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    On phone calls and productivity

    Yesterday I took a fairly easy shot at everyone's favorite communication whipping boy, email, comparing the typical send/receive ratios of email to SMS, which continues to be the most engaging two-way communication medium. Today I want to think about another method of communication that perhaps is not examined nearly as much as the many electronic means of communication at our disposal - the old-school phone call.

    Yes, the phone call, a real live one person talking to one other person conversation, that (normally) requires just about 100% attention and concentration from the two participants.  The phone call - that personal connection and interaction that many of our social media and networking 'experts' exhort upon us to pursue with our online personal and professional connections - ostensibly to make the connections more 'real', (as if the millions of emails, texts, Tweets, and status updates we are sending are somehow 'unreal').

    Regardless, I caught a really interesting piece recently on the Big Picture blog, where the author Bob Lefsetz calls out the phone call as a colossal waste of time for anyone whose business is information or data or even 'Big Data'.  Here are the key passages from the piece I want you to think about:

    Prior to the Internet era, an entertainment titan would make in excess of a hundred phone calls a day. Do you think he was making deals? No, he was learning things. Extracting information that would help him proceed.

    Now most of this information is available to everyone.

    Yes, I’ve established a Grand Central of information. If you say you talked to me on the phone, you’re lying. Because I almost never do. Maybe one business call every other week. Usually to an oldster who is not net-savvy. You see just like the Wall Street traders I know it’s about speed. I haven’t got the time to waste on the phone, where you take twenty minutes to talk sports, kiss my butt and then ask for the favor. Let me know in an e-mail, instantly.

    'If you say you talked to me on the phone, you're lying.' That is probably my favorite line of 2013 so far.

    But think about it, maybe your job or most jobs even are not completely about gathering, categorizing, analyzing and making decisions based just on data. But as the level, complexity, volume, and speed of data about business, people, markets, customers, candidates, etc. continues to accelerate it makes at least logical sense that time carved out of your schedule to talk on the phone, (or sit in a meeting) with only one other person is going to impact and possibly detract from your ability to see, gather, and understand all this data.

    The person you are talking with might have something you need, or, you might have something they need, but can you afford in the words or Mr. Lefsetz the 'twenty minutes to talk sports' in order to get to those needs?

    Data might kill the phone call I suppose, if more people take Lefsetz' 'I don't have time to talk to you because I might miss something' approach, but then I suppose better tools to automate and synthesize the oceans of data that are important to us today then it might actually save the phone call as well.

    I'd have the time to spend with you one-on-one if after I hung up the phone and could look at a dashboard or a consolidated activity stream or a report that told me exactly what I just missed, what I need to look at, what actions I should take, and why it's important to me.

    If you know of that kind of a tool and how I can get access to it, give me a call.

    I promise I will pick up.


    The most engaging method of communication you're not using

    Let me clarify the post title a little - maybe it should be 'The most engaging method of communication you're organization is not using', but I read somewhere the best titles connect with people personally, so I left the 'organization' part out.

    Two charts below will lay it all out for you. The first, courtesy of Business Insider's Chart of the Day:

    Most people read this chart with the 'big' takeaway being something like 'Wow, young adults send a ridiculous amount of text messages each month'.  But that's not the only, or I'd submit the most important bit of insight from a chart like that.

    What am I getting at? 

    Take a look at the second image - a snippet from my personal Google account activity report from last month, the section that reports back my email aggregate usage for the month. Think about what this data says (admittedly just for my, but I am betting your experience is similar), compared to the text message data above.

    The Google data shows that in the month I received almost 10x more email messages than I sent - and that is not accounting for spam and other stuff that I have filters set up for to skip my Inbox entirely - add that stuff in and I bet the ratio of emails received to sent would balloon to 20x. Email is essentially a massive ocean of noise with a tiny bit of signal mixed in, and that requires really close and dedicated attention in order to monitor.  I am in email multiple times a day, have been using it as a communications tool forever, and STILL miss or lose track of important messages more often than I care to admit.

    Mine (and yours too I bet) experience with text messaging however much more closely resembles that even received/sent ratio we see in the first chart. Look at that chart again - while absolute volumes of text messaging decline as age groups advance, there are still more texts sent than received across the spectrum. Think about that again - every age group sends more texts than they receive.

    Email is a mess - we are constantly looking for the important stuff, hoping we don't miss anything, and engaging with, at best, 10% of it in total.

    Text on the other hand is almost all signal - we read all of them, we respond to just about all of them (and usually within minutes), and we send more than we receive. It has to be the most engaging popular method of communication - and yet I bet most of us have not tried to incorporate it into organizational communications in a meaningful way.

    I'm not saying it's easy - but if you can figure out a way to get permission (bought or earned) to the SMS Inbox, the one really important Inbox people monitor - then you are playing a different game than your competition.

    They're spending time, money, and talent trying to avoid the dreaded 'Mark as spam' designation.

    Have a great week all - and please don't send me any more email.

    Just kidding. Sort of.



    WEBINAR: Seven strategies to save your employee referral program

    Batman is without a doubt the greatest of all superheroes. A tragic origin story. A relentless and lifelong pursuit of elusive justice. And just the right amount of darkness, doubt, pain, and mystery to sustain the narrative for decades. You, me, all of us - we need a Batman. 

    And you know what else you need - Mr. or Ms. Talent Pro? You need to fill that Sr. Software Developer role like yesterday - or the next version of Super-fantastic-amazing product might night make it out the door as promised. You could use someone like Batman helping you out, that is for sure.

    The really cool thing about superheroes is that they are superheroes for a reason – they have someone who is their equal to compete against them. These competitors are the super-villains, and in the movies they’re doing bad things – but in real life these “villains” are only the bad guys and girls because they work for the competition.

    So, how do you get your competitors talent to come over to your side and put on your company’s cape? A great employee referral program is the key.

    Your pals over at Fistful of Talent are back at it with the March installment of their monthly webinar series. This month, with the help from the heroes at Zao, HR SuperFriends Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett will be laying down seven strategies that are guaranteed to put your employee referral program on another planet.  

    Join us Wednesday March 27 at 1pm ET and we’ll hit you with the following:

    • Seven surefire ways to engage your best employees and increase referrals (while ensuring your employees don’t refer SuperDuds!)
    • How to develop an internal communication strategy for your employee referral program
    • The keys to sustaining your program long-term
    •  How and why trends like gamification can lead to better employee referral results
    • he top three reasons 99% of employee referral programs fail and how you can make sure your employee referral program is delivering the goods all year long

    Don’t let your employee referral program fall to the Legion of Doom. Register now for The SuperFriends: 7 Strategies to Get Your Superhero Employees to refer Their Arch Nemesis! 

    As always, the FOT webinar comes with a guarantee - 60% of the time it works all of the time!


    On teamwork and a busted out tooth

    With the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament underway I wanted to share a little story from the world of college basketball before I come back to my senses and realize once again that the college game is inferior in every way to 'real' basketball, i.e. the NBA.

    A week or so ago, during the West Coast Conference's post-season tournament, the team from Saint Mary's University found itself in a tough game versus conference rival San Diego. Late in the game during a scrum for possession of the ball, San Diego big man Jito Kok managed to separate Saint Mary's forward Brad Waldow from one of his front teeth.

    Undeterred, and as you can see in the GIF below, Waldow reacted like most tough competitors would, with the knocked-out tooth in hand he proceeded to head over to the bench to find someone to relieve him of said chiclet so he could continue playing in the still undecided game. But take a look at what happened as Waldow looks to the sideline for some help with the tooth:

    Thanks - Business Insider

    Did you catch what happened as Waldow approached the bench and looked for someone to take the tooth from him?

    First Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett leans back in a 'no 'effin way I am taking the tooth' manner, and delegates down the bench to his assistant. The first assistant coach then coolly points to the next assistant down the line. And once that assistant refused to help a brother out, Waldow just tossed the tooth on the floor in order to head back into the contest.

    Waldow, the player, the guy out there on the front lines taking shots to the mouth, loosing teeth, bleeding all over the place couldn't get any of the suits on the bench, the organization's 'leaders' to give him an (admittedly gross) hand when he needed it. And all Waldow wanted to do was to continue playing, to keep putting it on the line for the team.

    Sure, the natural reaction just about anyone would have in that kind of a circumstance would be similar to the Saint Mary's coaches - I mean, who the heck wants a handful of someone's bloody, busted-out tooth?

    But their reaction is also instructive I think, because when their player was in need, no one stepped up to help, they let their first reaction overcome their roles as leaders. They ask players like Waldow to make all kinds of sacrifices in the name of the team. It would not have killed one of them to make a little bit of a sacrifice themselves and help him out when he needed it.

    This may be a goofy, insignificant example but I think it serves as a good reminder for any of us that have a leadership position. We ask the people we are leading to give up things all the time. 

    What are we prepared to give up for them?

    Have a great weekend!


    What matters more than money and other sick day questions

    A really quick shot from me today - as I am neck deep in some kind of horrible flu/cold/whatever diseases are floating around the redeye home from Las Vegas on Saturday nights. It is gross. And no fun.

    When you are feeling sick and kind of not very productive it is a natural to let the mind wander a little bit - to start questioning what you're doing and second-guess the decisions you've made. For me today the main question I'm asking is 'Who can I convince to come over and make me some chicken soup?'

    Organizations too should ask themselves questions, at least that is the premise in an interesting piece on the Fast Company Co.Design site titled 'Forget the Mission Statement. What's Your Mission Question?'. The piece advocates that organizations shouldn't try to craft lofty mission statements that are often vague, shallow, and instantly forgettable, but rather should think more deeply about their cause, purpose, and reason for their existence by answering or at least contemplating several key questions.

    Here are the key questions that FastCo recommends organizations should examine when seeking to better understand their mission:

    1. Why are we here in the first place?

    2. What does the world need that we are uniquely able to provide?

    3. What are we willing to sacrifice?

    4. What matters more than money?

    5. Are we all on this mission together? 

    I think you'll agree they are probably valid not just for organizations or corporations to evaluate - even individuals could benefit from a little self-examination as well. What do you think - should organizations take a 'sick day' from time to time and think about these big questions?

    Hopefully you won't wait until you are as sick as I am to take the time to think about them as well.


    (and please send me some soup)

    (and if you do ask yourself these questions and decide you need to find more 'meaning' in your work, check out a site called ReWork, they have a new and interesting approach that might help.