Is it time to drop the ball?

What comes to mind when you think about the phrase ‘dropping the ball’.

Author Tiffany Dufu has a different definition in mind.

That useless guy at work that never responds to emails and frequently flakes on meeting action points?

For her, dropping the ball is about figuring out what really matters, then dropping or delegating the rest.

It’s about asking your significant other to step the F up – especially when it comes to the equal split of household and childcare duties.

Here’s her definition:

Drop the ball: to release unrealistic expectations of doing it all and engage others to achieve what matters most to us, deepening our relationships and enriching our lives.

She has loads of interesting research, and more than a few tears and tales to tell. From her transformation of having a hefty dose of ‘household control disorder’ to a more balanced life that includes a fairer share of the household work.

Am sure many of the situations in the book will be familiar to women in their 30’s and onward, whether they have children or not, the fact remains that a large bulk of the household duties  (cooking, cleaning, organising), still seem to fall to woman, no matter how much they earn, or how high they rise.

So what’s the solution?

Tiffany has  range of sensible approaches from dropping the frequent ‘imaginary delegation’ to exercises on figuring out what really matters in your life.

Simple, but not always easy steps, such as, if someone else drops the ball, its important not to pick it up for them, no matter how much you may want to. (She gives the slightly amusing story of asking her husband to be in charge of opening and sorting the mail, and how she had to once let the mail build up for 3 months, before he got to it!).

While Tiffany mainly concentrates on the dynamic of a husband, wife and kids, the lessons she provides are applicable elsewhere.

One that immediately came to mind was something a previous mentor used to say to me. “Claire, sometimes you have to let them fail.” Meaning if you always swoop in and save the day, or pick up the pieces, then there is no learning.

Wise words.

Here’s a few of the pieces that really leapt off the page at me.

For more check out ‘Drop the Ball: Expect Less from Yourself and get More from Home, Flourish at Work and Life.’

On Motherhood

For all the Mums out there Tiffany has some great advice on redefining what a ‘good mother’ means to you. Is it someone who does everything? Or is it someone that focuses on what really matters. She gives the example of previous feeling like she needed to do everything vs defining the 3 things for her that defined what ‘good’ looked like. This meant that reading a story each night was non-negotiable, but someone else could do the pick ups and drop offs from school.

One really interesting piece of research she shared, which I thought might be helpful for the harried mother that feels like she has to be at every bake sale and every sausage sizzle… was this. ‘

“It’s a widely held believe that a parent who volunteers at a child’s school or who helps a child with homework is supporting the academic well-being of a child.”

However research by Keith Robinson and Angel Harris, authors of the Broken Compass, provides otherwise.

“According to Robinson and Harris, there are three parental activities that have the most influence on our childrens success at school; advocating for your children to have specific teachers, talking with your children about the activities they participate in at school, and aspiring for them to attend college.”

I found this remarkable! Where is the homework, the endless ‘other’ duties that are expected. Worth of some consideration as to what might be able to come off your list.

When to delegate

“Just because you are better at doing something, doesn’t mean doing it is the most productive use of your time.”

Tiffany stresses that instead we should focus on the areas where we bring the most value. Where are you at your best?

On what matters most

Ask anyone wants important to them and they can often reel of subjects, examples might be my kids, my work, my health… and so on.

But that’s the easy answer. You need to get a layer deeper and get down to what is it in relation to those areas that matters most.

The powerful question to ask, is this:

“What do you hope for in relationship to area X”

On how she manages to get so much done

“I expect far less of myself and way more of my husband than the average woman.”

She adds later in the book a tip for recovering control addicts, that you need to ‘learn to let others do things’ and respect that it may not be in the way you would have done! Remember the phrase ‘done is better than perfect’!

Grab the book for more info and consider reframing what ‘dropping the ball’ means to you at home and at work!

C x

The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results

By Gary Keller

If you’ve read (and liked) books like Essentialism, then you’ll love this book and its the-one-thing-book-covermessage on narrowing your focus. If 80/20 appeals to you then this book takes it even further than that!

I love the “lies between you and success” that the book covers, in particular “multitasking” and it being an absolute myth.

Interestingly the author points out that the word multitasking came from computer terms – and it meant multiple tasks sharing one resource (the CPU) it was never meant to apply to humans! I know myself that whenever I try and go through the day trying to flick between emails and reports and everything else that I end up getting nothing done by the end of the day!

The author also makes the point (through a quote from the Australian Prime Minister) that “the things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” I completely agree and in my team at work we always try and work to these two questions – 1. what’s urgent? 2. What’s important? You’ll find that these two things seldom match up.

I also like how it also offers practical tips on how to go about leading a life of focus – rather than just the benefits of doing it. The authors answer to this is to embrace the idea of using a “focusing question” in your life. This will help you find your one starting point, your one thing to focus on.

The question is this:
The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Read More

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

by Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares

Traction is aimed at startup marketing, as you might expect it focuses on testing (rather tractionthan guessing), and running short experiments to find what the authors call your ‘core traction channel.’

It’s a really practical read and provides some interesting stories from successful start ups (they interviewed forty founders) including Dropbox, HubSpot, Blendtec and duck duck go.

I would have loved to hear a bit more about developing remarkable products and there’s very little covered in the book around strategy and brand building – it’s more of a detailed examination of the different tactics (traction channels) available.

The authors identify nineteen different channels and suggest using their ‘bullseye’ process for finding the first/core channel.

The Bullseye process is as follows:

“The first step in Bullseye is brainstorming every single traction channel. If you were to advertise offline, where would be the best place to do it? If you were to give a speech, who would be the ideal audience? Imagine what success would look like in each channel, and write it down in your outer ring.”

“The second step in Bullseye is running cheap traction tests in the channels that seem most promising.”

“The third and final step in Bullseye is to focus solely on the channel that will move the needle for your startup: your core channel.”

The authors write that one of the big mistakes that founders make is relying on the same traction channel or the one they are most familiar/comfortable with – rather than testing them all out.

The nineteen channels that suggest examining are:

Targeting Blogs, Publicity, Unconventional PR, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social and Display Ads, Offline Ads, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Viral Marketing, Engineering as Marketing, Business Development (BD), Sales, Affiliate Programs, Existing Platforms, Trade Shows, Offline Events, Speaking Engagements, Community Building.

More advice from Traction

(all quotes directly from the book)

“Traction is the best way to improve your chances of startup success. Traction is a sign that something is working. If you charge for your product, it means customers are buying. If your product is free, it’s a growing user base.”

“Traction is basically quantitative evidence of customer demand. So if you’re in enterprise software, [initial traction] may be two or three early customers who are paying a bit; if you’re in consumer software the bar might be as high as hundreds of thousands of users.”

“Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.”

“It is very likely that one channel is optimal. Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. Poor distribution—not product—is the number one cause of failure. If you can get even a single distribution channel to work, you have great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished. So it’s worth thinking really hard about finding the single best distribution channel.”

Grab the book here.

Happy reading,
C x

The New Rules of Sales and Service, David Meerman-Scott

I’m a huge fan of David’s other books on content marketing and I highly recommend one of his earlier books Real Time Marketing and PR. the-new-rules-of-sales

His latest book focuses in on sales and while I didn’t get as much out of it as his marketing series it’s still a useful guide. In particular I like some of the case studies he uses of companies using agile selling and doing things differently (he shares examples from hotels, bike shops, gyms and a range of others.)

Like his earlier books this one illustrates how much the online world has changed (or should have changed) the sales process and what can be gained from focusing on an agile and content-focused approach.

The New Rules of Sales and Service

(headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book)

The new world
“Smart companies understand this new world and build a buying process around the realities of independent research.”

It’s not all about social
“Creating a Facebook page or jumping onto Twitter won’t transform your business. Changing your mind-set to one of understanding buyers and publishing content on the web will.”

It’s about brokering information
“…the smart ones have transformed themselves into a sort of information broker, serving up the perfect content to each buyer at the right time.”

And of course, solving problems
“Rather than talking about the features and benefits of your products and services, consider how you help people to solve their problems.”

What sales really is… 
While marketing is the provision of content to many potential customers, sales and service are now about the provision of content to buyers one at a time based on their needs.

Becoming transparent
Yet Halligan observes that sales teams are resisting the inevitable change. “Sales needs to lean into change and embrace it,” he says. “For instance, many companies today still don’t publish their pricing on their website, which is kind of ridiculous.”

More information about this book and others are available over on David’s website here.

Happy reading,
C x

Delegation & Supervision by Brian Tracy

Our marketing team at work continues to grow and so one of the goals I’ve set myself thisdelegation-supervision year is to improve my delegation skills.

For a (reformed, almost) perfectionist like me, delegation can be a tricky skill to master. You might assign a task and then find yourself ‘checking in’ too regularly, or worse still redoing the task because you think it needs to be done a different way! This book was a handy reminder of all the things that we usually know (common sense!) but in practice, often forget when working with teams.

Some very useful tactics and reminders!

Tips for becoming a master delegator

(headings = mine, quotes directly from the book)

It’s not about giving orders
“They may say something like, “Do this and have it done by such and such a time.” They equate this order-giving with delegation. But it is not. It is abdication.”

Why delegate
“Delegation allows you to expand your work scope from what you can do to what you can control or manage. That means you can concentrate on doing the few things in the course of your workday that only you can do for your company.”

“Delegation is a wonderful tool to challenge your people and cause them to stretch, achieving greater results and making a greater contribution.”

Allow your team to make mistakes
“Very often, managers underestimate the ability of their people. But the only way you can test the true competence of individuals is by giving them more to do than they have ever done before, and then allowing them the latitude to make mistakes and to learn from them.”

What stuff do I delegate?
“The rule here is fairly simple. You should delegate whatever you have mastered and can now do easily, and move on to something else.”

“Practice the “70 percent rule.” If someone else can do the task 70 percent as well as you, delegate the task to that person. Free yourself up to do those few tasks that only you can do.”

Delegate externally and internally
“Another assumption that managers make is that, whatever the task, it has to be done by someone within the company. Today, however, there are companies that specialize in certain activities and you can outsource an entire task to them and get it done faster, better, and cheaper than if you did it internally.”

Praise often!
“In terms of motivation, what does every person want? The answer is that every person wants to be a “winner.” People want to feel excellent about themselves; simultaneously, they want to be recognized by other people around them as being excellent at what they do.”

Grab the book here 

Happy reading,
C x

Scrum Marketing: Applying Agile Methodologies to Marketing, by James Wright

Recently I’ve become a bit obsessed with agile methodology (of which scrum is a subset) scrum-marketingand how marketers can learn from this.

Agile is different way of working (or project managing) that was started by those smart software developers. Lately I’ve been reading a lot (including this book) on how this can be adapted and used for marketing teams.

My biggest takeaway is that the old style of traditional ‘campaigns’ will soon be dead – instead marketers will adopt a more agile style of smaller tests and experiments, they’ll keep things more flexible and aim for continuous improvements so that they can respond to change and customers needs (fast).

For a good overview of the basics of agile, checking out the original Agile Manifesto for the key set of ideas.

And here’s those same principles adapted for marketing

Anyway back to the Scrum Marketing book! I found it was a really good overview of the basics (if you’re looking to adopt and learn from agile) and a really easy read (only about 100 pages). As an added bonus it will set you back a massive $2 on amazon. A bargain intro to agile! 🙂

Quotes from Scrum Marketing

(Heading = mine, all quotes directly from the book)

What is Agile?
“Agile business philosophy is a set of sound fundamentals on how to manage a company, satisfy customers, and organize employees.”

On the traditional marketing plan
“The modern annual marketing plan is a myth. Yes, that’s the right word.”

“I’m not suggesting that the vice president of marketing enter the year without a plan. Some things can be put on the calendar with some high levels of confidence: trade shows, major product introductions, partner training sessions, industry events, and other such items.”

No to being a micromanager
“Micromanagement is bad for several reasons, but for the purposes of this discussion, suffice it to say that it’s very inefficient and typically ineffective.”

“An agile manager teaches correct principles and allows the employees to manage themselves.”

Getting the right data
“It’s better to learn what the reality is than to depend on what you think it might be.”

Lots of small bets over huge campaigns
“Make small bets and experiments to learn. What happens if you spend 100% of your promotional budget on one big event and it doesn’t produce the results you need? Well, you’re done.”

Put the customer first
“Don’t allow siloed thinking or structure keep you from doing the right thing for your customers.”

“NEVER allow your company structure to restrict you from doing the right thing. I’ll say it again: NEVER. You should organize for your customers. Don’t force your customers to adjust to your issues.”

On staying flexible
“Agile philosophy teaches us that after we’ve made our best guess at the right direction, we start our flight and constantly make course corrections based upon what we learn.”

“For the purposes of our current topic, I will write now that good and great companies should choose flexibility over fixed long-term plans.”

You can grab the book here 

Happy reading,
C x