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Being thankful for struggles???

There are so many articles, comments, posts on Thanksgiving that the thought of adding to the list almost stopped me from writing this. Then I stopped and realized all the things I am thankful for. The one you probably don’t expect is at the bottom of the page. Here is my short list:

• My relationship with God. He is the source of my strength, the peace which passes all understanding (especially mine) and my guiding light so I am never in darkness.

• My husband who is patient (you have to be when living with me!!) He teaches me patience and how to serve with a continual good attitude

• My son who is turning out to be a wonderful young man. Full of deep thoughts, challenging the thought processes of others (in a good way). He is articulate and more mature than many adults I know.

• My friends. Where would I be without them? The older I get the more I appreciate the value of true friendship and the loneliness that comes when they aren’t around.

• My family. We don’t choose them, but love them for who they are and what they teach us. Some good, some bad, but they are still family and we are entwined with each other

• My clients. They motivate me, encourage me, and challenge me. I love seeing their growth and I am thankful for the trust they put in me to coach them toward the growth they desire.

• My country. There has been much frustration lately through the election. I am saddened by the division I see and there is much I don’t understand. Yet, we can’t lose sight of what we have in this country. We must fight to preserve what we have and understand how to grow in a new world. I am thankful to be able to live in 

Colorado Springs.

• My struggles. Bet you didn’t expect that one. Without struggles I would not grow. Without struggles I would
 not appreciate the good days. I would be uprooted by the smallest issue without the daily challenges that life brings. Struggles/challenges what ever word you want to use become the core of what makes us strong. At each moment I may not appreciate the struggle, yet the refection allows me to learn, apply, grow and become who I am meant to be. Failure isn’t an event it is a process. When we were children and learning to walk we fell countless times, but had the perseverance to try again. We also learned how to fall which built up the strength in our legs and arms so walking would come more naturally. Embrace your struggles, be thankful for them – I am.

I have much to be thankful for and I am thankful. Every day is Thanksgiving Day – let’s start that habit right now.

The whole concept of accountability is tainted with misperceptions, frustration and blame.  It is so often someone else’s fault.  Within the family constructs, this dynamic is even more frustrating and brings along tension, “stories of why” and more excuses.

Accountability at its core is “doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it”.  The foundation lies in the communication cycle and the definition of the deliverable.  Let’s start with the communication cycle and with an example we can all relate to; taking out the trash.  Mary asks Jim to take out the trash before dinner.  Jim says yes.  He knows that dinner is scheduled for 6pm, it is now 4pm.  He will get to it.  Mary however wants the trash taken out now, not in an hour, although she didn’t communicate that specific detail. Mary is also expecting not just the kitchen trash, but the rest of the trash in the house will be collected, since “everyone” knows that the weekly trash pickup is tomorrow morning.  Stress and frustration builds.  Mary doesn’t understand why Jim didn’t do it immediately and why the job wasn’t complete.  Jim doesn’t understand why Mary is suddenly upset.  Sound familiar?  I am sure it does. 

Now apply that same scenario to the work environment.  You may not be asked to take out the trash, however the joy in preforming your duties and the communication concepts are still the same.  Your priorities and that of your co-workers might not always weave together well.  You get the project completed; however it is later than desired and not to the quality expected. Tensions rise, delivery date to the customer is missed, and quality suffers.

What is the solution?   

  1. Communicate and Ask Questions – Often lack of accountability comes not from insubordination (if it does, then that is a separate discussion), but from the lack of clarity regarding what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and the specific details.  Too often assumptions are made regarding the individual’s ability to both tackle and complete the task.  One of my friends has been in Information Technology for probably 25 years.  He was asked by his supervisor to conduct a project that was fairly large in scope.  He was more than willing to take on the project; however he had no idea how to start or what to do to accomplish the projected outcomes.  His manager made the assumption that he had actual experience with this type of project in the past and would therefore be successful.   Nothing was further from the truth. 
  2. Set Expectations – Set a deadline for when the project needs to be completed, when will you touch base to ensure the project  is proceeding as expected, and how long should it take (this goes to both a time and financial budget).
  3. Understand your audience – The question is often asked, “How do you eat an elephant?”  Answer; one bite at a time.  The follow-up to this story, however is that the elephant is still in the room, it is still big and too many people really don’t know how to break that “elephant” down.  We need to take the first bite, yet we don’t know where to start and therefore become paralyzed.  This is where quality leadership and people management makes the difference in success and failure. Good leadership will ensure the person knows what and how to accomplish projects.  For individuals who have delivered consistently and have a proven track record, the job is easier.  For those who haven’t, it’s the leader’s responsibility to guide them along the path.

Consequences

One of the most asked questions during an accountability discussion is what are examples of consequences and how do they get enforced.    Consequences must be appropriate to the situation.  Firing for being late the first time due to a large traffic jam is not appropriate.  Here is a story of a large company that doesn’t have the best reputation for how they treat their employees.  The CEO of the company had stated that employees must be at their desk by 8:00 am.  One day he went to the parking lot of the company at 8:30am and anyone who was just arriving to work was told to go home.  He didn’t even allow them inside the building.  Did he make a point yes, people in this company are to be at work by 8am.  Is this the type of employer I would want to work for – no! 

Yet, I will give him credit for stating the rules for the company and for being willing to stand for what he believes and then enforces the rules.  He also has employees that have worked with him for decades and the company continues to grow and is profitable – so something must be working.

Consistency 

Consistency is critical.  Treating every situation different creates a divisive environment for an organization.  Allowing one person to “get away” with not following procedures, not getting things done etc.,  does more to erode employee morale than the example above where the employer sent everyone home that was late.  They knew his policy, they knew the rules.  They chose to break them, or get away with things, and it didn’t work.

Most companies I work with on this topic find that everyone complains about the lack of accountability.  However, when the organization starts to implement true accountability, people begin to complain about being held accountable.  The reality is that everyone wants it for someone else, but not for themselves.  It is hard to change, yet worth every step.

The choice is yours.  The solution sits in your lap; you can choose to take the challenge of being personally accountable or sit back and complain about the lack of accountability.  What is your choice?

We are quickly headed into fall which usually creates a time of review for me.  Where has the year gone?  It seems to move faster every year.  Yet it is that review that causes me to stop and ponder a few recent events.

Do you ever get that feeling that just about the time you get it all together, someone comes along side and sort of hits you in the head?  One of my clients had just that thing happen this week.  They were making great strides in their business only to have a key employee decide the grass was greener at another company.  The employee said they didn’t want to leave, but they couldn’t turn down the offer.  Wow, that was the preverbal baseball bat alongside the business head – which feels pretty personal. 

What could have been done to change the outcome?  They tried to create a counter offer.  It didn’t work and often doesn’t.  In many cases, there isn’t anything you can do, yet I am not one to stand by the sidelines and say, “Oh well, nothing to learn here”.  Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to your team members, especially those key players and find out what they love and don’t love about working with you.
  • Ask key questions:  What would cause you to look elsewhere?  Dangerous you say – yes it is, but not asking can be more dangerous.  Just ask the business owner who just lost a key player.
  • Ask yourself – what would you like or dislike about working for you.  i.e., put yourself in their shoes, what do you need to improve in the work environment to keep them?  Make sure that mirror you hold up in front of yourself has been cleaned recently so you see a clear reflection.
  • Make sure you do annual reviews, both salary and financial.  Get creative bonus plans.
  • Make it a habit to tell your employees, how much you appreciate them, rely on them and wouldn’t want to be without them.  In other words, make sure you verbally communicate the message and when I say regularly, that isn’t once a year, or once a month.

Turnover is hard, yet your attitude is critical in how you weather the crisis.  Know that there is someone else out there who can do the job just as good if not better.  When you find them, determine what you can do to encourage greater job satisfaction and make it happen.

It has been a few years since I traveled on a regular basis for business.  When I changed careers and knew that weekly travel would no longer going to be a part of my weekly routine, I rejoiced.  No more waiting in long lines at the airports, no more issues with security, TSA, or eating airport food.  Forget all those airline delays, joyful flight attendants and endless excuses for flight delays.  Sounds good doesn't it.

Yet, I am now sitting on a plane returning home from pleasure travel and have realized there is one thing I do miss about airline travel.  That uninterrupted time of 3, 4, 5 hours or more where I can unwind, think, read and ponder life.  I have never been one to watch movies while sitting on a plane.  I have always read, completed planning, organized action items or enjoy a nap.

It is this time when nothing else can be done, that I unwind, stop the busyness of just doing things, and ponder what is next.  My pondering from this plane ride resulted in the following wisdom:  I need to start creating more time to ponder, unwind and think.  It is my time away from distractions, of "doing".   Most would describe me as "action oriented" (even my radio show is called "Action in Business with Janna Hoiberg").  I’ve challenged myself to consider, “Does the action of my “doing” get in the way of creative thinking?  Will taking more time to stop and rewind allow me to consider new opportunities, new ways of handling current challenges? I believe it does. 

What do you do to stop, ponder, consider and then create an action plan?  Are you like me - one that has a hard time slowing down?  Or are you one that slows down too easily and has a harder time speeding up and taking action? The later can also benefit from the "plane" time, however from another perspective, that of using the time to focus and make the decisions needed to speed up and make things happen.

For those of us who don't seem to slow down and are often chasing the latest "squirrel" (that new idea that sounds much better than the last one), we need to become more intentional.  We need to walk away from the day to day on a regular basis and get on our "plane", clear our mind, take time to focus and make the changes that will help us achieve our goals (or in some cases create the goals).  For me, it is hour 3 of a 4 hour flight that this pondering popped into my head.  It also happened on the return trip after a weekend away; note that good ideas come most often when the mind and body have relaxed and opens itself to new ideas.  On this flight, I have read 3 newspapers, a book, played some card games, and taken a nap.  It was then and only then that my thoughts could expand and be open to something new.

Now my challenge is to be intentional without physically getting on a plane.  Or, I will just need to take more vacations and embrace something I thought I was happy to leave behind.

Every manager has experienced the need to fire an employee, and every business owner has experienced the need to fire a vendor.  Most family owned business owners have experienced the desire to fire a family member, and almost everyone who has dealt with an obnoxious customer has experienced the desire to fire that customer.  Yet so often we don’t follow through on the evidence provided, nor the instinct that tells us that this person can only bring a caustic relationship to our business.  We allow the tension to continue to build, often causing our profits to erode and productivity to be impacted.  When is enough, enough?  When should you fire that customer and how do you accomplish the task – professionally?

Before you make a final decision, let’s look at a few aspects of your business that might provide some additional perspective.  The four “M’s” of parting ways with a customer include:

  • Mindset
  • Mirror
  • Measurement
  • Movement

Mindset is the foundational issue for almost all relationships with people.  No, not their mindset, yours!  Reflect back in your or your company’s relationship with that specific customer.  Have they been treated (serviced) the way you want your company to be known for treating clients?  Were they treated the way you personally would like to be treated?  Has the client’s issues been clearly heard; or does fear get in the way of your ability to listen to meaning of their explanation, not just the words?  Very often it is our mindset, perceiving what the client knows or experiences, which is the actual stumbling block to delivering that WOW service you expound upon.

Mirror implies a reflection, in this case of oneself. Have we trained our employees to provide the best service possible or are they “mirroring” what they see leadership providing? Once our mindset is open to new perspectives, we can take a more honest look at our business.  In many situations, our worst customer can be converted to our best customer just by listening and understanding where the customer is coming from and making a necessary change that can bring satisfaction.  In a family business, we might find ourselves wanting to fire a family member because of what we “perceive” as their inability to work well with us.  Sometimes this leads to our treating a family member with less respect than we do our employees.   However, if we stop and listen to them, understand issues from their perspective, we may find a resolution that will bring a greater buy-in and respect on both sides.

Measurement of the cost for parting ways with a customer has to be considered.  Is it costing more to keep the customer than to recommend they used someone else?  Does the emotion of dealing with the situation impact all aspects of the business because everyone hates coming to work when that family member or customer is around? Caustic people and situations do leave lasting results if not dealt with in a timely and reflective manner.  The outcomes of what to address and how to address issues needs to be weighed and measured. 

Movement, taking the initiative to take action and make something happen is critical.  Once you have checked your mindset and attitude; you have looked at yourself in the mirror and you have moved by making adjustments in the way you manage people in your business; the next step is addressing challenging behaviors.  If you still have the employee who just doesn’t want to change, the vendor that still doesn’t deliver the quality you expect, or maybe the problem customer continues to verbally abuse everyone they come into contact with in your business, then this is time to actually take the final step.  Fire them, do it professionally, but stop procrastinating.  Everyone; employees, family members, and even other customers will thank you for taking action.  Once you’ve followed through, you will wonder why it took so long for you to actually do it in the first place!

Like all things in life, running a business has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and its successes and failures. Celebrating the sweet victories is easy, but how do you cope with the agonies of defeat?

First things first, like it or not, failing is inevitable. Every single person has failed at one time (or in most cases, lots of times). Throughout history scores of renowned great achievers not only failed, but failed over and over again. When Albert Einstein was young, his grades were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, "Einstein, you will never amount to anything!" Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for his lack of skill. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. Soichiro Honda was turned down for an engineer position with Toyota Motor Corporation.

Here’s another truth: Failure is not something to fear. Failures and mistakes are lessons that can be used as stepping stones. And even though it may feel like it’s the end, it’s actually just the beginning. According to dictionary.com, failing is “an act or instance of failure.” But according to John Maxwell, bestselling author of Failing Forward, “Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”

Failing forward is a willingness to learn from failures and implement the lessons into your actions, behaviors, and business. It’s choosing to pick yourself up and continue to move forward and toward your intended outcome in spite of being discouraged.

Think about the last time you failed and ask yourself these questions:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Do I need to acquire or improve some skills?
  • Who can I learn from?
  • What will I do next?

Now take the answers to these questions and plan how you will incorporate the lessons into your future actions.

So the next time you find yourself flat on your face, be grateful for the learning opportunity, dust yourself off, keep trying, and remember that the most inventive and successful people in the world not only fail, they are the BEST at failing.

She is very controlling.  He is always talking.  She is slow to take action.  He is quite a perfectionist.  Are those words descriptors of you, your family members or your spouse?  I know I recognize myself in at least two of those phrases.  The challenge is not only our behavior, but the behavior of others.  We need to understand the value of each other’s strengths and capitalize on them, not focus on the negative.  Let’s look at different types of “behavior”.

She is so controlling – yet the value she brings is the ability to makes decisions quickly, achieves goals, continue to be highly productive, a great leader, risk taker, and is usually efficient and structured.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad and could be these are tendencies that are needed in this business.

He is always talking to people which impacts productivity.  However he is also spontaneous and loves a crowd around him, seeks out participation from others, is great at motivating the team, keeps everyone laughing, is easy to get to know and will try anything.  Who wouldn’t want to be around him?

She is slow to take action and hard to adapt to new environments.  However, she is also relaxed, accepting, a great listener, a fantastic team member, is great at follow up, friendly, compatible and sees the details that others don’t see which keeps us out of trouble.

He is such a perfectionist – it has to be exactly right.  Yet, if I want something done right, he is the one to complete the task.  He is accurate, systematized, structured, a good planner, and focuses on quality more than anyone on the team.

What one considers a benefit, another considers irritating.  Think through the personalities on your team and refocus on looking at their irritating habits as strengths to appreciate!

The psychology of denial is interesting.  Webster’s defines it as:  a condition, in which someone will not admit that something sad, painful, etc., is true or real.

Yet, that is a state that many live in daily.  They essentially lie to themselves on a regular basis and that lie becomes the truth.  Where are you lying to yourself in your business?

  • Business is down due to the economy – Really?  Then why are your competitors doing so well?
  • There aren’t any good employees – So why are there places like the Broadmoor Resort, which is a 5 star resort that seem to have quality employees (even teenagers – wow)?
  • Customers only care about price – Do you buy only on price?  Or will you purchase something more expensive if you see a greater value at the higher price?

Each of the above items and your Excuses (which are dressed up reasons) are part of your own denial.  You don’t want anyone else to notice that you are lying – and lying to others – but mostly to yourself.

Truth is: 

  • Business is down, and it caught you by surprise; or you didn’t understand your financials, or  have Key Performance Indicators in place that would have given you a heads up allowing you to adjust your business.
  • There are good employees – yet your interviewing techniques, hiring & training methods are not as effective as they need to be.  It may be time to look at how you invest and motive your employees too.
  • Customers care about value – what kind of value are you offering your customers and what are you actually providing?

As the end of the first quarter of this year approaches, it might be a good time to ask yourself these questions and contemplate on where you are suffering from Denial and what do you need to change personally and in your business today!

The critical impact of attitude is seen every day in the business world.  What one business owner sees as a disaster, another sees as opportunity and capitalizes on that opportunity.  Those who have spent their lives in below the line thinking don’t even realize the impact it has not only on them personally, but their families, businesses, customers and potential.  If their team is below the line, where did they learn it from?  Most likely they learned it from the business owner.  An owner who is below the line will hire staff who also first turn to blame, excuses and denial. It is someone else’s fault that the project is delivered late, someone else’s fault that the customer is upset.  To change they will need someone to hold them accountable to point out where they are below the line. 

As I work with clients on this concept, the tendency is to swing to a point where issues in the business are not discussed with the excuse (notice the tendency again) that the issue is below the line.  This doesn’t give permission for a business to white wash issues in the business.  What is does change is the ownership and responsibility for changing the issue at hand.  If projects are late, that is a fact.  The question is what must change in the business to ensure projects are not delivered late, that your customers have the experience stated in all the promotional material.

Businesses have lived for years in below the line thinking and attitude.   They stay in business, they grow, and they pay the bills and serve customers.    What impact would the business make with an above the line attitude?  Profits would increase.  Less time would be spent on blame and poor productivity.  Productivity would increase with energy due to the positive atmosphere in the business. The examples abound.

Yet, you must be ready to make the change.  Your dissatisfaction with the results, profitability, long work hours, people avoiding you since they dislike being around negative, blaming people, etc., must be at a point where it is higher than your resistance to making the change.  It is easy to live below the line. It may not be fun, but it is easy and there is a great deal of company.  When I ask my clients do they want to be average, the resounding answer is NO.  They want to be above average.  To make that happen, your mindset must change to one of excellence—above the line thinking— and you will be amazed at the results.

Let’s start with a story.

Two business owners are in the same market, offer essentially the same products, target mutual markets, and yet at year end, produce very different results. One business is doing well, another is doing poorly.  One business owner seems on top of their game, another isn’t succeeding.  One business is growing, the other business is barely scraping by and the owner is beginning to wonder whether it is either time to sell, or maybe, just shut the doors.

What is the difference between the two businesses?  There can be any number of factors to consider.  Perhaps the owners differ in the amount of knowledge and skills they have for running a business; there may be a difference in the systems which have been put into place, or maybe they are missing all together.  Consider the team that drives the business forward, how pricing is determined, marketing is presented, and how sales are made.  Many factors play into the success and growth of a business.  Yet, there is one characteristic that creates the largest differentiator between the two business environments.  That is the mindset of the owner and/or leadership.  How do they view, what is their perspective on every situation, every economic obstacle, every customer, and perhaps on life in general? The attitude of leadership sets the tone for the environment of the business.

Is there a pervasive attitude similar to Eeyore’s, Winnie-the-Pooh’s donkey friend?  In this type of environment the we get below the line thinking which produces a string of blame, excuses, and denial manifested in the “woe is me” life is hard, this is what happened, I don’t get the same opportunities as others, the economy is really hurting, etc.  In below the line thinking we often hear people blaming someone else, producing excuses for why things didn’t get accomplished, and denial that their attitude is a main source of the issues at hand.  Below the line thinking creates a reason for everything and generates a need to be explained. 

On the other hand, the attitude that propels above the line thinking is more like Pooh’s friends Kanga or Owl.  Above the line thinking accepts ownership, accountability and responsibility for everything they do.  They understand what they cannot control (economy, taxes, etc.) is only 10% of life; but what they have great control over is 90% of their life.  This is what the author Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the 90/10 rule.   How your day goes is totally up to you, as is how you react to situations and what opportunities you achieved even through disastrous times.  Steve Jobs got fired from Apple which most likely was not what he called the best day of his life, yet without being fired from Apple he would not have created Pixar and NeXT which are part of the foundation of the Apple products we love today. Above the line thinking creates results.  Results don’t require explanations, they speak for themselves.

In any business, just providing good customer service is not enough. In order to rise above your competition, you must take your customer service from average to spectacular. Customers have higher expectations and look for something that makes your company stand out.

Create a positive customer experience. Were their phone calls answered courteously and in a timely manner? Were their encounters with you and/or your staff friendly, energetic, and memorable? Did you do everything possible to find answers to their questions, solve their problems, and meet their specific needs?

Share your enthusiasm. This key ingredient to success is crucial for gaining and retaining customers. If you are not enthused about your business, how can you expect the customer to be enthused about your products or services? Deliver your customer service with excitement! Your enthusiasm is apparent whether you are chatting on the phone, face-to-face, or emailing with your client. Make sure that your staff and team members provide customer service with the same levels of enthusiasm and excitement.

 Engage your customers. Assess all aspects of your business and determine how your clients felt about their experience. It is important to view your customer service from their side and then focus on any areas that may need improvement. Offer your clients the opportunity to share their feedback through comment cards, surveys, and testimonials. Be prepared and open to suggestions and/or complaints and criticism as you do this.

 Make it your goal to provide stellar customer service from start to finish. Let your enthusiasm impress and inspire your clients to come back again and again. When you share your products and services in a genuine, positive, and exciting manner you are building a connection and customer experience that helps you rise above the rest of the competition!

Even the most passionate dedicated entrepreneur will experience occasions when they just don’t like their business.  It may be just a bad day filled with unsatisfied customers, disappointing sales or other unfulfilled expectations.  However, when a variety of mishaps transpire over a consistent period of time, it can really wear on the business owner and rob him/her of the joy of being in business.  When situations arise that diminishes the passion which caused you to enter into the world of business in the first place, try a few of these tips.

  1. Spend some time away from the business.  Take time from the reality of today to remember the dreams of yesterday.  Revisit plans, ideas, writings or other mementos from the beginning of your journey as a business owner.  Remember the milestones you have achieved and recognize how much you and your business have grown since the first day.
  2. Review letters, cards, and other messages of appreciation for your work.  Allow yourself to be reminded of the great number of satisfied customers you have served or have used your products. Visit a mentor or business coach who can walk you through a series of exercises that validate your work.
  3. Take time to focus on where your plans for the business will lead you in three to five years from now.  Visualize your successes. Revisit your goals. Rekindle your passion to accomplish your vision.

We all experience difficult times through the journey of entrepreneurship.  It is the strong, the dedicated, and the committed that focus more on the successful days then the challenging ones.  These entrepreneurs see their vision revitalized and become as passionate as they were on first day they opened the door of their business. 

As children return to school after a busy summer, teachers are busy preparing activities to assess the knowledge they have retained from the previous year.  As a business leader, you must take the time to annually assess your business plan in order to grow your business.  You might look at your business plan as the “answer” to the test of what you have learned about growing a successful business.  The following are three tests that show what you have learned along the way.

Have you met your time line goals during the year and are you on track to finish the year strong.  This shows you have learned valuable lessons in time management and project management including the development of good work flow systems.  If you are behind in achieving your goals, put them through the SMART test.  Are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely? If they are and you are having trouble meeting your goals, this may indicate you need a bit of extra support and a business coach may be needed to help you succeed in your attaining your business plan. 

 Is your financial picture is on target or exceeds expectations for the year.  A healthy financial bottom line is a good indicator that your business goals for the year are being met.  However, closer scrutiny of both income and expenses is essential to ensure any financial gains and drains were derived from expected sources.  Any deviation may indicate a need for an adjustment in your business plan.  If you are unsure of where your money came from or went to give me a call and we can lay out a plan for getting your business financials in order.

 Are you ready to provide added value to your product line or services for the upcoming new year.  It is a satisfying feeling to review your business plan and check off the successes and milestones achieved.  A successful business is developed by scaffolding the lessons we’ve learn along the way, the lessons learned are simply a foundation for those yet to come.  You’ve heard the Marshall Goldsmith saying, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

  • Where is your next “there”? 
  • What will you need to learn to propel you to the next level?
  • What lessons will you need to learn to master the next test? 
  • Will you need a business mentor to help you get there? 

Test yourself throughout the year and be ready to evaluate what you have learned and what you need to learn to grow your business and achieve the success you deserve!

(Photo compliments of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net)

Millennials are often not ready to settle down. They move from town to town, job to job looking for what really excites them. Some will change jobs their entire life. Your mission should be to convince Millennials to stay at your company by doing the following:

  • Atmosphere:  Millennials pay close attention to the environment of places they work. Think of the business startup. The open floor atmosphere, the free coffee (which I will talk more about later), the passion and excitement of the employees are all very important to the millennial. Make the Millennial excited to go to work every day. Make the office an exciting place to be. Encourage individuality. Millennials like to express themselves, often with glasses and skinny jeans. Welcome that attitude into your office.
  • Attitude:  Attitude begins with the boss. What is he/she like? Is the boss approachable, or is there an invisible wall separating the boss from the employees? Millennials are a generation that need positive reinforcement. Have the boss check in on them; ask how a project is coming. However, do not micromanage. Give Millennials space, otherwise they will feel suffocated and leave. If they are supposed to arrive at 8, do not berate them for arriving at 8:05. They will start arriving at 8, but after a while, they will leave. Furthermore, allow Facebook access. It seems like a trivial or counterproductive thing, but access to social media sites has become an integral part of most Millennials. Provided it does not interfere with work, allow them access to these sites. They will enjoy looking at what their friends had for lunch, and you will enjoy having them work for you.
  • Perks:  As I mentioned earlier, Millennials love their coffee. Provide them with coffee, donuts, and food. They are little tasks that mean quite a bit to the millennial generation. Furthermore, Millennials often value experiences over money. As a result, it is prudent to give them those experiences. Allow them to try the new Vietnamese restaurant downtown. They will appreciate the freedom, and may even bring you back some.

Millennials are the hardest group to sell to. First of all, they have less money. Many Millennials are on a very tight budget. They are burdened with crushing debt, and many are unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore, they have been “sold to” their whole life. As a result, most conventional tactics fail. Products are overhyped to Millennials, who are used to seeing these things fail, and, as a result, there is a negative correlation between how much hype surrounds a product and how much Millennials want to buy your product.

The Oatmeal, a Millennials web comic, has an excellent illustration of this: Oatmeal Comics

Additionally, location is very important. Can Millennials walk or ride their bike to your business from their homes? Are you easily accessible from public transportation, if your city has it? Are there other businesses nearby that stand for the values that Millennials have? Millennials would much rather stop at your business after they have gone to their local coffee shop than make a special trip to visit you on the other side of town. 

Millennials have different priorities on how they decide to buy things. It is very important how something is made and how the organization gives back to the community. Panera Bread is popular with Millennials partly because they give back to the community through programs such as Panera Cares. Millennials would much rather spend a little more of the money they do not have on a fair trade product that gives the workers a decent wage than buy the cheapest available product. Millennials care far more about the atmosphere of a workplace. What impression do potential customers get when they walk in the door? Is everyone smiling and happy to be there? Is there something unique that no one else has? If your workplace has that, then Millennials will flock to you. 

As a business owner you know by now that you can’t do it all.  In fact, depending on the size of your business, you may not even be able to do half the work it takes to produce the goods or services of your company.  Any good business coach will encourage you to grow a great team of employees and empower them to do the work you can’t do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do.  It all begins with the art of delegation.

The employees who are most successful in taking responsibilities off your plate are those you hire with the end in mind.  Regardless of the position opened, when interviewing prospective employees always look for those who have had leadership experience in the areas similar to your company’s structure or exhibit emerging leadership characteristics. 

Business owners are often quick to promote hot shots that talk a great talk or have quick success with a project.  Remember the “Peter Principle, Employees will rise to the level of their incompetence.” Rather than having a “promote until they fail” philosophy, introduce leadership responsibilities one delegated task at a time.  If the employee shows a consistent level of handling the tasks delegated, then you know you have a winner and a good candidate to promote into leadership. 

Start with these three tips for delegating:

  1.  Assign tasks which will not cause harm should the employee fail to achieve the desired outcome.
  2. Provide as much information as possible to set the employee up for success.  Outline the perimeters, (i.e., budget, deadline, specific details or requirements).  Paint a picture through words of what the end product should look like, however do not tell them how to do the project step by step.  You want to see what they can produce.
  3. Check in with the employee and ask how they are doing and if they need any help.  Set up “check points” for long term projects and require them to provide you with a status report.

When the project is finished, review with the employee what they did well and challenge them to increase their skills in specific areas on the next project.  If they can’t handle the responsibility, acknowledge their willingness to try.  When a project turns out spectacular, be sure to share credit where credit is due, besides, it makes you look good for hiring such great talent!

Here are three questions to ask which will help you finish the year strong:

  1. What goals have you already reached, will reach, have the potential to reach, and will unlikely reach by year end?  Now I am assuming that you have strategically crafted measurable goals for the year in the first place.  When you ask yourselves these questions each quarter, you are much more likely to intently focus on your business goals and work to achieve them.
  2. What do you contribute to the achievement of the goals you have reached so far?   Take the time to evaluate your accomplishments.  Plot your path to success and learn to replicate the steps that are fruitful for your particular business.  Keep a journal as you try new and different ideas and then turn your observations into workable systems which can be used again or expanded and used in other areas. 
  3. In the same way, if you tried something that doesn’t fit your business at all, consider the steps you took and find out why it didn’t work.  Do you need to throw out the whole idea, or is there just a portion of the process that needs reworking? Visualize each step until you can identify the missing element.  Your idea may not have worked for that particular project, but it might be adjusted and work in another area or for a different project?

Many of us are good at developing New Year Resolutions and goals.  Some are even good about writing these goals down, but how many are really good at checking in each quarter and strategizing ways to cross the finish line?  If you’re not quite sure how to make quarterly goals and reports work for your business, search the web for ideas, buy a book or call upon a trusted business coach or advisor.  This year, let’s make sure your goals are more than just a New Year’s Resolution!

As the leader of your business, division, or other responsible position, do you ever find yourself feeling alone?  Many leaders do, but here’s the thing, you shouldn’t ever find yourself becoming lonely as a leader.  If you do, you’ve missed a step along the way.  Here are three missteps that often happen and ways to motivate you to fix the step.

  1. Be willing to mentor a rising star. Leaders get to be leaders by inspiring others to follow.  Among followers there will be a varied amount of skills and talents at different levels.  And among your followers will be a few real gems that rise to the top, and when they identify themselves, be ready to bring them under your wing.  Emerging leaders are hungry for information, ideas, and encouragement. Replicate the best of what’s in you into their leadership growth.
  2. Find a business coach or a group of advisors.  When a leader gets to the point of saturation within their field of study, it’s time to be challenged.  Find a business coach or group of advisors who can help you see another perspective, tie your success to other opportunities, or just validate the path you are on.  Everyone needs someone to clear the smoke from their eyes, help them map the future, and cheer them on along the way, even established leaders.
  3. Find a peer group.  Develop relationships with other leaders in your area or better yet, outside your field of expertise.  When there is no competition involved to establish who knows more about a particular area of knowledge, the easier it is to share issues, concerns and generally be vulnerable.  However, don’t allow your relationships to evolve into a “pity party”.  Use your time together to encourage and council each other as well. 

The bottom line is that leaders are known to take initiative.  So if you are feeling “lonely at the top”, it’s time to do something about it. 

As America acknowledges the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Jeffrey McCausland shares an insightful article in The Guardian on the top three lessons leaders can learn from the battle of Gettysburg. 

 They are:

  1. The importance of time and timing – “When a leader makes a decision for his/her organization, timing may actually be more important than the decision taken.” While we have multitude of information gathering opportunities to make decisions today, it may actually be a detriment to our business when we wait and take too much time gathering information rather than acting on our knowledge and instinct regarding business management and business leadership. 
  2. Effective leaders must “park” there personal ego and focus on what is best for their organization.  I have shared a good bit about personal ego in recent blogs (access past blogs on my website).  When making decisions about your business, don’t make them too personal, or what’s best for you. Take into consideration your clients, employees, network, and all who may be impacted by your decision.
  3.  An effective leader must articulate and communicate a strategic vision to his/her organization.  Lincoln communicated his vision for the nation to the very end.  In Bill Hybel’s book, Courageous Leadership, he reminds us that as leaders we eat, sleep, and live our vision.  Our employees and others, however, will experience “vision leaks” if we are not able to keep the picture painted for our followers in a way that allows them to see the vision and join us on the journey.

 I suggest reading the full article The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg, by Jeffery D McCausland.  It’s interesting to compare leadership from the past to the present.  While we want to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes our predecessors made, it is the wise leader that learns from those in the past and if we are willing to look and listen, we will be gifted with great leadership lessons. 

So how do you stay connected with your clients during the summer?  Many business owners tend to slack off their marketing efforts during the hottest months of the year.  Choosing to connect with clients during June, July, and August may bring you some sweet rewards.  Here are a few ways you might celebrate the summer with your clients.

  1. Send a specially designed note or email to all your clients.  Many remember to thank their client base in December or sometimes in January when celebrating the end of the year, or the beginning of a new one.  June is the mid-year mark on the calendar and a great time to say THANK YOU!
  2. Show up at community events and invite a client to attend with you.  There are many events throughout Colorado Springs that alow you to connect with your clients in new ways as you work alongside them helping others. Walk through the crowds and get to know your neighbors.  You may also want to join in with others and sponsor an event, or if they budget allows, host a community event yourself. 
  3. Provide a “Summer Camp” workshop.  Whether it’s a paid event or a marketing venture, offer to share a skill, talent, or other type of knowledge with clients with a summer camp theme.
  4. Take the heat of the summer holiday and Host a BBQ. More people can attend and it is a relaxed time of the year.  Use your office or a place at a park. Invite your clients to join you for a no host BBQ, it's a fun way to connect with clients and prospects. 
  5. Fast and Fun Ice Cream Socials.  July is National Ice Cream month.  If you want to be really fun and spontaneous, Tweet or Email that you will be at a specific ice cream parlor for the next 20 minutes and you will pay for the first 10 people who show up!

Whatever you choose to do this summer, be creative.  People tend to be happier in the summer, there is more daylight to enjoy, and a great deal of opportunity to be found.  You just have to jump in and not be afraid to make a splash!

You can’t control a wildfire.  The best you can do is to plan for its eventual happening and do everything possible to keep out of the line of fire.  Our businesses are also susceptible to the devastation of a “wildfire” which can be the result of any type of catastrophic impact.  So what are the lessons we have learned from the fires we have experienced here in Colorado Springs? 

1.   Clear as much debris from around the perimeter of your property as possible.  
What type of “debris” may be associated with your business?  Strive to understand what keeps potential customers or clients from seeing you as an attractive company to do business with.

2.  Eliminate dead wood. 
If you have people on your team that are not producing, find a place where they will be successful or help them find a new place of work where they will be successful.  Dead wood often becomes destructive in nature.

3.  Keep an updated record of valuables. 
 Steven Covey’s now famous quote “Keep first things first” is invaluable to a business owner.  Set goals, work your goals, know what the most important things to spend your time on are and don’t let anything derail you from pursuing your goals.

4.  Always be prepared.
It’s now just the Boy Scouts that need to be prepared for any eventuality.  When you are prepared, you make it easy to do business with you.

5.  Help your neighbor.  
Business to business support is critical.  Join a network group and get to know your business community. When businesses support each other and rejoice in each other’s successes, we all grow stronger and keep our business community from potential “wildfires”!

Lately a few books I have read and Cd’s I have listened to have focused on the concept of the ability to learn and the desire to learn.  What makes one business owner great, record profits, obtain raving fans for customers, and secure balance within their lives; while another business struggling to make ends meet, experiences challenges with building a team, watch their profit being squeezed and have a decided lack of balance in their lives?  One could say many things make them different; however one common character trait of most successful business owners is genuine sense of Humility.  They recognize that they don’t know how to do everything.  They lost the negative side of ego many years ago.  They know the difference between self-confidence and ego and utilize the strength of each.

Self-confidence is:

  • being able to step out of your comfort zone,
  • being open to someone else knowing more
  • being a willing learner
  • being willing to be wrong, but know it doesn’t affect the core of who you are

Ego (the positive side) is:

  • having self-confidence in what you are doing, yet knowing when and how to ask questions
  • having appropriate pride in oneself – aka self esteem
  • having a realistic view of how the world sees them, yet knows how they see themselves and the qualities they possess

We all know the negative side of ego.

Humility (the opposite of Ego) is:

  • expressed by the actions of a well-grounded person
  • found in knowing your intrinsic self-worth
  • respected as a virtue in life and in a religious/philosophical sense
  • often tied to fierce resolve
  • critical as a character trait to leadership effectiveness

Where do you stand with response to Ego, Self-confidence and humility?

Last week’s blog on the Mind Game introduced the topic of results; how what you tell yourself hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly directly impacts the outcome of our actions.   Now as your self-talk begins to become more positive we can put it into even greater perspective.  For every negative thought you have, “I can’t do this”, “I am not good at doing anything or this one thing”, or “You screwed up again”, (whatever your negative self-talk includes), it takes at least 12 affirmations to counteract that one negative statement.  WOW!  Does that become a motivator to stop telling yourself what you can’t do?  This doesn’t even take into consideration what others may say to you, it only pertains to the one negative conversation you had with yourself.  So here is what it looks like:

Negative self-talk:  “I really blew that meeting!  You aren’t any good at running meetings.”

Positive self-talk:

  1. I continue to improve my understanding of how to run meetings.
  2. I really appreciated the feedback to running meetings better.
  3. I am great at running meetings.
  4. Every meeting I run I learn more about how to be great at running them.
  5. I learned a great deal at that meeting that I can apply to the next one.
  6. I am going to start earlier in preparing for running meetings to achieve even greater results.

And the list goes on.

We all eventually make a mess of things, do something wrong, bring to light an area we need to improve upon.  Those are all facts.  It is how we look at those mistakes, failures, whatever you want to call them that helps us pick up the pieces learn and move on.

If you aren’t failing you are not growing.  So embrace the failure, give yourself credit, and create a plan of self-talk of how to improve the next time without beating yourself up.

Olympic athletes at the US Olympic Training Center have the opportunity to utilize a sports psychologist to help them bring home a gold medal.  A couple of weeks ago I was able to spend time with one of center’s psychologist to learn more about what creates the difference between an Olympic medal  winner and one that wins no medal. What I learned is that 50% or more of the reason athletes lose is due to their mental state.  Some of the things that get in their way are:  fear, self-doubt, personal beliefs, negative thoughts, lack of focus, and the most surprising thing is a lack of hydration.  A lack of hydration (water!!) reduces metal focus, and a reduced mental focus creates self-doubt, fear etc.  Therefore a lack of hydration can be the difference between winning and losing.  That is an easy thing (one would think) to control, but it is a common cause for losing.

This concept is just as true for the business owner as it is for the well trained athlete.  It does start with the assumption that you are good at your sport.  No matter how much focus and hydration I have, I could not win an Olympic Gold Medal at running.  It isn’t my passion, and I am not trained for it.  However, as a business owner and coach, I train on a regular basis for my “sport”.  I can win, I do win, yet all the things that get in the way of a sports athlete can get in the way for every business owner as well.

Question for you:  What is the dialogue in your head right now?  Is it filled with positive, challenging, focused thoughts?  Or is it filled with all the things you do wrong, did wrong, will do wrong, full of self-doubt, fear and lack of focus?

Your business and personal results will be impacted by your self-talk.  Change your self-talk and you will change your results.

If you want some ideas on how to make that happen, send me a note, give me a call.  I look forward to our conversation.

In the past I loved multi-tasking.  The more I had going on at the same time, the happier I was, the more productive I felt , and my satisfaction level was high – because I thought I was getting things done faster and more efficiently.  After leaving corporate employment, I began doing research on the true efficiency of multi-tasking.  Here is what I found out.  I was wrong!  How could that be?  Multi-tasking doesn’t make me more efficient?  Switching between 2 or 3 or 4 things (emailing, while talking on the phone while listening to another conversation) isn’t truly productive?  Delusion – the art of telling ourselves one thing when reality is another was rampant in my life.  I came by it honestly – I truly thought that my multitasking made me and my company more productive.

Here is what research has proven:

  • The mind cannot truly multitask.  What the mind does is actually switch from one area of focus to another – very quickly, but it doesn’t do two things at once.
  • Your productivity, and especially quality, goes down significantly when you multi-task.
  • It takes around 10 minutes for your mind to refocus if you are working on a problem, get interrupted then need to refocus back to the same level of concentration.  No wonder productivity is slipping for many people.

Here is a video I recommend you watch – see how you do on his quiz.  It might just change how you work and increase your productivity!

Myth of Multi-tasking Video