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Keep the Happy in Your Holidays
[Recently, I discussed taking time out for yourself to relax and take a break (Read: “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees!”). This week, I’d like to elaborate on this topic and incorporate it into the holiday season.]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And also the most hustling, bustling, hectic, lose-your-mind-because-you’re-so-crazy-busy time of year. Running a business and making time for festivities and celebrations can be a challenge. In between the potlucks, get-togethers, cookie exchanges, and ugly sweater parties are invoices, year-end financial statements, payroll, budget forecasting, planning and hundreds of other tasks to complete before the new year.
Here are some helpful hints to get you through the season with your sanity intact:
- Maximize Your Time: Each of us has our own rhythm of peaks and lulls throughout the day. Find what times of day work best for you and schedule around them for peak performance. Focus on your most important or most time-consuming tasks during the parts of day when you are most clear thinking, energetic, and decisive. If you work best in the mornings, then maximize that time by waking up earlier. If you work best in the afternoons, then schedule your most important appointments during the lunch hour. If you work best in the evenings, then maximize that time by staying up later.
- When you are setting deadlines for yourself or your clients, build extra time in your schedule to serve as a buffer for unexpected circumstances or tasks taking longer than expected. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver.
- If you feel that you are already maximizing your time, but still can’t fit in every task, then consider investing some money to hire additional help, for instance a virtual assistant or courier service.
- Schedule in Downtime: Designate specific days and dedicate them for date nights, family time, and days for yourself. Block off these special days in your calendar to visually highlight and distinguish them as scheduled days off.
- Set up an automatic reply on your voicemail and email to inform your clients that you are occupied. For example, “Thank you for contacting me. I am currently out of the office and will return on [day]. I will get back to on [tomorrow, next week, etc.].” And there is nothing wrong with posting a good old-fashioned Do Not Disturb sign on your door!
- Eliminate distractions: Sometimes a small distraction can serve as a mental break, but not if it becomes all consuming—then it’s nothing but a time-waster. Turn off your notifications for email, Internet feeds, and social media updates if you find yourself unable to stay focused on the task at hand. It may even help to completely unplug and keep your computer turned off.
The holidays are meant to be a break from the everyday routine. These are the days when you can focus on spending quality time with the people in your life who matter most. Your time is valuable, and unlike money, you can’t obtain more of it—what you get is what you get! With some proactive planning and time-management, you can enjoy the challenges and rewards of working for yourself AND enjoy the holidays too! And from me it is Merry Christmas to you.
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
• 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.
Here are three questions to ask which will help you finish the year strong:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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?
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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 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?
The family business; it’s the foundation of the small business world in the US. Approximately 80% of small businesses are family owned. That can mean brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and children. Why are there so many family owned businesses? One reason – blood is thicker than water. There is a trust factor that comes with working with family. I hear laughter from some of you. Some of you wouldn’t trust your family with a dollar let alone own a business with them. While that can be true, the reality is even where the family has a trust and verify. The family business has a set of dynamics that are unlike any other. Think of your family – what would it be like to work with them every day? Then, go home each night. Now I have you thinking… Yes, that is the joy and challenge of family business. It is often hard to:
- “leave it at the office”
- Ensure there is work/family balance
- Handle the up and down times of revenue and profit
- Ignore that irritating habit of the family member when they are always around
- Yet, it is wonderful being able to:
- Share the joys of success
- Have your family understand the business
- Be able to know the “team” members strengths and weaknesses
- Work alongside someone you truly like
- Share ideas and trust them to look out for your well-being.
The list goes on for both sides. If you are considering starting a family business congratulations – you will love the journey.
What have your experiences been with family businesses? Are you in one? Have you done business with one? Share them with me; I would love to hear the stories.