Why OOO aren’t just for when you’re “out of the office”

Why OOO aren’t just for when you’re “out of the office”

How many emails do you get a day? 10, 20, 50, more?

I wear many hats: journalist and editor; communications consultant; trainer; holiday home owner; creative writing retreat host; barn renovator. I’m in touch with many people and I have a lot of people wanting to get hold of me.

It would be easy to find myself in a state of overwhelm, drowning in emails, too many of which are from people demanding my time, energy and money. Instead I decided to reframe my relationship with my inbox.

I view every email contact I receive as an occasion to help people better understand me and my businesses. And just as importantly, as an opportunity to manage expectations. I control my inbox instead of it controlling me.

Let’s take this latter point first.

Most people use their OOO to let others know that they are indeed out-of-the-office and as such there will be a delay to their reply.

However, even when you are in the office, unless you are a slave to your inbox and have it open all the time – in which case I would seriously question your levels of concentration and productivity – you are not going to respond immediately.

Despite this though, many people expect an almost instantaneous reply. They have little regard for your actual priorities and think it should be all about “me, me, me”. (The person who sent me the press release at 10am and then sent a chasey email two hours later. Yes you. I’m talking to you here).

By setting an OOO each morning and providing details of the likely response time they’ll receive, it helps set expectations. It also indicates that if they’ve got something that is actually urgent to ask of me, they should find another way to get in touch. And always, if clients call or WhatsApp me, I’ll respond asap.

So that’s a helpful use of the automatic reply beyond your usual holiday scenario.

“This week I’m in the Dordogne hosting a relaxing retreat for busy women”
Much more fun though is using my OOO to let people know what exciting projects I’m working on. I’m very fortunate that I get to work with some brilliant minds on activities that really do change the world. My work is also varied, challenging, fun. Why wouldn’t I want to tell people all about this?

I like to set colourful and creative OOO’s that help spread good cheer, share key messages and strengthen understanding of the depth and breadth of what I am capable of.

Some of my recent favourites have included:

Thanks for your message. Today I’m working with the awesome Prisoners of Conscience, which supports people who have been persecuted for standing up for human rights. They rightly have my full attention and so I won’t pick up your message until tomorrow. I really appreciate your patience, thank you. And if you fancy learning more about the important role that Prisoners of Conscience plays, check them out here.

And…

Today I’m writing radio scripts, coaching clients to enhance their writing skills and working on the marketing for my creative writing retreat. I’m also finalising the details for the Lucidity Network’s business book club. If you’re not already a member of the Lucidity Network, you need to ask yourself one question – why not? Hope to see you there soon! (And I’ll get back to your email asap, thank you!)

And…

This afternoon I am helping a client taste test and photograph a collection of Italian meals. It’s a hard life, sometimes. I’ll get back to you tomorrow. With thanks for your patience, Becky 

Now, the astute marketeers among you will be wondering whether this is a GDPR-friendly approach or not. I’m happy to confirm that having checked with clever people who know about this kind of stuff that it is.

They told me that if there is no “sales pitch” included in the copy then it’s absolutely fine. And even then, it’s still ok as the OOO is in response to an email that I’ve been sent. A “conversation” is taking place. This is not me contacting someone out of the blue. The only risk would be if I sent a very salesy OOO to someone who had contacted me to say they wanted to opt out of email communication.

The responses I have received to my OOO’s have always been super positive. People often contact me to say how much they enjoy reading them, how inspiring they are and how they’re going to start doing the same. They’ve also been shared across social media multiple times and Richard Sved even wrote a blog about it! (Thanks Richard!)

In Richard’s blog he comments on how my OOO is “lovely, surprising and delightful” to receive, which leaves him with lots of positive messages about how I feel about my work. Which is precisely the intention. I want people to feel as excited about it as I am! So, I’m going to end this blog by paraphrasing Richard’s excellent blog title and ask you: When was the last time your OOO made someone go “ooo-h”?

Let’s start an OOO revolution. Let’s use it to engage the world in what we do, to share messages of positivity and success, or to simply bring a smile to someone’s face.

Will you join us? Let us know in the comments – and show us some examples of your shiny and sparkly OOO messages.

Becky Slack

 

Becky Slack is the managing director of the PR and comms agency, Slack Communications, and the co-host of L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France, a four-day creative writing retreat in southwest France and a member of the Lucidity Network.

5 ways reading will boost your communication skills

5 ways reading boosts your communication skills

1) It gives us something to say

In a world where information is the new currency, reading is one of the best sources of continuous learning, knowledge gathering and idea sharing. Books and articles give us the ability to roam throughout the world, travel back in time and look to the future, affording us with a deeper view of ideas, concepts, practices, emotions and events. Reading can open your mind to new choices that you may not have known about or considered before. This is all information which we can then share with others.

2) It helps us understand other people

The first rule of effective communication is to know your audience. Reading about other people can help you understand them better. The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated when you read about something as when you experience it. Unlike watching the television or listening to the radio, reading gives the brain more time to stop, think, process and imagine the narrative form in front of us. Therefore, reading can help put you in someone else’s shoes, to get inside their heads and experience the things they have. The more you understand someone, the more you can tailor your communications to what they need.

3) It increases our vocabulary

The more we read, the more likely we are to come across new words. Business books, in particular, have words and phrases that are unique to their topic. If you need to communicate with particular sectors and industries, understanding the language being spoken is essential. Otherwise, how are you going to know your CTR from SEO?

4) Reading strengthens the brain

And a strong brain means more effective communication overall. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As we read, our brain decodes abstract symbols, makes connections, and conducts various visual and auditory processes. Indeed, multiple studies suggest that mentally challenging tasks, such as reading, help to maintain and build brain cells and connections between those cells, helping to preserve the memory and thinking skills.

5) Reading can give us the ability to make a point

The more we read, the more our brains are able to link cause and effect. The ability to communicate cause and effect is a central component of any argument, sales pitch, negotiation or story. As such, a well-written article or book will be structured in a way that helps us to think in sequence rather than jumping from point to point.

If you’re keen to read more, expand your mind and learn new stuff, why not join the Lucidity Network and participate in the business book club? Members have the opportunity to nominate their books of choice, and all discussion will take place virtually meaning you can take part no matter where in the world you are.

Membership of Lucidity Network is only open for a short time though so you need to get in quick. Join now so you don’t miss out.

If you’re already a member of the network and want to join the book club, drop Becky Slack a line to register your interest. She’s leading on the group and will be coordinating the reading list.

 

Becky Slack

 

Becky Slack is the managing director of the PR and comms agency, Slack Communications, and the co-host of L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France, a four-day creative writing retreat in southwest France and a member of the Lucidity Network.

Negativity, creativity and our online, collective Karma

Negativity, creativity and our online, collective Karma

Have you seen My Name Is Earl?
It was a TV comedy series that ran from 2005 to 2009.
Earl was a redneck bully, a thief, slob and cheat. One day he wins the lottery and after being hit by a pickup truck, decides to make amends for all his wrong deeds.
He writes a list of everything bad he’s ever done then sets about re-balancing his karma.
It was funny, touching and for me very meaningful.
Now, this isn’t the best platform for spiritual debate, so let’s just say, whether you like it or not, whatever you do in this life will eventually come back to bite you on the bum.
Everything.

The Internet doesn’t need any more negativity

The Internet is amazing. It’s also a bitter and twisted place.
Supposedly educated, creative people use the Internet (particularly social media) to spread great big, stinky bucket-loads of tittle-tattle and twit-twattery.
They think it’s witty to pick other peoples hard work to pieces.
Most critics seem to think they could do better. Maybe they could, maybe they couldn’t. Either way, how does a public flogging help anyone?

Mud sticks (even to the one who’s throwing it)

We all know that it’s easier to point out the faults of other’s than it is to correct our own.
It really isn’t clever, but even more than that, it’s actually damaging – even to the one slinging the mud.
Your posts and tweets, like sound waves, can go on forever. They’re re-posted and re-tweeted and wherever they filter through, they’ve got your dabs all over them.
And the more shade you throw, the darker the world gets.
Nobody wins.
There are thousands of armchair critics out there who are getting plenty of cheap laughs. And admittedly, they’re also getting re-tweets, comments and ‘likes’, but ultimately does anyone really like them, at least, the online versions of themselves?
What gives anyone the right to name and shame? Haven’t we all got something more important to get riled about?
As the old saying used to go (referring to print advertising), this is tomorrow’s chip wrapper we’re arguing about.

Start with the end goal

I received a priceless piece of advice a few years back that’s especially useful whenever I’m tempted to wade into something that could end in tears.
All you have to do is think to yourself, “what outcome am I hoping to achieve here, will my actions logically lead towards the result I’m looking for?”
I would suggest that if the end goal that’s driving you to shout into the ether about something you don’t like is to feel bigger, smarter or happier; then it’s probably better to keep it zipped.

Criticism is a good thing

For anything to get better, feedback is essential, but the only criticism we should be doling out to each other is constructive criticism.
To grow as creative individuals we need our weaknesses pointing out, but it has no benefit when it’s done by a snidey toe rag at a distance, hiding behind a keyboard.
If you’ve got a suggestion on how someone can improve, by all means pile in and tell them how they might go about it. But tweeting about it after the event is like planting dog turds, hoping that apple trees will grow.

When you see work online that you don’t like (it is only a subjective opinion after all) all you need do is take note and avoid the same mistakes in your own work.
Anyone can criticise someone else. But before you get keyboard happy, ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do? Is it to do good work or to humiliate others who are also trying to do their best?
Next time you feel like venting in a public arena, pause for a moment and imagine how you’d feel if you were on the receiving end.
And if that doesn’t work, rent all four seasons of My Name Is Earl and that should sort you out.

Rant over.

Jonathan Wilcock
Jonathan Wilcock

 

 

Jonathan Wilcock is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can read more here.
Or drop him line here jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

 

 

Jonathan is a member of the Lucidity Facebook community – a safe place to rant, offer help and give or get advice. Come join us.

Do you know what people say about you when you’re not in the room?

the topic of personal brand.

We started from the premise that whether you want to develop your career in an organisation or build your own business (or make any kind of change happen) that a key skill is influencing the behaviors and decision-making of other people.

How people perceive you and what people think of you is all about your personal brand.

A personal brand isn’t about being something you’re not but more about being your best and authentic you. It’s about being deliberate in aligning how others perceive you and building your reputation with who you really are.

Everyone has a personal brand. Jeff Bezos famously described personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.

Where do I start with my personal brand?

To find out your personal brand, start with giving some thought to how you want to be perceived. What words do you want people to associate with you? How do you want to be described? Write it down. Then ask your friends who know you professionally for 5 words they’d use to describe you in a work context. Put the results into a word cloud. A word cloud is an excellent visual way of seeing how you currently show up. Is what other people say about you congruent with how you want to be perceived? If not, you have some work to do on your personal brand.

Don’t leave your personal brand at the door

I’ve written before about how people often leave their personalities at the door when they arrive at work because they are trying to fit in. If, in your work environment, you can’t be you, if you have to pretend to be someone else, you need to think carefully if you are in the right job for you, because therein lies the source of huge unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

The average person spends 80,000 hours of their life at work. You probably will spend longer. That’s far too long to be unhappy. Satisfaction at work comes from the people you work with and the organisational culture. That’s why it’s important to work in an environment that fits with your values and where you can be yourself.

Antoinette had some solid advice so you don’t end up in a culture clash. She suggests when you are contemplating moving jobs to find and talk to people in the organisation for an informal chat about what it’s like. These people will give you insights on the culture that you wont get from a job application or the recruitment page of their corporate website.

What if you’re an introvert and don’t feel comfortable ‘promoting yourself’

Introversion and extroversion are about where you get your energy from – yourself or other people. Building your personal brand doesn’t have to be shouting how great you are or showing off. We don’t recommend that! You have to build your brand in a way that adds value to your audience and feels ok for you.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, build relationships strategically. Whether you are building a reputation internally or externally, think about who needs to know you and focus on building your reputation with them. Think about who you need in your ‘personal boardroom’. Focus on those people. Check out the book ‘Who is in your personal boardroom?’ for more detail on how to do this.

You also have a choice of whether it’s important to develop your reputation outside your immediate circle or not. For example, you can build your personal brand to a wider audience through public speaking, posting comments online, blogging or deliberate publicity. The benefits must outweigh the discomfort. When I first became a freelancer I decided that I needed to build my brand so people would know how I could help them. The pain of public speaking, blogging and creating publicity was worth the reward of a successful freelance career. It was really painful at first. I blogged for months before I actually shared a blog with anyone!

How you show up on social media is about being thoughtful as to how you want to come across, who your audience is and what you want them to think. How personal do you want to be? How much do your audience what you to share? A good litmus test is to think ‘What if that was written on the front page of the paper?’ or ‘What would my parents say?’ or ‘What would my children say?’

If you’d be unhappy for the press, your parents or your children to see the post – then don’t post it. Simple.

Antoinette’s advice is to consider if building your brand outside of your immediate circle is important that you do it in a comfortable way and break down the task into the smallest steps. For example, when posting on LinkedIn, rather than share your views on the Brexit shambles, you might choose to thank others for the work they’ve done with you this year. That way you’ve posted something, nothing is controversial and you’ve made other people feel good – and if one of the traits of your brand is ‘being thoughtful’ then you reinforce that too.

We like to be liked and our personal brand won’t suit everyone. And that’s ok. What’s important is that you are perceived in the way you want to be by the people that matter and that you are your real and best you.

If you’d like some help with building your personal brand, you might benefit from joining the Lucidity Network. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline learning and connection to a dynamic network of people that can help you. We’re open to new members a few times a year. Join the Lucidity Community Facebook group to get in the Lucidity groove for clearer thinking and better results and be the first to hear when the Lucidity Network is open for members.

One simple tool to help you solve any problem

Have you ever had the experience where the same challenges keep coming up again and again? Whether that be in one to ones or in team meetings after a while these things get you down and you lose perspective or energy to solve them.

In my last job I managed a large remote team, we met together about 6 times a year. I used to sit in the day long meetings and note down everyone’s problems and take on the burden of solving them. I left the team meetings drained, stressed and quite honestly depressed. While my team left feeling upbeat and positive because they had unloaded everything. However, their initial relief soon faded when they realised that I wasn’t actually going to solve their problems. Just a quick aside – if this is a challenge you have – read: The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard.

So, how do you solve this problem and indeed all the problems of your team? During my last three months in the job I took on a new team, a team that had lots of challenges. I knew that I had a short period of time to support them and that taking on their problems wasn’t going to help. I needed to empower them and give them the tools to problem solve.

The team was a small team in a charity responsible for looking after supporters – they were saying they were overworked and couldn’t take on a bigger caseload.  By looking at the problem in a more abstract way you start to unlock the root cause of the problem and frame it differently.

This is where the Ladder of Abstraction comes in. As you go up the ladder the thinking becomes more abstract and down the ladder thinking becomes more concrete. To move up the ladder you ask WHY and down the ladder you ask HOW. It is a useful tool to help describe our language and thoughts and re-label a problem. It can be used in many different ways but I have found it useful for problem solving and evaluating activity.

So how does it work?

You take your problem and start at the bottom of the ladder. For each statement you keep asking WHY. Eventually you get to a root cause of the problem and then you can work your way back down the ladder asking HOW. If you start with how you miss the opportunity to re-label the problem and you take it at face value. So, in the example below the problem is “We do not have enough capacity”, you might jump to – we need to recruit more staff or maybe we need to change a process or reduce workload. But you might be unsure which process to change or simply providing more capacity might not actually solve the problem – exploring the why helps you get to grips with this.

One simple tool to help you solve any problem

By using this simple tool we thought the problem was that the team didn’t have enough capacity but then we realised that we didn’t need to discuss every supporter together but that we could set aside a set time to creatively discuss specific challenges. This also helped the team focus on the solution and not the problem.

I have also used this tool personally to reflect on how a project or piece of work went – this is particularly useful if you feel that the project failed in some way. You could use the ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ method Better If’ method, which is useful. But the Ladder of Abstraction helps you to explore more deeply WHY things went wrong and then HOW you would do things differently in the future. It also makes it less personal because you can look at it objectively from a more abstract viewpoint.

I hope that this simple tool can help you unlock your thinking, solve problems and learn from failure. Used enough, asking WHY becomes second nature.

Emily Petty

 

Emily Petty, a member of the Lucidity Network, is a fundraising and change consultant. She is passionate about helping charities build a relationship led approach to fundraising and supporting them to unlock potential and manage change. You can find her on Twitter @EmilyPetty1 and on LinkedIn

 

If you’d like to develop your thinking and get better results check out the Lucidity Network. We’re open a few times a year. There is more information about joining the Network here

In the meantime get involved at the Lucidity Facebook Community – a free resource for clearer thinking and better results.