Some years ago, I devoured the loads of information out there on how to handle email effectively. I’m a big fan of the ‘Inbox Zero’ approach and I like Tim Ferris’s article on ’Ten Steps to Become an Email Ninja’.
What I want to share with you today is NOT a technical hack.
What I want to share with you is a different way of thinking about email that will liberate you from email.
Up until last year, although I had integrated all kinds of hacks to get my email under control, there were still a lot of emails from people – important emails – that were waiting to be replied to and hanging over my head.
One day while walking down the street in London, I had an insight that instantly reduced this by about 90%.
What I realised is that of all the emails that are waiting for replies, only a very small percentage of them (less than 10%) were from people who I had an explicit AGREEMENT with to which I would respond to their emails.
In my case, this included pretty much just my clients and my small team of two people.
The rest of the emails that were waiting for replies were from people who DESIRED or EXPECTED a response.
I realized that even my mother and my wife don’t have agreements with me that I’ll respond to their email!
I choose not live my life at the mercy of other people’s expectations or desires.
I also choose to live in integrity with the agreements I make with people.
As an experiment, I thus created two folders:
2. Expectations / Desires
I then moved ALL outstanding emails into one of these two folders.
The change in my EXPERIENCE of email was immediate.
Suddenly, I was able to first reply to ALL of the emails in folder 1 in very little time (because there were a lot less of them). After doing this, I felt COMPLETE. I had fulfilled all of my agreements.
What remained was folder 2, which was full of emails from people who expected or desired a response from me. Many of these emails I WANTED to respond to, but that was not something that needed to hang over me. I could simply do what I wanted to do whenever I felt like doing it.
Very often I will open up folder 2, not because I have to, but because I want to. When I do, I don’t ask myself ‘who must I reply to’, because that would only apply if the email was in folder 1. Instead, I scan through and I choose to reply to the emails that I WANT to reply to. And I stop doing that when I don’t want to do it anymore.
As long as folder 1 emails have been responded to, then I am living in integrity with my agreements and I am NOT living my life at the mercy of other people’s expectations or desires.
People make the whole ‘client creation’ thing so difficult by putting all sorts of stuff between themselves and actually having a client.
My method for creating clients in my coaching business is simple. I do just one thing: Coach
In this video, I show Jude how coaching clients are not something she has to get or attract, they are something she can create. Furthermore, she can create coaching ‘clients’ by simply coaching ‘people’.
All one needs to do is decide what time in their week they will be providing the service they provide and then PROVIDE THAT SERVICE to different people every week during that time.
If you do that long enough – and your service is something people will want more of – then people will start asking for more. When they ask for more, tell them your fee and that ‘person’ will magically transform into a ‘client’.
Can it really be that easy?
I wouldn’t say it’s easy. I’d say it’s simple, but not easy.
What’s not easy is committing to serving people day in and day out without getting anything back at first.
It takes faith and commitment to serve with consistency.
The challenge of ‘connecting with potential clients’ reminds me of when my friend James once said to me:
“John: Your solution is the problem.”
I don’t remember what it was about when he said it, but the concept stuck with me and I see it often now.
In this situation though…
The desire is to grow your business.
The challenge is that you need more clients.
The solution is to connect with potential clients.
The problem is that you find it difficult or don’t know how.
What I am suggesting is that the problem of you finding it difficult or not knowing how to connect with people arises because your solution is, specifically, to connect with ‘potential clients’.
You are putting your desire to have more clients and your desire to grow your business inside the act of connecting with people.
Having self-interest as part of your intention while connecting with human beings makes connecting more difficult.
In other words…
Your ability to connect with human beings is inversely proportional to your desire to acquire from them.
When you are trying to ‘connect with potential clients’, you are inadvertently carrying a desire to acquire and thus making it difficult for yourself.
You may post rationalise this difficulty as ‘not knowing how to do it’ or ‘having fear’, but really this is BS.
You already know how to connect with people and you do it well when there is nothing you want from them.
A metaphor I like that has me completely disconnect from any desire to acquire when connecting is to think of it as untangling and repairing an old box of Christmas lights (fairy lights).
When I think about who I want to reach out to, I like to think of it as looking for the next knot to untangle in the fairy lights. I’m just exploring. Just looking for the easiest NEXT place to loosen things up.
When I connect or re-connect with someone, I like to think of it as pulling out an old bulb and replacing it with a new one.
I keep doing this until every knot has come loose and every person on the string is lit up – until every relationship is glowing.
The light of these now active connections provides me with a whole new perspective. Just like a string of lights does, having that many relationships active in my life at one time also gives me a magical feeling.
Being connected creates a deep sense of wholeness.
Finally, with all that new light, I am better able to see where and how I can serve.
Where are you making it difficult to connect with people because you are doing it with a specific intention in mind?
Are you willing to just plug bulbs in – are you willing to connect just for the sake of connection?
About ten years ago, when I was just getting started as a property developer, my SUV was making a clunking sound and there was some hesitation in acceleration.
I remember meeting Bobby, the mechanic. When we shook hands, his grip was tight and large around my hand. He asked me about my car’s history.
“What happened? When did it start? What makes it worse?”
As I looked at Bobby in his faded Boston Red Sox cap, I told him about my problem and what I remembered from the past. I could see in his eyes that he was beginning to understand. He was seeing clues as to what caused the disorder in my car.
We took it for a drive. He wanted to see the problem in action. When we pulled back into his shop parking lot, I knew he’d cracked the case. Bobby told me it had to do with the transmission and would cost $1200 to fix. I smiled, nodding gently and then told him I wanted to get a second opinion.
I didn’t really want a second opinion. I knew he was right. What I was really thinking was, “Shit, I can’t afford that right now”. All my money had gone into a new project and I was running on fumes.
At the time, I had just gotten a ‘construction loan’ to buy a piece of land and build a house to sell. All the permits and lawyer fees to make it happen had drained my bank account.
Leaving Bobby’s shop, I drove out to the land for my next meeting. Jack, the carpenter, was sat in his pickup truck waiting for me.
He too was wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap. It was bit less faded than Bobby’s. Jack stepped from the truck and stretched out his hand. As I reached mine to meet it, I saw it was thick and strong like Bobby’s was.
Jack spoke loudly like Bobby did. He asked me about what I wanted to build.
“How big do you want it? What do you want it to look like? When do you want it built by?”
Through speaking with Jack, he and I both became more and more clear about my vision for the house I would build there. As we discussed what it would actually take for an entire house to be created, I got more and more clear of what it would require of me. I began to understand what I would need to invest financially, time-wise and energy-wise. I got that this was going to be a real commitment and that it was going to be a lot of work. I could also viscerally feel that it would be a real risk as to whether I’d profit from this. I’d already spent most of my money, was taking on debt and the market was peaking. I was scared, but I was also excited.
Fast forward six months…
On a blue sky afternoon of a cool day in October, I walked out of my lawyer’s office carrying a $104,000 check in my hand and a lightness in my chest. In my mind, I looked back on all the days of meeting people at the land and how the house that now stood strong there had come together, literally, piece by piece.
From there, I went straight to the bank and made my largest ever deposit. When I pulled back out into the street, my SUV coughed and made a grinding noise.
I thought about how it had gotten progressively worse over the past six months, but how since I was so focused on building the house, I hadn’t let it bother me. I had essentially just ignored the problem with my car.
However, I didn’t need the problem anymore. Still not even fully up to speed, I checked my mirror, braked and pulled directly into the next parking lot – a BMW dealership.
They said they’d give me just $3K for trading in my SUV since it needed a new transmission.
“Deal,” I said.
An hour later I was sat alone in a slick, brand new M3. When at the exit of the dealership, I pressed the accelerator, the car leaped onto the road. The purr was deep and as I entered the motorway, I could feel the growl of the engine through the floor and on my back.
I thought of Jack & Bobby – how similar they were as people, how they both worked with their hands and how their hands had grown thick and strong from doing that work. At the same time, I thought about how different their work was.
It is when I think back to what Jack does and what Bobby does that I am most able to understand the difference between being a ‘coach’ and being a ‘therapist’.
When a hot piece of iron singes through the fur of a cow’s hide and then hisses as it boils off the moisture in its flesh, it leaves a permanent scar.
Putting aside for a moment the barbarism of it, the fact that the scar is permanent is OK. A cow doesn’t change. A cow is a cow until it becomes a steak or a jacket.
However, for a person, the moment a ‘personal brand’ is applied, it becomes a lie. This is because people are constantly evolving.
I am NOT suggesting that we don’t speak out about who we are and what we do.
What I am saying is that the idea of a brand carries with it an essence of static-ness. This essence is what causes conflict for many people when trying to figure out their ‘personal brand’.
People aren’t permanent and deep down we know it.
To make it easier, and to stay in integrity, what we ‘speak out’ about who we are and what we do should be free to always evolve.
Also interesting is that many people (unconsciously) reference their past when speaking out about who they are and what they do. Not only are they singeing hot iron into their own flesh, but they are doing so with the mark of who they were instead of who they are becoming.
Forget branding yourself.
Speak out about who and what you are becoming and do that differently every day.
What if instead of speaking out with the story of your remembered past, you spoke out with the story of your created future?
And if you allowed that story to evolve every day, what would that story be today?
If you had one minute in an elevator with someone, why would you want to spend it talking about yourself and your idea?
Why not spend it focused on the other person, being curious about them, connecting with them?
In a world where everyone is focused on themselves and their thing and their idea and getting everyone to love them – you will stand out much more by being interested in a person than by trying to get them to be interested in you.
In fact, you are much more likely to create the opportunity to spend MORE than one minute with a person if instead of trying to ‘wow’ them with your song and dance, you connect with them on a human level.
Deep human connection will serve the creation of your vision more than an elevator pitch ever will.
What the world needs is not another pitch. What the world needs is people willing to listen.
If you have been working on your elevator pitch, please stop.
Earlier this year my coach Rich asked me a question:
“Are your clients people who are searching for passion and purpose?”
He was challenging my continuing to do talks and videos on the topic.
My immediate response was about to be a ‘Yes’, but since he was asking me what seemed like an obvious question, I paused and considered.
“Well…not all of them I guess…”
“Ummmm….hmmm…,” I scanned my mind through active and recent clients. My brow furrowed. “Geeze, I guess there is only just ONE really.”
We talked and a new awareness about who I actually coach unfolded. My clients call me their ‘executive coach’, their ‘leadership coach’, their ‘secret weapon’. They were all already on a mission and leaders of some sort, either of their own projects or a business.
It wasn’t obvious for me before because I was afraid to see it.
“Who am I to be a leadership coach? I’ve never run a company with 100’s of employees like my clients do.”
However, once I could see this thought, I could see it wasn’t true.
“You are a leader too, John” said Rich.
“I am not a leader. How am I a leader?”
“Thousands of people follow you, John. You are a thought leader.”
My coach was right. I AM a leader.
But how did I become one without ever trying to be? How did I become a leader without even meaning to?
All I have ever really done is two things:
1. Do what I love to do
2. Share that with the world.
Somehow being a leader happened as a result of this.
Leadership is NOT something you do. Leadership is something that happens as a result of you being true and self-expressed.
When you do what you love and you share it with the world, people follow you.
People follow you because, like moths drawn to light, humans are drawn to truth and freedom.
More simply, leadership is not something you DO, it is something you BE.
What I can see now is that it is my BEING LEADERSHIP that has the people who show up as my clients also be leaders.
How are you holding back your own uniqueness?
What could you start doing do that would have you ‘being leadership’ by being more who you really ARE?
The other day I was in conversation with a COO who was complaining about his sales team not performing.
“They just don’t want it bad enough,” he told me. “I wanted it so much more when I was selling.”
We talked and he could see that his sales people were coming from a ‘victim’ place. They were complaining about circumstances (the irony of the COO being a victim by complaining about his sales team’s victimhood did not escape me, but I choose not to go there).
He could see that when he was in sales, he came from an ‘owner’ place. He created what he wanted instead of complaining about what wasn’t working.
I asked him how he was going to empower his team to be owners.
“They don’t want to be owners,” he said.
“How the…do you know that?” I snapped, biting back an f-bomb.
“They just don’t or they would be owners already.”
“That’s bullshit. Have you considered the possibility that they don’t know the difference between being an owner and a victim?”
What I shared with him is that he had a distinction they don’t have. He had a conscious understanding of the difference between two ways of being.
Furthermore, I had him see that a conscious understanding of difference is required before someone can want something.
“You can’t want what you don’t understand,” I said.
His eyes glazed over and our conversation fell silent.
I could see that he was seeing how not wanting it bad enough wasn’t really the problem. The real problem was that his team – his people – didn’t consciously understand the difference between being an owner and a victim.
If and when they could really see this difference, they were almost certain to want to be an ‘owner’.
But first they needed to see it. And so he knew exactly what he needed to do.
What are your people not wanting bad enough right now?
What distinction are they missing that would give them enough perspective to want something else?
How are you creating this – how are you stopping them from having that distinction?