Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday Wishes

"My Three Cents" this week is that you enjoy the holiday season and plan for a fantastic year ahead. My three wishes for you? Take care of your body with healthy foods and exercise; take care of your mind with challenging and involving work, and plan for pleasures that you can look forward to! See you on January 2.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Future: It Ain’t What It Used to Be

It’s that time of the year again. Time for the philosophical musings of media pundits and the inevitable end-of-year wrap-ups. I confess — I simply can’t resist them. We’re all wondering about what will happen in 2007. Not only am I thinking about Makovsky + Company, the futures of our amazing staff, and the public relations business, but I’m also thinking about my family, our country and, indeed, the entire world.

But if you don’t take all this too seriously and want to look on the lighter side of the equation, there is Yogi Berra, the Zen philosopher of baseball. Born (like me) in St. Louis, Missouri, he was a wildly talented Major League catcher, three-time Most Valuable Player and one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. Yogi was well known for his humorous and colorful way with words. Here are some of his philosophies which you might want to chew on as ’07 approaches:

•“When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.”

•“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

•“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

•“You got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.”

And one of my particular favorites…

•“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

Promises! Promises!

Earning trust — the prime directive for public relations professionals — is all about keeping promises. Making promises can be easy. The challenge is in keeping them. In truth, a promise should be made only after careful deliberation.

In a survey I noted a few years ago, keeping promises ranked #1 among clients in the public relations business for what they most wanted from their agencies. I'd also rank it #1 among things I most want from employees, associates and others in the world of business. Those who make promises they consistently keep are, in my experience, the best of the best.

Too often, promises are thrown around like a child's toys, which are destined to stay on the floor until mom picks them up. I would venture to say that only 35 percent of all the telephone appointments I make actually happen, because the other party is so often a no-show. And these are just operational matters. Think of the promises not kept by top managers, religious leaders, politicians, public officials, etc.

Why is that so? I'm really not sure. Perhaps it seems simpler to say you’ll get back to someone — and then let the whole thing slide — than to be honest and risk a confrontation. Maybe in the short term. But how much better, in the long run, to tell a client (or a colleague) as soon as it’s clear that you won’t make a deadline … and to set a new deadline that you will meet. Embarrassing as it may be, the net result is to enhance your credibility.
Did you know that The New York Times runs articles from time to time that examine the promises made by elected officials, and whether they were ever fulfilled? A high rate are not, and there is no further mention of them by the promissor. Think of the credibility inherent in a prompt and forthright apology to the voters!

Okay. So what do we do? Do we just lower our expectations? That is certainly one route to reducing anxiety about undelivered promises.

But what if you are one of those rare people who keep their promises? I think it’s safe to say that you will rise faster … whatever the world you inhabit (business, media, the professions or academics). You will stand out among your colleagues. You will probably make more money, even if you are less talented (having both attributes is a recipe for big bucks!). People will want to work with you and for you. And you will have earned the admiration of nearly everyone!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Solving Business Problems in Five Minutes

I don't know about you, but I am always looking for ways to move through my business day more swiftly.

Thus, I was intrigued by "The 5-Minute MBA", an article in The New York Times (11/19). It's all about "speed coaching" – a 5-minute (and I mean 5-minutes!) business problem solving session, sponsored by the Women's Leadership Exchange — at which businesswomen can receive "speed coaching". These five-minute sessions with experts in everything from marketing and sales to finance and law are designed to solve such problems as: Should I change the name of my company? How do I strengthen my website to my firm's marketing advantage? How can we improve our management structure?

"I came away from all this speed coaching reminded of how intense five minutes can be and how much can be covered if you really concentrate," concludes NYT reporter Lisa Belkin.

Of course, there's the corollary: How much time we waste during a business day by not being as focused as we could be.

Think about how many times we repeat ourselves when making a point or giving instructions. Think about how we sidetrack ourselves and each other with sometimes irrelevant information. Or the excessive and unnecessary amount of detail included. Or the times we have made people wait in our offices while we take a phone call. Or just lingering in someone's office long after we got what we came for.

What if we prepared what we want to say before approaching an associate? A paragraph might become a sentence. What if you entered someone's office and just told them what you had to say ... no drama, no embellishments, no sidetracking.

As I noted last week, acute listening — as well as focused talking — can really save time. I'm not exempting myself. I could do better on both fronts.

Of course, I am not suggesting taking humanity out of the business relationship. I am merely suggesting an approach which might be more considerate and add more value (and profits) most of the time. Having coffee and socializing with your colleagues certainly have their place. But if you can solve business problems in five minutes through sheer discipline, you'd probably save clients ten times that amount in billable time and dramatically enhance your own profitability through all the additional work you will be able to manage.

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