Thought Leadership in the Age of Technology

Are you someone who leads by sharing your best ideas with a defined audience? As a “thought leader” you may have noticed that technology has made certain tasks easier, but the overall challenge has become formidable.

As mentioned in my column dated October 4th, I have been hosting multi-day virtual conferences. For each one, I have invited thought leaders to be presenters, but recently, a separation has developed between experienced experts (Elders) and tech-savvy communicators (Youngsters).

The former have been thinking about issues in their field for some time: publishing books, articles, or conference presentations. Spending a decade or more in reflection and study, their deep content is provocative. Furthermore, they have probably assisted many other experts over their careers.

In general, they are in no hurry, as they are accustomed to cycles lasting months or even years between major outputs. From their point of view, it takes time to develop sound ideas; the wait between the first draft of a book and its appearance in a bookstore.

At the other extreme lies their young, digital counterparts: Youngsters who also intend to influence others with their thinking and creative products. However, they use the newest technologies to dramatically shorten the cycle between inspiration and public consumption.

Employing the latest virtual channels, they disseminate a high volume of content. As such, they are conscious of their online image, measuring success by the number of likes, followers and subscribers they garner.

Recently, these groups have been drifting further apart, leading to complaints. If you belong to or interact with either group, here is some advice.

Why Elders Must Pivot Their Delivery

I recall a conversation with a colleague who had some fine ideas about marketing products in Jamaica. When I suggested he share them publicly, he refused. “Someone will steal them!” he complained. When he migrated a few years later, all his plans went with him. But his limited thinking lives on in the heads of too many Elders. They grew up in an environment of scarcity, where an original theory or solution was rare and the opportunities to reach an audience were few.

Case in Point: As a young management consultant in the 1980s, I struggled to produce papers and give speeches due to the cost and time involved.

Today, such barriers have been removed, but most Elders have not caught up. They may know how to find and download ideas from other thinkers, but don’t know how to use a blog, vlog, podcast or social media to build an audience.

If you are an Elder, one place to start is to develop an “owned” asset – one that you control completely, rather than “renting” temporary space on a social network. Establish a website which allows you to share your creative outputs via text, audio, video or graphics.

Then, create a catalog of your best products. When you have at least ten or twenty decent units, publish them in sequence and start to build an audience. Use your friends on social media as a foundation and send out links to other thought leaders.

Why Youngsters Must Use Precedents

Thought-leaders who are tech-savvy are often enamored with their increasing ability to create followers. It’s never been easier to do so, and some self-proclaimed youthful “experts” have been able to attract millions. As such, they spend a great deal of time seeking better social media tricks, slicker graphics, more effective hashtags, and nicer filters. They look up to established influencers who are using these tweaks to extend their reach.

However, if you dig a bit deeper, you may find that some Youngsters are “all hat and no cattle.” In other words, while their followership is growing, their content comprises no more than shallow ideas and worn cliches.

As such, their followers tend to be young and impressionable, honestly believing that they are hearing brilliant, breakthrough insights. Before the inevitable loss of interest comes, there is something Youngsters could learn from their Elders: how to solve novel problems using existing research and fresh imagination. Following this approach would allow them to develop a better-quality audience that sticks around for truly original thinking.

By the same token, many Elders are waiting for their wisdom to be tapped. Consequently, they just aren’t learning the aggressive techniques Youngsters have acquired to reach their audience: they need to become active, skillful users of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

For now, the momentum lies with those who use the latest technology, but it should swing back. Unfortunately, we can’t wait. In these tumultuous times, we require both Elders and Youngsters to develop the skills needed to make their contribution.

If it means embracing an uncomfortable challenge, so be it. The world needs people who combine high-quality thinking and channels of easy access to help solve the pressing problems of the day.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20201018/francis-wade-thought-leadership-age-technology

Converting Your In-Person Conference to a Virtual Summit

Is your organization accustomed to holding real-life gatherings for scores or hundreds of its followers, shareholders, customers or members? If so, what should it do in these pandemic times? Are large-scale, virtual events as simple as they seem?

In October last year, I got lucky. A colleague included me in the execution of his two-day online summit. Thousands participated from around the world, and based on what I learned, I subsequently launched two such events of my own. My most recent effort, CaribHRForum Virtual Conference featured over 1350 participants, with 75 speakers spread over three days.

While my learning curve has been quite steep, here are some shortcuts I recommend to scale this challenge, even in a world of continuous, disruptive change.

1. Get the Business Model Right

Like many activities of this nature, there is a commercial reality that must be addressed in order to produce a material benefit. While it might appear easy to copy other online events, that’s a mistake if the organizers’ goals aren’t exactly the same as yours.

To illustrate, some hosts are happy to increase the size of their mailing lists. Others just want to sell a specific product to a narrow audience. The point is, your organization must define the outcomes and target dates it wants to attain from the venture.

For example, at the start you must choose which crowd to attract, what topics to cover, which technologies to use, what skills are needed and more. These are strategic decisions which should be driven by your organization’s vision. That’s not to say the past should be ignored: but you should assume that you are looking to attract a younger, more tech-savvy version of your traditional audience.

By now you may realize: this is not simply about making a virtual carbon copy. Instead, this activity should complement your new post-COVID strategy and the best way to accomplish this is from a blank canvas.

2. Hunt for Skills

Unfortunately, the team of folks you relied on to pull off your in-person events may find itself lacking. The skills needed for a project of this nature are vast, deep and changing from one month to the next. As such, it’s unlikely that you will find them all at once. In other words, expect team members to be in a relentless learning mode as they grapple with evolving technologies.

For example, you’ll need folks who are skilled in internet marketing, website design, customer service, online community management, copywriting, image and video editing, event handling, speaker selection/training and more. While some of these may appear to be traditional capabilities, the virtual expression of them is unique.

Case in point: A skilled graphics designer accustomed to a traditional role may not understand the difference between Instagram Story promotions versus those in the Feed. Facebook’s advertising platform may be incomprehensible.

The bottom-line is that managing the skills needed for a virtual conference is a game of constant vigilance. Few organizations can afford to hire an external specialized team so you must use volunteers or employees. They will only possess a subset of the skills you need so get everyone in learning mode from the onset.

3. An Early Start

Most organizations under-estimate the need for a business model that works and the skills which are needed. Consequently, they start working on their online conference far too late.

This has a compound effect: an overdue start means a lesser choice of speakers. This, in turn, makes the event unattractive to your audience. They may conclude that you’re only offering a glorified webinar: heavy on splashy graphics and light on content. Unfortunately, fewer attendees means less revenue.

A late start may also push you into offering live presentations, versus those which are pre-recorded. While this may seem to be an easy substitute, it actually translates into a frantic last-minute struggle to bring together interviewers, interviewees and the audience in real time. Throw in different time zones, imperfect technology and a tricky supply of electricity or Internet access and you have a recipe for stress.

In these pandemic times, these are challenges you may not be able to avoid. Accept the fact that you are creating an experience that is distinctly different from ones you have undertaken in the past, and that direct comparisons to pre-COVID times add little value.

The truth is, in-person gatherings in large numbers are unlikely to resume in 2021. In the meantime, many of your audience members will become accustomed to the benefits of virtual conferences and summits, and start to prefer this option.

Embrace this aspect of the new normal as a unique capability to be used long beyond the time when herd immunity sets in. Instead, it will probably be a requirement your audience demands, a feature your organization will offer over and over again in the future.

Originally published in the Jamaica Gleaner.

How to Listen Productively in a Negotiation

The task of negotiating with other people is part and parcel of business-life. However, many hate having to do so, and a large percentage do so ineffectively. One cause is that most focus on the quality of their speaking, fixating on what they need to say. By contrast, masterful negotiators take a different approach: deep listening.

Years ago, I had the fortune of picking up “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. This classic book on negotiations outlines several principles; one of which is to listen keenly to uncover the true intent behind someone’s position.

The idea is simple enough: when people are in a negotiation, the job of making requests of their counterparts is unavoidable. On the surface, it seems to be a battle of wills: each side asks for what it wants repeatedly, until the other concedes or refuses. The best tactic is to figure out how to get what you want, while giving away as little as possible.

However, Fisher and Ury advocate a different frame: a “Win-Win” in which both parties benefit. As you may imagine, there are a number of positives to be derived from this approach, even though it requires more skill. Among them is the ability to listen powerfully to what the other party is not saying aloud.

The fact is, each of us asks for stuff we want all day. However, especially when the stakes are high and emotions are raw, we unwittingly hide our true needs and emotional wants behind words. It simply feels too risky to be honest.

But we aren’t being sneaky; it’s just that emotional intent doesn’t translate neatly into actions or objects. For example, a husband who asks his wife to make a cheesecake for his birthday isn’t necessarily asking her to procure a baked good, and may be upset when she purchases one from a store.

For him, the intent is to experience her love and care which means seeing her sacrifice time and attention in the kitchen making the cake from scratch. He may unwittingly want to relive a memory provided by his mother.

But his actual words: “Would you bake a cheesecake for my birthday?” don’t convey his entire intent. Therefore, the mismatch between the two could result in a marital spat, or in the business world, a failed negotiation. How can you get past this sticking point if you find yourself in a similar spot?

1. Notice the mismatch

Skilled negotiators know how to use their intuition to discern such subtle gaps. Something deep inside them indicates that all is not well. However, you may find that your MBA-like training leads you to pay attention to the logic of what is happening: the discernible facts.

But that’s not enough. Furthermore, detecting uneasy feelings is necessary, but not sufficient. Once the inner shift is realized, you must translate the sensation into accurate words.

“It seems that we are making progress, but something inside tells me that we are missing a big part.”

This is a bold step: it’s a request to stop the negotiation in order to investigate a mere hunch based on intangible emotions. Unfortunately, most people self-censor, telling themselves: “Don’t be silly – just move on!” When they do so, everyone loses.

If you’d like to move past sticking points in your difficult conversations, it pays to tune in to your inner feelings, and speak up.

2. Probing for Underlying Commitments

If you do call a time-out, and things seem stuck, it could be that you are giving the other party exactly what they are asking for…but it’s not enough. This is a moment when your intuition can help you probe for deeper reasons.

“I know you asked for cheesecake, but why do you want that for your birthday?”

This is a masterful move in any negotiation because you are probing behind the stated position to see why it was raised in the first place. But this is more than curiosity.

Going deeper opens up the range of possible solutions. For example, the smell of home-cooked cake on a special day could be satisfied by other kinds of baked goods which are easier or less expensive to make.

When you expand the number of options, a Win-Win becomes far more likely. Plus, when you probe their hidden commitments it shows that you care. It’s as if you are setting aside the overt demand for cheesecake in order to give the other person what they really want.

In this context, this kind of listening is powerful as it invents brand new outcomes which neither side could predict beforehand. Without explicitly saying so, the two opposing sides are now working as a team.

For a breakthrough in negotiations, start by deeply listening beyond the words to yourself, and the other person’s true needs.

This article first appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner – http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20200920/francis-wade-how-listen-productively-negotiation

How to Inspire “Paused” Employees

As a result of the pandemic and the recession, are many of your staff-members unconsciously “working-to-rule”? In other words, have they reverted to doing the minimum possible to keep their jobs? If so, what can you as an employer do to break them out of a dangerous rut which could drive your firm all the way into bankruptcy?

These are scary times, and with good reason. Here in Jamaica, COVID is spiking to unforeseen levels and as the death-toll mounts, even more people are testing positive. Furthermore, the economy faces poor predictions as we enter the traditional slowdown of the tourist season. Arguably, business confidence is at its lowest ever.

Consequently, most of your employees are probably stalled. Confronted by bad news and distracted by children who would normally be in school, they are overwhelmed. Laying awake at night, they are pre-occupied by the need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

It seems only natural: in response to a threat, you should focus on defending yourself. However, when the threat is enduring, there’s a limit to how well a good defense works. Case in point: you can’t win the football World Cup by only preventing goals from scoring. Plus, deep within the human spirit lies a steady force that drives us to do more than just survive.

Unfortunately, few corporate leaders know how to transcend the “survival” stage of the pandemic. With each spike, they reset their companies’ attention to the usual: social distancing, wearing masks and working from home. But there will always be spikes…for now. A vaccine won’t make its way to our citizens for several years.

In the meantime, your company may just go out of business.

Instead of waiting and resetting every few months, how can you take your employees out of the “pause”?

1. Think Big

A few years ago, the US Coast Guard had such a challenge. The world was changing rapidly and its old operating mode as the first-responder to sea-based emergencies was no longer working. The threats it faced were now organized: some by terrorists and others by global forces such as climate change.

The organization needed to take into account incipient trends, then rise far above them. As opposed to merely reacting, it needed to shape long-term outcomes. That could not happen in the short term.

Instead, the organization developed a decades-long scenario in which it transformed itself, creating a new, influential role in the future. From that end-point, it worked back to today, resulting in a difficult re-organization impacting thousands.

But my experience leading Jamaican companies planning tells me that the articulation of a vision isn’t enough. To some degree, we are immune from such leader-talk courtesy of politicians. Now your people are, quite rightly, skeptical of bombast.

They should be.

Research shows that overblown visions of the future can be de-motivational. Why? When a goal is too far out of people’s reach, they give up, asking themselves, “Should I waste time on a failure?”

2. Be Fact-Based and Realistic

The first way out of this dilemma is to create a numbers-oriented map of the journey from the future back to the present. Such a chart is quite difficult to craft, but it starts by defining a specific year for your goal, such as our own “Vision Jamaica 2030”.

Furthermore, it must show how critical metrics such as top line revenue, EBITDA and market share need to change to accomplish your end-point. Plus, it needs to capture qualitative milestones. Finally, projects and interventions which take months or years to implement should be added in and synchronized with the other targets.

The end-result is a detailed picture of the journey your organisation must take from now until the stated year of your vision.

Some would say that such detail is likely to be “incorrect”, and they are right. This is not an exercise in prediction or accuracy. Instead, it’s meant to galvanize your organization with not only a destination, but a realistic means of reaching it.

Why is this activity important to employees? Without this level of specificity, they won’t buy-in, and will simply add the goal to their mental list of empty promises. This is the problem with overarching, vague vision statements. They have stopped working because people are immune to the optimism of “world-class” pronouncements which are more ignorant than credible.

One way to tackle this challenge is to involve all your staff in your data gathering. After all, this is their future you are crafting. Take care to address all the facts and assumptions they deem important.

The fact is, in these difficult times people want to be inspired…but moreover, they don’t want to be disappointed by a CEO’s pipe-dream. Focus on creating a vision that’s realistic and you’ll replace their unwanted fears with a motivation that enlivens and lifts them to extraordinary achievement.

Pre-Conference Networking Sessions

Last week, we had our first of four fun, networking sessions intended to lead us into the 2020 CaribHRForum Virtual Conference.

The game of Human Bingo was a perfect fit for the Remo.co live platform we are fond of here at CaribHRForum. There were prizes and surprises as we learned about each other by asking a number of tricky, Caribbean questions.

Given that Build My Regional Network is one of the goals we want people to accomplish as a result of attending, this was the perfect start.

The next session (this Friday) is only for members of CaribHRForum Community and Conference Speakers, but the third and fourth will be open to much larger audiences. To make sure you don’t miss out, register for the conference here and we’ll keep you updated.

The excitement is building…

The Easiest Way to Start Your Digital Transformation

What’s an easy step to begin your company’s digital transformation? This may sound simplistic: Start by collecting your customers’ contact information.

Why is this a powerful place to begin?

Think of what it’s like to meet someone for the first time and quickly develop a romantic interest. In order to develop a multi-faceted relationship in which you could get to know each other, you need contact information. It’s a signal that you want to go further than the immediate moment, in order to learn more about his/her life and vice versa.

After all, who wants to date someone who is one-dimensional? And who wants to do business with companies that can only do one thing?

The best organizations understand the need to go much further: instead, they re-invent themselves using the idea that companies offer several categories or dimensions of offerings.

Four Dimensions

1. a product – a tangible or digital object.

2. a service – an act performed on the customer’s behalf.

3. a relationship – a partnership for mutual gain.

4. a transformation – a learning experience which improves the customers’ intrinsic capabilities.

For example, a company that sells exercise equipment (a kind of product) could add offerings such as:

– assistance in helping customers set up their home gyms safely and efficiently (a service)

– two months of participation in a weight-loss boot camp with a group of similar people (a relationship)

– a training programme that teaches them how to vary their exercise regime with age (a transformation)

These three additional dimensions can be used to convert a single, momentary transaction into an ongoing source of revenue. It may seem paradoxical, but a company which thinks about these dimensions is more likely to ask for contact information. Why is that? Like serious dating, knowing how to reach the customer is the way for them to build a mutually beneficial, multi-faceted relationship.

However, here’s the baffling reality: most companies don’t even ask for this information. Instead, they focus on whoever happens to walk in next,

If your organization isn’t executing this important function, perhaps one of the reasons below might apply.

1. The Overall Mission is Lacking

Asking for contact information from a stranger is a delicate matter. It’s somewhat intrusive, and a customer service representative (CSR) in your company who can foresee a possible rejection is likely to skip this step. Why?

More often than not, they simply don’t appreciate the importance. After all, the person who wants the data is far away in your marketing department. The CSR doesn’t report to them and has probably never been given the big-picture point of view.

Consequently, when the customer asks, “What do you want my contact information for?” they are met with a blank look. Your CSR’s have not been prepared with an answer.

2. The Means Aren’t Provided

A company that provides its staff with only a clipboard, paper and pencil to collect contact information has done the bare minimum. However, it creates a problem for someone who must enter the data at a later date. Furthermore, they send a signal to the customer that the effort isn’t a serious one.

Instead, your organization should set up a landing page on its website, and supply its staff with a tablet or smartphone to be used on the spot. This solves many problems at once and allows the customer to receive a response in real-time.

3. A Focus on Mass Marketing

In most companies, the marketing department hasn’t made the transition to thinking about its customers as the single best source of future business. Instead, your company may still see advertising to the public as the primary channel. However, if it were to make the switch, then finding more about customers’ specific, future needs would be a critical objective.

Reconsider the case of the gym equipment store. If the managers have a hard time imagining services, relationships and transformations to offer, then it could simply ask its past customers: “Thanks for shopping with us. We are interested to know what you might want next in your journey towards a fitter version of yourself. Please answer a few questions to help us meet your needs.”

As ordinary as these ideas may sound, I can’t think of three local companies who use them. Even those who have my information don’t contact me as a prior customer: I find out about their offerings from the newspapers, television or internet.

I imagine that they are wasting millions, reinventing one campaign after another, chasing after the same members of the public each time. The solution to this dilemma? Collect contact information from their customers and use it to develop deeper relationships. This approach may kick-start the digital transformation that keeps them alive.

The Shock of Low Standards

There are a few moments in your employees’ careers when they go into a shock. However, it’s not because too much is demanded of them…in fact, it’s the very opposite.

In prior columns, I shared what sometimes happens when a recent college graduate joins the full-time workforce. Coming from an education system with extreme demands and standards, they encounter a rude surprise: individual efforts to excel are attacked by one’s peers. At the same time, their management rewards vague, dubious achievements.

Unfortunately, most newcomers fall right into place, frittering away whatever fresh energy they once had. They become like everyone else: comfort becomes the paramount goal. In fact, some firms set “making employees comfortable” as an all-important concern.

Not surprisingly, this is the very opposite of the way people relate to each other in high-performing organizations.

For example, military boot-camp is designed to expose raw recruits to an environment of impossibly high standards as quickly as possible. This immersion is intended to surprise them – to provide a shock. When it’s done well, it isn’t sadistic or destructive. The best rise up to meet the challenge, while others are excluded.

I’m sure at some point in history, a well-intended general experimented with a more “comfortable” path to basic military training…only to see it rejected. Why? A battlefield is no place to discover that your colleagues are more interested in saving their skins than bravely following the mission.

The truth is, society doesn’t admire someone who “seeks my own comfort above all else.” However, this is a low standard that many companies promote during the onboarding stage. But that’s not the only instance where the battle is lost. Here are three additional episodes in employees’ careers which could be carefully crafted to show excellence.

1) Their First Meeting

Sharon, a new employee, bustles into her first meeting to ensure she’s not late. As she opens the door with moments to spare, there’s no-one else in the room. Five minutes later, the second person arrives. The meeting eventually starts 15 minutes late with several missing, including the convenor. The top executive, whose presence is required to make decisions, stumbles in even much later still talking on his phone, without apology.

This everyday scenario teaches Sharon to surrender her college standard of arriving ten minutes before others to sit in the front row. Instead, she’s encouraged to join a sloppy, mediocre majority.

2) Their First Project

After a few months on the project, Jerome is confused. He can’t define the mission and the last two status meetings have been cancelled. While he continues working on his deliverables, his manager has never asked for an update.

With extra energy and bandwidth, he turns his efforts to a startup – a side-hustle he has launched with friends. That feels more real for some reason, even though not a single penny has been earned.

3) Their First Promotion

Fred was just promoted to the executive suite. While HR makes sure that all frontline employees have their annual performance reviews, their advice is ignored at this level.

He discovers that the Managing Director has been too busy (for several years) to schedule feedback discussions. She seems happier giving out random, public “Big-Ups” to low-level staff than having substantial, confronting conversations with her direct reports.

As such, he has no idea how to improve his performance. Consequently, when a headhunter calls, he jumps at the opportunity to move to a different organization which, he hopes, has higher standards.

No Excuses

Perhaps you are reading this article, arguing that “My company is not an army.” True, but what would it be like to find and emulate the best-run organizations in your industry? Maybe you would discover a common thread in all high-performing service clubs, sports teams, NGO’s, statutory bodies, corporations and even bible-study groups.

Consider that there may be something in human nature that instinctively seeks comfort in relationships with others, rather than accountability…and that it destroys performance.

As such, your book-club which skillfully causes (or “forces”) its members to read the assigned books is one that thrives, where others fail. This core ingredient – accountability – is the secret sauce that wards off the drift towards mediocrity. When you fail to repeatedly burnish it brightly, the worst will always happen.

The alternative is to craft high standards around key events which offer their own shock and surprise. While you’ll definitely lose those who are committed to their personal comfort, each one who remains has the opportunity to push others to excellence.

Why is Email the Hardest Thing You Must Do Each Day?

What makes email the number one hated activity in corporate life? It may have little to do with the nuisance it has become, and everything to do with incomplete decisions we need to make daily.

Studies have shown that email consumes some 20% of each employee’s day. At the same time, 33% would rather clean a toilet than go through all their email. Why the aversion to a technology that’s supposed to help? Why do so many wish it would just go away?

It all comes down to friction.

Email delivers frictionless communication at scale. Today, there’s no need to use a typewriter, secretary, printer, phone or conference room to send a simple message to upwards of millions of people. As such, electronic messaging will never go away, even if it’s being slightly reshaped by apps like WhatsApp and Slack.

Its permanence and ubiquity mean that we must forever tolerate universal irritants like spam and irrelevant CC’s, but these aren’t the main reasons for all the hate. Instead, the problem we face is that of decision overwhelm.

To explain, let’s set aside messages from the non-essential newsletters, updates and birthday reminders you receive. By contrast, critical emails are ones you can’t delete with impunity: they require you to pause and think before answering.

The problem is that such messages come into our Inboxes at all times of the day, even while we are sleeping. We can’t control when people send them, so they arrive mixed in with the stuff that’s not essential. This makes it hard to focus.

However, you do have control over the following three actions. Mastering each of them can be transformational to the quality of your decision-making.

Action Mode #1 – Arbitrary Skimming and Scanning – Stop

While there are a few companies which require employees to scan their Inboxes every few minutes (thereby ruining their productivity) a clear best practice has emerged. In summary, it states one should never randomly “check” email i.e. skim. Instead, it should be a consciously scheduled activity.

What about emergencies? Savvy organizations train their staff to use other methods such as phone calls or texts for urgent communications.

The fact is, the habit of scanning email leaves you at the mercy of other people’s agendas. You end up playing electronic ping-pong, being your least effective.

The solution is to learn how to use the following two action modes for managing your incoming email.

Action Mode #2 – Light Triage – Start

Instead of skimming, you should create a handful of opportunities each day to organize incoming messages. In these triage sessions, you are rapidly dispatching messages to parts of your system (other than your Inbox) so that they can be dealt with later.

In this mode, you only offer short replies, if any at all. This isn’t the time for making decisions about the content of email messages. It’s the time for deciding which ones require actual thought and later consideration, then putting them in position, ready for the hard thinking they call for.

Action Mode #3 – Heavy Lifting – Start

These are longer periods of time devoted to making difficult decisions related to specific email messages. They need to be pre-scheduled and heavily guarded against distractions or external intrusions so that you can make quality commitments and deliver clear communications.

In essence, you are batching the hardest work you’ll do each day into a single time-slot reserved for your very best performance.

Unfortunately, most of us jump between these three Action Modes randomly when we open our Inboxes, frittering away precious time, attention and energy.

The result? You fail to realize that the kind of intensity needed for Action #2 (quick, short decisions) is different from that of Action #3 (deep thinking and major commitments.) As such, you rarely put yourself in the right mindset to do your hardest, best work. Instead, you try to squeeze email between other commitments.

Ultimately, you create problems for yourself and others. At the volumes of email typical of a manager, you never catch up, so others form a poor impression of your ability to stay on top of what (they think) is a simple chore.

The answer is to use your calendar to block separate times for Mode #2 and Mode #3 email. It’s the only way to manage the volume of decisions your job requires.

In this context, you must be continuously improving your email management as a means for making effective decisions. Do so and you’ll continue to be a competent professional who uses his/her core tools effectively.