David Harding

You’ve probably learned the hard way not to communicate anything emotional in email because the medium tends to be tone deaf. No doubt you’ve also learned to overlook misspellings and shortened words in texts and tweets.

We’re certainly connecting more ways and more often. But are we connecting any better?

It’s hard to say. The challenge of effective communication is to trim the time between the exchange and the realization that the communication got through or wasn’t understood. In business, the sooner we know we’re not connecting, the sooner we can fix it.

Actual conversations are still the best way to communicate. Phone calls lead to less miscommunication than email. Why? Conversations — whether in person, by phone or via Skype — have built-in error detection and correction. You can hear the pause. You can see the puzzled look. You can explain. Communication is therefore successful.

Be sure you and your organization empower staff to ask when they aren’t clear on any communication — from any source.

Consider trustworthiness

According to a compilation of work trend studies, more than 77 percent of all employees do not trust their managers. Some 63 percent do not believe in what leaders say, and 83 percent believe that managers work just for their own benefits. Less than 40 percent of the workforce reports being “truly committed” to their boss or company.

If we don’t trust our bosses, aren’t committed to our workplaces and don’t value our community leaders, what hope do we have for the future of our economy?

One of the real catalysts for creating shared value within your company is to create an environment of trust and credibility to allow people to unleash their true potential. And because leadership is about people, passion, drive and communication, author Andreas Dudas suggests four major leadership objectives to begin to turn the tide of distrust and noncommittal employees:

■  Earn trust through credibility.

■  Ignite fire inside people.

■  Empower people.

■  Create a sense of purpose for employees.

Be consistent

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld famously says, “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. And the way to create better jokes is to write every day, which I do. Consistency is the secret to my success.”

The same can be said for top performers in any field. They are more consistent than their peers. Even after a particularly off week or a bad quarter, the most successful performers — that is, leaders — hit the ground running the next day.

They appreciate that leadership isn’t just being top dog. It’s not a position. Leadership is a practice — the practice of pushing the envelope, working all the angles, developing yourself and your team, striving for excellence — day after day, no matter what.

Your work ethic is the key to your success, no matter your field. It is appreciated, respected and it pays off. ●

 

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, visit www.hardingpoorman.com.

Connect with David Harding on LinkedIn http://linkd.in/HCZpz3. 

To learn more about the HardingPoorman Group, like its Facebook page www.facebook.com/hardingpoorman and follow on Twitter @hardingpoorman.

For some 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours, we are involved in some form of communication. Of that, just 40 percent is spent listening. And from my experience, that’s a pretty generous statistic.

I think that equation should be reversed.

Recommit to listening. Listening is a big part of being a leader. Here’s how to start:

  • Minimize distractions (internal and external). Turn off your cell phone and close your email.
  • Get up from your desk and move to a conference table. For a quicker exchange, just stand up.
  • Show support with your body language. Lean forward and face the speaker. Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen with the sole purpose of understanding and connecting. Keep an open mind.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions to deepen your understanding. Demonstrate that you understand with smiles and nods, follow up and provide feedback. 

Be real

Stop trying to be a better leader and be more authentic.

Why fear being authentically you? Most fears of revealing the true self are built around failing or losing status or power. It’s ironic. Effective leaders create natural power by virtue of their authenticity, while managers who conform or exert artificial power fool no one.

Successful leaders act according to what they say and feel in their hearts:

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and dare to admit them.
  • Clarify your purpose and values.
  • Speak up and provide honest feedback.
  • Respect the needs of others.
  • Work in an environment that supports relationships and builds strong emotional bonds with people who share your visions and values. 

Lead from below

A successful mid-level manager advances when he takes the right amount of initiative, concedes an appropriate amount of recognition and makes his way up the corporate ladder.

How can you lead up? Lead from below with purpose, earning the right to leadership by taking small steps. Organize, learn and lay a foundation. Reflect credit and embrace blame. Create a reputation and an environment where the people around you are transformed.

When you do this with intention and authenticity, it becomes second nature, and you become a leader from the ground up. 

Know a little about a lot

It has been said, “Intelligence is the combination of knowing a lot about a little, while you also know a little about a lot.”

Thus it’s impossible to be smart without also being aware of the wider world. The Internet has made us all well aware of how much there is to know. The challenge today is knowing a little about a lot. And it’s pretty tempting to spend a lot of time pursuing that goal.

Becoming an expert with deep understanding in your domain remains just as important and just as difficult to achieve as it used to be. Deep understanding of a system, domain, territory or culture helps you create analyses and then apply them to new systems you encounter.

First, figure out what types of complementary or multi-function skills will help you do your job better — and might lead to other work if your present job disappears. In other words, become more “T-shaped” with your skill development.

Know your chosen domain deeply, and be open to knowing a little about a lot more. It’s the random interactions and surprising coincidences of these “littles” together with your “lot” that will help you successfully and interestingly navigate your daily life. ● 

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, visit www.hardingpoorman.com.

 

If you’re among the companies that start your fiscal year on July 1, it may be time to do some thinking and planning. But no matter when you start your business year, here are some points to consider.

The beginning of another business year is at hand. No matter what your business faced or how your organization pulled through, now’s a great time to provide your team with a well-deserved “pat on the back” and a thoughtful review.

First, give thanks: Consider a half-day retreat. Begin with a celebration or recognition lunch. Find something positive you can recognize in each staff member, i.e., “Rookie of the Year,” “Best Use of Humor in a Low Moment,” “Most Inspirational,” etc. Make a big deal of each success.

Second, measure: Take stock. List your division’s accomplishments. How close did you come in each category compared to your goal? Where was growth centered? How did this last year stack up to year’s past?

Third, staffing: Which sectors are growing? Where do you need to build?

Lastly, what did you learn: Where is your business headed? What will you keep as is? What needs to be changed or discarded altogether?

There’s no better time of year to reflect, regroup and analyze. If you take the time to do this now, it can prevent you from launching automatically into a repeat of the past year.

What are your strategies? What tactics will accomplish them? How will you delegate and hold people accountable? How will you track progress, share the vision and the results? How will you involve the entire staff?

Measurements are critical

The worst kind of clock is one that is wrong. Fast or slow doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is wrong. Why? Because it’s human nature to be tempted to accept what it tells us.

The same holds true to any measurement standard. Keeping track of the wrong data — or interpreting it wrong — is worse than not keeping track at all.

Are you sure you are measuring the right information for your business, your products, your team?

Exceed expectations by giving less; it doesn’t sound possible, exceeding expectations by giving less.

People (customers and employees) don’t care how much you offer them. What they want is to get more than they expected.

In our rush to get noticed, chosen, grow bigger or achieve more, we often promise the moon — and raise expectations above what is possible.

How about promising less and bragging less? Instead, deliver on the promise to delight.

Demand the best

Too often, we are presented with choices that don’t please us. And too often, we pick one.

Why settle? Because it’s easier. Or we run out of time. Or the best is too expensive. Name your excuse. It’s simply easier to choose the least objectionable alternative than to hold out for the best or go out and find it.

Like Steven Jobs — we should demand the best of our people, processes, vendors and standards.

What are you settling for?

By demanding the best, you are setting an example for your staff. Too often we set a “lower bar,” and if each time you set that bar lower, mediocrity starts to set in. ?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has voted the company as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

 

Procrastination eats up a ton of energy — in worry, negativity, angst and efficiency, not to mention wasting time itself.

When you think about the basic allotment of time you and I have each day, I can’t think of a more precious thing to waste.

It’s been said that when you eliminate procrastination forever, you become a “master of your time.” But how to end that thing we all do — especially when we are up against a difficult project or deadline?

Time to reinvent yourself.

Begin by retooling yourself. Start with time management, and divide your day into “small bites.” Schedule and organize each portion of every day. Set daily goals, then prioritize and organize your schedule to meet those goals.

If you are most productive in the mornings, schedule your most intense tasks then. If you are full of energy toward the middle of the day, don’t waste that part of the day on lunch.

Work to eliminate time wasters such as frequent checking of email, side chats and taking phone calls when you are in the middle of the most productive (scheduled) part of your day.

Make this month your most productive month by ending your tendency to procrastinate — forever.

Get in the right frame of mind.

What else drains your energy? No doubt about it, cynicism and skepticism is heaped high and pretty prevalent now, professionally, politically and personally. Much of it is warranted and probably even useful.

The best place to be, though, is open-minded and open-hearted.

Sure, you could say that’s a pretty “Hallmark moment” perspective. But carrying heavy chips of skepticism on your shoulders absolutely closes you off to hearing the good and mires you down in negativity.

Develop a more caring attitude.

Care more. Ghandi and Jesus embraced the concept. So did Mother Teresa. In fact, so did Steve Jobs. And although he wasn’t liked very much, Jobs was known for caring deeply about what he was making and how it was used.

But really, who talks about caring these days? Certainly not most businesspeople or Congress or those depicted in reality shows.

In business terms, caring is what you do to increase customer retention and keep the value of your brand. Caring = profitability. But caring also gives you a compass. It’s the reason you do the work you do in the first place.

I recommend not just simply caring but caring more. Sure, the mantra may help your organization’s bottom line. More importantly, in the process of caring more, there’s an opportunity to take “the road less traveled,” the road of someone who truly cares about what’s being made and who it is for.

Beware of consequences of apathy.

It has been said that anything left to its own devices with no oversight will degrade to its lowest common denominator and eventually lose its beauty and function.

That’s why we have laws, industries are regulated, bushes get pruned and products have designers.

It’s also true with regard to leadership. A business leader not only sets standards but also helps prune and hone his or her business, staff, products, methods and strategies.

A good leader sets the tone for all this and doesn’t get bogged down in the details. But — the leader is careful to take the pulse of the business area, to make sure those very same standards, staff, products, methods and strategies are not losing beauty and function. It’s an artful dance.

This time of year is natural for taking stock and looking ahead. Take some time to see what pruning needs to be done for the betterment of your business. ?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

Are you a perfectionist? Many type-A leaders are. If so, chances are good that your perfectionist ways are keeping you from getting more done.

Perfectionism is not an enviable attribute but rather a trap. According to Kris Taylor, of K. Taylor & Associates (Evergreen Leadership), perfectionists:

? Should have all the answers

? Must do it all

? Have a fear of trying something new or improving areas of weakness

? Think that more is better

? Hesitate to ask for help

? Don’t have time to take care of themselves

? Have old files, half-finished projects and clutter

? Tend to have high-maintenance customers that divert them from ideal clients

If this sounds like you, Taylor recommends lightening your load. Release a few projects or time-intensive tasks from your to-do list. Hire a consultant to take old, unfinished projects off your plate. Give more repetitive or time-consuming jobs to others. Free yourself for the important stuff, including the projects you most enjoy.

Get down to the nitty-gritty

What does it take to be a success, to beat your competition, to be a winner?

The most common answer is hard work. Although that’s certainly part of any achievement, there’s something else at work that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

That something else is being able to decipher what truly matters. It could be the culture of the situation, comprehending what’s truly at stake to the buyer or even understanding and being able to capitalize on the mood of the event.

Whatever it is that is most important is perfected — and the rest is ignored. Both parts of this equation are difficult, but when you trust your instincts, sniff out what’s most important and seize the opportunity, you’re onto the right stuff. That’s the winner’s circle.

Become a list-maker

Work on what truly matters by making lists. I have quite a number of lists, with many next actions, projects, calls to make and big ideas. Some question my efficiency, if not my sanity.

“You’ve got so many lists. That’s just too much work,” they say.

I’m here to defend these never-ending lists. Why? Because I rarely waste time worrying or becoming distracted over forgetting a meeting, an action, callback list, date or a promise to look into something. I have my appointments, phone numbers and notes tracked in a system I trust, one that I know works for me.

The problem with most people’s systems is that their calendar is the only list they trust. More than 95 percent of what they really need to keep track of is not a set of appointments but all the things to be done in between those appointments.

Your head is not the best place to keep track of things. And finding it critical to maintain a calendar seems to me a great way to clutter. Lists leave room in your mind to be more creative and allow you to think more about the big picture. Find a way to reduce the clutter in your head and you will be less stressed, sleep better and probably enjoy life a lot more. ?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

 

You need to stick out in today’s world.

Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, says, “Taking a stand requires guts. You will stick out and get noticed. Your stand may be controversial. Brazen. Or provide an uncomfortable truth.” You will absolutely be judged. But reasonable people will appreciate that you took the chance and showed your resolve.

The alternative to taking a stand is certainly safer. But speaking your truth is more satisfying. You can have either, not both: Stand out or fit in. Not all the time, and never at the same time, but it’s always a choice.

Those who choose to fit in should expect to avoid criticism (and be ignored). Those who stand out should expect neither.

Every success story is rooted in hard work, motivation and persistence. Sure, being at the right place at the right time helps. But even that is dependent upon an astute appreciation of what, where and why the right time and place exist.

Research, homework, focus

Do your homework. Knock on doors. Do your due diligence. Stay focused. Keep up with new technology. Find a way to break through. There are no shortcuts worth taking.

Whether you consider yourself a great author, architect, brain surgeon or sculptor, it doesn’t matter how gifted you are if your work doesn’t get written, built, used or created. You have to stop daydreaming, planning and procrastinating at some point. If you have a brilliant plan but it remains undiscovered or unfinished, what’s holding you back?

Stop worrying about perfection, funding or selling your idea. Just go for it and sink or swim. It’s the only way to find out if you really are brilliant, gifted and worthy.

The value of quietness

It’s a noisy world. I appreciate this most when I’m enjoying a breather in my own schedule. I recently read Roberta Matuson’s “Fast Company” blog and realized how much being quiet not only strengthens focus and productivity but also leadership ability.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. It’s usually the quiet ones who get the most done. Here’s what Matuson says about quiet leadership: “Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For example, when everyone is stressing out because it looks like a team isn’t going to meet their deadlines, it’s usually the quiet people who are able to calm people down and carry them over the finish line.”

Quiet leaders project confidence. Calm and quiet in the midst of a storm allow the time and space needed to focus on the important issues at hand and allow your team to learn to do the same.

The advantage of the morning

I’m most alert the first thing in the morning. So that’s when I tend to schedule the things that require the most effort — be it brainpower, physical activity or creativity.

What successful people do with their first hour of every day — often before going into the office — is fascinating. Before that first power breakfast or staff meeting, the first hour of the day may be best served by planning. That’s because the first hour of each day is the hour you see everything most clearly and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list.

Writer, speaker and “Fast Company” blogger Tony Robbins writes, “Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called homeroom, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up homeroom every day. You should, too.”

Your first hour is a quiet gem. Use it to keep the rest of your day functioning at its best. <<

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies under one roof. The company has been voted one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

How riveting is your leadership style?

No matter how charismatic or successful you are, you won’t always be able to command the attention of others. Why? From texting to smartphones, it’s increasingly more difficult to rise above the noise and seize the attention of those who matter to you.

And yet, attention = power. As a recent Harvard Business Review post put it, “The more people we can attract and motivate to join us on a challenging quest or initiative, the more impact we are likely to achieve.

Build focused attention

How can you build the kind of focused attention that allows you to lead effectively? Some ideas:

• Lead with interesting questions. Don’t try to suggest answers, focus on inquiry instead. It’s more interesting.

• Stimulate the imagination. Provide “what if?” situations to challenge and empower creative answers.

• Be authentic. Genuinely engage in your business, your staff, the issues you address, and lead by example. It’s contagious.

• Ask “why.” Keep asking “why” until you get to the real issue. You’ll be surprised by what you discover.

We all become better managers and leaders the more we work successfully with others. And that means being noticed, being heard and commanding attention.

Find a dashboard

What should you be looking at each day, week, and month?

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure and what you don’t measure you don’t understand.” – Michael Gerber, “E-Myth Revisited”

According to Douglas Wick, president of Positioning Systems, “Strategic Discipline includes the three practices of meetings, metrics and priorities. Dashboards are a critical impact that shortens reporting time in meetings.  It is also is an important part of building accountability through group meetings and peer pressure.”

Using a dashboard as your metric can be very useful if you use it correctly. Make sure you measure the most important things that make your business successful. I’ve seen plenty of dashboards that were so vast and confusing; they did very little but muck up the waters. They took too much time to understand. The result? They didn’t get read.

Keep your dashboard simple, easy to understand and above all, functional. The sales department will want to show what’s in the pipeline and what’s booked. Compare it to last year’s numbers and this year’s forecast. Simple enough. Profitability for the month is a key measurable indicator. What’s most important to know at a glance is whether you are meeting your monthly expenses.

Once you have a dashboard template in place, make sure you are using it to communicate progress during team meetings. Set department by department goals, or better yet, have each team set those for themselves.

Use your dashboard to inspire, clarify, and promote individual and team accountability.

Keep your mind open, not closed

And how do you communicate those metrics with different groups of people?

According to Dan Goldgeier, author of “View from the Cheap Seats,” “We live in an age-obsessed culture. We frequently categorize folks as “Millennials,” “Generation X,” or “Baby Boomers,” assuming age is their most common trait. We think that younger people tend to be more impressionable … while older folks are more set in their ways. Of course, that’s a generalization, and it doesn’t necessarily hold true.”

I’m a Boomer and work with GenXers, Millennials, and even a few folks from the Greatest Generation. Some in our office are single, others married with kids, some conservative, others liberal, others technology wizards, or open-minded, quiet, or vibrant.

The point is, as Goldgeier says, “For every age group, there’s certainly an income gap, a culture gap, and a political gap. Why paint us all with the same broad brush?”

Like everything else, perception of age and generations is filtered through our personal biases. As we get older, we tend to develop comfortable “default” positions to withdraw to, and that can suppress open-mindedness.

The key to effective communication – with those of any age – is to remain curious, keep learning and empathetically be ever-willing to dive beyond the stereotypes.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

 

Is your leadership style bureaucratic? If your organization has grown quickly, recently merged with another company or has been around longer than 10 years, chances are good it is.

If your company is run as a bureaucracy, I can guarantee the layers of leadership and signoffs make any kind of change more difficult and frustrating than it has to be — and  “evolve or die” is the mantra of today’s most successful companies.

When there is an issue that needs to be addressed, don’t make a new policy or rule. Find ways to evolve to take on the issue at hand. Be inclusive not autocratic. Ask for input at all levels.

Share your vision

One good way to move from a “competent” to a “skilled” leader is by sharing your vision with your team. It’s not just reciting the mission statement on the wall. I’m talking about your vision for your company — the one you are passionate about.

Share it in person, with a small group or your entire company. Make it known what’s important to you, what drives you and where you are headed. Your team needs clarity.

Management consultant Lee J. Colan said, “Without a compelling cause, employees are just putting in time. Their minds may be engaged, but their hearts are not. Meaning precedes motivation.”

Once your team members know where you want to go, they will help get you there.

Break through bureaucracy. It stifles new ideas and can strangle growth. Instead, lead with change in mind.

Disregard dissent

In order to create change, you must be able to boldly ignore dissent to change. The great historic politicians, generals and humanitarian leaders all got this.

Change is made by people who go against the flow and who embrace throwing a curveball to get an organization or an entrenched idea unstuck and moving in a different direction.

Give yourself and your company the power to invent anew. Start with a completely blank white board. Generate new understandings by considering the unnerving, the contentious, the wild. To create new ways and means to a new end, be open to what’s possible — and maybe what doesn’t seem possible.

Change doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Ignore the naysayers and boldly see what lies ahead on the unexplored path.

The truth is that everything changes, and the changes are coming faster and more frequently. Companies such as IBM fall to Dell. And Dell to Microsoft. And Microsoft to Apple, Blackberry to iPod and so on.

As soon as you think your brand is exceptional, it gets harder to create real innovation because you are locked into the now. There are (very) few exceptions to this — Apple being one. That’s largely because it’s hard to make changes when “the wow” is working for your product at the moment.

Build your brand

Don’t drink your brand Kool-Aid. Always, always improve your brand. Be sure your brand continually re-earns attention and reconnects with its audience. Make lots of small, fine-tuned changes that hone in on what’s becoming important to your customer. As hockey great Wayne Gretsky said, “Skate toward where the puck is going rather than where it is.”

I’ve known a lot of business leaders who see business as a battlefield. It’s “us” against “them.” They build armies of employees and demonize competitors as enemies. There can be only winners and losers. Even customers must be “conquered.”

I don’t think business is a battlefield. I think real leaders see business as an ecosystem where the most diverse company is the most likely to thrive. They create teams rather than troops and establish offices that aren’t rigid places where employees take orders. Instead, they are open to creating teams that share ideas and see change as opportunities for growth.

True leaders are even open to creating partnerships with other companies – yes, even competitors. Firms that are light on their feet and adaptable to changing circumstances are the ones that are the most successful. And a pleasure to work with.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

Are we ever really done?

It’s a good question to ask when your inbox is always full. There will always be another post to write, a text to make, emails that beg answering, a comment you should probably respond to. So in a way, you are never really “done.”

If your work is never truly done, it’s more than a challenge. It can be disheartening and sometimes really depressing. Then again, pure silence could be just as disheartening.

Seth Godin calls this “Dancing on the edge of finished.”

If Godin is right to call our never-ending affair with communication technology a dance, where do we draw the line? When do we let go of the smartphone, the laptop, the iPad? And when you have dinner with the kids are they (or you) always on the phone? One friend of mine has a basket at home and that’s where his cell phone goes when he walks in the door each night. Or how about the classrooms that have started collecting cell phones at the door so the kids are not distracted?

I think that finding your “edge” is a personal challenge. Being never completely done with work is OK, as long as it doesn’t become a grind or interfere with the rest of your life. At some point, won’t it make work a chore?

You have to be comfortable with your “edge.” But first, you’ve got to find it:

  • Learn to leave the office and pretend the gates are closing behind you. You can’t think about work until you come back through the gates the next morning.
  • Do your business reading at work and not at home. Reading business items before going to bed will only disturb your sleep.
  • Have a pad of paper on your nightstand. Write down anything you think about to get those thoughts out of your mind and you will also sleep better.
  • Vacation reading: make a pact that you will only read fiction books, biographies or nonbusiness-related materials.
  • Don’t bring business issues home to your spouse. Unless they are especially good therapy, it’s better to have a business associate you can have coffee with and confide in.

Seth Godin recently blogged about a concept called “signal to noise ratio,” the relationship between the stuff you want to hear verses the stuff you don’t. According to Godin, Twitter, email and Facebook all have an alarmingly bad ratio, and it’s getting worse.

The world, it seems, is getting spammed to death from all sides — Twitter, email, Facebook, LinkedIn — from advertisers, friends, business, even family. There’s so much stuff out there from so many sources, that we don’t have time, let alone the attention span, to absorb it.

How do you stay in touch without getting overloaded? Godin recommends relentless editing of social media (whom you follow and whom you listen to) and finding new channels you can trust, such as RSS feeds from bloggers and other sources.

In other words, stay on top of what stays on the top of your social media pile. Here are some ideas:

  • Do you use a spam filter for your email at work? At least once a week, unsubscribe from the stuff you don’t want to receive anymore.
  • Create folders to file email messages. For example, create “rules” that automatically file emails to read later into a “reading” folder. Be creative with these folders. Other examples might include a folder for those items you have delegated or folders for each of your projects.
  • Set up email rules with your colleagues. Do you really need to get all the emails they send you, and do you always need to be copied?
  • Make it a goal to always have your email inbox totally clear of unread messages. Take action or filter everything else.

Each of these ideas will make your mind clearer. When it’s clear (and uncluttered) you can make decisions easier, and you will have more time for creative thinking.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

Short attention spans are in evidence everywhere.

Stay connected to your audience by being brief and concise. Apply this to meetings, presentations, advertising, and memos.

People love to talk. When they are nervous, they talk more. That’s how salespeople get into trouble. They are nervous about being in front of a new prospect and talk, talk, talk.

Don’t become the dinosaur that loves to hear himself or herself talk. No one else will be listening.

Less is not only more; it’s the only way to be heard over tweets, instant messaging and other forms of communication.

You’ve got :03

Three seconds to pique their interest before your link gets clicked. Three sentences to see whether your big idea actually gets heard.

There’s a deluge of noise out there and just about everyone worth contacting is taking self-protective measures. Each of these questions is a hurdle to cross before your idea is even given a chance.

• Anything new here I can use?

• Are there typos?

• Is the idea worth spending more of my time?

• Is the design professionally done?

• Why do I need this?

• Did someone I know recommend this?

• Is it this offer too good to be true?

Cut to the chase uniquely

You can’t blame your prospects for ignoring you. So, cut to the chase differently, faster, quirkier. Give it to me straight or throw me a curve ball. But stand out from the crowd in a way that is memorable and timely. Then you will be heard above the fray.

What about being brief with executing your strategies?

In his bestseller, “The Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm,” Verne Harnish shares business lessons he learned from case studies of 10 different successful organizations. He compares these lessons against those put forth by John D. Rockefeller Sr. that Rockefeller felt all leaders should address. Harnish demonstrates how to design a high-powered business engine that drives innovation, sales and profits with these questions:

• Do you have five priorities for the year and the quarter and a clear No.1 priority with an appropriate theme?

• Do you have sufficient data on a daily and weekly basis to provide insight into how your organization is running vs. what the market is demanding?

• Do you have an effective rhythm of weekly, quarterly and annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability?

How are your priorities?

Are you on track with your priorities? Develop a single sheet of priorities and make it your roadmap for the year. Keep it brief.

Check in with your sheet on a daily basis to make sure you are sticking with your plan and working as smartly as possible.

Conversations need to be brief, but effective.

Have you ever recommended to others how best to communicate with you? Are you a visual person, or auditory? Do you need time to digest new ideas before you react to them? Are you a researcher or a “go with your gut” type?

Not only should you know what style of communication you prefer, but your direct reports (and maybe everyone you work with) should also know how best to communicate with you. This works in reverse too.

For the first time in my career, someone came in to work with me on social media and asked me to take them to a white board. There he mapped out his thinking visually. Within a few minutes I clearly understood his plan. In fact, it was clearer than ever, because I am a visual person, and my presenter understood that.

The magnificent seven

In her book, “The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes,” Allyson Lewis says the following:

• Studies have shown that the average corporate executive has an attention span of seven minutes.

• According to Harvard psychologist George Miller, the brain is limited to remembering only seven pieces of information at a time.

Now that you know this information, would you change your communication style with those you work with?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

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