Relationship Responsibilities

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is the topic of responsibility. Unless you or your partner is an abuser, serial killer or some other type of evil individual, and as long as you’re both in agreement with being in the relationship, you both have a responsibility to each other and your relationship.

You’ve got a responsibility to communicate with each other, to treat each other with sensitivity and compassion, to be respectful of each other, to consider each other’s opinions, to be open to each other’s needs, to support each other, to encourage each other, to be confident in each other, to grow the relationship, and to take care of each other through thick and thin. You also both have the responsibility to speak up if something, including the relationship, isn’t working for you.

All that may sound overwhelming, and something else to add to the responsibility plate of your life, but if your relationship with your significant other is truly one of the most important and valuable things in your life, shouldn’t it command appropriate responsibility as well? If it’s feeling too overwhelming, either your relationship needs to be evaluated or you and your partner need to have a serious conversation about responsibilities and reworking the relationship. Yes, there should be some sense of weight because it’s an important relationship in your life, but it shouldn’t be so much that you feel you can’t handle it or don’t want to.

This week I encourage you and your partner to have a conversation about the responsibilities in your life, and to each other.  Don’t be discouraged if the conversation brings up a lot of stuff, instead be encouraged that you can now make a plan for improving the health of your relationship.

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Subscription Service Smarts

Last week I shared about some confusing communications I’d received recently, this week I wanted to follow up with a discussion on something that many businesses, especially non-profits, rely on: recurring orders/donations. These are a fantastic way of having a consistent source of funds coming into your business that you can rely on as long as you’re offering what they’re buying or they need what you’re offering. These recurring orders can be simply items that people need on a consistent basis (i.e. paper towels and pasta), or a recurring package each month/week of items to try (i.e. beauty or dog items), or a regular subscription like meal kits or clothing outfits. It can also be a consistent monthly donation that goes into a particular fund or supports a particular individual.

If you want to improve the sign-ups and keep people signed up there are several things you can do, some that apply to some types of subscriptions and some that apply to others. One is to keep a good balance of new and top favorites as part of the subscription. Another is to make sure you’ve sufficiently tested the new items you’re sending out. Another is to send updates by email and/or mail so people know what’s going on with their donations or they could add to their order.

One of the biggest keys to keeping subscription customers is the ease of updating their information and their order(s), including what they’re ordering and any delivery information as well as their payment methods/options. The more challenging it is and the harder you make for them to find where and how to update the information, the more likely they’ll just cancel it all. Even worse, if they really struggle with changes, they may leave a nasty review about it online or suggest to friends/family who ask not to order from that company. Out of the 8 organizations that I had to update my credit card information with 3 were easy (at least one of which took quite a bit of navigating and effort to change the information), 4 required a phone call (something that shouldn’t be necessary if you can donate online), and for one the site refused to update the donation so I canceled the subscription and just made a one time donation (and will try again next month). Clearly there’s a lot of progress yet to be made with these organizations, and that’s just a small slice of all the organizations that you can do a subscription/donation with.

What about you? If you offer a subscription program do you make it easy for your subscribers to update their information and stay up to date about what’s going on and their options?

Personal VS Public

Recently I’ve been thinking about how blurry the lines are between many public and private things. We expect to hear about what’s going on in the lives of celebrities, we expect to hear about how things are developing in natural disasters in great detail, we expect to know everything about the officials we elect, and we expect that what we see or hear is what we get. But for most of us, we’re not supposed to be living our full lives in the public eye. It’s uncomfortable to do so. It’s healthy to live some of your life in the public eye, and for that reason all of the advances in technology are great, but there’s something important about having a personal life too.

Our personal life is where we work through our personal challenges, enjoy being alone with ourselves, enjoy being with family and friends, try new things, and work on our inner self mentally and spiritually. It’s our time to be quiet, to laugh, to love, to be the person that only those who we trust most can see. It’s our time to grieve and work through the growing pains. It’s our time to come to terms with changes in our lives and in the world around us. It’s not a time for us to hurt others or ourselves, that’s not something we should do in personal or private.

Sometimes we bring what’s in our personal lives to the public eye, especially when it something we want support on, want to raise awareness for, or want to share our story with others so they’re comfortable sharing their story and/or getting the help they need in a similar situation. But we should never judge people for not sharing their personal lives with the greater public, especially if it’s a painful situation and they were getting the help and support they needed.

So my encouragement to you today would be that before you jump to judge someone over something they didn’t share or did share, that you take a moment to remember that it’s their story and their life and they have to do what they think is right when they think it’s right. Your job is to support them and love them, especially when they’re being brave enough to share their story with you.

Confusing Communications

One of the biggest aspects to running a successful business is being able to get paid.  Whether you’re running a for-profit or non-profit business your people have to be able to contribute to your work or purchase from you if you want to stay in business.  Technology has made it easier than ever to connect people (and their money) with things and organizations around the world, which enables businesses to have more potential customers than ever before and gives customers more options than ever.

Recently the inevitable happened and one of my credit cards came up to the expiration date, and that’s where the confusion began. I got an email from the credit card company notifying me that the card was going to expire soon (in about 2-3 months), then I got a second email letting me know that a new card would be coming soon (again with almost 2 months to go before it expired), then I got an email from a non-profit that I have a monthly recurring donation with from a personal email account at the company saying that I needed to update my card information (about a month before the card would expire), then I got a text message that the card was mailed, and then I got an email reminding me to activate my card. Are you feeling as stressed and confused as I am by all that?

I’m all for keeping people in the loop but some of these messages were excessive, some were concerning and some were confusing. The biggest of concern were the text message, the email from the non-profit, and the email about activating my card. I don’t have my account signed up for text messages, so to send me a text message was abnormal and concerning. The email from the non-profit was sent in a regular email message (no logos or recognizable templates) from someone I’d never heard of or talked to. The email about activating my card made it sound like the card arrived weeks ago and I was being blamed for not activating it.

The thing about all of these messages is that the issues are very simple to fix and there’s reason to make the investment in working on them. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be sent with recognizable email templates. They’re all able to be crafted in a way that doesn’t sound like the writing was rushed and they can be edited by many team members before being sent since they’re emails that is going to be sent frequently to people and the message doesn’t change from person to person (so it makes sense to give the extra time and effort to crafting them). The third thing to take into account is whether or not the emails have been opened, and if they have been there’s no need for repetition, if anything more information should be given in the initial notification including the whole timeline rather than sending many messages so that the buyer has more confidence and understanding of the projected timeline and when any concerns should be raised. Finally, more attention can be easily given to the timeline of the messages being sent, especially the message about activating the card, which should only have been sent after the estimated time of delivery plus adding in some extra days for any delivery issues like hurricanes or being on vacation.

Doing one or preferably all of these things would have alleviated a lot of stress and concern on my part, especially for something that is a fairly predictable, anticipated and easy process. It certainly was one of the more painful experiences I’ve had with the payment aspect of business. Next week we’ll talk about one of the things I mentioned here, updating recurring orders or donations, and I’ll give you some feedback and suggestions based on what I’ve experienced recently.

What are your thoughts on making time-sensitive communications easier and clearer?

Taking Time To Remember

Today in the USA is one of the days during the year that we take time to remember. Today 9/11, we take time to remember the 4 attacks on September 11, 2001, 2 in NYC, one in Pennsylvania, and one at the Pentagon in Washington DC. We stop to remember the 2,977 people who died as a result of the actions of men and women who hated us. Although it’s been 17 years, for many of us it feels like just yesterday. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For countless people around the world we have a personal connection to someone who died that day.

We hear the stories from those who were in and around NYC or the Pentagon and helped rescue countless others. We also hear the stories of the people they knew intimately who died while saving lives or just living their lives. We don’t hear the stories from the people in Pennsylvania because they didn’t survive but instead gave their lives to save many others, in some ways making them the biggest heroes of that tragedy.

It’s not fun to remember 9/11 or the days that followed as we came to understand the seriousness of what happened, but it is important. The US was forever changed by the actions of those who hated us that day, in ways that it hadn’t been touched previously. We remember those 2,977 people because they made a sacrifice that day most didn’t plan on or agree to make. We remember their families so they know they aren’t forgotten. We remember in hopes of creating a tomorrow someday that doesn’t include the fear of similar events happening and families don’t have to go through similar pain.

I encourage you to take time to remember today. Remember those you’ve lost and remember those who have touched your life but aren’t part of it anymore, and take time to give thanks for them and the life you have today.

Comfortable Changes

How do you handle those conversations with your partner when they want to talk about things they want or feel are lacking in your relationship? I had a conversation with someone about this during the past week and it got me thinking about how we can overcome the challenges we personally may face if we’re asked by our partner to make a change or do something different.

While the first emotion you may feel is gratitude that your partner is finally sharing their concerns, fears or desires, the emotions that may closely follow are guilt, fear, and panic. It’s never easy to realize that you’ve been failing in some way on something or not being everything your partner needs. But that’s not necessarily what the conversation means, because it may not be about you failing to do something, but about something new your partner wants or needs or wants to try. If you’re in a healthy relationship, it should be an opening conversation, a beginning of a discussion, not a requirement or hard line.

Change and growth are natural parts of a healthy relationship. So what it you do feel overwhelmed by the request or the conversation? Instead of trying to conquer the mountain in one jump, pick something that’s easier for you to work up the courage or confidence to get to that point, or at least try to get to that point. Showing that you’re trying will mean a lot to them and may give them the immediate positive reinforcement they need to regain their confidence in your relationship and encourage you and work with you on trying to incorporate their requests or feedback into your relationship. It will also give you the courage and strength to keep going and working on their requests or feedback.

For example let’s say they are bored with what you all typically have for food options in the house and everyone needs to eat healthier, but you don’t really like fruits or vegetables. So don’t dive into trying the ones you know you don’t like, start with incorporating more of the ones you do like into your diets and pantry. Let’s say they want to do more and get in shape. Instead of trying to be ironman or woman, start with walking or swimming or whatever fitness activity you are OK with.

That first step may be a little intimidating, but it’s way less challenging than trying to go all the way from day 1. What tips do you have for working through conversations with your partner?

Back to Business

With schools around the country back in session today I thought we’d talk about some of the basics that will help you be successful today and in the future in your business.

Supplies:
From the basics like paper, pens and envelopes to wrapping and packaging to computers and online accounts there are lots of supplies that most businesses need in order to run most successfully. The choices you make at this first and most basic levels of business can be absolutely crucial as they are the tools that you use to connect with customers and your team, as well as present your business to the world.

Teachers:
Part of being successful is about what you bring to the table, but you can jump start and leap frog your success if you take time to learn from others too. Having a mentor or several someones you can turn to both personally and specifically as well as from a distance gives you the ability to grow your business into a stronger business.

Questions:
In school you’re asked to answer questions on tests and in class, and in business you’re asked not only to answer the questions, but also often to come up with the questions. Questions not only help you make sure that you’ve got your bases covered, they also help you explore different opportunities and perspectives into how you can better serve customers and how you can grow your business.

Learning:
Whether you call it a trial period, beta stage, or growing pains, if you’re building and running a successful business there will be learning. You’ll learn what your customers want, how to speak to your customers, how to better address problems, how to work with employees, and how you can bring a better product or service to market. You won’t just learn these things once though, they’re things you’re learning throughout the life of your business.

So what are the basics of your business that are keys to your success?

Rediscovering the Spice of Life

Recently a client I’ve worked with for a long time has rehired an ex employee. While that’s not really a common place activity, it does happen from time to time, and I certainly understand why the client would rehire that individual based on the current employees they have and what that employee used to do for them. As I was chatting briefly with this employee this past week, they brought up some of the things that we had talked about in the past, things that most of the current employees don’t know about. It took me a minute to adjust to talking about those things with them and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the conversation. Maybe this is something that you can identify with from experiences you’ve had when you’ve reconnected with someone you haven’t seen in several years.

As I was doing some work today my mind meandered through that conversation and those feelings again. I got to thinking about the conversation and thinking back to those conversations years ago and thinking back to the person I was then and the person I am now. They were right, I have grown and changed in the passing years, but it really hadn’t hit me how much until we were having that conversation.

As I sit here writing I’m realizing of how many of the things I do have now that I was hoping for then, even if they don’t look quite like I was thinking they would. This is one of the big reasons why it’s important to stop and reflect sometimes. If this conversation hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be taking this trip down memory lane. I’ve talked about the importance of perspective before, and here I’m reminded of it again. Taking time for looking at life with a different perspective, to review what’s gone on in the past, to really take a hard look at the present, all of these are things that not only can help us get clarity on what the future may hold or where we want our lives to go, it can also give us a big sense of accomplishment and even relief that we’re actually making progress with our lives.

As we start this new month I encourage you to sit down and take a trip back in time and do a little reflecting. Consider how far you’ve actually come. Unbury the dreams that you used to have. Discover how far you’ve come. Make adjustments to head in the direction you want to go. Celebrate your life, your path and the people you’ve got traveling this journey with you. Stop for a moment and let the fog clear from around you so that you can see past, present and future clearly. And then make a decision about how you’re going to move into the next stage of this journey called life.

Labor Day Reflections

Monday here in the US is Labor Day. It’s the day that we honor and remember all the contributions that the American people have made for and towards the economy and success of our country. I think it’s important to still celebrate this day because even though we’ve made some really great strides in making work accessible and safer for all, there are still some serious issues in the work place today.

When you look at the statistics about how many people are employed vs. unemployed, they don’t take into account how many people are miserable in the job they have. It doesn’t register how many people dread going to work the next day. It doesn’t consider how many people feel threatened, frustrated or ignored by their bosses and superiors. It doesn’t take into account the number of workers who have no clue what they’re doing or why they do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of improvement still needed in many workplaces.

The first step to improvement is for the leadership to remember that they’re working with people, not magicians. Most staff members won’t read minds, can’t decipher gibberish, and can only do what you’ve told them to do. So when they’re not doing what you need them to do, aren’t truly helping customers, aren’t being as productive as you want them to be or keep doing things wrong, take a step back. First look at what you’ve told them to do (do your messages/requests/instructions even make sense?  Are they detailed and specific enough?). Second, look at how you’ve trained them and if you’re continuing to give them education to improve their skills. Third look at the resources available to them (can they do the job you’re asking them to do, let alone do well?).

Once sufficient and clear communication, expectations and resources have been established, only then can things improve dramatically for both workers and businesses. Are you the reason your employees are miserable and unproductive? What can you do to be the reason that you’ve got employees who look forward to coming into work, share about job openings with your business, and are happy and capable of fully supporting your customers?

The Power of Perspective

I’ve often said that life is about perspective. Your perspective can help you see what you’re doing, where you’re going and why you make the choices in your life, but only if you choose to examine your perspective. It’s also important to understand that we each have our own perspectives, and that the way I see things is probably different from how you see them. Yes, there will be times that we agree on a perspective, but other times we’ll see things differently. Seeing them differently and sharing those differences with each other means that we’re given a chance to expand our perspective and consider other perspectives. It doesn’t mean that our perspective is right or wrong, but that there’s more we could be seeing in the world.

Recently I read this quote: “Don’t listen to those who say, you are taking too big a chance. Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most important, don’t listen when the little voice of fear inside you rears its ugly head …” Neil Simon

Neil Simon brings up a good point. Michelangelo could have chosen to paint the floor, or even the walls. Countless other structures have been painted on the floors and walls, from Egypt to Pompeii to caves where ancient civilizations lived. Likewise, you can choose to be intimidated by someone who has far more experience than you or gets paid a ton more than you and and feel like what you’ve got to offer isn’t really that great or that much. But when you bring your personal perspective to the table, the balance shifts.

Each of us has something incredible to bring to the table. There were many other great painters and artisans during Michelangelo’s life who could have probably painted something similar to what he did. But how many of them would have thought to put it on the ceiling? He did, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s been remembered through the years. Don’t worry if you can’t be the biggest and best, just choose to do your best and share your perspective with the world.