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Whilst I’ve been away from posting on this blog, I haven’t been away in checking the traffic to it. What I consistently find is that some of the most popular posts belong to the series I had written about online dating. Apparently, it’s such a hot topic somebody actually did research on the validity of some of my claims.  As an analytical person, I couldn’t be happier to see real data to back up my own experience.  A summary of the findings is below, but here is a link to the research for those of you interested in diving deeper into the raw numbers.

  1. More isn’t always better when it comes to the introductory email. In the study, the author correlated the time it took to write the email (and indirectly the number of characters in the emails) with the email response rate.  Not surprisingly, brevity trumps ramble: “The shortest messages get almost the best absolute response rate, and the reply rate actually goes down as messages approach extreme length.”
  2. There’s a magic number — cross it and you start to scare people off. According to the research, once you approach 360 words (or 1800 characters), the effectiveness of your email goes way down.  THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY words??!  I don’t even read emails that long from people I know, much less a stranger!
  3. Men don’t actually read women’s opening email. Their conclusion is based on the fact that the most effective outreach from a woman to a man is 50 characters long!  Just to give an idea of how long 50 characters is, write the entire alphabet twice but stop at the letter “X” the second time. I don’t know about you, but that’s simply not long enough to convey any kind of message, really!

Personally, I find the result fascinating.  I am awaiting the next installment of their research to see what other findings are up their sleeves.

First, let me apologize for not writing more original content lately.  I am working on a few things right now while trying to catch up on my reading.  I promise to post something more insightful from a personal perspective soon.  Meanwhile, I want to alert you to a study from McKinsey to understand what drives and sustains successful female leaders.  In particular, they have distilled the leadership model into five broad and interrelated dimensions:

  • Meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of an inspiring purpose
  • Managing Energy, or knowing where your energy comes from, where it goes, and what you can do to manage it
  • Positive Framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world, expand your horizons, and gain the resilience to move ahead even when bad things happen
  • Connecting, or identifying who can help you grow, building stronger relationships, and increasing your sense of belonging
  • Engaging, or finding your voice, becoming self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities and the inherent risks they bring, and collaborating with others

Here is the link to the full article (you may have to create a free account to access the article).

In assessing my own career, I am probably the weakest in connecting.  I am naturally an introvert, and I’ve struggled all my life in building and growing lasting relationships.  But it’s a weakness of which I am keenly aware, and I am actively trying to overcome it by trying to meet more people and learning the art of initiating and carrying on small talks.

If you need a little bit of helping assessing your own career and life in relations to the five dimensions, you may find the following helpful:

  • To find your strengths and put them to work, you may want to get Stregthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  I first took this test many years ago, and I’ve since used the principles I learned in many aspects of my life, including the inspiration for my post about defining your strengths.
  • To get positive framing, I recommend Carol Dweck’s book called Mindset, The New Psychology of Success.  In the book, she talks about how just by changing the way you think will change the way you view the world around you.
  • If you want to learn to connect with others, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is a must-read.  I actually borrowed my friend’s copy but found the book so helpful I will be purchasing a copy myself in the near future.

For my review of some of these books, please visit my post on my reading list.

I am a big connoisseur of how-to and self-help books (and TV, and magazines, etc). It has everything to do with my “Learner” strength and hence my insatiable appetite to always be learning something new. However, there are a handful of books that I reread and reference often, and one of my favorites is the bestseller Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book was written for businesses — specifically on how to turn mediocre companies or even bad ones into great companies that triumph over time. However, I find several concepts within the book equally applicable to personal success. Today I want to share with you one that has made a great impact in the way I think about my life and career; it’s called the Hedgehog Concept.

The term “hedgehog” used in the book is based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” and actually originated from the Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Very briefly, “foxes” pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity whereas “hedgehogs” simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. The Hedgehog Concept states that anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

So how does one arrive at and apply the Hedgehog Concept? First, the Hedgehog Concept consists of three circles:

It will probably take you a while to answer those three questions. It took me about three years to really understand myself, so don’t be surprised if it takes you just as long. However, once you have answers to those three questions, then you are ready for the next step — find the intersection of all three circles.

hedgehog-concept.jpgIn order to fully engage in the Hedgehog Concept, set your career and/or life goals and strategies based on the area where the three circles intersect. The beautiful thing is, once you have finally grasped your Concept, it will be as clear and appear as matter-of-fact to you as stating that the sky is blue or the grass is green. As Collins wrote in his book, “When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in movement of a Mozart piano concerto.”

Last but not least, once you found your Hedgehog Concept, go through another round of refinement because getting and applying the Concept is an iterative process. Good luck!

For more information about the Hedgehog Concept, please visit Jim Collin’s website: www.jimcollins.com.