I’m astounded by the number of people who consider themselves to be professionals in solo practice who simply don’t realize they are acting like amateurs. They are of better quality and intent than their actions represent.
Here are some simple ways to create more profound impressions:
1. Read the instructions. I have people contacting me for instructions about how to register for something which are right on their screen in my email. This isn’t situational behavior, so they’re probably ignoring clients and prospects to the same degree.
2. Use a signature file. People write me all the time and sign the email “Jane” or “Paul.” How am I supposed to know who they are? Also, the request to send something physically in the regular mail when no street address is provided would be laughable if it didn’t waste so much of the recipient’s time. You won’t be stalked just because you include a full signature file. If someone really wants to kill you, they’ll find you regardless.
3. Stop hitting “reply all.” Even though someone has sent minutes, or a notice, or some bright idea to a list, it doesn’t mean the rest of the list needs to hear your reply, “I’ll be there,” or “Thanks!”
4. Don’t assume that just because you met someone at a meeting of a hundred people that you’re fast friends. That doesn’t entitle you to put them on a mailing list, or ask them for a personal favor, or recommend someone else to them. (I routinely receive requests from people I don’t know citing another person I don’t know as the one who suggested I’d be happy to give them free advice!)
5. Stop talking about yourself. “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” If you want to be an object of interest to others, then listen to them, don’t talk at them.
6. Formulate a question before you ask it. Some people have a habit of articulating their cognitive processes. “I was wondering about this, then I thought of a similar situation from last year, but then I realized that the participants had different backgrounds….” That may be helpful for a therapist, but it’s not helpful in a business meeting or phone call.
7. Understand that if you’re asking the same question over and over again that you are not integrating what you’ve learned prior. Once you have a question answered, give an example of how you’d use the information to test your understanding and, if you’re correct, apply it immediately. That will integrate what you’ve learned and create mastery. (A note to coaches: If you keep answering the same question with the same answer and not testing understanding and demanding application, you are not in a coaching relationship, but rather in a co-dependent relationship.)
8. Hang out with people who force you to stretch. Many people avoid conversations and situations where the subject matter is not familiar or they can’t contribute much. Those are the conversations you should be in, listening and learning, so you know what else you have to learn to participate in the future. Large fish in small ponds die.
9. Don’t spend $500 of your time and energy on a $50 decision. Just make it. If you’re wrong, you will have still saved money!
10. Stop assuming that what you’ve created is good for everyone you know. Be selective. Think of the self-interest of the other person, or at least a legitimate need that you may create. For example, don’t just send a newsletter to every name your technology can sweep from your files, indiscriminately. Some people actually send their newsletters to my newsletter address, which is not a sentient being, so far as I know. (When someone sends an unsolicited newsletter, I always ask what would happen if the hundreds of thousands of people who have been in my sessions and speeches all sent me a newsletter. I’m sure the newsletter is well intended and finely done, but I just don’t want to read it.)
11. Use a domain name. It’s unimpressive to see a professional whose corporate email domain is yahoo or AOL.
12. Answer your email and phone messages. There is no excuse—no excuse—not to get back to people within a day barring exigent circumstances. If you can’t return calls and emails because you’re with a client, then you’re operating very well—for the 1950s.
© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.