How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: People Behaving Badly: How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization.

It’s the fourth in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

People Behaving Badly: How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization reveals:

  • The three steps to constructive confrontation
  • What to do when constructive confrontation doesn’t work
  • When to walk away

P.S. Did you miss out on Volume 1, 2, or 3 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

  1. 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!
  2. How to Sell to the C-Suite
  3. Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust

Take a look and let us know what you think.

ACTION REQUIRED: Read my email PLEASE! (Part 1)

Have you ever sent out an email like this?

Subject: Prep for client mtg next week and one-on-one mtg times

To prepare for our meeting, would each of you please provide:

  1. Your updated bio
  2. Any agenda items in addition to those listed below
  3. Let me know your availability for a one-on-one meeting anytime Mon-Thurs next week.

Are you happy with your response rates?  My guess is—you’re not.

Banging My Head Against the Wall

A friend recently shared his thoughts on the lack of responses to his emails.  He likened it to “banging my head against the wall”.

He said he wrote short, simple sentences, highlighting key action items, providing his phone number for calls. His results?  “Nobody reads what I wrote—and nobody calls.”

As a result, he found himself wondering things like: “Am I wasting their time? Are they so busy they can’t read my message? Is it that they don’t respect me? Or the message? Don’t they care? Have they done some calculation about the risk or cost of not answering me? Would they answer it if it came from their boss?

I can relate.  And I bet you can too.

Email Overload?

Are people really so overloaded that they can’t respond to a simple note?   The term “email overload” garners 438,000 hits on Google.  But there are other causes – too busy, not focused, unavailable, ignored on purpose, have nothing to say yet, to mention a few.  Take your pick.  We don’t really know why people don’t respond, or ignore certain portions of emails.

There’s a plethora of advice on sending and handling incoming email, some of which was discussed in Think Before Sending.  But there is very little on how to get your business (not outgoing marketing) emails read.  I decided to see what the experts say–and then ask you to weigh in.

Alesia Latson – More Time for You

I recently attended a great presentation by Alesia Latson, co-author of More Time for You. She had advice on addressing email overload; her favorite button on the keyboard is “delete”.   She’s not alone.  Her book and talk included how to sift through the important and urgent emails, and make sure that as recipients we weren’t missing something that had to be done.  Recently, I asked her how the sender could increase the odds that the recipient might actually read and act on the email.  Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • State “Action Required” in the subject line
  • Ask your colleagues what will get their attention
  • Keep it short
  • Put a date on when responses/actions are required and by whom

Robert Whipple – Understanding E-Body Language

Then I read Robert T. Whipple’s book  Understanding E-Body Language – Building Trust Online, and his article But I Sent an E-mail on That Last Week.   This book has a lot of suggestions on managing email, but only a few on getting them read.  The main point involves not being an email pest.  That’s a sure way to be ignored.  Here are some of the article’s great ideas.

  • Avoid long and complex emails
  • Follow up with a face-to-face (meeting or a call)
  • Add additional modes of communication besides email
  • Use clear formatting

Stever Robbins – Tips for Mastering Email Overload

A Harvard Business School article from 2004 by Stever Robbins, Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload, also had some good ideas.   Here are just a few of his suggestions:

  • Use a summarizing, rather than descriptive, subject line (e.g. use “Recommend we ship product April 25” rather than “deadline discussion”)
  • Orient the reader by giving enough context and background – don’t make them wade through numerous past emails
  • When sent to multiple people, tell each person specifically what you want from her/him
  • Send a separate message instead of using bcc
  • Separate topics into separate emails

These are all great ideas, and should help a lot.  But what do you do when you have followed much of this advice and your emails still go unheeded?  Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will ask the same three experts this question.  Meantime, what do you think?

How to Write 35% Better and 45% Faster

I’m not kidding. Yes, your mileage may vary, but I have something that’s real and useful to you: better, faster writing.

It is based on solid, commonsense ideas.  And it involves very cool software.  Which is also free.

A painless, free way to make real improvement?  What’s not to like?

Why We Write Slowly and Poorly

If you’re like me, you suffer from writer’s block, procrastination, and lack of clarity. Occasionally I get lucky. Inspiration hits, the time is right, and the words flow from my pen keyboard like champagne. But not usually.

Usually I miss my deadlines. I start late, I change topics at the last minute. I write in fits and starts. Sometimes I do whole rewrites. Other times I just declare victory and retreat, knowing I could have done better but not wanting to face it.

This is not a new problem.  Many people have written about how to solve it; I know, because I’ve read many of their articles, blogposts and eBooks.  There is, you’ll be glad to hear, a consensus diagnosis.  And I’m about to share it with you, for free.

The problem boils down to two parts:

  1. We are tormented by distractions, and
  2. We write like we read—from beginning to end, straight through.

If we could figure out how to reliably focus, and how to write in a structured manner—why, we could actually write well, and on time!

The Two-Part Writing Solution

The two-part problem has a two-part answer: focusing and outlining. Yes, I know it’s simple; what did you expect?  It’s also powerful. It’s the answer of those who have studied the problem.  It may not be sexy; it’s right.

Focus. The answer to distraction is focus.  Focus is mainly about getting rid of external stimuli—email, tweets, texts, noises, visual excitement. This allows you to concentrate your attention.

Great in theory; but how do you do it? Close the door? Go outside? It all seemed unexciting and ineffectual.  I never found a great answer—until now.

Outline. Unless you’re writing haiku, don’t try to sit down and write start to finish. Instead, get clear on your opening, your closing, and about three main points in the middle.  Get those ideas down on paper.  Sharpen them. Tighten them. Be clear about your content.

If you can do that, voila—you’ll actually know what it is you mean to say. And then you can write it. Again, I knew this—but resisted actually doing it. Until now.

The Magic Software Solution to Writing: OmmWriter

I love magic software solutions. Of course, they’re largely mythical. Nine times out of ten they just complicate things, paving over the original winding cowpath.  But there is a nifty little software product that actually delivers on Focus and Outlining.  I find it really works for me.

It is called OmmWriter, and what is does is simple genius.

  • It takes over your computer, putting your email, tweets, alarms, notifications, in a silent state of suspension, as invisible as they are quiet.
  • In their stead, your screen is entirely covered in a soft green shade. A very soothing, quiet music plays in the background. (The program recommends you use headphones for maximum effect, and I agree).
  • The only thing on the screen is a dirt-simple text editor.  No choice of fonts. No fancy formatting controls. No save-as, view-as or send-to options.  About all you can do with it is—outline.

And that’s really it.  One simple program hijacks most of the threats to your ability to focus, and makes it hard to do anything but outline.

Focus and outline: the two-part solution. Served up with software.

OmmWriter comes in PC, Mac and iPad formats.  There is a pure free version, and a shareware version: the minimum recommended (but optional) shareware contribution is $4.11; I’m guessing you can afford it.

And no, I have no connection whatsoever with the Ommwriter folks. This blog will be a surprise to them. They just have good software that deserves publicizing.

Speech-to-Text: My Killer Apps Part 2

I never liked podcasts.  I can read five times faster than I can listen to someone talk; thank god for transcripts.

And while I type over 100 words per minute, there’s no way I can type as fast as I can talk.

So it seems obvious: the killer app combines talking-as-input with reading-as-output.  Which is called Voice-to-Text.

Voice-to-Text: a Future Whose Time Has Come?

Voice-to-text has been around for quite a while, but it seems to me it’s making some serious inroads lately.  In part, the technology has gotten better; you used to spend more time correcting mistakes than you saved in using the tool.

But it’s also become ubiquitous.  I love voicemail-as-text, aka visual voicemail, which you can get through pretty much all phone service providers. Here’s the AT&T Blackberry version, and here’s the Vonage version.  Instead of dialing up and listening while someone drones on, I just get the transcription via email.  (Of course, some pretty funny errors arise…).

You may also have noticed voice-to-text is popping up in lots of cellphone and search engine uses.  Microsoft’s Bing offers voice search on my iPhone, and Google is building it into its Chrome Browser.  Apple is apparently baking dictation capability into its new iOS5 internal settings.  Droid users already have access to it in some form.

That Will be Then: This is Now

All that’s exciting; but what can you do right now, today?  The main company in the business is Nuance.  They have absorbed many companies over the years and incorporated them into their flagship product Dragon Naturally Speaking.

I use the product three ways: the desktop version, the desktop version on my laptop, and my smartphone.  I love them all, but the biggest story is the phone app.

Voice to Text on Computer

It’s absolutely amazing how much you can do by voice commands alone.  If you’re visually impaired, for example, this software is the key to freedom. For most of us, in fact, it’s like the Sunday New York Times—all you’d ever want, and then some.

Desktop. The trick is to restrict your use to the simple stuff you need. Learn to articulate well, learn the basic movement commands, and don’t worry about all the esoteric voice versions of all the menu offerings.

I followed the advice of many and got a really good microphone.  I’m sure it helps.  I use it to rough out blogs, or emails, or letters.  I also use it when my arms and hands are tired, or I just want to free-form some thoughts.  Interestingly, your thoughts come out differently when speaking than when typing—they are less constrained.  Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not.

Laptop. The most powerful impact of voice-to-text on the computer platform, though, is not on the desktop–it’s on my notebook (MacBook Air for me)–and all I need is my plain old apple iPhone earbuds.

Fire up the software, plug my earbuds into the laptop, and start speaking into email.

Let me say that again:

  1. Start software.
  2. Plug in iPhone earbuds.
  3. Talk into my email program
  4. Hit send.

How cool is that?

Voice-to-Text on Phone.

And yet, the poster child of voice-to-text has got to be phone apps.  Dragon has a 60-second free version available on the iPhone and iPad. Here’s what you can do.

Start the app.  Speak into the microphone (bottom of iPhone).  The app recognizes your speech, and displays it in text form.  You can make corrections, or choose to send directly (one button) to SMS, or to email (or, if you must, directly to your Twitter or Facebook account).  Or—to your clipboard, from where you can paste it into any other application.

To be clear:

  1. Press the red Talk button
  2. Talk
  3. Press the red Done button
  4. Select SMS
  5. Select your recipient (from your address book)
  6. Press the Send button–your text message is on its way.

Why would you hassle typing a message onto a tiny keyboard when you can simply say it? And it’s free!

You can thank me for this, or you can just send donations to the Charles H. Green Pizza Fund; all contributors gratefully acknowledged.

Part 1 of the My Killer Apps series discussed the notetaking and archiving application, Evernote.

What are your killer apps that make you more efficient and productive? Please share your suggestions in the comments.