Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If you constantly answer emails and text messages in your head – but not in real life - read this

In the last week, at least 10 different people expressed frustration about how they have gotten into a weird habit of answering emails or text messages in their head, but do not provide an actual response to a message in real life. They each described the impact this was creating in both their work and personal lives and were literally scratching their heads, trying to make sense of this phenomenon.

Since it kept coming up over and over again, I started thinking about why is this happening to many of us? Can one person truly get in front of this data train?

I decided to do some digging to gain a broader understanding of the problem. I took a step back to analyze how much information you are actually receiving in a day?a week? a year?

I conducted a quick scan that yielded some interesting insights. Consider this:

  • An average email is about 75 kilobytes (KB) of size. 75 KB would be around 7000 words in plain text or about 37 and a half pages of typewriting. 
  • The average email user receives 147 messages per day.  This means that if the average email is 75 kilobytes, this translates to 1,029,000 words in plain text or approximately 5,513 pages of typewritten information a day – just from one mailbox.  
  • If you are like most people, you have probably have at least 2 email addresses – a work email and a secondary (personal) email address.  According to research firm Return Path, people read 83% of the emails in the primary mailbox versus only reading 16% of the email messages in their personal mailbox.    
  • This means that you are probably reading or scanning through a combined 5,458 pages of typewritten information a day via emails.    
  •  Layer on top of that people send/receive about 60 text messages per day.  At 140 bytes on average per text message, this is an additional 8,400 bytes (or 7.8 KB) of data.

This means on a weekly basis you are trying to filter through 270+ typewritten pages of new information being pushed to you. 

Annually it means you are receiving approximately 12,960 of typewritten pages of information requiring some sort of additional level of action for you to take.  This is all before the social media feeds, other email addresses/data streams, and mobile app notifications.

Visually, the amount of emails, text messages, social media notifications, etc.... you receive annually would probably looks something like this if it was filed away manually in real life:

Let that sink in for a moment.

And then you wonder why your brain keeps resorting to “phantom” email/text responses - answering emails or text messages in your head, but not actually taking physical action in real life. 

Cut yourself some slack…!

With all of this data being constantly pushed to you, it is actually natural for your brain to react to this constant stream of data through automatic filtering and indexing of information called selective filtering.

Running from meeting to meeting, commitment to commitment, we attempt to stay on top of a massive data train that is coming our way moving at lightning speed and landing in our mobile devices with content being generated by people and machines all the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What we fail to realize is that this 24/7/365 data train will win - every time. 

You might have to give up the idea of trying to get in front of it and determine a smarter, less evasive approach to how you will consume critical information and at what times that are most effective to help you better manage and communicate.

What we need to realize is that this data train will win - every time.

What are ways you can completely disconnect and only read or scan emails/text messages when you have the time to pay full attention?  Share your comments below.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Become a better consultant with 5 TED Talks in under 60 minutes

If you are a lifelong learner life myself, there is a strong probability that you are also an avid TED Talk fan. Sometimes I think I became a consultant because I realized that I wouldn’t be able to earn a livable wage being a college student. Consulting was the next best thing to being an eternal student. I am constantly presented with new challenges and ways of solving problems. 

I am particularly fond of TED Talks because they provide doses of knowledge, ideas, and new perspectives that I can unpack and discuss with colleagues and clients alike. 

Listening to TED Talks are like sitting in a tuition-free classroom in a virtual college with unlimited global community of visiting professors pulled from around the world.   For a lifelong learner, life doesn’t get any better than that. 
Below are 5 powerful TED Talks that can make you refine your habits as a consultant in under one hour:

In this 8 minute TED Talk, Julian Treasure draws on his 10 years of experience in optimizing sound for brands. He discusses the lost art of losing our listening due to the noise of the world and technology.  

Why this is important in consultingActive listening is the number one skill that every consultant should seek to constantly refine. Since conscious listening creates understanding, Julian provides valuable techniques such as sound filters to help you effectively listen. The power of intention in active listening allows you to be able to listen to the information being provided in a way that you could ask the right questions to your clients. 

Navi Radjou brings a breadth of over 20 years to his 16 minute TED Talk discussing how to be creative with extreme resource constraints.  Navi does a great job providing intimate example after example of resourcefulness in action across the world of individuals creating high impact innovative products or services with less.  

Why this is important in consulting:    The world of consulting is changing and with this pace of acceleration leaves room for new opportunities. Consultants who are able to look past the traditional ways of thinking and create simple yet innovative solutions for their clients will win in tomorrow's market. The ability to be creative, resourceful, AND analytical will be key differentiators for the consultant of the future. 

In under 20 minutes, Leadership expert Simon Sinek breaks down how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change using the “Why, How, What” golden circle framework.  In his talk, Simon discusses a simple model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle framework and the question "Why?"

Why this is important in consulting:    Simon does a nice job discussing the different personas using the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, illustrating how understanding the gaps that exist between the personas is where value creation begins. As consultants, we are usually in the business of value creation. We strive to help our clients solve complex problems and transform their businesses everyday. Change is never easy. Consultants have to be able to understand how to connect with key stakeholders across a wide spectrum of perspectives. Great consultants collaborate with their clients to articulate a compelling vision for change, which begins by being clear on the “Why”.

Yves Morieux: As Work Gets More Complex, 6 Rules to simplify (12 minutes)

30 year consulting veteran Yves Morieux highlights the impact of "complicatedness" commonly found in organizations that results in a disengaged workforce.  Using 6 smart simplicity rules, Yves shares practical solutions towards evolving an organization’s ways of working with less structures and zero bureaucracy while adding more values and capabilities.

Why this is important in consulting:    Think ELI5 “Explain it like I'm five."  Consultants are constantly bombarded with solutions, tools, techniques, emerging trends, frameworks, methodologies, etc... The ability to leverage your toolkit to draw insights using simple language in an objective voice that helps creates simplicity in the chaos of complexity is a prized skill. Consultants should seek to emulate this mindset; take very complex problems and help clients create simple, impactful solutions.

In 3 minutes, therapist and coach Dr. Laura Trice shares ideas on the power of the magic words "thank you” In this short talk, Laura shares a story about a man who longs to hear his wife say “Thank you” because he has never expressed this need.

Why this is important in consulting "Thank you" is still one of the most powerful pair of words. At the end of the day, manners and etiquette are undervalued skills in professional services. The ability for consultants to genuinely say please and thank you to those around you still goes a long way in business!

I hope you can draw inspiration from these TED Talks as I did.  What are some of your favorite TED Talks?  Share in the comments below.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The awkwardness of agreeing with others when you really do not agree

Human behavior can be quite fascinating at times; we sometimes can take something that is so simple and make it exhaustively complicated.  

Have you ever sat in a meeting, restaurant, etc... with a group of people and a decision has to be made…but instead of stating what you really think, you (and everyone else) reluctantly agree on a path that almost everyone in the room silently does not agree is the correct course of action?

One of my favorite examples of this awkwardness dates back to a study conducted in 1974 by management expert Jerry B. Harvey:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, a  family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

This “Abilene paradox” moment is both fascinating and scary, all at the same time.    This example could apply to a number of different situations and dynamics at the workplace.  

Everyone knows it is the wrong decision but since no one is really comfortable with each other, there is an unspoken air of uncertainty (or awkwardness) once the decision has been made for the sake of being "nice".  
The truth is - if you are experiencing this kind of behavior on your team, it is a clear sign of distrust amongst each other or as a collective team. 

It doesn't matter how strong each individual team member is - teams that do not trust each other will never reach its full potential.  

The truth shall set you free – work on building trust amongst each other. Avoid making "nice" decisions that can be a waste of time, energy, and resources for everyone involved

Collectively, we can stop the madness!   

What can you do to make sure you do not have an Abilene paradox moment on your teams this year?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Easiest part of a writing a book? Actually writing the book! Part 1

I was super excited when I finished writing the manuscript of my book, The MECE Muse: 100+ selected practices, unwritten rules, and habits of great consultants.    I was thinking about writing my book for over 10 years...but I made all types of excuses as to why I didn't:

  • I needed more years of experience  (I didn't)
  • My life conditions needed to somehow meet a set of unrealistic expectations that magically align "perfectly"  (didn't happen)
  • I had to have more free time (I have less time in my life now)

And when I started actually writing something....I had no real structure.  I just wrote whatever came to mind and in the beginning, had no idea what the book was going to be about.  I just started writing.  Sometimes it made sense, other times it was jibberish. or redundant.   I did that for about 1 year.

Then - when I actually started to gain some confidence and my jibberish started to have be of consistent quality, I began to guest blog. A post here. A post there. But nothing substantial.  That was another year.

While on vacation last summer, I actually had an epiphany and suddenly, the book's purpose and content became clear.  I attended a Tony Robbins event and my internal engine took off, making my book's vision crystal clear. With that clarity, purpose, and motivation,  I got laser focused and took massive action.  I finished the manuscript in less than 4 months' time.

If you are counting, it took me about 12.5 years to muster up the courage, stop making excuses, and really push myself to write the book.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when finally finished.   But what happens now?

Then I googled "how to self publish a book"


there is an entirely other process to becoming an author. Who knew???  I was on the other side of the fence for so long, I didn't realize there was a whole new world of information, experiences, and processes awaiting me.  

I am currently going through 4 layers of editing, making business decisions on how the book will be marketed, distributed, etc... in preparation for release.

It has been a fascinating process.    Instead of being frustrated or discouraged, I have rolled my sleeves up and delved in face first. Going through the editing process as we speak and am learning everyday.

My biggest lessons learned with this experience is to stay the course, particularly when you are doing something for the first time.

It took me this long to go from thought to action to concept, what is a couple of additional months to make sure the world embraces the book as I originally envisioned?

I've put on some good music, threw on some shades, and have gone into cruise control mode.

I've got this!

Have you published a book in the  past or in the process like me?  Share your thoughts in the comments below, I could use all of the help and support I can get.  Thanks everyone!