File Server

Our Synology DiskStation Drive provides a fast and secure way for D&M to share our critical digital assets with our team and clients.

On our Synology DiskStation server farm, we share artwork, CAD, and reference photos with support for multiple platforms — whether it’s Windows, macOS, and Linux computers or mobile devices.

Our team utilizes our small farm of servers so often, they even bestowed an unofficial nickname of “the Synology.”

How to Spend Way Less Time on Email Every Day

How to Spend Way Less Time on Email Every Day

Digital article from HBR: Link
The average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering email, according to a McKinsey analysis. For the average full-time worker in America, that amounts to a staggering 2.6 hours spent and 120 messages received per day.
Most professionals have resorted to one of two extreme coping mechanisms as a last-ditch attempt to survive the unending onslaught: at one end, there are the inbox-zero devotees who compulsively keep their inboxes clear, and, at the other, there are those who have essentially given up. Emails enter their inbox and remain.
In the face of these two extremes, some have advocated for a more moderate approach: simply, check email less often.
The team at Zarvana — a company that teaches research-backed time management practices — set out to see if there is a data-supported way to reduce the 2.6 daily hours spent on email without sacrificing effectiveness. What they found was surprising: they could save more than half of the time spent on email, or one hour and 21 minutes per day.
Here are the five ways:
Over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day. On average, professionals check their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes. Do most people expect a response within that time frame? No. In fact, only 11% of customers/clients and 8% of coworkers expect a response in less than an hour. But about 40% of people expect a response in about an hour. If people checked their email hourly rather than every 37 minutes, they could cut six email checks from their day.
What impact would that have? Some research suggests that it can take people up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully recover after an interruption, such as a break to check email. While we don’t doubt the truth in this finding, for the purposes of calculating time savings, we use the much more conservative results of a Loughborough University study, which found that it takes 64 seconds for people to return to work at the same rate they left it.
Trips to the inbox aren’t the only way people “check” email either. Many also read the notifications that emerge in the corner of their computer screens each time an email comes in, losing several seconds each time.
And these interruptions have added costs. Researcher Sophie Leroy from the University of Washington describes what happens: “As I am still thinking about Task A while trying to do Task B, I don’t have the cognitive capacity to process those two tasks at the same time and do a perfect job on both.”
So, between checking email six times more than needed, letting notifications interrupt us, and taking time to get back on track, we lose 21 minutes per day.
The solution is simple, however. Turn off notifications and schedule time (about 5 to 8 minutes) every hour to check email. For some roles in some professions, this is not viable. And it may feel very uncomfortable to those who are accustomed to being on top of everything that comes in and responding within minutes.  But most who try it find that their rapid response times have been unnecessary.
Full inboxes waste 27 minutes per day. Many have argued that there is no longer a reason to move emails out of the inbox because the search functionality of the common email applications is powerful enough to make finding one message among hundreds or even thousands easy. They’re right, but only in part. Search isthe fastest way to find old emails, but full inboxes cost us time for another reason.
When we check a crowded inbox, we end up re-reading emails over and over again. We can’t help it; if they’re there, we read them. On average, professionals have more than 200 emails in their inbox and receive 120 new ones each day but respond to only 25% of them. Without a conscious clear-out plan, the backlog keeps building. And, if people go to their inboxes 15 times per day and spend just four seconds looking at each email (the time it takes to read the average preview text) and re-reading only 10% of them (an estimate based on the number of messages that fit on average computer screen), they’ll lose 27 minutes each day. For the small portion of people who do no archiving, these savings will be a bit more modest (more like 22 minutes) because they will need to start spending five minutes each day archiving emails in order to clear out their inbox.
In either case, he antidote is the single-touch rule. This means always archiving or deleting emails after reading them the first time. This approach may seem nonsensical for certain messages, like ones that require a delayed response. However, a read email that needs a later response is no longer an email requiring reading; it is a task requiring action. It should be treated as such and moved out of the inbox and onto a to-do list.
Using folders to organize and find emails wastes 14 minutes per day. Because professionals delay replying 37% of the time, finding messages that we’ve already read is a big part of the work of email processing.
Most people deal with this by creating folders for various subjects or people or types of messages and archiving accordingly. On average, people create a new email folder every five days and have 37 on hand. But this approach — clicking on folders to find what you need — is 9% slower than searching with keywords, or 50% slower when compared with searches using common operators (e.g., “from:connect@zarvana.com”).
Search is one fix. Another is email/to-do list integrations. These work by either providing users with a unique email address they can forward/send emails to for automatic conversion into tasks, or enabling users to add emails to a slimmed down version of the to-do list app embedded in their email application. Taken together, these methods can save users 14 minutes per day.
Archiving emails into many folders using a mouse wastes 11 minutes per day. The 37 folders stacked up on the left-hand side of most users’ email application affects more than just re-finding time. Roughly 10% of the total time people spend on email is spent filing messages they want to keep, a process that involves two phases: deciding where the emails should go and then moving them to the selected folders. The more choices we have, the longer it takes for us to make a decision.
We know that folders aren’t needed for re-finding emails, so how many do we really need? We have found that most people require only two: one for emails that you we read when they hit the inbox but which also require further action (what we call “Archive”) and one for emails that we might want to read at a later date (what we call “Reading”).  Why not have zero folders? We need at least one so we can get emails out of our inboxes.
To calculate the time saved by dropping from 37 to two folders, we use Hick’s Law, a psychological principle that describes the mathematical relationship between the number of choices and decision-making time. It tells us that a 37-choice decision is five times slower than a two-choice decision.
There are also ways to improve the efficiency and accuracy of email filing through the use of automated rules or filters, which help us avoid the risk of dragging and dropping emails into the wrong place, and keyboard shortcuts, which are more than 50% faster than using a mouse. For example, Windows Outlook users can file emails by pressing control + shift + v and then selecting their desired folder from a list (in G Suite, users can just press “v” and then select the desired folder). Outlook users can also create “quick steps” that enable them to move emails to a specific folder with one keyboard sequence, saving even more time.
Reading and processing irrelevant emails costs us 8 minutes per day: According to data from Sanebox62% of all email is not important and can be processed in bulk. But even bulk-processing takes time. The average person opens 20% of “permission mailers” (e.g. newsletters) and spends 15-20 seconds reading each of these emails, consuming more than four minutes per day. Even just deleting an email takes an average of 3.2 seconds, adding up to more than three minutes per day, a small but important reason to unsubscribe and block unwanted emails rather than just deleting them.
To break the habit of processing irrelevant emails individually, use a three-part approach: automated filtering for newsletters you actually use, unsubscribing from those you don’t, and blocking spam and other emails that keep coming after you’ve tried to unsubscribe.
Email has become the bane of the 21st century workers’ existence, but by implementing just these five practices, email can once again become a tool for effective work:
  • Turn off notifications and instead check your email hourly
  • Move every email out of your inbox the first time you read it
  • Use the search functionality with search operators to re-find emails
  • Set up just two email folders and use shortcuts to archive emails there
  • Avoid processing irrelevant or less important emails individually
It’s time to leave our habits and intuition behind and fall in line with what the research shows, so that we can put hours back in our week and finally get our email under control.

Make Sure Everyone on Your Team Sees Learning as Part of Their Job

Make Sure Everyone on Your Team Sees Learning as Part of Their Job

As an executive coach, Kristi Hedges speaks regularly at corporate leadership development programs. During discussions, participants often confess the real reason they’re in the room, and it’s rarely “to grow and learn.” Time and again, the reasons include: they are checking a box on their development plan, their manager told them to come, or they’ve been told that their participation will increase the chance of a promotion.

The reality is that most people are not set up to take advantage of development opportunities. Many organizations view learning as something extra, something to fit in on top of the regular work. But to create a culture that encourages employee growth, managers need to make learning an expectation — not an option.

Learning helps people keep a broad perspective. When we feel expert at something, sociologists have shown, the earned dogmatism effect sets in, causing us to be more close-minded and to disregard new ideas and perspectives. For managers, suggesting that team members go to a training or take an online course isn’t enough; for many professionals, that’s just more work on their plates. Instead, managers need to encourage continual learning with supportive behaviors that, in turn, will shape their company culture.

Be a vocal role model. Managers should frame learning as a growth opportunity, not as a quid pro quo for promotion.

A good starting point is simply to talk about your own development. When managers open up about their personal areas for improvement, it becomes more acceptable for everyone else to do the same. Ask yourself: What skills are you most excited to develop? What areas do you need to grow the most in? What insights have you found helpful in accomplishing these goals? Then share your answers with the rest of your team.

You should come back from every workshop or training with a story about what you learned. Rather than the typical, “It was interesting,” be specific. For example, you might say, “I thought I was a good listener, but I can see that this is a growth area for me. The day showed me new ways to interact with others, and though they aren’t necessarily comfortable for me, I’m going to try them out.”

If you talk about learning as being enjoyable, you set a playful tone that encourages people to be adaptively authentic — and open to trying new behaviors.

Celebrate growth and lean into failure. Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University recently published research showing that people don’t simply have passions, they develop them. The best way to determine what you enjoy is to try new things, even when those things are challenging or uncomfortable. If you want your team to be excited about and find purpose in their work, encourage them to be curious and experiment.

A successful learning environment celebrates growth for growth’s sake. One way to develop this kind of culture is to recognize employees when they make progress on a new initiative — even if it doesn’t hit the goal — because they have proactively created a learning opportunity for themselves and the company at large. In addition, when you promote team members, do it for their professional development, even if it means you lose them to another division.

You can also support learning by not hiding failures. One technology company I advise began instituting mandatory post-mortems for all of its product releases and major programs, no matter the results. Team members were able to both celebrate successes and illuminate failures as a matter of regular business, creating an environment that encouraged transparency and continuous learning. People felt free to discuss issues without blame, and interdepartmental communication improved.

Make it easy for people. People usually take on development opportunities on top of their regular workload, so the easier you can make it for them to find the right program, the better. A Google search for “management training” will undoubtedly lead you down a rabbit hole for hours. Instead, try asking HR for recommendations. If that doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for, crowdsource what you need. Ask colleagues inside and outside your office what they’ve recommended to their teams. You might end up with a repository of vetted ideas.

When someone is attending a program, lighten their workload to reduce stress and allow them to be present. I’ve heard many employees complain that their boss recommended them for a development program only to email them constantly throughout the session, forcing them to step out to address work issues.

And make it easy for participants to apply the learning. In an attempt to show “value,” managers often require team members to present their takeaways or train others after completing a program. But doing so just creates more work for the participant. It’s more valuable to let people apply what they’ve learned to their own projects first. This gives them the opportunity to determine what lessons are relevant before sharing them with the rest of the team.

Foster new experiences. Research shows that to be inspired, we need to transcend current thought and become aware of new or better possibilities. As the adage goes, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Cross-functional projects, role rotations, and geographic relocations are just a few ways to expose people to new learning experiences. Special assignments that last at least a year will help give your team a chance to “eat their own cooking,” or witness the impact of their decisions. People benefit most and feel empowered when you allow them to weigh in on what learning opportunities are of the greatest interest to them.

New experiences can feel daunting, especially when someone is accomplished in their current role — but that’s exactly why you should foster them. Only by tackling unfamiliar challenges will people get the feedback they need to learn. Your team may not always succeed when faced with challenging situations, and that’s OK. The goal is for them to learn from the task, not necessarily to knock it out of the park.

Companies are investing considerable money and time into developing talent, but without doing the up-front work to ensure that leaders are building a learning culture. Frontline managers have the largest and most immediate influence. If you’re a manager who wants to grow your team, demonstrate that you’re committed to growth yourself.

How to Get Your Team to Follow Through After a Meeting

Paul Axtell
March 30, 2017

ny team leader knows that it’s what happens between project meetings that makes or breaks a project. And yet it’s often challenging to keep a team motivated and focused on getting agreed upon tasks done. Ideally you’ve checked that everyone is aligned and agreed on next steps but assigning tasks and deadlines is usually not enough.

After all, once you’ve left the meeting, things come up. Circumstances change. Priorities shift. Most people are working more hours than they want to work and still taking work home. And in many places, it’s generally accepted that people won’t do everything they’ve agreed to in a meeting. People don’t use “my dog ate it” as an excuse, but close to it. Just in the last week, I’ve heard, “My morning got away from me” and “Something else came up.” It’s hard to buck against this kind of culture but it’s possible.

Start by ending the meeting with clear agreements on specific actions and completion dates for each item. I love the phrase: Do thing X by time Y or call. Don’t automatically default to your next meeting date as the completion date for each action item. Choose a date that makes sense to the project and creates a sense of urgency. Remind people that they can negotiate on dates until they feel comfortable being able to deliver as promised.

Then ask people to communicate if one of their action items becomes at risk of non-delivery. This is not about perfection in delivery, it is about perfection in communication. It’s important to deliberately cultivate and coordinate commitmentsif you expect people to follow through.

Get a one-page summary of the meeting out within an hour if possible so the discussion and next steps stay on everyone’s radar. Then assign someone to track and follow up on action items between the meetings. This is not about micromanaging or not trusting — this is simply good project management.

Keep a running tally of which items get done. How many of the agreed-upon action items are completed by the dates agreed upon? This record of your action item completion rate — your say/do ratio — will tell you how you are doing. Set a target. In my experience, a 60% completion rate is about average. Getting to 85% will give your team an incredible sense of accomplishment. But don’t expect perfection — it’s the overall pattern than matters.

Don’t let the tracking turn you into a task master. Be compassionate. Each person on your team has a complex life — much of which is unknown to you. You are not the only person asking for their time. People are usually on multiple teams and often have more than one person to whom they report. By being interested in each of your colleagues, finding time to chat, and working to understand their current reality, you can gain their respect and permission to ask them to do what they say they will do, reliably — almost every time.

Of course, when someone does drop the ball, don’t let non-performance go unchallenged but make it a gentle conversation when you discuss it. You shouldn’t think less of the person because they didn’t keep their word — it’s usually a cultural thing not an individual flaw. Remember that you are establishing a new norm. Role model the desired behavior and continually remind people of what is expected.

If all of the above isn’t working and you’re not hitting a completion rate that you’re comfortable with, you may want to address the issues head-on with your team. An open and honest conversation about keeping the agreed-upon commitments is constructive.

Here are the questions to ask of yourself and your team:

  • Is each action item essential to completion of the project?

  • At the time we commit, do we fully intend to do whatever it takes to deliver?

  • Are we clear about what needs to be done, who will do it, and when it will be done?

  • Do we have the ability to say no or negotiate when we can’t fully commit?

  • Is it OK if someone follows up to check on our progress?

  • Do we have a system to keep track of action items and their completion?

  • Do we have an agreement to communicate if something comes up that might interfere with our completion of the task?

This problem-solving discussion will increase everyone’s level of awareness for making and keeping commitments as well as surface problems that keep them from doing so.

Getting to a higher level of completion on action items leads not only to exponential progress toward goals, but also to a tremendous sense of accomplishment — both personally and for the group.

Sales Reps, Stop Asking Leading Questions

https://hbr.org/2017/03/sales-reps-stop-asking-leading-questions

Most executives recognize a need for their sales team to act as consultants and sell “solutions.”  But many CEOs would be shocked at how poorly their sales teams execute on the strategy of consultative selling.  I recently had a conversation about this with the director of purchasing at one of my client companies who told me: “I can always tell when a rep has been through sales training, because instead of launching in to a pitch, they launch into a list of questions.” Too often, sales teams trying to “do” consultative selling don’t move beyond the rudimentary application of solution-sales principles: “Get the team to ask questions, and then match our capabilities to what the client has said.” So the sales force sits down and makes a list of questions designed to extract information from their prospective clients, in a kind of interrogation. I’ve sat through many sales calls like this, and trust me it isn’t pretty.

To maximize the power of consultative selling, we have to move beyond a simplistic view of solution selling. It’s not about grilling the buyer but rather engaging in a give-and-take as the seller and buyer explore the client’s priorities, examine what is in the business’s best interests, and evaluate the seller’s solutions. Asking questions is part of this engagement process, but there’s a right way to do it. Here are some important pitfalls to avoid:

Avoid checklist-style questioning. A few years ago I was working with a financial services firm that hadn’t seen much success in adopting a solution sales approach. When I watched a few meetings it was easy to see why. The sellers I traveled with did a decent job of asking questions and getting answers, but it felt more to me (and to the prospects, based on their responses and disposition) like they were going through a checklist. As a result, their sales calls felt mechanical and staid. While they gleaned some good information about clients’ needs, allowing them to dovetail the products they were selling into the conversation, there was little buy-in from the prospects they were talking to. There was no sense of shared understanding or that the client had confidence that the seller would be able to help them grow their business. I’ve observed this scenario with both beginner and experienced sellers, as well as senior partners in Big Four consulting firms: when they focus solely on asking questions, they rarely get the information they really need.

Avoid asking leading questions. Nothing falls flatter in a sales call than a question that is clearly self-interested, or makes the seller the master of the obvious. I joke about this in speeches using the example: “If I could show you something interesting, would you be interested?” The kind of questions sales professionals are taught to ask typically focus on drawing attention to client problems, pain points, and sources of dissatisfaction, so the client will then view the seller’s offerings as a solution. It can be useful to explore the buyer’s challenges, but when a seller asks a ridiculous question with an obvious answer such as, “What’s the implication of data center failure?” it can backfire. It’s counterproductive to ask patently manipulative questions because buyers immediately put up their defenses and will be skeptical of the seller’s intentions – and intelligence. Instead, ask questions that demonstrate genuine curiosity, empathy, and a desire to understand. Try to go deeper than uncovering a list of problems to be solved: ask what the buyer hopes to achieve with your product or service, and why this is a priority now.

Avoid negative conversational behaviors. When sellers are myopically focused on persuading a prospect or winning a piece of business, it creates a negative vibe in the relationship. In fact, when we look at what happens in the brain during this kind of one-sided selling interaction, we find that buyers may experience that negativity at a chemical level. In her article, “The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations,” Judith Glaser highlights specific behaviors that contribute to negative chemical, or “cortisol-producing,” and positive chemical “oxytocin-producing” reactions in others. Among the behaviors that create significant negative impacts are being focused on convincing others and behaving like others don’t understand. Precisely the stereotypical behaviors that give sellers a bad name: being too aggressive, not listening, and going on and on about their offerings. Conversely, the behaviors that create a positive chemical impact include being concerned about others, stimulating discussions with genuine curiosity, and painting a picture of mutual success. Masters of the consultative sales approach apply these conversational techniques to their discussions with prospects and clients to create a collaborative dynamic with positive outcomes.

The consultative sales approach may seem simple, but it isn’t easy to execute well. Sales people cannot just go to training for a few days and gain mastery of this skill set, any more than an accountant going to a week-long course can emerge with the skills of a CFO.  Consultative selling is a fundamental business strategy centered on creating value through insight and perspective that paves the way toward long-term relationships and genuine solutions for your customers. When sellers do it right, that strategy comes to life.