Check These Four Things off your List Before You Email Anyone

tumblr_myebwtELvb1st5lhmo1_1280I work with some people who get emails constantly.  They get so many emails that they need to spend their after-hours (their pre-9am and post-5pm) doing real work.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to focus if that was me!

There are a lot out of articles there that suggest people should only respond to emails at only significant times in the day, and turn it off otherwise etc. but I think the problem needs to be nipped in the bud at the source: the sender.

So, before you send that email, think about a few things to maximize your time and to help minimize others’ efforts.

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Will Facebook COO Sandberg’s ‘Lean-In Circle’ work? Ask Carrie Bradshaw

The reader comments below a recent New York Times article about Facebook’s extremely successful and pioneering COO businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg and her new book sound like the following: “Who has time for that?” and “This woman is as out of touch as her male counterparts”.  

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For Sheryl Sandberg, this response accompanies her latest accomplishment, a nonfiction book about her idea for a feminine social movement entitled Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, released this week.

Despite my first 5-second impression (I haven’t read the book yet), ‘lean in’ doesn’t actually refer to a tongue-in-cheek way of saying women need to show more cleavage to get ahead.

Her narrative focuses on women in business, their subconscious and tangible roadblocks, and other setbacks they face when trying to compete with men for success.  Sandberg’s remedy is this idea of ‘leaning In’, creating women-only support circles where those in business and aspiring achievers can attend seminars, network, and open their minds up to the world of working women and all that entails.

After reading up on Sandberg’s social movement mission (something she always wanted to create – something on the bucket list of a millionaire) I instantly assumed that adding yet one more task to the plight of the busy woman would be a huge undertaking, one that would not be absorbed as easily as a pastime like a book club or even sending out the occasional tweet.

Women have gravitated towards information they find useful, accessible, and respectful of them.  From watching a talk show (The View, anyone?) or following the career and contributions of a wealthy television mogul, the modern female revolutions are few and far between. When was the last time you read or learned something so outstanding that it changed your life and the way you live?  Maybe not since Oprah’s favourite things.

san2Sex and the City, now a bit of a stereotypical retrospective on women (but a damn good show), nailed a gender revolution.   Imagine if, every time you ordered a Cosmopolitan at the bar you thought of a certain TV character?  That’s the success of SATC.  What if Sandberg tried to nail her idea by using strong, good old-fashioned branding – a symbol that women can really relate to?  What if ‘lean in’ didn’t preach business-filled, inspirational jargon, but instead created a catch phrase that went viral and became the new ‘do you want fries with that?’  We don’t need another thing to do.  We need something we can use alongside what we do already.

We shouldn’t have to be reminded that we’re women facing setbacks; we need to own ourselves better.  By constantly calling out our differences with men and how those set us back we highlight these differences.  Let’s figure out what makes us more successful than men.  For instance, we can alter our appearances more easily with haircuts, hair colours, make up and clothing – this does more than just cover up a bald spot.  We can open up our hearts and minds at the same time, rescheduling a meeting that might not have gone so well because so-and-so just lost the family pet the night before.

Some of the most empowering images of women that come to mind are silly, ones where we are working our femininity to get something done.  Heck, even Robin Williams’ lady makeover in Mrs. Doubtfire, when he’s putting on those panty hose, makes me want to fist pump and say: “yes, I have to put on those goddamn things every chilly morning and I work it!”

Perhaps it isn’t about grand, social movements or strict schedules and deadlines, but is instead about small, innocuous details in our lives that we can adopt.  Remember the dish-toting, skirt-at-ankle-length housewife of sixty years ago?  Try getting her to waiver from her routine.  Unless, of course, a new behaviour meant cooking with a microwave, invented in 1947, cutting down on hours in the kitchen.  That woman still exists.  How does a COO of a social media company take on changing female behaviour and misconceptions?  Is she really qualified to?  She has the grounds to try, look at how Facebook has changed our behaviour.  She knows a thing or two about motivating people.

And me, personally, I am fascinated with these uber successful women (the Sandbergs, Mayers, and Feys of the world) who are at the top of their game and living the dream under both praise and criticism.  Maybe they need help.  Maybe Sandberg’s first job should be to appoint a proprietor, a ‘normal woman’ who will do her bidding and run this social movement for her. Hands up, ladies!

Perhaps the bottom line is that a ‘lean in’ circle isn’t fun enough.  It sounds like time we don’t have and a bit like segregation.  Take this example: any guy can tell you what a mani/pedi is.  He may not care, or get one himself, but he knows what it is because it means something to women and he notices the after effects because we show him.

I leave you with my most outrageous thought yet.  Instead of a Doomsday Clock, we should support the implementation of a Female Clock (not biological, obviously).  The primary purpose of the Female Clock will be to measure the sentiment towards and advancement of women.  How many female CEOs does it take to push the minute hand either farther from midnight i.e. doom?  Instead of nuclear strife inching the minutes closer to twelve on the Doomsday Clock, violence against women – another rape or murder – will do the same.

After we’re done leaning in, let’s put ourselves out there.

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How joining my office’s ‘social committee’ helped my career

Ad agencies have had a rep for being workplaces filled with booze, frivolity, and playtime, falling back on that comforting mentality of it being ‘just advertising’.
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Over the 2+ years I’ve been at my agency, this mentality always seemed more like an urban, mad men myth.  With a strong focus on our work and considerable changes in the industry with new media and digital, it seemed those old days of the past were but a memory and we were barreling forward with the work ethic of Wall Street.

We’d forgotten a little about this joint idea of work and play.  So, a small group of us decided to form the Activiteam (Activity + Team) early last year with one clear purpose: to bring back ‘beer cart’ Fridays.  It blossomed into a year-long plan of parties and events, inspired by government holidays or quirky trivia.  With head-honcho approval, we budgeted, planned, and carried out three year’s worth of activities that the agency had been missing out on since the last Social Committee retired, albeit after a great but tiring job.

Being a part of a volunteer group within your work is something that brings you closer to your colleagues and upper management.  It’s a way that I’ve shown my passion for the job outside of my usual scope.  We have non-billable hours and dockets, we have work-hour meetings and off-hour ones, too.  I’ve had non-members ask me ‘how do you get your work done’ and I answer that it’s easy.  But it really isn’t that easy.  You just have to prioritize.

Here are my six tips surrounding being a part of a social committee at work:

1. Recruit colleagues who have similar titles/work levels as you. They will be more likely to make time and meet deadlines, plus they’ll share empathy.  Look for individuals who are in different departments to represent your office well.

2. Commit to a weekly, after-hours meeting time and stick to it. We thrive on our 5pm Tuesday meeting and go over what’s coming up and any presentations we need to prepare for our management team.

3. Plan out your three months, six months, 1 year and seek budget approval.  You are in business, so use your skills to treat your committee like one.  Make sure you have someone keeping the budget and create events that are well prepared.

4. Delegate! Create a workback schedule and figure out who needs to do what before and on the day of an event to get things going.

5. Devise a social media plan.  Make your events live longer than 2 hours by sharing them on your channels.  Take photos and use them in your content calendars (i.e. caption contests etc.).  Ensure you ask permission from staffers photographed.

6. Ask for feedback.  Use cheap tools like Survey Monkey to ask your coworkers what they think of your events.  Respond to their opinions and change your formulas, if need be. Always strive to be better.

Another important piece of advice that covers everything I’ve mentioned: Create an open-minded atmosphere where sharing, turning down or accepting ideas is encouraged and welcomed.  Who cares if they hated your idea for ‘kitten tee-shirt’ day.  The point is, you put it out there.

A Message to CEOs about Twitter

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You may be the first one in your professional circle to do it and if you do take that step, kudos.  Betty White and the Pope are on Twitter, and they are bosses in their own right. CEOs: you should be on social media, too.

Recent stats reveal that most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are not personally using social media.  Whether it’s because they are technically inept, find it too difficult/tiring to moderate, or are just plain afraid, fewer and fewer chiefs are putting themselves out there this way.

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