Forming #Leadership habits: Getting to Inbox Zero while increasing sales

There are plenty of websites dedicated to helping you to become a good leader, and to form good leadership habits.  I believe that authenticity and emotional intelligence (EQ) form some of the hallmarks of a leader, but it is hard to demonstrate. Habits don’t make leaders in themselves, and neither does authenticity or EQ on their own. It all has to add up properly.  It seems that either you have authenticity or not. It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that you are simply ‘at it’ and people can smell that far away.

I started to look at developing habits that would help me to perform better as a team player and as a leader. I was also very aware that I needed to do better in sales, and I needed to record my sales better. I also needed to get better at following up with people. This would demonstrate EQ, since I’d be better able to show people that I cared by getting back to them. I also needed to follow up sales leads better, something I wasn’t good at.

I’m going to share how I got to Inbox Zero while increasing sales.

Get into the habit of… diligence

The number one point, though, is that at some point you really need to do the work. No Facebook, no distractions, no whatever; you need to plough through it. I created this system to help me to focus better, which, in turn, dialled down my email level and it also led to increasing sales for Data Relish. So here are the steps:

Get through email in Outlook like a Rockstar

I recommend you follow Luise Freese’s recommendations for setting up priorities and quicksteps for labelling email, which mean you can priorities tasks and emails like a Rockstar.  I follow every single step that Luise devised. Luise clearly explains how to set up your mailbox for productivity, using Quick Steps, folders and labelling. I follow Luise’s system, and I focus on the TODAY folder that she recommends you set up.

I changed the system a little. For the ‘TO READ’ folder, I set up a quickstep that forwards the email to Evernote. I have loved Evernote since 2011 and it is a great way of storing notes which I want to read later.

Get into the habit of… delegating

How can you delegate?

I hired a part-time PA

Initially, it was tough to have a PA because I am not used to diary management or someone handling my email. These are hard things to give up, but I had to do it in order to shed things that were holding me back from spending my time better.

Get into the habit of diligently recording every sales lead

It is important to record every single lead, no matter how small. It is a habit which is just as hard. It’s easy to procrastinate, or get distracted.

I use two systems; HubSpot and Insightly. HubSpot is great at marketing, and I use it with Power BI. I use it for my website, and mainly for marketing and sales tracking. I also use Insightly, which also works with Power BI. This might seem like a repeat step, but I like the small project feature which comes with Insightly because I can convert my Opportunities into Projects. HubSpot doesn’t have that final step. I use the Outlook addins for Insightly, Hubspot and Evernote.

I am still test-driving both systems, but it is easy to automate both systems. Put together, they enable my process for my marketing, sales and post-sales work. My PA can support me in this venture, too.

Get into the habit of… better directing your attention

I get a lot of requests for my time by people who want to obtain my help for something, and want my time for free. As an MVP and an RD, I’m active in the tech community and I do help people without expectation of recompense. However, I just can’t service them all. I got 20 requests in the past three days, and it’s a lot for one person.

I already do a lot of volunteer work so I already have an impact in the philanthropic and charitable space. So I have to triage and prioritise free requests for my time. I am trying to be fair to everyone, including myself. My PA really helps here; she gets back to people, explains that I am unavailable but I’ve suggested that they speak to X or Y (for example) or read Z as a starting point, and to come back to me if they are still struggling. So I try to help people on their way, within the limits of my capacity and demands on my time. Usually, people are pretty understanding, particularly if I explain that I’m doing some charity work which impacts issues I care about, such as diversity, and that there will be other routes for people to get what they need. It puts things into perspective, I think.

I have switched off email notifications on my phone, so I can focus properly.

Follow up on sales leads

If you’re following Luise’s system, then you have a Today folder which forms your working memory of things that you need to do.

Using HubSpot and Insightly means that I am better at following-up on sales leads. I use Outlook tools to log emails to both systems, since I’m still test-driving. This only takes a few seconds with both plug-ins.

However, the point here isn’t about the technology; it is about the process. I have a process which means I follow up on leads better. It was something I identified that I was bad at, and it really came down to having a proper process in place, supported by tech.

Actually doing the work

There are plenty of sites and books which promise productivity. The reality is, at some point, you have to do the work. It is not going to go away.

For me, I took out office space in Hertfordshire, and I find I’m able to work well there. I have a separate private room for phone calls, and I tend to book out an hour or so of my time to get through all my calls, one after the other. Once that’s done, I can concentrate on other things.

I chew my way through my Today folder, and I follow the GTDish methodology: delete, delegate, defer, do. And I just keep going.

Remembering what you did

I often need to search for documents. I use the Insightly Opportunity tracking number everywhere, and then the Project number when the Opportunity becomes a real project. I hate spending time to search for documents. I also use tagging in SharePoint Office365.


I journal to increase my EQ. I am watching myself for inconsistencies in my behaviour, and to look at things through different lenses. It means I challenge myself to see if I’m thinking and behaving with authenticity, and I ask a lot of myself. But, if it means I become a better person, then it is worth it.


I think self-improvement is important, and I’ll keep doing it until I die. This system may change, but it is working for now. I’m open to other ideas, so please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts which might help me.





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