Managing the Mass Communication Chaos

Random Thoughts

Escape your growing inbox.

As I am currently working my way through Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst, I can’t help but think about the insane amount of media, messages, and information that we are confronted with on a daily basis. Like Hurst does though, I want to take a few moments today and speak directly to “Bits” or pieces of electronic data. Even more specifically I want to talk about email.

We live in a culture, or at least America Business does, entrenched in emails. Taking into account how relatively new the technology supporting our email habit is, the volume and dependence on the medium is shocking. Personally, I cannot keep track of how many messages enter and leave my inbox any given day, and how often I check my email – even when I am “Out of the Office.”

The constant stream of emails tends to cause a great amount of stress for anyone and even can lead to a form of messaging paralysis whereby the end user stares at an inbox with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of messages with no method by which to prioritize.

So how do we escape? You probably don’t if we are being honest. To completely escape email would require “getting off the grid” and completely excluding yourself from modern society. The more reasonable solution to our email overload is to learn how to manage the chaos and tame your inbox.

Probably the most common methodology for creating an inbox that is efficient and minimally stressful, also one covered by Hurst is the Inbox Zero method. At a high level, Inbox Zero is a pretty self-explanatory idea. Get your inbox to zero messages. Not just zero new or unread messages, but rather, completely remove all messages from you inbox. This can be manifested in several ways:

Files and Folders

After reading through a message completely, it should be filed somewhere other than your inbox. Create folders for important projects, frequent senders, topics, etc. Whatever works best for your day-to-day should be reflected in how you file messages.

Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go

This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. It’s really quite simple but sometimes incredibly difficult to put into practice. Delete any message that doesn’t matter. If you are never going to read the message again for any reason, just send it to the trash.

Unsubscribe

If you are anything like me, there are millions of companies, web sites, and spamming groups that have your email address. It is time to break up with them. If you find yourself just deleting the email without ever reading it, just unsubscribe. Take the three minutes today to remove yourself from their list and you will never delete their message ever again.

As I read back through my post here, I realize I made this process far simpler than it really is. Managing your email is a long and arduous process – multiplied if you have more than one inbox. If you work to become “Bit Literate” as Mark Hurst writes though, I promise that you will be more productive and reduce your overall stress level.

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7 Characteristics of Servant Leaders

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Servant Leadership might be one of the buzziest buzz words out there. Listen to any speaker on the topic, read any book or article about positive leaders and they all relate to the idea that a great leader does not strike fear in their followers but rather inspires them. What few if any sources provide, however, is any sort of guidelines for developing into a Servant Leader or characteristics to look for in a servant leader. This is long overdue, but I was inspired a few months back by a speaker from the Greenleaf Center who provided such an outline for servant leadership. Using his list and a few ideas of my own, I came up with the following.

Self-Awareness

This one might be the most confusing of the list so let’s get it out of the way early. While much of servant leadership is focused on the followers not the leader, it is simply impossible to lead– in any fashion– without understanding yourself and for what it is you stand. Having this knowledge gives you a sense of purpose and shows confidence to those you wish to inspire. Your followers can then rally behind your values and take them as their own to create the cohesive team you are working toward.

Listening

If you didn’t think this was going to be on here you probably have never read or even heard of servant leadership. A great leader always listens to the team they have around them and thrives on feedback from outer counsel. Listening creates trust and respect but also improves the unit. Ideas start flowing. Conversations elaborate.  Next thing you know, you have accomplished something great. Two ears, one mouth–you get the picture. Of course, this does not mean that you should not do any talking. Asking questions is the best way to illicit opinions from your team.

Changing the Pyramid

Countless incredible organizations were born and subsequently thrived with a few strong leaders at the top barking orders and strategy down through the corporate hierarchy. Looking to the future, however, organizations must change their focus from top down to bottom up. Focusing on those that you as a leader serve creates the best environment for everyone and inspires the best work from the team.

Develop Your Colleagues

You as a leader of an organization cannot grow said organization unless your team grows in either size or ability. Allow those you serve to become masters of their craft in any way that you know how. It will only benefit you when they grow. Who knows, maybe you will learn a few things along the way as well.

Coaching not Controlling

Never. Never. Never micromanage your team. Did I mention never? This is the fastest way to kill a collaborative and healthy environment. By coaching and providing those you serve with the tools they need to grow and develop, they will deliver the best results for you and the organization.

Unleash the Talent/Potential of Others

Along with coaching over controlling, comes inspiring others to reach their true potential. Have your team set goals for themselves, the company, the team, and even for you. This will give them a stake in what is going on with the organization and hold everyone accountable for the success of the team. Reward them for what they do well and recognize everyone for the success of the group but don’t forget that those you serve have a life outside of work as well. Let them be successful there too.

Foresight

Last but certainly not least is foresight. This is the one not exclusive to a servant leader. Leaders are innovative and creative. They see what is next and they adapt themselves, the team, their company, and their product. Never let your vision become dull or unclear. Never let it be set in stone though either. Let it change as the world does but please don’t lose yourself and your values.

5 Rules to Owning Social Media

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ImageIt seems that social media accounts are being used for everything these days. Political, social, personal, professional, and even advertising. How many people think about what their social media profile is saying about them though? These accounts give people the opportunity to create a truly global image from their palm, but they also give people the power to ruin their reputation permanently. These five simple rules are sure to give you the social media presence that will get you attention and esteem.

Say Something
It really defeats the purpose of having a social media account if you never take the time to update it. Say something about something. Take a stand. Post an article. Make a joke. If people never have the opportunity to read what you post, because you are not posting, then you are missing an incredible opportunity to be heard and to make a difference.

CreateValue

Social media is, however, more than just putting something out there. No one really cares that you are getting out of bed now or what you ate for breakfast. They want you to make an impact. They want you to share something new and valuable with them. They want to learn. Sometimes, though, they just want a good laugh. Social media gives you an outlet to spread your opinion–or corny jokes–to a mass market so take advantage of that and give people something that they wont forget. Shake up the world.

Lern 2 Spel

No one wants to have to decipher your post because you can’t take the time to spell check or because you believe there is some inherent value in spelling at a first grade level. Proper grammar, spelling, and usage makes a world of a difference and gives you that much more credibility over someone who does not take the time to read their work before hitting submit. Final point on this, prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

Take a Stand

Rarely do people want to read an article or a post that is merely relaying information. They are interested in where you stand on a matter. Use social media to take an active stance on the issues that matter most to you, no matter what they are. People are not going to necessarily believe the same things as you, but by opening up the dialogue you create a forum for discussion that gives everyone the opportunity to grow.

Be Mindful of Your PosterityImage

Once you post something on the internet, it is there forever. More than that, your online image is everything these days. Employers now more than ever are using social media to determine if a candidate is worthy of what they are offering. Keep this in mind every time you post something. Each blog, tweet, image, and status truly will haunt you forever.

Monday Motivation

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ImageHere I sit with only one month left of undergraduate education remaining. It’s a strange place in life. I have learned most everything that I can from my four years in school. I don’t have a degree yet. I have a lifetime of practical and formal education remaining. I have a great resume but little validation considering my graduation date is still in the future. So, I ask myself, what does it all mean?

It means ambiguity. It means that you are a single brand/product with the ability to define who you are and what you do. My experiences have led  to this point and it is ultimately up to you to decide where you go from here–unless, of course, you believe in some sort of extreme divine planning.

The challenge, however, comes when working toward greatness. Some choose mediocrity and I suppose I have to accept that as their choice. But why settle? To use the old adage:

Shoot for the moon for if you miss you will land among the stars

Despite the astronomical misinformation of the quote, there is some value in it. Goals should not, in my opinion, be easily attainable. Be ruthless in your effort to reach those goals though. Do not stop until they are met and do not be satisfied until they are surpassed.

Sometimes we each need a little pep talk to make it through the day. Especially Mondays. I hope this can act as a sort of rally speech for you and that some sort of purpose can be found as you finish out the day. Good luck and God’s speed.

 

 

Create Value not Noise

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I remember a time when the super Bowl was known for great football and great commercials. The Patriots and now World Champion Giants held up their end of that equation. A game that came down to the final pass after starting with a safety gave fans of the game a reason to stick around as well as something to talk about for weeks afterward too. What left me, and I’m sure many others guessing, was the lack of creativity and originality shown by most companies in their advertising during the mecca of all commercials. Considering the expense of ad space during the Super Bowl, I am baffled that any company would waste their very expensive 30 seconds on something so bland.

That being said, several companies took full advantage of their spotlight to create a memorable experience for viewers. On behalf of General Motor, Clint Eastwood empowered Americans with a  two-minute pep talk that inspired us to bounce back and take advantage of who we are and what we doo.

“This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do, the world will hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime America, and our second half is about to begin.” (It’s Halftime America)

It was also my opinion that Doritos continued to used customer inspired commercials to reach their consumers close to home (Doritos Commercial). Acura also hyped up the value of their newest model the NSX with Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno competing for the first NSX off the line (NSX Commercial). While neither of these had the emotional punch GM carried, their creativity and humor created a lasting memory that I guarantee will carry over in sales numbers.

Considering most people will never have the opportunity to work on a Super Bowl Sunday ad, what do these commercials have to do with everyday career moves? As a professional, people are constantly given opportunities to create value. These opportunities can be rare for some and numerous for others but what really matters is how one capitalizes on the opportunities. Companies have one opportunity each year to advertise during the Super Bowl and as we saw, some fail and some are victorious. The challenge for everyone is to use every opportunity to grow and create long-lasting value. It may bot be a multi-million dollar advertisement but I guarantee that value creating opportunities carry their own proportional worth.

Innovation as a Constant

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ImageSo often, innovation is talked about as a singular action. A mere moment in time. An isolated product, idea, or event. As Paul Sloane (author of The Innovative Leader) writes creativity is the ability to conceive something original or unusual but innovation is the ability to act on that idea and implement. For me, however, it goes deeper than that. Innovation is a lifestyle choice. Someone who innovates does not simply create one new idea and then quit. Every action they take has the ability to be something great.

This kind of sustainability of greatness begins with constant calculated thought. The ability to look at a current process or product and determine “I can make that better” is not done on a whim. Pistons fire and thoughts ignite in the mind of an innovator to determine the best possible outcome for any given situation.

Innovators do not limit themselves to only thinking of grand achievements though. Often the most innovative ideas are nothing new but rather small improvements on the existing. It’s cliche but I must bring up the example of sliced bread. It was not exactly earth shattering for one baker in Davenport, Iowa to start slicing bread into manageable pieces for customers to take home, but the world has been forever altered by his greatness.

It is through this constant process of seeking the new, original and overall wonderful that defines innovation and separates it from creativity and invention. Innovation is then a state of mind and a test of character rather than mere happenstance.

Rising Above Your School’s Bad Reputation

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Yesterday I wrote about the newest ranking that Ohio University was able to top–#1 Party School. In my post I attempted to convey a message of hope for anyone looking to move past the bricks here and on to something greater. What I failed to do yesterday, however, was provide any sort of plan on achieving something, knowing the opposition that is down the road. Knowing that you may be asked, “your resume looks great, but isn’t OU just another party school?” I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of after college greatness but through my experience and studies, here are five things to consider during your undergraduate career that will help you to rise above any school’s bad reputation.

Take a Leadership Role

Seems straightforward enough. First step to this is finding a student organization that you are interested in and that captures your passion. At a university of any size there are going to be organizations that you can join and they will absolutely consume your life–I mean that in a good way. Work your way up through and take on a formal, defined leadership role. This will automatically separate you from about 95% of the rest of the university. The final step, and the most difficult, is making change. Don’t settle for the “status quo.” Implement a new event, find a corporate sponsor. Something that you, at the end of your tenure, can claim “that was mine, I did that.”

Get a Minor in Something

There is true intrinsic value in a liberal arts education. This does not mean, however, that something more “vocational” like a business or journalism does not carry its own weight. I am a business major therefor I understand the value of a BBA. Studying the humanities, however, fosters certain analytical and writing skills that are just not taught anywhere else. I myself picked up a minor in history and noticed immediate benefits over some of my other cohorts in my formal writing skill and ability to think analytically.

Get to Know Your Professors

We all know it. We have heard it since day one. But how many people actually do it? Very few. Professors and advisors are resources just waiting for us to use them. They are a wealth of knowledge and truly enjoy working with students–at least most of them. This is my challenge to you then. Pick one professor each term and really spend time getting to know them. Go to their office hours. Talk about their career. Talk about assignments. Show them your resume. I guarantee you will see immediate benefits as well as long term gains.

Workout

It may seem out of place in this post but working out has extreme benefits and gives you an edge over the competition. While not necessarily important to employers, working out helps you to clear your mind and stay focused. It also increases your energy so as to best take on the tasks on your “to-do list.” And, who wouldn’t mind being in better shape?

Start Something of Your Own

This is the big one. It may seem entirely too intimidating for some but that is what makes it so important. Take your time in undergrad and start something of your own. A business, magazine, web site, student organization, charity event. It doesn’t matter. Your passion is going to lead you somewhere and help you to create something that you are going to enjoy doing. This is, in my opinion, the biggest way to separate yourself. Very few people take advantage of their own entrepreneurial nature and thus those that do, are miles ahead. Don’t be afraid of failure either. Often a failed venture can teach you more about who you are than a successful one.

As I said in the beginning, I am not claiming to be an expert. From my experience, what I read, and what I have heard though, these make sense. If you take the time to fit these into your undergrad career, I guarantee you will be more successful than someone who doesn’t.

Ohio University–#1 Party School!

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Congratulations to all current students and alumni of Ohio University! We have done it again, two years in a row as being the number one party school in the nation. That truly is an accomplishment. Tell your parents and tell your future/current employers. In fact, put it on your resume.

Now that the sarcasm is out of my system, let’s really think about what it means to be the number one party school in the nation. Really? Nothing. It means absolutely nothing. It means that based on some random polling and obscure statistics, Ohio University has reached some level of intoxication unlike any other public university.

I don’t mean to say that I am necessarily offended by this ranking. I have spent my time here at OU working extremely hard to get where I am today and this ranking doesn’t change that. What it does change, however, is how people look at this institution. How people accept, or rather don’t accept, that even though the bar scene is great here, our academic standing is still incredibly strong.

That is something to be truly proud of and for which to fly a banner. Ohio University has a strong tradition of academic integrity and excellence. That is what we should be celebrating and ensuring our rank across the nation. Why is the university itself not portraying this image better to the outside world–or even to us as students? Why are students and alumni so excited to be number one in this with no concern for being in the top 20 for anything else?

So, I implore you–whoever you are–to think about those questions over your next drink at the Crystal. Enjoy your time–if you happen to be an OU student–here and take part in everything this university has to offer. I mean that seriously though. Undergrad is a truly unique experience. But, think about what you are working toward. Being the number one party school can’t be your only goal for your time here at OU can it? Maybe I’m wrong though.