Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services

Archive for July, 2009

The Power of Space (or, Time to Stop Playing Whac-a-Mole)

Posted by debrahelwig on July 28, 2009

Wack a Mole photoThis past weekend, I got a great lesson in the power of space. And how space can affect your career (and sanity).

Last weekend was my husband’s 30th highschool reunion. And, since he had the civility to graduate in Daytona Beach, Florida, that meant a weekend at the beach. Without the kids. No pressure. No priorities.

Hooray, right? Sign me up!

Or so you’d think.

Instead, I started finding every excuse in the world not to go. The babysitter can’t handle the kids. The dog threw up. I have too much to do at the office. There are dishes and laundry and emails and OH MY GOD I haven’t blogged in 10 days and what about the Web site project and…

I was too overwhelmed to even consider time away.

I’m not unusual, either. Professional services folks everywhere are overburdened. A survey this summer by the Institute of Management Accountants found that “When asked what they need most to be effective leaders, most accountants [29%] said more time.”

I feel your pain. But here’s a truth for you: busy-ness begets busy-ness. And not all busy-ness is good.

Today, it’s easy for professional services work to become what I call a Cosmic Game of Whac-a-Mole. Remember the 1980s arcade game? You had a big mallet and a board full of holes in front of you. As the moles popped out of the holes, you hit them back down. And the faster you were, the faster they got. Never stopping, just hitting and hitting until the game was over.

Does your project list operate that way? How often do you get to work, sit down at your desk, and immediately get buried in mountains of email? Start with meetings at 8 a.m. and never make it to your desk? Take one client file off the pile only to have 10 more added to it? Is the pressure driving you crazy?

That was me. And if it’s you… survey responses aside, you don’t need more time. Or more staff.

You need space. A reflection zone.

I was lucky. When I started down my list of all the reasons I couldn’t take a weekend away, my husband told me to shut up, turned off my PC, and stuffed me in the car. And guess what? I came back energized – with thoughts about how to handle a crisis at the office, blog post ideas, and plans to kill a few projects, start a new one, and move others down the priority list.

Busy-ness begets busy-ness. Space begets sanity.

Even if you can’t find an entire weekend like I had, taking a few minutes daily to reflect can make a difference in your outlook.

Try this: schedule 10 minutes a day on your calendar as a “meeting”. Shut your door, or if you’re in a cubicle, find a private space. Turn off the PC, the iPhone, the BlackBerry, the cell phone. This is think time. Use these moments to ask yourself basic questions about your work, like:

• What are my most important projects right now? Why are they important? Do I really need to be doing all of them, or can I delegate or reprioritize some of them?
• What am I doing that is urgent but not important? How can I reduce or eliminate that kind of work?
• What are the top three things I want to accomplish today? This week? This month?
• What am I doing to engage other people right now, both for business and personal development? Do I like what I’m doing? Could I try something else?
• What meetings do I have this week? How can I reduce the meeting time? If I am meeting too much, is it my colleagues or is it me? And if it’s me, what am I avoiding?

You may not find answers, at least not at first. But making space to ask the questions every day can be transformative all on its own.

If you stop playing Whac-a-Mole – if you give yourself permission not to be busy every moment of the day – you’ll get more done. And you’ll be a lot saner, more effective, and just plain happier in the process.

Where can you create some space in your day?

Photo by jrubinic (license).

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Posted in Accounting, Attitudes, Leadership, Networking, Professional Services, Relationship Building, Strategic Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Spreading Your Message: A Lesson from United Breaks Guitars

Posted by debrahelwig on July 9, 2009

presskit5_DavidCarrollI’m utterly fascinated by the latest buzz in marketing and social media circles — musician Dave Carroll and his saga United Breaks Guitars.

If you don’t know the tale, here it is in a nutshell:

United Airlines employees broke Dave’s guitar when he was flying through Chicago. It was clearly the airline’s fault, but even after nine months of jumping through hoops, United still refused to pay Dave’s claim.

Problems like Dave’s are actually a pretty common occurrence with airlines. Luggage gets lost; stuff gets broken. So why is the world paying attention to Dave’s story?

Because Dave wrote a song about it. A really good and funny song. And he posted it to YouTube.

As of this writing, the video has already been viewed over 800,000 times, and the hashtag #united on Twitter is buzzing with praise for the song and strong criticism for the airline. Ouch, United.

The social media pundits out there are shouting that this is proof of the power of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and the like. “New power to the people!” They shout.

Well, yes. Sort of.

Thanks to social media, sharing thoughts and ideas on any subject is much easier than it ever was before. But that’s not the only (or the most important) takeaway from the United Breaks Guitars story. The thing we need to remember from Dave Carroll’s success is actually a lot more basic:

Amazingly good content is easy to spread.

If Dave’s song had been boring, or if he’d just posted a tweet or two that said “United broke my guitar and won’t pay up,” I bet you dollars to doughnuts he wouldn’t have gotten very much traction for his message — no matter how many social media channels he employed.

After all, in social media, the downside of access is noise. There’s a lot more out there to see and to read than ever before. And just because you say something on Twitter or put a video on YouTube, it doesn’t mean that anyone is going to pay attention. Your message has to be both worth hearing and presented in a compelling way.

Getting the message out there is the easy part.  It’s expressing yourself amazingly well that’s difficult.

Dave Carroll figured out how to combine talent and channel to make his message stand out. Because social media exists, he captured a bigger audience for his story than he ever could have before. But the reason the story continues to spread is because he tells it so darn well.

How can you be like Dave? Consider all the ways you can improve your messages – and place them appropriately – to get them the attention they deserve.

Like the old Ella Fitzgerald (and later Fun Boy 3/Bananarama) song says:

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results.”

Photo: Dave Carroll Music

Posted in Attitudes, Business Development, Marketing, Relationship Building | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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