Procedures

All organizations have procedures and it’s important to understand there are reasons for the procedures (if there aren’t reasons, then the procedures should be changed or removed).

Since you know there are procedures, and there are reasons for the procedures, it’s important to follow these procedures. This might seem like a logical thing but the reality is, people deviate from procedures more than they should.

What is the problem with doing it a different way? Once you have done it a different way, you have created a precedent that will allow it to be done this way again and again.

Why is this such a big deal? Imagine you have an employee who asks for an advance on their salary. If your policy is that you don’t give advances on salaries, that is an easy way to simply say no. However, if you have given an advance on a salary in the past, it’s much more difficult to say no when the reality is, you have done so in the past and can do so in the future.

Another example would be with a child. If their bed time is 9 PM and one evening you let them stay up till 10 PM, it’s much more difficult to tell them they can’t do that again. While it’s nice to be flexible, it’s important for this flexibility to be built into the procedures. The way to build this into the procedures is to have a 9 PM bedtime on school nights and 10 PM when there is no school the next day. This allows for more flexibility while staying within the rules.

The other problem with procedures is they get created or changed for too many situations. Using soccer as an example, I know of many coaches who have a no practice/no play policy. This simply means if the player misses the team practice, the player can’t play in the next game. While some would say this is a fair rule, it’s important to think of the possible reasons for missing practice. Should a player who misses practice due to a death in the family be treated the same as the player who missed practice due to their decision to go to a movie? At least in my mind, the answer is no. I coached a team where the parents wanted a no practice/no play policy. We would have run into a problem because one of the players ended up missing some practices because he was picked to play on the US national team shortly before we were playing in the US national championships. Should he have been “punished” for not practicing with his club team while he was playing for the national team? To me, that was a simple answer of no. However, if we had the rule of no practice/no play, we would have had a problem.

It’s best to develop the procedures in a way that is strictly structured yet still flexible when needed. To use the salary advance as an example, the policy might be there are no advances allowed without approval from the board of directors. By writing the policy this way, it let’s the employees know advances are not going to be given unless there is an extenuating circumstance that would be important enough to present to the board of directors. Since most people would not be willing to take it to that level, it makes it very easy for the HR people to say no. If there is a true emergency, they could present it to the board to make a final decision.

Make sure your organization has procedures, there is a reason for them and they are followed. Too many organizations have policies and procedures “somewhere” but tend to “play it by ear” as opposed to following them. Inevitably, this ends up causing problems in the long run.

Have a great day!

Lawrence

Take Action

The following was a comment by Joe Nebel posted under the Heroes post at http://lawrencefine.com/blog/2008/05/heroes/ I think the message Joe is making speaks volumes

There are six frogs on a lilly pad…..All six make the decision to jump off the lilly pad into the water.

How many frogs are left on the lilly pad?

The answer….ALL six!

Just making the decision to do something does not mean you take the ACTION to do it. To effectively make a change in your life takes not just interest, which is the convenient thing to do, but instead takes commitment, which is changing your thought process to attain your success.

Have a great day!

Lawrence

Emails

Email has changed the way many of us operate on a daily basis. In my case, I receive hundreds of emails a day (not counting spam) and over the course of a week, am responsible for the sending of hundreds of thousands of email newsletters (the Lawrence Fine Blog being, by far, the smallest of the lists). The question is, what obligations come with the sending and receiving of email?

First of all, if the email is commercial in nature, it must comply with the CAN-SPAM act. You can read more about CAN-SPAM at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.shtm but to summarize it:

There can be no misleading headers (sender, receiver etc)
The subject line can’t be misleading.
There must be an opt out method
It must be identified as an advertisement and include a physical address for the sender

For those of you reading this in your email (as opposed to on the blog) you can see how I make sure I’m in compliance with this act. The sender of the email is Lawrence Fine, the subject line says it’s from the Lawrence Fine Blog and the topic, there is an opt out link on the bottom of the email along with my physical address. To comply is quite easy (as you can see). To not comply could be potentially very expensive (the penalty could be as much as $11,000 per email sent).

For personal email, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you are sending to more than one person, should you use BCC as opposed to showing everyone who you are sending to? There are certainly times you want everyone to know who is receiving the email (for example, if you are inviting a group of 5 people to a gathering, if they all know who is invited they could potentially work together to carpool etc). However, have respect for peoples email addresses and don’t disclose everyones email address unless it’s needed.

Don’t forward an email unless it’s something the person who wrote the original email would want forwarded and then only forward to people who truly need to see the email. For example, I don’t want forwards of jokes or chain letters so the people who forward them to me have to understand that there is a greater likelihood of that email AND FUTURE EMAILS from them not being read. A couple of people will forward a joke to me but these are people who know me quite well and know what I would find funny and appropriate (one only sends me soccer or IT related things that he feels I would find of interest and relevance but this is a person who quite obviously gives some thought before he sends these to me). If you do forward an email, consider deleting unnecessary parts (such as all the other email addresses the email was forwarded to and from in the past).

If you receive email, do everything you can to respond in a timely manner. I admit that this isn’t always possible and some emails are more difficult to respond to than others. Recently, I was at a networking function and this person came up to me, introduced himself, told me what he did and who he worked for and he went on and on about wanting to work together in the future (admittedly, he was most likely talking about him trying to get me to advertise with his company). Later on, at that same function, I met another person who also discussed the type of work they did. That evening, I sent emails to each of these individuals that simply mentioned it was nice meeting them. The second person I met wrote back in a timely manner thanking me for the email etc. The first person, never responded. Who do you think I am more likely to do business with in the future? There is very little doubt in my mind that this first person will contact me at some point wanting something and will never understand how not responding to the first email effects future possibilities (yes I realize it’s possible the email was “lost” in filters but that is why people should use professional email services). Just the other day I sent an email to an author whose books I think are wonderful. He also has a blog and I simply wrote him thanking him for his blog and telling him how much I liked his books. Within 8 minutes, he had replied thanking me for his comments (and it wasn’t an auto responder but rather a real response). He runs one of the most visited sites on the INTERNET and can respond that quickly yet others who are truly struggling never quite get around to the response. The questions that comes to mind is “is he able to reply that quickly because he is successful and has other people working for him” or “is he successful because he deals with minor details like replying to emails?” I believe it’s a little bit of both but mainly the second one. Are there some emails I don’t respond to? Unfortunately yes. I don’t respond to spam, I sometimes don’t respond to ridiculous requests (people emailing asking me to essentially write a book for them because they didn’t understand something and weren’t willing to research it themselves) and sadly, sometimes to friends (I find that if it’s someone I want to give a fair amount of time to in my response because I haven’t heard from them in awhile, I put it in a folder to do later when I have more time available and it’s hard to find time later, this is inexcusable but the reality).

If you use an out of office message, give some serious thought to if it’s really necessary. If you use that email address to subscribe to newsletters, do they really want to know (or care) that you are out of the office? I receive hundreds of out of office emails a day because of the newsletters I send out (and yes I do actually receive them because some people simply reply to an email newsletter so it’s important that someone read them). What you might think is a cute message isn’t so cute when you multiply it by hundreds of other “cute” messages.

Lastly, don’t send anything by email you wouldn’t want published in the local newspaper. Unless you are sending in encrypted form, you need to assume that someone other than the intended person might receive and read this email (either through a hacking of the email program, a forwarded email or a misaddressed email). This is extremely important and frequently forgotten

Email is a wonderful tool when used properly but when used improperly can create major problems. Consider carefully how you use email in personal and business settings

Have a great day!

Lawrence
PS Sorry that this post is longer than most, it’s an extremely important topic and I got a bit carried away

First Impressions

Everyone seems to know how important first impressions are yet it’s amazing how little thought is given to these first impressions.

Let’s start by looking at when a first impression occurs. You might think the first impression occurs the very first time you meet someone but the reality is, it might occur before that or it might occur after that.

You might wonder how a first impression could occur before actually meeting a person. If there is a phone conversation or an email exchange the first impression might be created from that. Or, the first impression might come from someone else. For example, a recommendation from someone else might give someone a good first impression of you before them ever seeing or hearing you. Likewise, a person might hear something bad about you and therefore have a bad first impression before meeting you.

While the early impression might be easy to understand, there is also the delayed first impression. In this case, you might meet a person and simply make no impression on them at all. An example is at a party with a lot of people, you might be introduced to someone and then a few days later, you meet them again and they have no recollection of the initial meeting. While some might say this was a bad first impression, I think of it more as no impression at all.

There are many ways to help your first impression be a positive one. First, be prepared. If it’s the type of meeting where you might want to have some follow up, have something with you to provide contact information. A simple business card might suffice. While a standard business card might have a company name, your name and contact info, is there anything on it that would make it stand out to help with a positive first impression? Would a bit of color add to the appearance? How about a catchy slogan that reminds them of you? I use a business card that does the exact opposite. It’s very simple, very clean and the design is somewhat distinctive but the thing that makes it standout is the fact it has my name, web site and contact information but nothing else. People tend to take a second look at it because they expect there to be something else (such as company name or logo etc). By doing something a bit different, it stands out in it’s own way.

Recently I sat through two presentations by IT companies for a company I do some consulting for. One company came in with an assessment put together in a manner similar to what a high school student would use for a school report. The other company came with their assessment bound similar to a hard cover book. Their company name was embossed in the cover and it was very professionally done. Even before looking at the content of the assessments, one company had made a much stronger impression than the other.

When you are first introduced to a person, introduce yourself, shake their hand, repeat their name and look them in the eye. For example, if someone approaches me and says “hi my name is Bob Smith” I would extend my hand, look him in the eye and respond “Hi Bob Smith, my name is Lawrence Fine” or something similar. The idea is by extending the hand for a handshake, it makes personal contact with the person which is important for a positive first impression. Repeating the persons name back to them let’s them know you are paying attention and care enough to have listened to their name. Also, it’s helpful to you for trying to remember their name in the future. The eye contact is vital because it helps make the connection with the person and helps establish the true person to person involvement.

When possible, you want to control your appearance for the first impression. This isn’t always possible, for example, you might meet someone at the end of a long run so you will be tired and sweaty, but whenever possibly, you want to have control of your appearance for first impressions. It’s not good enough to say “you should dress nicely” because what is appropriate in a social setting might be very different than what is appropriate in a business setting. The key is to know what is appropriate in a given setting and dress accordingly. If you are too formal for a given setting, that might influence someones impression of you but at the same time, if you are too informal, it might influence things just the same. Some people might want to stand out in a crowd but make sure if you do, you stand out for the right reasons.

Since you can only make a first impression one time, make it a positive one, then follow up and see where it takes you!

Lawrence

Dare to be Different

People are so afraid to stand out from the crowd that they make it nearly impossible to be outstanding.

There is a saying used at various e commerce companies that “you can’t out Amazon Amazon”. Meaning, because of their size and because of their experience, the likelihood of creating a better online shopping experience than what Amazon.com has already created is not very likely. Yet everyday, people try to do just that.

In women’s college soccer, coaches go and listen to Anson Dorrance(he is the women’s soccer coach at UNC and a former US national team coach and the most successful coach in womens soccer history) speak and watch his clinics and videos and try to do the exact same thing. The thing these people don’t understand is you can’t out Anson Anson. You can learn from what he is doing and adapt it based on your strengths and weaknesses but to think you are going to use the exact same methods that he is using to beat him doesn’t make sense.

An example of a web site that does things differently is www.woot.com. Instead of trying to sell many things, they sell quantities of one product each day. In other words, each day at midnight (central time) they put one item on their web site. That items is available until they run out or until midnight the next day when a new product goes on sale. The description of the products are always amusing (or at least interesting) and everything about this site is different. I’ve heard complaints of their customer service so am certainly not endorsing the site but it’s an excellent example of doing things different than the norm.

The difference between success and failure is frequently the willingness to try different things and to be a bit of a risk taker.

Are you willing to take some chances and stand out from the crowd? Are you willing to be OUTSTANDING?

Have a great day!

Lawrence
PS There is a new tutorial on how to use a FTP (File Transfer Protocol )available for download. You can use a FTP program to transfer large files to a server, upload a web site, install scripts etc. You can see this tutorial (and others) at http://lawrencefine.com/tutorials.html

Passion vs Profession

How often do you see someone going through the motions which makes it very apparent they don’t care what they are doing?

For example, you ask a person at a store where a product is located. Do they point off in the distance and say “Aisle 14” or do they walk with you to aisle 14 and show you exactly where the item is located and then check to see if they can help you with anything else? Does the person who walks with the customer to make sure they know where the product is located necessarily love their job? No. But, it usually means someone in the organization is passionate about what they do and they have transferred some of this to others.

When you speak, do you speak with emotion in your voice or does it sound like you don’t care about the subject? Does your voice say something completely different than your words? When speaking with one person, I tend to speak very softly and in a somewhat monotone voice. However, when I do public speaking (on subjects such as traits for success, leadership and Internet Safety for kids), I am much louder, much more animated and much more inflective. The reason for this is it’s important for people to understand that when I’m speaking on these subjects, it’s not because it’s my job but rather, it’s because it’s something that I care a great deal about. When you speak to a group, do your words say one thing and your voice say something very different? If so, does this create some doubt to these people whether you are talking about something you care about as opposed to something you are supposed to talk about?

When I use the words passion vs profession, I don’t mean to imply it’s an either/or scenario. Ideally, you would be passionate about your work. Even better is to get paid for doing something you care a great deal about.

Keep in mind, when you truly care about what you are doing, it’s quite apparent to all around you. Likewise, when you don’t care about what you are doing, that is also quite apparent to others. Rather than fake the passion, find something you truly enjoy doing and that is the first step toward success.

Going through the motions can sometimes speak louder than any words that are spoken. Do what you are passionate about and that will transfer to those around you.

Have a great day!

Lawrence