Touches with a Purpose

Touches with a Purpose – Actions to Drive Results

As I was surfing around LinkedIn this week, I stumbled upon a meme that stated, “The meetings will continue until we discover why no work is getting done.”  Funny but serious too.  We all get pulled into activities such as meetings and events that are a drain on our productive time.  Many times, I was pulled into meetings even though one of my department heads was there, because “we want you to hear this too.”  I don’t need to be in every meeting, and I can’t stress this enough, I don’t want to.  Part of Leadership is understanding when you are needed, and when you are not.  If you are managing a project, you are needed.  If you have action roles, you are also needed.  If your presence will not positively affect the outcome, or lead to other successful activities, please stay away. 

Touches with a Purpose – This term comes from my old days as a volleyball player.  I wrote a blog about how volleyball and being a CIO are related.  Here is the link:  One of the key performance metrics for a player is “quality touches”.  Did you just hit the ball straight up in the air, or did you play the ball to give your team the highest probability of getting a point by actually hitting it exactly where it needed to be hit.  The same is true in business.  We can go through our day attending meeting, writing emails, and basically watching other people work.  Or we can do what needs to be done to give us the best chance of being successful.  As I go through my activities as a small business owner, I am responsible for prospecting, closing business, delivering the engagement, and collecting payment.  I do not have time for unproductive activities.  All my business “touches” need to have a purpose.  If they do not, then I need to rethink my involvement.  Some suggestions:

  • Create a list of criteria for your activity requests.  Clearly understand the opportunities possible and the time you need to invest.  Evaluate if the benefits warrant the time investment.
  • It’s ok to decline meeting requests.  If your team is adequately represented on a meeting invite list, decline and reply that your attendance is not required.  Yes, you can even decline meeting requests from your boss.  No, your performance review is not a meeting you can decline.
  • Networking is valuable and fun.  I love meeting people and spreading my message.  Know what you are getting involved in before you go.  If it is a group of other business professionals looking to grow through collaboration and referrals, then go.  If it is a group looking to sell YOU something, think twice.

Actions to Drive Success – Touches refers to choosing to get involved in an activity.  Actions are what we do once we attend an event or meeting.  I can sit and take copious notes so I can recall every conversation and every detail discussed, or I can immerse fully in the discussion, add insight, and listen for opportunities to be helpful.  The former indicates I am clerical.  The latter indicates I am consultative.  The impression I leave impacts success.  I may be investing an hour or more, not counting travel, to attend a networking event or prospecting meeting.  I do not wish to waste the time.  When I attended meetings in my career prior to starting my consultancy, I always came with my laptop and took notes on the discussion, mostly in case I needed to defend myself when someone claimed that they did or did not say something.  It was still my word against theirs but in my mind, my typed notes trumped their memory.   Truth be told, I was usually multitasking, a euphemism for replying to emails.  All were touches – none were actions that drove success.  Some more suggestions:

  • Be engaged in your activities.  When networking, actively listen for understanding not just to wait for an opening so you can listen to your own voice.
  • Actively look for ways to collaborate.  Ask to facilitate solution sessions.  Trying to find ways to work together on solutions drives success and showcases your leadership skills.  Looking for people to blame and “naysaying” are counter-productive and can/should get you replaced.
  • Stop taking notes on your laptop!  If you need to have the conversation captured, use technology.  Your laptop, smartphone, or tablet have apps that can listen and record, or better, transcribe to text automatically.  Please let the room know you are recording.  I like you but I don’t want to visit you in prison.
  • Learn how to take cryptic pen and paper notes.  Document just enough to refresh your memory.  Then go back to your office and recap the conversation.  Yes, it is more work.  Yes, it is worth it.

The “Touches with a Purpose” vs. Relationship Paradox –  It all comes down to the question of how do you know when a touch is going to have a purpose or not.  Some touches are designed to simply build a relationship.  Any relationship can bear fruit at some point in the future.  Some of the biggest wins I’ve had came from a relationship I made or a meeting I attended that I never expected to amount to much more than a LinkedIn contact.  Relationships are important.  Networking is important.  Be selective when deciding how to spend your time.  If you do attend, look for the Purpose in every Touch.  I have keywords to indicate a need for my services.  I listen for these words or variants to indicate an opportunity for further conversations:   

  • IT Leadership Issues (CIO vacated position)
  • IT Risk or Relationship issues
  • Project Deployments
  • IT Maturity/Transformation – IT is reactive not proactive
  • IT Policy Management issues

Here is the biggest paradoxical concept to consider, the PURPOSE is not always about you!  Sometimes the big winner is the person or group with whom you are meeting.  Being helpful has an inherent purpose.  Being supportive has purpose.  Helping others succeed does not always need to generate revenue.  Some touches are just the right thing to do.

As always, please hit the button below and leave your comments on anecdotes.  Or email me at [email protected]