Don’t have a great executive assistant? Why not?
Here are my favorite excuses, causes, and solutions.
Pepper Potts / Paramount/Marvel Studios
“We can’t afford it.”
“The company won’t pay for it.”
That’s terrible economics. Re-think how you spend your (company’s) money. Consider:
“I have nothing for the admin to do.”
“I don’t have time to train them.”
Oh, yes you do, and you can. This fear really comes from one or more other issues:
“There’s no space for their desk or computer.”
You don’t need one. Instead:
“I don’t have the time to do the hiring.”
“I don’t know how to spot a good admin.”
Don’t use old, time-consuming hiring methods. Instead:
“I don’t know where to find one.”
Nowdays, you just look in new places, using new methods. Here’s where to start:
“I can’t use one full-time.”
You don’t need to. Options and benefits include:
“An admin could generate more sales and opportunities than I can handle.”
Say what? This is by far my personal favorite, and the solution is easy:
What It Feels Like
Alfred Pennyworth / Warner Bros
I advise a client who runs the #1 regional franchise group for a respected international company. He has tremendous flexibility in how much, or if, he works. He’s free to focus on the big-picture strategic initiatives and help make great things happen in the company. Nice.
How did that happen?
Decades ago, he found a “Pepper” and put her in charge. He helped (and let her) develop her natural abilities until she was able to run the whole shootin’ match. And she does, brilliantly.
That’s a great job for both of them, and for everyone else on the team. That’s what you want, and you can have it.
►►► View Poll on GoPollGo
Image © Madartists | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
Client Question: For best productivity, shouldn’t we measure all the time actually spent and compare to the time we planned to spend?
Answer: No. It works against you. Try this instead…
As a productivity coach with years of hands-on experience, here’s what I’ve learned about time monitoring and tracking:
Do NOT track and reconcile every minute of work—not with your team, not with yourself.
True, time and money are similar:
But what happens to a company when every dollar is tracked down to the penny, all the time?
What if every expenditure must be approved or justified to a manager? Does productivity improve? No—it almost always gets worse, because morale declines. [Exception: when cash is the key factor for short-term survival, you have to monitor it closely during turnaround.]
The same is true for individuals. The best personal budgets have both fixed and flexible components, for two reasons:
But you don’t want either of those to get out of control. So how to balance them?
Be as organized as necessary—no more, no less.
DO budget time appropriately and get excellent feedback on its use.
BUT a “natural feedback loop” is best. It should:
That kind of feedback loop is already built into the Total, Relaxed Organization time management system:
Easy Personal Time Tracking Tool
For smaller items, if time is draining inexplicably, use a simple spreadsheet printout, one column per day, 1/2 hour time grid, and a pencil.
For Teams and Direct Reports…
Do NOT use Time Doctor or any other tool that tracks actions and records screen shots every minute. They will:
See this excellent YouTube video about some of the psychology factors with teams and direct reports: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc?wmode=transparent]
The optimal approach:
Total, Relaxed Organization also makes this easy. Automatic 1-1 follow-up and zero-preparation group agendas are built into the system.
Question (from ExecuNet LinkedIn discussion group):
Answer (Kevin Crenshaw):
Empower and strengthen the executive team immediately. Nothing else comes close in your first days.
The executive team members should cover all facets of the business. They already have the institutional knowledge, they know the staff and the issues, Give them clear rules of engagement, encourage transparency and real engagement on any topics, and establish a clear decision-making pattern (with you as the CEO still in charge, but listen, listen, listen).
Doing this will instantly boost morale and motivation across the company—an instant win. This also starts a pattern of developing a culture of leadership at all levels, which will translate hugely into the bottom line. Also, a great executive team with the CEO at the head is always smarter and more agile than any lone CEO making the call. That’s especially true when you’re getting started. You’ll also get vigorous, interesting discussions and real buy-in, and you’ll train train everyone to think more strategically and collaboratively, which starts to break down silos.
Been there, done that. Loved it. :-)
Practical first step: Gather the existing team, introduce yourself briefly, but focus on them, not you. Lay the framework for how the team will discuss and decide together, get their buy-in on the process, and get right to work. You’ll quickly see the team’s strengths and areas needing development.
Kevin Crenshaw is an executive coach and contract interim executive. He writes about principle-based management, leadership, and extreme productivity for executives and business owners. Kevin is also CEO of Priacta and creator of the Total, Relaxed Organization time management system, which gives executives 1.6 extra hours daily and 60% less stress on average. Follow @kcren on Twittter.
Example 3: Already at the Top
Beware: Because you’re a senior partner at a law firm does NOT mean you have the most effective decision-making style. You may have been appointed for different reasons, by partners who didn’t understand this principle. (It’s likely, in fact.) If you started with a “front-line supervisior, give-orders-and-follow-up” decision-making style to the position and haven’t evolved, it’s hurting the firm. Guaranteed.
Solution: Get an executive coach who can help you make the transition quickly. Change is possible, and it’s even fun.
Leadership Style vs. Decision-Making Style
“Leadership style” (collaborative, authoritative, etc.) is something different than decision-making style, but they fit hand-in hand. Combine the right decision-making style for your upper management position with a team-oriented, collaborative approach and watch great things happen.
Image courtesy of Sigurd Decroos
Kevin Crenshaw is an executive coach and interim executive (contract executive). As the primary author of the “Strategy in Principle” blog he shares management, leadership, and productivity insights for executives and business owners. He is also CEO of Priacta, Inc., a time management company that gives executives an extra 1.6 hours daily and 60% less stress on average. Follow @kcren on Twittter for daily helps and tips.
These three skills are essential to success in work and life. Why don’t hiring managers assess them when interviewing? Do you?
“Those Who Succeeded and Those Who Failed”
A friend I reconnected with just shared this amazing insight:
Several years ago … I returned to my hometown after an absence of many years. Seeing old friends, people I had associated with I was able to see: in a very objective, rational way: those who had succeed and those who had failed [I wrote the results in my journal]. Without exception those who had succeed had always chosen [I emphasize the word chosen] good relationships. They were also self-reliant, and good self-managers. The failures were the complete opposite: they always chose bad relationships and were dependent: in fact the two seemed to go hand-in-hand. It was an incredible experience because I was able to see true sowing and reaping in a very objective, long-term way.
Who are You Really Hiring?
You never hire just the person, especially in today’s social, interconnected world.
Indirectly, you’re also hiring the assets and liabilities of their relationships, connections, and associates; you’re hiring their modes of interaction, inter-reliance, and collaboration.
These are especially important when hiring a potential executive team member, manager, or other leader.
Problems (and Assets) To Watch For
1. Bad Relationships
PROBLEMS: Bad (current) relationships drain time, mental energy, and creativity. They can sap our resilience and flexibility in the workplace and leave us more vulnerable and less effective.
Example: Years ago, I managed an otherwise productive programmer who started showing up late and was increasingly distracted. Years later, I learned the cause:a horrific relationship was draining them dry, pulling them in two directions at once.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS: Prior bad relationships, if successfully overcome, can give a person amazing insights and skills in workplace dynamics. These people have usually seen effective counsellors and acquired strong interpersonal and team skills. They may be able to see minefields from afar, defuse situtations, influence change, and help others step around trouble spots deftly. Having faced a bad situation isn’t enough—they must know what the issues were that they faced, they must have overcome them, and they must be able to articulate exactly how and why their methods were effective.
Small and midsize business leaders have so much to do! How can you do it all, competing against the big guns, when there’s so much demand on your time and resources?
“Multitasking” is not the answer.
WIN: Multipurposing (The New Multitasking 2.0)
Sure, an extra 600 hours/yr helps, but to really “get everything done” in the 21st century I believe business leaders need to master a new skill: “multipurposing.” It’s also known as “killing two birds with one stone,” solving more than one problem with a single action, or “integrative thinking.”
Blocking the Big Guys in 9th Grade P.E.
I learned this principle the hard way—in 9th grade P.E. I was a year younger, a scrawny kid forced to play football with the jocks. When they chose offense assignments, my job was always the same: “go up front and block.” Yeah, right. With everyone else doing the “important” jobs, I had to face two mammoths at once. By myself. FAIL.
But then something wonderful happened. I discovered that one skinny kid could block two big guys … by pushing or tripping one into the other. The blocks weren’t bone-crushing, but they lasted long enough to run the plays. Their frustrated looks were a bonus. WIN.
That’s the essence of multipurposing. To multipurpose, you must:
Don’t Forget “Agility”
When multipurposing, you also need to be “agile.” I tell clients and staff that “agile” means:
In other words, get it done fast, get it out there fast, then improve it fast, over and over. Apple is great at this. Do you remember the FIRST iPhone? They kept improving it—obsessively—until they dominated.
Example: A Common SmallBiz Situation
Consider these (seemingly conflicting) needs:
The Solution: “Fuzzy Delegation”
You can handle all these needs at once (and more) by “fuzzy delegating” one large project to each new staff member:
The Results: How Many Needs Are Met at Once?
The Principles: Why Does it Work?
Looking back, it’s easy to see why this works:
What’s Your Experience?
Have you done something like this and found success? What was it? Don’t forget to point us to your web site or other success story while you’re at it. I did ;), and we’d all like to see your results. - KC
Images courtesy of: http://www.stockfreeimages.com/
Recently I hunkered down to think deeply about company direction. (My own company is “pivoting,” preparing to leverage what we already have to accomplish something new and amazing for business owners and managers.)
Here’s the bottom line for your company.
The Now of Wow
One thing is utterly clear: to succeed any more you can’t just be good. A strategy or direction change can’t just be another type of business as usual. It has to radically push limits, “shock and awe,” make great things happen. You have to be “Wow” in anything you do.
To accomplish that, you need to define and refine your strategy in a big way. You have to ask (and answer) a lot of questions.
New ventures or directions especially need to “Get to Wow” from the start. If it isn’t wow, it isn’t worth doing.
Example: Twylah. I signed up for an invite to a new visual Twitter service. The next day I was told that my new Twylah page was ready. Here’s what I saw: http://twylah.com/kcren
That was AUTOMATIC with no help from me. It just worked, brilliantly, visually, from my Twitter feed. (Visual is king now.) A couple of clicks later and I saw I had control over the web site (I can own the site name and the traffic), I can pin major topics, etc. So I started to pin some topics and stopped myself. Twylah worked so well out of the box that I didn’t want to interfere with it. I wanted it to keep working its magic, to see what it would come up with next instead of me doing it all. Talk about a timesaver.
“If it isn’t wow,
it isn’t worth doing.”
Not Perfect, Just Wow
But “wow” doesn’t mean perfect. (Perfect is the enemy of fast, and you need to be fast.)
Example: LastPass. LastPass is kinda annoying to use sometimes; sometimes it’s hard to figure out (and I’m a techie at heart!) But after one year of using it in the enterprise, I panicked when renewal was debated. There was simply NO WAY I would dream of operating without it. The pain it relieves is just too great.
There are many possible “wow” factors. You don’t have to do them all, at least not at first. But you’ve got to have at least one big “WOW” or it won’t fly.
Getting to Wow
So where’s the “wow” in your company, new strategy, or project?
Here’s how to wow:
It’s lurking there somewhere, just around the corner. You can probably feel it. You just need to precisely define it in a few words—whatever your wow factor is—so the investors and clients see it like a hammer hitting them over the head.
When you finally have a 10:1 or 20:1 advantage over the current way of doing things, only then have you found “wow.”
Only then can you or I be a huge success.
Research …shows for every employee that crosses over from being disengaged (meaning they do only what they are told to do) to engaged (meaning they make decisions and implement improvements without being asked), you can expect to add an incremental $13,000 to the bottom line each and every year. That’s $13,000 per year per employee. Just do the math.
So what holds you back?
Image courtesy of miamiamia
Simple leadership and management principles can save—or kill—an entire aircraft or company.
For more than two years, the disappearance of Air France Flight 447 over the mid-Atlantic in the early hours of June 1, 2009, remained one of aviation’s great mysteries. How could a technologically state-of-the art airliner simply vanish? - Jeff Wise, Popular Mechanics
Nova’s excellent documentary (The Crash of Flight 447) tried to unravel the mystery of Flight 447 using the latest technology. I highly recommend watching.
However, Nova got it wrong.
The seeds of the disaster were already in place before it took off, in the training, behaviors, and leadership processes of the crew. The real question wasn’t “what happened to the plane?” but “how did the crew respond, and why?”
The Flight Transcript Recovered
In April 2011, the flight recorder was recovered from 2 miles beneath the ocean. Leaked to the press via Popular Mechanics magazine, the full, translated transcript reveals a chilling truth:
If you don’t have one person clearly in charge, leading and managing according to sound principles, you’re in danger.
With full respect for the brave and well-intentioned crew, here are pertinent excerpts from the transcript. Read below and think of leadership and management principles in any organization. Consider the impact of having no clear leader, or two equal leaders, or a leader who is not leading, or inexperienced leaders not leading according to well-established principles…
At approximately 2 am, the other co-pilot, David Robert, returns to the cockpit after a rest break. At 37, Robert is both older and more experienced than Bonin, with more than double his colleague’s total flight hours. The head pilot gets up and gives him the left-hand seat. Despite the gap in seniority and experience, the captain leaves Bonin in charge of the controls.At 2:02 am, the captain leaves the flight deck to take a nap. Within 15 minutes, everyone aboard the plane will be dead.]
02:08:07 (Robert) Tu peux éventuellement prendre un peu à gauche. On est d’accord qu’on est en manuel, hein?
You can possibly pull it a little to the left. We’re agreed that we’re in manual, yeah? … Just then an alarm sounds for 2.2 seconds, indicating that the autopilot is disconnecting. The cause is the fact that the plane’s pitot tubes, externally mounted sensors that determine air speed, have iced over, so the human pilots will now have to fly the plane by hand.
Note, however, that the plane has suffered no mechanical malfunction. Aside from the loss of airspeed indication, everything is working fine. Otelli reports that many airline pilots (and, indeed, he himself) subsequently flew a simulation of the flight from this point and were able to do so without any trouble. But neither Bonin nor Roberts has ever received training in how to deal with an unreliable airspeed indicator at cruise altitude, or in flying the airplane by hand under such conditions. 02:10:06 (Bonin) J’ai les commandes.
I have the controls.02:10:07 (Robert) D’accord.
Okay. Perhaps spooked by everything that has unfolded over the past few minutes—the turbulence, the strange electrical phenomena, his colleague’s failure to route around the potentially dangerous storm—Bonin reacts irrationally. He pulls back on the side stick to put the airplane into a steep climb, despite having recently discussed the fact that the plane could not safely ascend due to the unusually high external temperature. Bonin’s behavior is difficult for professional aviators to understand. “If he’s going straight and level and he’s got no airspeed, I don’t know why he’d pull back,” says Chris Nutter, an airline pilot and flight instructor. “The logical thing to do would be to cross-check”—that is, compare the pilot’s airspeed indicator with the co-pilot’s and with other instrument readings, such as groundspeed, altitude, engine settings, and rate of climb. In such a situation, “we go through an iterative assessment and evaluation process,” Nutter explains, before engaging in any manipulation of the controls. “Apparently that didn’t happen.” Almost as soon as Bonin pulls up into a climb, the plane’s computer reacts. A warning chime alerts the cockpit to the fact that they are leaving their programmed altitude. Then the stall warning sounds. This is a synthesized human voice that repeatedly calls out, “Stall!” in English, followed by a loud and intentionally annoying sound called a “cricket.” A stall is a potentially dangerous situation that can result from flying too slowly. At a critical speed, a wing suddenly becomes much less effective at generating lift, and a plane can plunge precipitously. All pilots are trained to push the controls forward when they’re at risk of a stall so the plane will dive and gain speed. The Airbus’s stall alarm is designed to be impossible to ignore. Yet for the duration of the flight, none of the pilots will mention it, or acknowledge the possibility that the plane has indeed stalled—even though the word “Stall!” will blare through the cockpit 75 times. Throughout, Bonin will keep pulling back on the stick, the exact opposite of what he must do to recover from the stall.
02:10:41(Bonin) On est en… ouais, on est en “climb.”
We’re… yeah, we’re in a climb. Yet, still, Bonin does not lower the nose. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Robert pushes a button to summon the captain.
02:10:49 (Robert) Putain, il est où… euh?
Damn it, where is he [the captain]?
The plane has climbed to 2512 feet above its initial altitude, and though it is still ascending at a dangerously high rate, it is flying within its acceptable envelope. But for reasons unknown, Bonin once again increases his back pressure on the stick, raising the nose of the plane and bleeding off speed. Again, the stall alarm begins to sound.
Still, the pilots continue to ignore it, and the reason may be that they believe it is impossible for them to stall the airplane. It’s not an entirely unreasonable idea: The Airbus is a fly-by-wire plane; the control inputs are not fed directly to the control surfaces, but to a computer, which then in turn commands actuators that move the ailerons, rudder, elevator, and flaps. The vast majority of the time, the computer operates within what’s known as normal law, which means that the computer will not enact any control movements that would cause the plane to leave its flight envelope. The flight control computer under normal law will not allow an aircraft to stall, aviation experts say. But once the computer lost its airspeed data, it disconnected the autopilot and switched from normal law to “alternate law,” a regime with far fewer restrictions on what a pilot can do. In alternate law, pilots can stall an airplane.
It’s quite possible that Bonin had never flown an airplane in alternate law, or understood its lack of restrictions. Therefore, Bonin may have assumed that the stall warning was spurious because he didn’t realize that the plane could remove its own restrictions against stalling and, indeed, had done so.
While Bonin’s behavior is irrational, it is not inexplicable. Intense psychological stress tends to shut down the part of the brain responsible for innovative, creative thought. Instead, we tend to revert to the familiar and the well-rehearsed. Though pilots are required to practice hand-flying their aircraft during all phases of flight as part of recurrent training, in their daily routine they do most of their hand-flying at low altitude—while taking off, landing, and maneuvering. It’s not surprising, then, that amid the frightening disorientation of the thunderstorm, Bonin reverted to flying the plane as if it had been close to the ground, even though this response was totally ill-suited to the situation.02:11:06 (Robert) Putain, il vient ou il vient pas?
Damn it, is he [the captain] coming or not? The plane now reaches its maximum altitude. With engines at full power, the nose pitched upward at an angle of 18 degrees, it moves horizontally for an instant and then begins to sink back toward the ocean. 02:11:21 (Robert) On a pourtant les moteurs! Qu’est-ce qui se passe bordel? Je ne comprends pas ce que se passe.
We still have the engines! What the hell is happening? I don’t understand what’s happening. Unlike the control yokes of a Boeing jetliner, the side sticks on an Airbus are “asynchronous”—that is, they move independently. “If the person in the right seat is pulling back on the joystick, the person in the left seat doesn’t feel it,” says Dr. David Esser, a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Their stick doesn’t move just because the other one does, unlike the old-fashioned mechanical systems like you find in small planes, where if you turn one, the [other] one turns the same way.” Robert has no idea that, despite their conversation about descending, Bonin has continued to pull back on the side stick. The men are utterly failing to engage in an important process known as crew resource management, or CRM. They are failing, essentially, to cooperate. It is not clear to either one of them who is responsible for what, and who is doing what. This is a natural result of having two co-pilots flying the plane. “When you have a captain and a first officer in the cockpit, it’s clear who’s in charge,” Nutter explains. “The captain has command authority. He’s legally responsible for the safety of the flight. When you put two first officers up front, it changes things. You don’t have the sort of traditional discipline imposed on the flight deck when you have a captain.” The vertical speed toward the ocean accelerates. If Bonin were to let go of the controls, the nose would fall and the plane would regain forward speed. But because he is holding the stick all the way back, the nose remains high and the plane has barely enough forward speed for the controls to be effective. As turbulence continues to buffet the plane, it is nearly impossible to keep the wings level. 02:11:32 (Bonin) Putain, j’ai plus le contrôle de l’avion, là! J’ai plus le contrôle de l’avion!
Damn it, I don’t have control of the plane, I don’t have control of the plane at all! 02:11:37 (Robert) Commandes à gauche!
Left seat taking control! At last, the more senior of the pilots (and the one who seems to have a somewhat better grasp of the situation) now takes control of the airplane. Unfortunately, he, too, seems unaware of the fact that the plane is now stalled, and pulls back on the stick as well. Although the plane’s nose is pitched up, it is descending at a 40-degree angle. The stall warning continues to sound. At any rate, Bonin soon after takes back the controls. A minute and a half after the crisis began, the captain returns to the cockpit. The stall warning continues to blare.
02:11:47 (Robert) On a totalement perdu le contrôle de l’avion… On comprend rien… On a tout tenté…
We’ve totally lost control of the plane. We don’t understand at all… We’ve tried everything. By now the plane has returned to its initial altitude but is falling fast. With its nose pitched 15 degrees up, and a forward speed of 100 knots, it is descending at a rate of 10,000 feet per minute, at an angle of 41.5 degrees. It will maintain this attitude with little variation all the way to the sea. Though the pitot tubes are now fully functional, the forward airspeed is so low—below 60 knots—that the angle-of-attack inputs are no longer accepted as valid, and the stall-warning horn temporarily stops. This may give the pilots the impression that their situation is improving, when in fact it signals just the reverse.Another of the revelations of Otelli’s transcript is thatthe captain of the flight makes no attempt to physically take control of the airplane. Had Dubois done so, he almost certainly would have understood, as a pilot with many hours flying light airplanes, the insanity of pulling back on the controls while stalled. But instead, he takes a seat behind the other two pilots. This, experts say, is not so hard to understand. “They were probably experiencing some pretty wild gyrations,” Esser says. “In a condition like that, he might not necessarily want to make the situation worse by having one of the crew members actually disengage and stand up. He was probably in a better position to observe and give his commands from the seat behind.” But from his seat, Dubois is unable to infer from the instrument displays in front of him why the plane is behaving as it is. The critical missing piece of information: the fact that someone has been holding the controls all the way back for virtually the entire time. No one has told Dubois, and he hasn’t thought to ask.
02:12:14 (Robert) Qu’est-ce que tu en penses? Qu’est-ce que tu en penses? Qu’est-ce qu’il faut faire?02:12:15 (Captain) Alors, là, je ne sais pas!
What do you think? What do you think? What should we do?
Well, I don’t know! As the stall warning continues to blare, the three pilots discuss the situation with no hint of understanding the nature of their problem. No one mentions the word “stall.” As the plane is buffeted by turbulence, the captain urges Bonin to level the wings—advice that does nothing to address their main problem. The men briefly discuss, incredibly, whether they are in fact climbing or descending, before agreeing that they are indeed descending. As the plane approaches 10,000 feet, Robert tries to take back the controls, and pushes forward on the stick, but the plane is in “dual input” mode, and so the system averages his inputs with those of Bonin, who continues to pull back. The nose remains high. 02:13:40 (Robert) Remonte… remonte… remonte… remonte…
Climb… climb… climb… climb… 02:13:40 (Bonin) Mais je suis à fond à cabrer depuis tout à l’heure!
But I’ve had the stick back the whole time! At last, Bonin tells the others the crucial fact whose import he has so grievously failed to understand himself. 02:13:42 (Captain) Non, non, non… Ne remonte pas… non, non.
No, no, no… Don’t climb… no, no.
02:13:43 (Robert) Alors descends… Alors, donne-moi les commandes… À moi les commandes!Bonin yields the controls, and Robert finally puts the nose down. The plane begins to regain speed. But it is still descending at a precipitous angle. As they near 2000 feet, the aircraft’s sensors detect the fast-approaching surface and trigger a new alarm. There is no time left to build up speed by pushing the plane’s nose forward into a dive. At any rate, without warning his colleagues, Bonin once again takes back the controls and pulls his side stick all the way back. 02:14:23 (Robert) Putain, on va taper… C’est pas vrai!
Descend, then… Give me the controls… Give me the controls!
Damn it, we’re going to crash… This can’t be happening! 02:14:25 (Bonin) Mais qu’est-ce que se passe?
But what’s happening? 02:14:27 (Captain) 10 degrès d’assiette…
Ten degrees of pitch… Exactly 1.4 seconds later, the cockpit voice recorder stops.
Share Your Insights and Experiences
What are your thoughts and feelings?
A case study in excellent (and not-so-excellent) customer service processes.
I’m starting to hate Twitter and love Facebook. Here’s why, and here’s what we can learn from Twitter about customer service.
"I Email, Therefore I Am."
You may not know it, but you are your email account. At least that’s what Twitter thinks.
I learned that the hard way on November 7, 2011 when I couldn’t log in to my @kcren twitter account. Sometime before that, @kcren, @priacta, @totalrelaxed were all hacked and imaginitively renamed to @Shamus851, @Shamus852, and @Shamus853.*
Thousands of great tweets (in my history) were lost, sort of a professional mini-journal. Thousands of followers lost. Hundreds of Twitter listings lost. Online reputation lost. Hundreds and hundreds of hours, lost.
Was it my fault? Partly, for sure. See the Epliogue for hints about my/our mistakes. But that’s not the lesson at hand. Fiirst, let’s try to reclaim that hacked account…
Support to the Rescue? (Facebook: Yes! Twitter: Think Again…)
Facebook’s account recovery rocks. You get multiple email addresses per account, and Facebook will prompt you to remember which ones you were using. They’ll challenge you if you log in from an unknown computer, and then they give you creative ways to prove your identity if you lose access to (or forget) your email address, like identifying people in photos on friend’s walls. Impressive and fun at the same time! Very cool.
Not Twitter. Twitter only gives you one email address per Twitter account, and it must be unique. Forget or lose access to that email account, and you’re toast. If you forget which email address you used, tough. You need to guess and guess and guess. (Exception: If you associated a phone number with your account, you can use that. Unfortunately, I didn’t out of privacy concerns. Does anyone know if a phone number has to be unique for each account? Do I need separate phone lines for multiple Twitter accounts?)
After waiting three weeks for any human reply from Twitter support, a battle started over proof of ownership (based solely on my ability to communicate with them via the “associated email address” on the hacked Twitter account), the Twitter support rep** finally said:
Unfortunately, if you don’t have access to this account’s associated email address or mobile device, we are unable to continue troubleshooting. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause, but we insist on going through this ownership verification process in order to prevent malevolent users from accessing Twitter accounts that aren’t theirs.
(**The rep was always named “dino” in at least 10 separate tickets over two months. Is only one human being helping people recover their hacked Twitter accounts?)
Customer Service Lesson 1: Never let attorneys create your customer service processes. The only safe answer a lawyer can give is “no.”
The Common Sense Test
Twitter’s processes just wouldn’t help me. Never mind that:
Anyone with an ounce of common sense could tell that those accounts were hacked, and that I was the rightful owner of (what used to be called) @kcren.
(Quiz: There are several differences between these two photos. Can you spot them? First photo: @kcren profile photo (before). Second photo: same account profile photo (after renaming to @Shamus851). Photo 1 is also my current photo on Facebook, Assembla, my new @kcren Twitter, and other places image searches turn up. Gee, I wonder if somebody seized control of that account?)
Customer Service Lesson 2: Great customer service is impossible if employees aren’t empowered to exercise common sense. No script can cover everything. To handle risks, set reasonable boundaries, then let your people act as much as possble within those boundaries. Empower them to be merciful. Your customers will love you for it, and your workers will love their jobs more.
The Final, Outrageous Dead End
After dozens of failures to guess the right email address, it hit me…
The first thing a hacker will do when stealing an account is change the email address!
So was I wasting my time? Were they asking me to prove access to the new (hacked) email address? Do they even have a record of prior email addresses? I asked for reassurance on ANY of these questions, but they wouldn’t give a straight answer. When I pressed as hard as I could, they finally said:
For security reasons, I can not reveal the specific aspects of our internal work-flows about which you are asking.
No hope. As far as Twitter is concerned, you have no identity if you lose access to your email account, or maybe even if the hacker changes the email address on your Twitter account after hacking it, and if you previously chose to withhold your phone number for privacy reasons.
So now there was nowhere else to turn, not even “advanced support,” (I would have glady paid $300 per incident if I had hope of resolution.) It was just me and the immovable, unempowered “dino.” He/she seemed nice enough—as nice as his/her script would allow.
And then he/she cancelled my support tickets without recourse. Try again, dude, and wait another three weeks. (No wonder they have a huge backlog.)
Customer Service Lesson 3: Provide a final escalation path, even if you charge for it. In tough cases, let them esclate processes that aren’t serving the customer. Create someone to review desperate cases, your own “Supreme Court” to inject humanity, common sense, and self-improvement into the process.
Good Support = Empowered, Humanoid Workers, Not Lawyers or Scripts
At least you and I benefit from Twitter’s failures here:
Lessons in corporate and personal security come from all this. Maybe I can help you not lose your accounts like we did:
*UPDATE: LOL. This post auto-tweeted to the hacked @Shamus851 account—Posterous still had an old connection to it. If you are following the hacked account, I recommend UNfollowing @Shamus851 and FOLLOWING @kcren again. My old content was recently deleted there; future content cannot be guaranteed.
A Simple Blueprint for Any Organization
The most essential element of leadership and management is… communication. To be effective, you have to understand the impact of what, why, and how you communicate—personally and as an organization. Fortunately, great communication comes down to a few simple principles. Master them and you get amazing organizational focus and vigor.
Here are the most crucial laws of communication for any organization—from a family to a Fortune 500 firm. I’ve identified these from decades of experience with start-ups to multinational Fortune 500 corporations to nonprofits to families. Regardless of the size or setting, these principles apply.
Do you know of more laws? Do you disagree with the order? Let us know below.
Law #1: Communicate the strategic vision to everyone, often.
Where are you headed? Decide, then focus everyone on it, over and over and over. Constantly tie short-term actions to that long-term vision. You can’t get organizational clarity any other way. As Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”
Law #2: Keep it clear and simple.
Less is more. If they won’t read it or can’t understand it, you didn’t communicate.
Law #3: Distinguish leadership from management, and communicate accordingly.
Managing = Delegating and following up. [Ed: Use Donedesk for this. Period.]
Leading = Encouraging, lobbying, focusing each other on the common vision.
Everyone leads. Only direct supervisors manage. Violate this rule and you will confuse the troops, stifle initiative, and micromanage a lot.
Law #4: Ensure excellent, constructive engagement on all the issues.
Internal contention destroys organizations. So does its opposite, groupthink, as the Lehman Brothers collapse attests. Therefore, keep communication abundant and effective by emphasizing the need for feedback with mutual respect and mutual purpose.
The Crucial Conversations model gives excellent results.
Law #5: Create accountability, but don’t kill initiative.
What you measure, improves, and in the best organizations, everyone is accountable to each other regardless of level or seniority. HOWEVER, excessive follow-up stifles initiative, and if you measure the wrong things, the wrong things improve.
So, be careful what you ask about, and when. But do ask.
Law #6: Add permanent value.
Convert discussions and decisions into long-lasting, easy-to-use stores of knowledge. Let all participants do this together, especially new team members, since that reinforces learning and formalizes decisions. Do it during meetings in a shared document that everyone can see (a Google doc displayed overhead, for example).
Law #7: Involve others freely, but beware TMI.
By involving more people, you get great benefits:
However, you need to avoid TMI (“too much information”), which can paralyze people. Therefore, limit communication to what really matters, when it matters, and only to the parties who will benefit.
Law #8 The Golden Law of Great Communication: “Never reach a negative conclusion without carefully clarifying.”
This one should really be first. Violating this rule destroys teamwork by damaging mutual trust and mutual respect. Visibly honor this law and insist on it in others. It will establish trust, which is the foundation of great teamwork and world-class communication.
Now, stop a moment and look over the items above. Seriously—do it right now.
Imagine your organization communicating this way, all the time. How would it feel? What would you accomplish together?
It is surprisingly easy to do with the right tools.
“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi
Without a foundation of relaxed productivity, you can’t lead or execute your strategy well. And here’s some futuristic advice on productivity from Mark Twain:
”The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” - Mark Twain
Great advice. David Allen (GTD) popularized this idea as the “single next action.” However, he never claimed to be its inventor. Dean Acheson introduced the concept to Allen (GTD, p. 237), and Mark Twain beat Dean to it by a century….
Kevin Crenshaw is a business consultant and executive coach. As author of the blog “Strategy in Principle,” he shares insights on hot topics in management and productivity tips for business owners. He is also CEO of Priacta, Inc., a time management company that helps you get an extra two hours out of your day—for life. Follow him on Twitter for more tips in all these areas.
Prepare to be surprised. This poem isn’t about what it seems…