This is a guest post by Barry Hoffman who is the Group HR Director of Computacenter. I have known Barry for many years and I can honestly say he is one of the most productive and successful leaders I have ever worked with. Lazy? Perhaps not but he rarely attends meetings, works a standard day and always has time to meet useful and interesting people. Read on to find out how he does it all…..
When the Flair man asked me to write a blog on how to be productive, successful and lazy, I predictably and inevitably said I couldn’t be bothered, and even if I could, I’d be outsourcing it to some lesser mortal. But after some, frankly, undignified, begging for a man of his maturing stature and the promise of fine dining, I relented and so here is the secret to a productive and successful career: Let people do their jobs.
Believe it or not, it’s easier to write than it is to do – but it soon becomes a habit. I am, I think, quite successful – by lots of measures (financial, hierarchical, family, health and so on), but I am apt to look on the bright side, I grant you.
In all seriousness though, to be successful you need to let go – trust those around you (give them support, guidance and clear boundaries) but don’t interfere with the experts, listen to what those around you say and then allow them to fulfil their potential. Don’t take opportunities from them – they may do things 80% the way that you wanted but the other 20% might be better than you could ever imagine – or indeed better than you could ever achieve yourself.
So many of us feel the need to speak, to have it our way and to be superior by knowing more about everything than those beneath us. It’s primeval and natural. But overcome this and you are unlocking a rich seam of productivity. You will achieve more through others than you ever imagined and, if you do it with magnanimity, encouragement and genuine permission, then you will have the most loyal, engaged and committed team you could hope for. They will cover more ground than you could ever hope to alone. It’s no accident that Newton’s quote “standing on the shoulders of giants” is a cliché. Use the strengths of those around you and you can cover great distance (operationally) and see for miles around (strategically).
This approach is hard work and takes lots of practice. But once you’ve cracked it you will be productive and successful. If you want to know how to start then my advice is to listen, really listen to your people, let them do their jobs and try as hard as you can to encourage, support, guide and not interfere.
And how do you do that – well of course, it helps if you’re lazy!
When I talk about the virtues of CRM systems with people I get one particular response more than all the others added together “That’s Great Mike but I just don’t have the time”. Well I’ve got news for anybody who shares that view – you don’t have the time NOT to use CRM and here’s why.
Speaking as one of the world’s laziest sales people I depend upon a CRM system to manage my sales activities by using the “set and forget” method: I set a future action against a contact and then forget about them until the system reminds me it’s time to do something. And here’s the really great part – working in this way I spend less than 5 minutes a day using my CRM system!
Typical start to the day: -
- 8am every morning CRM reminds me to contact up to 5 people that day and tells me what I am supposed to do with them. Any more than that and I will probably reset the reminder dates for the next day. 5 sales activities a day really is my limit.
- Any telephone actions I will try and get in before 8:30am because I am 4 times more likely to actually speak to people then than later in the day. Why waste time leaving voicemails?
- After I have spoken to the person I will make a one-line note on CRM, set the next action and reminder date and forget about them.
- I will then deal with any email actions linking each email to the appropriate CRM record with the click of a button. Finally I will reset the next action and reminder date and they’re done.
During the day: -
- If I meet somebody I will either email or call my PA so that she can update their CRM record. Typically this will be their notes and next action, perhaps their pipeline and conversion stages (just a flag on the system) and sometimes to add an interest or preference. Brevity is all, dear reader.
- If I meet a new person I will pass my PA their business card, any notes, the next action and reminder date (if applicable) and she will add them to CRM for me.
Even if I didn’t have a PA I would only be adding an extra few minutes a day to my CRM commitment. CRM really is the lazy-persons dream tool!
People who complain that they don’t have the time for CRM probably: -
- Don’t understand how to use it properly as outlined above.
- Have too many actions cropping up each day and succumb to a sort of action paralysis.
- Keep way too many notes on there.
- Haven’t partitioned their pipeline so try and treat all their prospects and clients the same – shame on them!
So here’s the advice of the laziest sales person in the world: get organised and let CRM take the strain; you just concentrate on the clever stuff.
Some of you may have read the title and thought “oh no, not another one of those 7 things you need to do pieces” well it isn’t and here’s why.
Think about the people you know. Your family and friends, people you work with or famous people you see on TV: some of them appear to have easier lives than others but why is that? Sure everybody has problems: even the rich and the famous and the talented have bigger demons than we can image as the recent tragic death of Amy Winehouse clearly shows but I am not talking about that.
I am more interested in those people who just seem to win more than they lose; attract a greater share of luck than the rest of us and above all just seem to cruise through life with relative ease without excessive stress or frenzy. Everybody knows people like this, I know I do, but I wonder how they (I like to call them ELPs – Easy Life People) actually manage it?
I have been fascinated with this subject for years but over the previous few months have been analysing the characteristics of ELPs to find out what makes them special. I have also spoken to a number of people I consider to be ELPs and have looked at those people who operate at the other end of the scale. These rules are based upon this research. One key element of all 7 rules is time: conserving it, using it wisely, getting more done in less of it and understanding its value.
Here are the first rule, with the next 6 individual blog posts covering the remaining number. You may not agree with all of them but speaking from both the analyst’s perspective and from somewhere much deeper inside me they do all apply. See what you think.
1. Know your destination: find some goals that you can believe in
I watched a Bear Grylls show on TV recently where Bear’s objective was to reach a road in the wilderness where he reckoned he could get a lift from a passing truck. He had a compass bearing and an immediate next step: to reach the top of the ridge in front of him but between him and the ridge was a ravine with no obvious way down. With a refreshing disregard for health and safety he leapt of the cliff he was standing on and crashed into a pine tree to break his fall.
Now, obviously he’s as mad as snakes but he took his decision not based on the immediate goal (down into a ravine was not up to the ridge) and not because it was the easiest option but because it was the right thing to do. He knew this because not only did he have a fair idea of his long term destination but he also had a clear knowledge of the next few milestone he needed to achieve – the ravine was a necessary obstacle to conquer and he did what he needed to in order to overcome it.
In sales we have a saying “focus equals penetration and penetration equals revenue” well I think this applies in life. How can you make the decisions you need to make especially if they are in a seemingly wrong direction unless you have a clear focus on the eventual end-game and what the next milestone is. ELPs appear to not only understand this but also to act upon it.
Every journey has three points on it: a start point, a current location and a destination point. The first two are obvious and cannot be challenged; you started where you started and you are where you are but the third is the key one. Without it you will end up in all sorts of places many of which will take you time and trouble to get out of. Having a clear destination in mind is the way to avoid such bother and confusion.
Hundreds of acres of trees have been sacrificed to produce all the books written about goals so I have little to add here except this. Your destination is the life-style you want; one that will make you happy and meet your deepest personal needs. It must encompass everything that is important to you: your family life, work, hobbies, health, beliefs and so on. Nobody can dictate to you what it looks like or what it should contain; that is for you to decide. Remember, your final destination can be a little hazy but your next milestones must be crystal clear just as they were for Bear in his wilderness adventure.
One last thing on this is the phrase “that you can believe in”. One of my problems in life has been setting a destination that was seemingly attractive, certainly achievable and that I felt I should do but deep down I just didn’t believe or care about it: in short I was not passionate about reaching my journey’s end. During these periods of my life I have worked harder, achieved less and been generally more miserable as a result. I firmly believe that you must have a conviction that the destination you have set yourself is the one you really want because if you don’t it’s the same as not having one at all.
My suggestion is to take time, as much time as you need in fact, to define a destination you can really get behind; something you feel passionate about regardless of what others may think. You have little control of this because any objective will either float your boat or it won’t so go for the ones that are watertight because they’re the ones that will work for you in the end.
Let’s cut to the chase. Business is full of stuff – things to do and things to get done but how about a few things to stop doing. Here’s 5 things to stop doing that I think should be at the top of anybody’s list.
- Say yes to a meeting request without thinking whether it will add any real value to you or anybody else for that matter.
- Making excuses to yourself to avoid doing one sales call today.
- Offer to do something when you have absolutely no spare bandwidth available at all.
- Fill your day with hands on operational activities leaving no “you-time” at all.
- NOT watching a http://www.ted.com video each day. These a brilliant and should be compulsory for anybody in business. This is my current favourite http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_this_is_broken_1.html
Loads of blogs suggest things you should be doing and that’s fair enough but I thought suggesting a few things you should stop doing might make a refreshing change. Am I right or just blowing smoke up my armpits?
I remember the day I had my first mobile phone. It was fitted into my car and meant that all that “dead time” I spent driving I could now dedicate to catching up with my calls and keeping on top of my game.
I also remember my first laptop. Anywhere I went I could review my emails, work on documents and tinker around with spreadsheets and then I got my hands on an aircard so I could be on-line as well. Train journey’s had never been so productive.
But there was something else too. My focus had changed. Sure, I spent time building forecasts and long term plans but most of my attention was directed towards the operational here-and-now. Not such a bad thing perhaps but with all my “dead time” went the ideas; the smaller innovations and the light-bulb moments that used to come to me in the car and on train journey’s – I spent precious little time working on my business and almost all of it working in my business.
In Flair we call this thinking time Purple Time and I happen to believe it is vital to anybody who is on a journey: wants to move forward from where they are now to a different place. I had pretty much lost most of my Purple Time.
Luckily for me about this time I took up running again and discovered a whole new source of Purple Time that was even more productive than before. As soon as I was in my stride, usually a mile or two, I would forget I was running and my mind would be somewhere else. All I had to do was hurriedly right down my ideas as soon as I returned home and I was fine. The shower had a tendency to wash ideas away along with the dirt and the sweat.
I know that a number of people reading this will dispense with the idea of having spare time to think and would prefer to be doing all the time. I am perfectly fine with that belief. But if you recognise that most progress comes from somebody somewhere thinking “ah ha! Now that’s a much better way of doing things” then you must manufacture some new Purple Time of your own. This is especially true for managers and business developers where this kind of deep thinking is crucial.
Mobiles, laptops, WiFi, Blackberrys and PDA’s mean we can be connected to our operational duties pretty much anywhere on the planet (except on the train from Birmingham to London of course where the signal strength is lousy) leaving precious little time for anything else.
Make some space for yourself. Use your Purple Time to work on your business and let innovation and creativity flood back into your business lives. Here’s a few ideas to try out: -
- Next time you are on a train journey sit in the quiet zone and leave your laptop and your work in your bag.
- I know that strictly speaking lunch is for wimps but at least one lunchtime a week leave the office and walk for an hour on your own.
- If you are an exercise-minded person you have probably already discovered Purple Time but if you haven’t then why not avoid watching MTV on the treadmill and see how it goes.
- I would not recommend thinking too hard whilst driving – all your senses should be focused on the road but just turn off your radio and see what happens.
Give these ideas a try and do persist – it will take you a little while to find your “Purple Feet” but once you have them there is no going back. Oh and do leave the iPod at home. Music helps you think but prevents deep levels of thought being reached.
So this young man and young woman get married. All goes well and the young wife says “I’d like to cook you a Sunday dinner on our first Sunday together”. He agrees and looks forward to the great feast to come.
On Sunday the young man decides to stay with his wife whilst she cooks in the kitchen and he sees a very puzzling thing. She takes out a piece of beef from the fridge, slices the top third off and places the rest in their brand new double oven. Naturally, it being their first roast dinner together he says nothing. The meal is served up and it is truly delicious.
The following Sunday they are invited over to his mother-in-laws for lunch. He decides to do a little sucking up and stays chatting to his mother-in-law in the kitchen whilst she prepares the meal. To his amazement she too takes the meat out of the fridge, a dazzling looking piece of pork, slices the top third off and places the rest in the oven. Once again the meal is scrumptious and everyone congratulates her for a job well done.
The next weekend they all descend upon his wife’s Grandma for Sunday lunch. She still lives in the same house she did when she was first married over 60 years ago and although he didn’t say so the young man thought a kitchen make-over was long overdue. He found Grandma fascinating. She was as sharp as a whip and a great conversationalist so he stayed in the kitchen whilst she prepared the eagerly anticipated meal. As he watched her everything fell into place for him: she took the meat out of the fridge sized it up, sliced about a third of it off which was just enough to get the remainder into her tiny ancient oven.
I wonder how many people conduct their business activities in exactly the same way: by blindly copying what they saw before them?
In business, as in life, it is always worth asking the question “why?”
I read Malcolm Gladwell’s absolutely brilliant book Outliers. It looks at why some people are more successful than others and it really made me think and question, which is the main reason I read books of course. I really recommend that you get it if you don’t have it already and see what you think. Well, there are far too many interesting ideas and conclusions in it for me to go into here but one thing is that struck me is the 10,000 hour rule.
He states that pretty much anybody can become great at something if they do it for 10,000 hours. Musicians like the Beatles were obviously very talented but what singled them out from all the other bands around at the time? Well one thing was that they managed to get a series of gigs in Hamburg where they played for literally dozens of hours a week for years on end. At the conclusion of this period of their lives they had truly mastered their instruments (not really sure what happened in Ringo’s case – maybe he wasn’t in the band then) and all that front-line action meant that they were truly on top of their games.
Here is a thing that puzzled me when I read this: they surely weren’t the only band to be playing in the Hamburg dives at that time so why wasn’t there a German version of the Beatles? Gladwell does look at this in the book but the thing that occurred to me this morning whilst reading an article on the band was that they wanted to get better – they really, really wanted to be the best they could be not just as could as they could get away with.
So here it is. Maybe it isn’t the amount of hours alone it is the amount of hours you spend doing something and trying to get better at it as you do that counts. 10,000 hours can sometimes be 1 hour repeated 10,000 times over; no, what we want is each hour being better, albeit only very slightly, than the last.