I recall having more than one “Bah-humbug” moment in 2008 when the subject of Twitter came up. I just could not see the point of telling the world when I was going to make another cup of coffee. Even worse, I really didn’t want to be interrupted by hundreds of people telling me what they ate for lunch.
I hadn’t made the mistake of dismissing it without even looking. I had signed in to do just that, but, having decided it wasn’t worth doing, had not uttered a single Tweet. And that was how I intended to stay. But towards the end of 2008 I got an email telling me that Christopher Penn was “following” me. (To the uninitiated this could sound as if I was being stalked, but in Twitter terminology this is a good thing – it means someone wants to hear what you have to say).
This was intriguing. Why would someone follow me when I hadn’t said a word. So I logged back in to have another look. And I downloaded Christopher Penn’s ebook on Twitter for business. Having dipped the tip of my toe in the Twittersphere, I decided it wouldn’t do any harm to explore a bit more and within an hour or so of playing in Twitter, I discovered its benefits. There are loads of lists online which tell you why Twitter is a great business tool – I read one just this evening on John Jantsch’s blog.
Now, 2 months into my Twitter dialogues I’ve learned two great lessons which I didn’t anticipate. Firstly, Twitter has helped break down barriers to spontaneous writing. It used to take me ages to think through what I was going to write. I was amongst the many thousands who second guesses their prose and ends up deleting and changing more than they write. Twitter gets you into the habit of diving in and sharing your thoughts. I’ve found my writing time has become far more productive.
And then I found TweetStats. This is a site which tells you all sorts of interesting (if trivial) things about the time of day, day of the week, and people you have Tweeted most often. And it has a neat little tab that gives you a cloud tag or Wordle of your Tweets. There’s something about seeing your stream of thoughts translated into a cluster of words that gives a very clear idea of your frame of mind. Wow! I had no idea that’s what I sound like. The good news is that its quite a positive picture. It will be interesting to see what else I can learn about myself through Twitter.
Hayley wrote a great post on our Engauge blog on how to make feedback more valuable.
Thought you might like to have a look.
You’ve possibly noticed a resounding silence from me for almost a week now. I’m afraid I’ve had my hands full with new projects at work and the two new blogs and life has been manic. But that’s no excuse! What has happened in the last week is that I’ve been able to step back a bit and start to get some shape into the various writing projects I have on.
For a while I was having internal debates with myself about which blog to put a piece on. I’ve ended up with this:
My personal blog (this one) is turning out to be a place where I share random ideas and cool stuff I find online – but still largely things that make us think about the way our minds work. Sometimes its just something that I think is worth us thinking about. Sometimes its the stuff that makes me realise that I could think differently about my way of working.
Thoughts about engaging people at work, and being engaged with what you do will be on the engauge blogs.
Mindapples is a project looking for support – and its one that you might find fantastically useful.
Andy Gibson, whose brainchild this is, decided that if 5-a-day could help keep us physically healthy, then its logical to assume a different 5-a-day would help with mental health. Its like going to the gym but for your mind. (Actually, going to the gym is good for your mind. Exercise is definitely one of those things that’s a ‘must’ on the list).
Andy is trying to get 1000 responses to the short survey and he’s almost there. Worth adding your 5-a-day to the list.
Picture credit: Berkley Breathed
Only 10 years ago the idea that so much of our communication would be conducted without the benefit of voice or visual. We pick up, and decode, an enormous amount of contextual information from non-verbal cues. It pays to remember that without those subtle bits of extra information, we could get the message badly wrong.
So, here are a few more thoughts on the etiquette of communication in the electronic age:
If you’re sending a message, remember:
- Nobody can tell that you’re juggling 3 telephones, an incoming delivery and fielding questions from team members – at the same time as you try to respond to that critically urgent email.
- possible solution: either take time out to collect your thoughts in a quiet place before you respond to the email, or at the very least, bear in mind that the recipient can’t see that your day is chaotic when they read it.
- The delete button is only one key-stroke away. If you’re discourteous, dismissive or downright rude – your email may hit the trash with just one click!
- If you wouldn’t say it to someone in person. Don’t put it in your email
- How much information is too much? In-person communication allows you to read whether someone ‘gets it’ by their subtle signs – a slight nod, or a befuddled expression. Without these signs, the question of whether there are gaps in your message isn’t quite as easy to answer.
- Its a fine balance to get right – too much information and it just doesn’t get read. Too little and the reader is left wondering how you got from A to X. No matter how much detail you decide to include, use very clear layout. Good old-fashioned bullet points work. And ask the reader to come back to you if they not sure about anything.
- They say couples should never go to sleep angry with each other.
Perhaps this rule should be adapted for the 21st century: Never send an
email in anger. There’s a very good chance you’ll regret it.
- I’ve learned the hard way that whenever there’s a mail to write on a touchy subject, the best policy is to write it, store it in the draft folder overnight, and re-read it in the morning before you send it. It really does pay to do this.
If you’re receiving the message:
- Make allowance for the fact that the writer may have been interrupted, distracted or otherwise having a challenging day. If they are a bit abrupt, remember that not everyone has the gift of flowing prose. That may just be their style, or they may have responded in a rush.
- If you receive a really offensively rude communication, sometimes the best policy is to simply delete it and then ignore it. And move on.
- If you receive incomplete or unclear information in an email, first re-read it to make sure you’ve not just been skim-reading. Then, if you’re still not certain, ask for clarification on specific points. The more specific you can be, the easier it will be for the writer to give you concise, precise information to fill in the gaps.
- If you receive an angry mail – don’t respond immediately. Anger is sometimes a response to feeling out of control or insecure. If you can work out the trigger, you may be able to send a re-assuring response to de-stress the situation. Even if this isn’t the case, a considered response will at least be less inflammatory.
I’ve just finished reading an article about testing your marketing messages. The example used was of testing the effectiveness of one headline against another. Its common marketing wisdom and we know that overall, those that follow the dictum have great marketing success than those of us who randomly dump words on the page and hope we hit the target.
The point of this article is that these days there are loads of clear and easy-to-use tools that will deliver feedback from the market to tell you whether you are reaching your target audience, whether the message is clear, and whether its on the mark. More and more people – even those who don’t have massive marketing budgets to spend – are coming round to the logic of testing your marketing message. It just makes sense. Understand where there’s room for improvement and then make the changes. Couldn’t be clearer.
Strange then, that the same logic doesn’t always apply when people consider training. So often companies make an educated guess at what training is required. Yes, sometimes its fairly obvious. But sometimes, its just what the MD thinks would be a good idea, or what a current management guru is talking about, or even the latest training brochure lands on the desk.
Surely, its just as sensible to assess skills gaps before deciding what training to apply? It would seem logical to measure performance first and then decide on action. Hopefully, just like the measurement of marketing messages, quantifying strengths and development needs is becoming accepted as the logical starting point for actions. 360-degree feedback is a pretty good starting point.
We all know that Business Link is a great idea. Helping small enterprises to do business better (or in fact, to do better business) is good for the whole economy. And traditionally, the East of England has had a pretty good track record in that respect. I’m sure that EEDA and Business Link have had a part to play in that.
But, the frustration I share with many has always been the fact that finding out exactly what service and advice they provide, and which bits of it might be applicable to your business, has felt rather like catching smoke. And to be honest, the last couple of times I’ve talked to a Business Link advisor, its seemed a little as if they’re in the same position.
I was really pleased to read about their new Business Map, launched on their website today. EEDA’s Space for Ideas campaign in 2005 had a fresh, information-rich appeal and the graphic way of illustrating their advice and support for businesses launched today has a similar approach. Finally, I can see all that the development agency can deliver through Business Link. The map is clear, uses the feel of the London Tube map to create a sense of familiarity and usability – and it just works.
Have you noticed that people who are really engaged with what they do, also seem to have a special kind of energy. So here’s the question – what comes first: the energy or the engagement?
Can we be energised by being more engaged with what we do? Or should we find ways to boost our energy levels in order to become more engaged with our careers?
What do you think?