An old adage encourages us to “stop and smell the roses.” However, in our fast-paced world, it seems as if many of us heed this advice. We rush through life, constantly dashing from one appointment to the next without ever stopping to breathe. We like everything fast: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, etc. Although there is a time and place for busyness, it is crucial for everyone, be they management or staff, to relax. Everyone needs a break.
My son has a teacher who shared feeling consistently overworked. Everyone seems to want his attention and demand a great deal of his time. It became extraordinarily difficult for him to keep up. Even his weekends became filled with school activities. As a result he instituted a new policy for his life, once a month he would be taking a day off. This helped tremendously with relieving stress and reevaluating what was important, and made him a more effective teacher and leader.
All too often, I see people who are burnt out. Business owners who are worked constantly and eventually become tire of everything. They quit; sell the business, and either retire or go back to their old job, in many cases abandoning a lifelong dream. Pro athletes do this all the time.
Their lives become so consumed with the sport that they no longer enjoy it. It becomes a chore rather than what they love. However, if you asked someone who burned out 5-10 years ago if they regret it, he or she would respond “absolutely.” Don’t be afraid to take personal days, at least once a quarter. Don’t get so caught up in your work that you begin to hate it, and don’t forget to see the forest through the trees.
All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:
The “It’s good enough” excuse
This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work. Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough. However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”. Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?
The “I’m new at this” excuse
Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months. However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.
The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse
We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.
Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.
Whether you’re buying your morning cup of coffee, holding a door open for a passerby, or letting a fellow driver merge in front of you, most likely you hear two magic words: Thank You. You hear it most every day, probably more than once. But how often do you SAY it? Do you feel that you say it enough? And do you make it a point to show it?
Steven Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts it this way: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated." [emphasis added]
Chances are your clients have a number of providers, services, companies, and products to choose from, and they have chosen to support you and your establishment. With the holidays just around the corner, this is one of the best seasons to show your gratitude and appreciation for all of the people who make your business possible!
Here are some easy ways to show your appreciation throughout the season (and all year long):
If you already incorporate customer appreciation into your business, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you would like to start doing so, work on focusing your attitude on gratitude this holiday season...a little gratitude can go a long way!
The holidays are upon us, and too many times we find ourselves procrastinating during the last fiscal quarter of the business year. Have you evaluated the success of your annual goals? How much time and research have you put into setting new goals for next year? What is the state of your office and equipment? Will you be making any changes? Are there expenses this year that you will not need to add to your budget for next year? Are there additional major expenses that you will need to be planning for? What is your marketing plan going to entail for the next twelve months? These are just a few of the questions that are waiting for you to answer in the upcoming weeks.
What inevitably happens is that we feel like we have a lot of time to complete these final tasks, but in reality we have very little time between October 1 and December 31. Between holiday closures and holiday parties, the actual work days are significantly reduced. If you want to have a successful 2014, you have to begin planning for it now!
Here are 5 incredibly important tasks to complete by December 31!
Don’t head into the New Year blind. If you plan your time, thoughts, and actions wisely during the last three months of this year, you will be setting yourself and your business up for an incredible 2014!
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.
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.
There is a lot of speculation about the value of college in today’s world. We live in a world today where some of the richest, most successful CEOs are, in fact, college dropouts. Today’s college graduates face bleak prospects. So is college still worth it? How does the college planning process prepare the workers of tomorrow to be successful? Let’s take a look at questions asked on college essays, particularly the common college entrance application.
When have you experienced failure? How has it affected you?
Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the stories about failure, particularly from Steve Jobs. Failure is a part of everyone’s life, and learning to deal with it at a young age prepares people better for when they have to deal with it in the future.
Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or an idea.
This question examines the core of innovation and entrepreneurship. As I discuss in my book, people often start their own business in order to change the “status quo,” in essence, to challenge a belief or an idea. Students who write their essays on this question are setting themselves up for entrepreneurship in the future.
Although every high school senior (including my son) is currently complaining about how difficult writing these essays are, the application process can actually set students up very well for their future, as arduous as it seems.
The ideas set out in application essays are very different from what is actually taught in the classroom, particularly at the undergraduate level. I will discuss this more next week.
A common workplace credo is “Think outside the box.” It is an ideal that is held up as the pinnacle of innovation and a credo of progress. Unfortunately, when this principle is implemented, it is often received with a crescendo of complaints, shock and disapproval. We say that new ideas are good, but if anyone comes up with a new idea, we shrink away. Stop that!
Innovation is always scary. People form habits; they find a specific way of doing things, and never want to change. Companies may run the same way for fifty years, even though the methodology the business was built upon became inefficient thirty years ago. Unfortunately, some businesses create a culture where those who may have a new idea, become afraid to speak up, and the managers often don’t even realize it. As in the picture above, people cower in their boxes, doing what they are told, and keeping their good ideas to themselves. Some employees are reminded of Dr. Kelso’s suggestion box in Scrubs; his trash can. As a result of this policy, the other doctors hated Kelso and did everything possible to undercut him. While this makes for good television, it makes for really bad business. As a business owner, you cannot afford to be afraid of new ideas, especially when they come from employees or customers. You don’t need to take every suggestion you receive, but make a conscious effort to listen! Create a culture where customer feedback is an integral part of your business planning. Your customers and employees know what they want and have experience working with your product; their input is invaluable to the success of your 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.”
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:
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:
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:
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.
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 leaders in business it is required that we segment our time between a variety of tasks and responsibilities. To ensure we cover all our bases, we make business plans; we make lists, and even read articles that help us with the 5 Best ways to avoid this, or the 10 Best Ways to do that. Yet the most important aspect of getting anything done and done well is focus. Whatever has our attention, or wherever our center of activity is located, that is what we are focused on. Getting focused is not hard, staying there is the problem. So how do we stay focused when we have so many distractions in our day to day world? Here are a few ideas to consider:
You started out with a great idea, one that seemed to be desirable by a number of clients, and it paid off. You truly found what you loved to do and are able to get people to pay you for it! Congratulations. Now, how are you going to sustain your business? You may be fantastic at developing widgets, but how are you at the actual business competencies that will sustain your business over the long run?
An October 2012 report on Sustainability and Leadership Competencies for Business Leaders identifies top competencies as follows:
Business owners need to provide themselves with learning opportunities that will strengthen each of these core business competencies. This education can be accomplished through reading, formal training, or most effective, by utilizing a business mentor or business coach that can hold business owner accountable for actually implementing stainable changes in their company, ones that are customized to meet their company’s specific needs. However you choose to receive your small business advice and continue your education as a leader, make a plan and follow your plan to ensure you are a perpetual learning leader.
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.
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.
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”!
There is a very old and interesting parable about blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Each man was positioned at a different place on the animal; therefore it is not surprising to hear some of their descriptions of the elephant. One man said an elephant was a long, thin animal that twisted and coiled. He was holding the trunk. Another man said the elephant was a massive animal that stood strong and erect. He was embracing a leg. Still another said the elephant was a great winged creature. He was holding an ear. The last man said the elephant was no animal at all. It was cold and smooth and without any life. He was running his hand along the tusk. Although all the observations were correct, they were also incomplete. Each had described a specific part of an elephant, but none were able to come up with the “big picture.”
So what is your big picture? Who provides it to you? Where are you blind in your business ventures, life, and environment? The challenge for all of us is to stand back far enough to generate a big picture; to see situations for what they really are.
Where have you had the challenge of seeing the big picture and what were the results? Share with us, I would love to learn from your big pictures!
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.
Ego (the positive side) is:
We all know the negative side of ego.
Humility (the opposite of Ego) is:
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.”
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:
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!
In the last 2 weeks we have viewed the Boston Marathon bombing, the Waco explosions and experienced the death of two fathers of childhood friends. The fathers of our childhood friends both lived long and wonderful lives. However, it still made me stop and focus on the value of life and the shortness of it.
One of my mantras is to have balance between work and my personal life. Balance isn’t always possible so the word harmony comes to mind. Harmony allows for a blend of alto, soprano, tenor and base blended well together. Harmony allows for occasionally all soprano, or all alto, more tenor or even base at times. Harmony between work and a personal life allows for time to focus on business, but then welcomes times to focus on personal fulfillment. There is harmony when we secure time for family yet find time for friends and other activities too. It is without this harmony that we get the dull beating of a drum in the background that is ok, until it goes on and on and on and on. Work can become that relentless beating of the drum. All is well as long as the drum beat is blended with additional instruments (other parts of our lives), but becomes annoying when the drum beat is all alone.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you create your own “harmony”:
I challenge you to spend time thinking through these questions. Write out your answers, not for others to read, but for your eyes only. Then put them somewhere secure and review what you have written in a year. Then ask these questions:
Only you can control your legacy, no one else. You make the choices, you write the script. You have but one life to live – so live it to the best.
Have you ever wondered what percentage of the wealthy actually wrote out goals, created a plan of action and diligently followed their plan through to completion?
Goals are like a little compass in your mind. They keep you going the right direction. Once your brain knows where it’s going, it has a better chance of actually getting you to your destination. But not just any goals will work; you need SMART Goals.
SMART Goals are:
Specific: Saying that you want to increase revenue in your business is an ambiguous goal, but it’s not a specific one. A specific goal is one that states you want to increase revenue by five percent this fiscal quarter by engaging in newspaper advertising.
Attainable: An attainable goal is something you can actually achieve; it is within your ability to accomplish within the time you allotted and within the framework specified. It’s a goal that won’t make you work eighteen hours a day, but it will be a challenge to reach.
Measurable: A measurable goal is one that is clearly visible; you know what you need to do and how to evaluate if you accomplished your mission or not. More importantly, your clients will also see or experience the benefit of you reaching your goal. Customers know when you’ve worked to improve your business and it often creates sense of loyalty within them.
Time-based: You need to accomplish your goal in a reasonable amount of time. For example, it shouldn’t take six months to add a phone line. If it does, you are either procrastinating or you need to find a new phone company! Establish when you want the goal completed and state a date or that you want it done tomorrow, next week, next month, etc.
When making plans, set goals using the SMART Goal system. Where do you see your business in 90 days? How about six months? Six years? Do you see yourself twice as big, or do you see yourself as twice as small? What goals need to be established to reach your business plans?
Why is it important to make goals? Why does this matter? Why go “goals digging”? An MBA survey a group of students compared their wealth over a span of 25 years. Of the students participating in the survey, 70% had no goals at all, 27% had verbal goals, and 3% had written goals. The last 3% had 98% of the wealth of the group. Now the question is, “When are you going to start planning out your own goals? Will you start today?”
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