conversation is the least you can provide.  But ultimately, on both sides of the table: Whether you are seeking an explanation, or offering one, does it really matter?  OK, if it’s possible to take emotions out of the equation: does it really matter?  Rationalizations are not germane to the conversation; but respect and dignity for both parties must be maintained.  The decision is, by nature, one-sided and unilateral – delivering it  in person is the best way to dignify the relationship and the individuals involved.
  3. Anger is a natural reaction – “All progress is change, but not all change is progress” my friend Dean Lindsay likes to say.  Terminating a business relationship is a major change, and causes stress, challenge, and anger –  and all of that happens before, during, and after the decision.  Saying goodbye is a form of progress, but it can feel more like a punch in the stomach.  Or a kick in your favorite glands. There’s no way around it; anger will be in the room.  Best you can do is prepare for it, acknowledge it, and move on…in spite of it.
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Westfall and Associates

May 24, 2010

Looking for new ways to grow your business?

Video introduction to our services and our approach.

Special thanks to Jeff Adair and the team at Dream.Work.Conquer for all their help!

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Make Your Breaks – Thoughts on Serendipity

April 24, 2010

Serendipity is good – but can it be shaped?

The answer is yes, if you understand how to create the unexpected and turn it into opportunity. Serendipity means good luck in making fortunate unexpected discoveries; so how do we create the unexpected?

IU Logo here

Indiana University

My dad always told me, “You practice like you play”. As a former college quarterback, he knows a lot about the importance of practice. His logic goes like this: you practice your game, so that you can create unexpected events. Practice creates opportunity; skill allows you to capitalize on the unexpected. After all, the difference between “serendipity” and “surprise” is… results.

From Nathan Jamail’s “Sales Leaders Playbook”: Athletes spend 90% of their time practicing, and 10% on performance. In business, it’s more like 1% practice, 99% “just do it”, and hope for the best. Not a good strategy for serendipity, but it certainly can create a lot of surprises!

In the business world, effective practice means taking time to reflect on opportunities, to explore ideas (like this one!) with others, and exchange innovation with other thought leaders. By asking “What if…?” we can unlock the key to imagination – that’s the birthplace of new discoveries (IMHO). Creativity shapes serendipity. Put that idea into practice by exchanging new ideas; prepare for the unexpected by considering it with colleagues you trust.

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How to Go from Good to GREAT in Sales

April 23, 2010

I’ll let you in on a little secret, about how to transform from good to great in the sales game. The one thing that makes a good salesperson great: It’s always the customer.

If you have the talents of a monkey, but you are sitting in front of customer who wants to buy what you are selling, you will close a sale. Additionally, you will be able to answer the phone with your feet, but that’s another story.

Westfall and Associates, How may I help You?

(phones answered by 800 pound Gorilla)

If you want to see a great salesperson in action, concentrate on what the customer is doing. Great salespeople inspire action by meeting needs. Good salespeople do a lot of demos, and keep busy saying things like, “activity breeds results!” while hoping for the best.

If you can only do one thing right, Focus on the customer. If you lose your way in the sales process, focus on the customer. The customer will bring you back on track.

If sales is about meeting needs, the needs you need to meet (great english, huh? sorry friends, it’s my 9th language 😉  ) are only found within the customer.

For more thoughts on how to identify a buying customer, follow this link: http://bit.ly/deouak