I hope this email finds you well, somewhere in the world, and successful in your endless quest to make yourself look impossibly busy. “They can’t kill me if they can’t find me,” you say, with a furtive glance over your shoulder that evokes images of Harrison Ford running from Tommy Lee Jones.
I noticed a guy standing next to me waiting for his bags to arrive yesterday at San Jose Airport intently looking at his open laptop, which was precariously balanced in one hand while he attempted to type with the other. My friend, the world will not fall off its axis because you didn’t fiddle with your spreadsheet while you collected your garment bag. But in his defense, this guy looked like he was saving the world. Others standing around fingering their Blackberries and clutching their cell phones looked visibly diminished while this Hero of Industry single-handedly raised the productivity bar at carousel number one.
We have reached an age where we are only as important as the number of emails we get. Our worth correlates to our inaccessibility. Scarcity is our core brand attribute.
I Blackberry, therefore I am.
I’ve had this job before. When I realized that I’d be away from my family for five straight weeks — and that if they could all pile onto a plane, we’d have five days to play together in Australia, between trade shows, PR events and partner meetings — it dawned on me that something was amiss. Haven’t completely figured out how to fix it, mind you, but something needs to get rectified.
Seth Godin and others whose opinions matter to me have made the point well that we, as marketers, spend a very small percentage of our days actually marketing. We have meetings. We do email. We provide updates, check-ins, status reports, and attend the same from others. We spend an inordinate amount of our days manually cranking the gears of bureaucracy and painfully little doing the stuff that moves our companies forward.
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> Believe it or not, you don’t need to be everywhere and do everything. There are a small number of levers that, with discipline and creativity, will reveal themselves to be the true difference-makers in your business. Pursue them relentlessly. The other stuff can wait.
> Understand the more you try to do, the less you often get done. Doing a few things well always beats doing everything that fits in your Outlook calendar.
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How much time have you dedicated to generating insights into your customers’ real needs? How much time do you spend with your actual customers — you know, the people who actually use your stuff as opposed to the people who just buy it? How about uncovering novel ways for new customers to try your stuff?
So get back to me on this when you’re between flights and advise me on what we both already know — you don’t do these things because your time is taken up with meetings you could have been emails, emails that could have been discussions, and trips that could have been phone calls.
In short, you’d probably love to do all that marketing stuff, if only you had the time…
Copyright (c) 2006 Stephen Denny
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people bemoaning their lot in life by comparing the number of email they each get. When much of this is email they brought upon themselves, and the volley of CYA from staffers. The plight of the leader is to decide. Even though the other adults in the organization are all perfectly capable as well, it just doesn’t feel Decided until the leader has read that email trail.
I tried one time to see how many emails I could delete without reading, out of a batch of 200. Maybe 20 – 30 were really truly emails I needed to push the company forward. Some of those were from my mother.
Michelle Edelman is director of strategic planning at NYCA, a full-service marketing agency that grows businesses with inspired ideas. To find out how NYCA can grow your business, log on to http://www.nyca.com.
Michelle, I’ll tell you something funny, though — in some pretty interesting research I had a chance to do a while back with in-depth one-on-ones with real ‘road warriors’, they do bemoan their fates for the amount of email they get — but if they don’t get more than the next guy, they wonder what’s wrong. They feel diminished when some other guy down the hall has a worse travel schedule, has more emails, and is triple booked in needless meetings. Funny. A sign of our times.
At its worst, I was getting 100 to 150 emails a day, and as you said, 20 needed some action from me and only 5 to 10 were actually important.
Sometimes the role (plight?) of the leader is to delegate and let people grow into their respective roles. That’s the only way I could ever leave town and not have the house fall down after I closed the door.