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Paul Dilger 1000 blog posts

1000 blog posts

This, folks, is my 1000th blog post since I started a regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday thing on the 2nd of September 2013. It will also be my last, at least in this 3-times-a-week cadence.

Have I run out of things to say? No, I don’t think, fortunately, that will ever happen, otherwise what’s the point to anything? It’s simply that I started blogging to generate the discipline of regular writing, writing in a style that I enjoy both doing and consuming. I wanted to write a book. I wrote the book, and a designer is currently putting her magic touches to it, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It’s almost finished, and then I’ll publish it.

Of course, with 1,000 posts under my belt there is held, within this blogroll, at least another book or two as well, anthologised versions of my ramblings. The best ones put together if you like, although some of you might argue that if it’s only the best ones that make it in, they’ll be pretty short tomes.

I’ll still be blogging from here; after all I’ve a book to flog and some of you have been good enough to check in fairly regularly to read what I’ve had to say. Perhaps you’ll buy a copy. It’s on the subject that I’ve only briefly touched on over the last 1,000 posts, but the savvier among you might have an inkling as to the subject matter, especially since I’ve written small bits on a very wide range of topics.

Speaking of which, thank you. And thanks also to Seth Godin, who has done this sort of thing for longer, more frequently, and far better than I, but whose example got me kick-started.

So, 1,000 blog posts, over and out, until the next time. It does feel odd to be finishing mid-week, though. I don’t know what I’ll do come Friday…

New Year’s resolutions are old hat, apparently. The new new year thing is New Year’s aspirations.

I suppose the logic is that we resolve to do something and then it falls flat – maybe it’s too lofty a goal, or we can’t sustain it – whereas an aspiration is something more realistic, something we can ease up to, to give ourselves time, to make a gradual behaviour change rather than go cold turkey.

I don’t really start my New Year’s stuff until a few days after the first of January, usually my first working day of January, which is today in fact. There’s too much of a social hangover from the holidays for you to stop dead in your tracks and change direction. You know what they say: stop smoking gradually, the way you started. Also, I tend to be away for New Year’s and then you end up getting home a couple days after the start of the month, and it’s hard to effect real change when you’re travelling.

I like the idea of New Year’s aspirations, though. It fits in with the science of effecting true behavioural change. You prep for change, you change, and then you enforce the change repeatedly until it’s the new normal.

I wish – or aspire for you – a great new normal.

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

 

Deck or doc, which are you? Slide deck or word document?

How do you prefer to get your information? Sometimes it depends on the type of information you’re getting. I’m a fairly visual person, and I like to be able to short-cut the information acquisition process and zero in on what I want. This is hard to do with a doc(ument), unless it’s well laid out and sign-posted. If I’m clicking on a web page link to learn more, I prefer a web page to a 2-minute or 3-minute video. I can scan the headings of a web page in a few seconds, rather than sit through something for a few minutes, or jump ahead and risk missing the nuggets.

I’m therefore a deck guy. By this I mean a slide deck. I find this kind of ironic since I’m better myself at creating words than pictures. I generally delegate the pictures to someone who’s good at pictures.

Some people are doc people. They prefer to absorb the information in a word-processed document to a slide or picture presenting document. They like the detail. They want to pour over it, or at least have the option to at a later stage if they need to.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you said to your customer or your audience, ‘how would you like this information, by deck or doc?’ Even though some types of information are better presented in one format over another, your customer’s or audience’s preferences are important.

For what seems like an age my good lady and I have been considering switching banks. They’re such a traditional, archaic industry that, naturally, switching from one bank to another is not remotely straightforward.

It really should be the responsibility of the incoming bank to do all the work. Instead, companies cover themselves so if something goes wrong they fall back on the small print which blames the customer.

We recently changed from Ulster Bank to KBC Bank. A few forms, quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and a whole bunch of standing orders and direct debits that needed to move from one provider to the next. I was sceptical that it would work seamlessly. After all, there’s a bunch of stuff that can go wrong.

Lo and behold, the payment on our car failed to go through and we get a letter from the car finance company to say that we owe them money, probably to the detriment of my credit rating. A quick call to our new bank and they refer to us to a small section of the document that indicated we should have, in addition to passing through the bureaucratic eye of the needle, also called all of the companies with whom we have a direct debit or standing order and tell them. In other words, use manual methods in case the human-driven automated process falls over. We had a lot of these arrangements in place. My view was, I’m the customer, why should I? It’s not my responsibility. I’m not the one getting all the business.

Anyway, I got a rather large shock from my old bank during the week. It was a letter detailing the charges they’d levied in the last 12 months. €214.34. No, that’s not a typo. It was the main reason why we changed, apart from the fact that all banks are generally a degree of rubbish. It’s a case of trying to establish which one is less rubbish than the others. What a terribly and depressingly low bar.

I was in a meeting a good few years ago. It could have been any meeting over the last 5 decades, or any meeting you’ve had. It was fairly typical. Some progress, but also frustrations and miscommunications.

People were not listening to each other, they weren’t answering the question that had just been made. They wanted to make their own point. As a consequence, there were some frustrations, raised voices at times, and frayed tempers. One particular person was asked what they made of the meeting, while we were still in session.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard a lot of heat, but not much light.’

And that is the essence of a good meeting, isn’t it? You want the light, you don’t want the heat. One of them illuminates, the other makes you hot and bothered. One of them makes a meeting worthwhile and a good use of the considerable resources in the room, and the other doesn’t.

Since then, I’ve tried whenever I can in meetings to provide light and not heat. After all, it’s all about productivity, forward momentum, direction, speed and group harmony. Light helps with all of those, whereas heat almost never helps with any of them.

 

Everyone’s been all in a tizzy over the customer experience the last few years, with bags of content being produced and companies popping up all over the place with offerings to help companies focus on their customers’ buying process and the end-to-end journey.

This is all great, but what’s not really talked about much is the employee experience. You see, a company’s most important stakeholder is usually not their customer. It’s their staff. If you have good staff they’ll take good care of your customers.

From this, it follows that getting the customer experience right is actually secondary to getting the employee experience right. How many times have you worked in companies – or been a customer of companies – where the staff don’t know what’s going on, they’re not brought along on projects and processes or the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing when it comes to news, launches and the like? This is a top-down thing, and to get the employee experience and internal communications right senior people need to follow a similar process as they should do for marketing to their customers.

Here’s a link to a really good whitepaper from Hubspot on how internal communications can be the secret weapon within the marketing function.

Paul Dilger social media photo

Paul Dilger social media photo

It’s about time I updated my social media photo presence. It’s getting a bit ridiculous.

Many people seem to have a social media photo that shows them around a decade younger. Why is that? Three possible reasons jump to mind. They want to appear younger and more attractive, they’re slightly vain, or they can’t be bothered to change the photo.

In my case I think all three reasons applied. I started using social media like LinkedIn and Facebook about 2007, and I used a pic I liked from around 2005, so I was already cheating a bit. It’s the same pic. I haven’t updated it. In fact a cropped version of it is the one I use to front this blog.

I have started to update my photo for my professional consulting engagements, because you want to manage expectations in business and it’s tough call to claim 30 years of experience if you look 40 in your picture. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve met someone for the first time, and their LinkedIn photo is a very optimistic version of the real thing.

Still, it’s a seminal moment for me to change it across the board, including the non-work social presences.

Maybe I’ll get round to it in the next couple of weeks, or so…

 

We live in a world where scarcity prevails. There’s not enough resources to go round. There’s not enough time in the day. We don’t have enough money to do everything we want to do. Fact.

So it is with how we organise our own time, how we prioritise, and how we marshal our own resources. We can’t get to everything, not even close.

This is how I deal with everyday questions and how I approach a lot of things, in life and in work. I ask myself, does it matter? If it matters, do it, if it doesn’t, chances are you don’t need to bother with it.

I’ll give you a mundane example: cooking. You find a recipe you like, but it lists a lot of ingredients, and one or two of them you don’t have or can’t get. Ask yourself if it matters that you don’t have coriander, but you have some oregano. Probably not. What if it calls for 350g of this and 150ml of that. Does it matter if you’ve not used the exact amount the recipe calls for? Probably not, it’s near enough ‘as makes no odds’ as my northern English pals would say. Now, with something like baking, or so I’m told, it does benefit you to use the exact ingredients and the exact measurements, in which case, yes it does matter.

When it comes to navigating the resources and time at my disposal, and the myriad tiny questions that might crop up in the course of the day, I use ‘does it matter?’ as my guide. Quicker decisions, less agonising, mental paralysis and hand-wringing.

Brexit could be all done by the time you read this post, though as I write it couldn’t be more finely balanced.

There’s a tremendous amount of international shadow-boxing going on at the moment, as the UK government looks to brace itself against the punches of blame that might come its way from within. Stories have been ‘leaked’ and senior government officials are expressing their frustration that the EU doesn’t understand the UK position.

It’s clear to me that there is not a single marketer in the UK government. No-one has stopped for a moment and said, ‘hang on a moment, the EU is effectively a customer, or at the very least a partner. We should treat this as a commercial arrangement. Let’s try and put ourselves in their shoes, figure out what’s important to them and proceed accordingly.’ I think the EU has done this, and the thinking UK person has too. The unthinking person on both slides of the political divide probably hasn’t.

‘Let’s make it about them, and stop acting like it’s about us.’

Simplistic I know, but sometimes it suits to go back to basics before FUD fogs everything. A lasting, long-term negotiated agreement has to be a win-win, otherwise it won’t last.

A bit of humility and thoughtfulness rather than the usual dose of haughtiness and arrogance, please.