New Year, Simply Better Relationships

It’s the weekend! The weekend is a great time to spend together as a family and do something fun or important, or just to relax and catch up after the week. I was talking with my partner about a meeting they had the other day at one of the places he works and he was saying how poorly run the meeting was and what could have made it a much more constructive meeting. His thoughts got me thinking about two simple things we can do in our families and with our partners to have better relationships.

Ask more, tell less: we’ve gotten pretty good at telling others what to do, but how often do we really take the time to ask them or discuss it with them? If you tell them to do something you’re more likely to get resistance, but if you ask them about something you don’t truly know what the answer will be until you ask someone. Maybe they’re in a generous mood, maybe you’ll explain your issue differently this time, maybe they’ll be tired of listening to the complaints, or maybe they’ve realized that it’s time to step up. Yes, the answer may be the same as it’s been the other times you’ve asked, and maybe that’s an indication to you that you need to do or say something different.

Spend time together: maybe it’s going out for groceries, maybe it’s digging in the garden, maybe it’s reading a book, maybe it’s watching a movie, maybe it’s practicing sports or playing a video game, maybe it’s going out to eat, maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk, or maybe it’s taking a class, educational activity or seminar together, there are countless ways that you can spend time together. Some are things you can do with any free time you have, but others are things that have to get done that could be done better with another person, like food shopping, or are more fun with others like going out to eat. The important thing is making the effort to be together.

I know, these sound like really simple things, but making these two small tweaks in your life and theirs can make a big difference. What small but powerful effort can you give in your relationship and family this weekend?

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Are You A Responsive Business?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve got in business is the on-demand nature of so much of our world.  We can get instant responses by searching for something online, get fairly decent and healthy food in 10 minutes or less, talk with anyone anywhere in a matter of seconds, and share something with just a click with 1,000 or so of our closest friends.

As business owners if we really want to succeed and have happy customers we have to be excellent communicators.  When communication is an issue so many people can be impacted or frustrated and time can be wasted.  But I do understand how busy business owners are and how much is on our plates, so I support establishing a happy medium.

I think the on-demand nature of our world has its benefits, but at the same time there have to be boundaries because in many cases when boundaries aren’t established or committed to, other things suffer.  In some cases you absolutely have to be there the second the call comes in (hospitals, police etc.), but in many cases it’s not necessary, which means that as long as you’re regularly responsive and have clearly communicated your general response time, there’s no reason to interrupt your client or business work to answer a call or message.

If it’s not absolutely necessary and you don’t have the resources to set up a live chatbot that can answer basic questions for you or hire someone to be available 24/7 to answer questions, then you have to commit to being responsive.  My guarantee is that I respond to all messages within 24 hours, but usually sooner.  Sure, I could sit around and wait for messages to come in, but with the exception of a few clients who pay for that privilege, most clients (and people) that I work/talk with don’t have emergencies that demand that type of attention.

That said, as I alluded to earlier, it’s necessary to respond to all communications you receive (unless it’s clearly spam or nasty (reviews are another story, which is a discussion for another time)).  If your business is not responding to messages within 24 hours (or within 48 if you absolutely have to on the weekends), it indicates to me that you’ve most likely got a larger problem at hand. If you’re not reasonably responsive with your communications it makes me question how serious you are about your business. Do you really want new customers? Do you really want to help the customers you do have?  Do you really want to grow and improve your business?  What does your communication and responsiveness reveal about your business?

I encourage you to commit to being more responsive to your calls, messages and other communications this year.

Little Steps to Success

There are a lot of things that you could do to make this year your best year yet. If you decided on some resolutions for this year you may have unfortunately already given up on them, too many people don’t make it out of January with their resolutions intact. There can be many issues with resolutions we set including that the goals that are too big or too vague or we’re just not ready for yet, and these issues can hurt our chances at really succeeding with our resolutions. So today I thought I’d share a little encouragement and another option for a resolution for the year. What if we were to just choose to be committed to living life?

What if we approached this new year with the intention to do our best in each and every moment, both big and small? What if you chose to put just 5% more effort into your daily activities? What if you chose to listen with a little more intention and talk with a little more care? What if you put a personal touch on each and every thing you do? What if you committed to being more true to who you are and what you believe? We’re not trying for perfection, just trying to do better, be better and relate better than we did previously.

Yes, the big life changes are great, but there’s a lot of power in making little tweaks and changes. Things like cleaning up your desk at the end of the day, cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, putting the clothes away in the closets, making a to do list for tomorrow, taking an extra 30 seconds to re-read an email or important text before sending it, switching one processed/pre-packaged snack with a fresh fruit or vegetable choice, or telling your partner you love them every day, can add up to make a big difference over time if you do them consistently.

What little thing or things could you do in your life this week that would make a difference?

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

Relationship Repairs

Last week I spent some time thinking about how many people do things that create huge divisions between themselves and others. Sometimes we’re not aware of it and there’s nothing we can do until after the fact. But usually we play a key role in that division being created, and are aware of it. Maybe we’re not willing to give a little, maybe we’re tired of giving, maybe we’re at a place with different goals, or maybe we just didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did.

When we reach these divisions in life we’ve got a choice to work through them or to let them permanently drive a wedge between us. We’re really good at creating the permanent wedge, and some people talk about working through it or give fixing it lip service but never truly make the effort.

The thing about saying hateful or hurtful things to another person is that hurting the other person will not in any way, shape or form, accomplish what you really want to have happen. All it will do is hurt both of you. So do what has to be done to be able to go your separate ways or fix the relationship, don’t just hurl insults, hurt or hate.

If you’re really going to try to make it work go the whole way. See a coach together, attend AA type meetings to work on your own stuff individually, if there are kids involved seek help to be better parents, plan out times that you will be together each week for date type activities, plan times for you each to be alone, write up who will do what and so on. All of this is about doing the work and starting the necessary communication and creating opportunities to repair the relationship.

But this isn’t just about repairing your romantic relationship (or partnership as I call them) but about the other relationships in your life as well. We can be pretty bad friends and employees on occasion. Sometimes those are the relationships that need extra attention to get them back on track or to see that the relationship has run its course.

This week I challenge you to choose one relationship that needs work and actually get to work on it. Sit down with your boss, friend or partner and have the tough conversation and establish together where you go from there. It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run.

Leadership Lessons from Dr Martin Luther King Jr

This coming Monday in the US we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born in January of 1929 and killed in 1968 while leading the Civil Rights Movements. Dr. King is someone that we look up to from a personal perspective, but I think we can learn a lot about him from a business perspective as well, which is what we’re going to talk about today.

Start somewhere: Dr. King didn’t start his campaign in front of the Lincoln Memorial, no, he began as a baptist pastor. There are many pastors and spiritual leaders who have done great things for their community, as well as for the world, and anyone, anywhere can be a leader. There’s no rule that says you have to have front page coverage or thousands (or millions) of followers to make a difference, you do however have to start with what you’ve got, be faithful with it and work to grow from there.

Communication: A core part of what Dr. King did and was all about was communication, as you probably know, he’s most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech! There’s no way that the Civil Rights Movement could have achieved the reach it did or made as big of a difference for racial equality as it did without the communication that was central to the movement, both on stage and between all the people and groups involved. The Civil Rights Movement is also noteworthy because of the non-violent focus, instead choosing to use words and peaceful actions to make a statement.

Perfection is not required: I’ll be the first to tell you that I greatly admire Dr. King and am proud that he was an American. But if you take a look at his history, as well as all the details of the Civil Rights Movement, he’s not perfect, and as with any situation that brings lots of people in contact and conflict with each other you’ll find evidence of things that could have been done better or at least done with a bit more care given to how it was played out. The thing is these issues, mistakes and failures didn’t ruin or stop Dr. King or the Civil Rights Movement, they’re accepted as an unfortunate part of the path to victory.

Work hard: With this new year you’ve got the opportunity to build on what you’ve been building, make changes, learn to communicate better, and move on from previous mistakes or failures. The question you have to answer is if you’re ready and willing to do the work that’s required to make a difference. Dr. King was, he was in the trenches marching, speaking, and going to jail for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, he didn’t leave it to “other people,” but he did understand the value of having people on his team, and those people sharing in the work.

Have a Dream: While the “I Have a Dream” speech was meant to motivate people with regards to issues of race and equality, it’s an important reminder that behind what we’re doing there really has to be vision, passion and purpose. People identify with, understand, connect to and relate to stories, and vision, passion and/or purpose gives people something to feel, experience and envision.  Dr. King’s dream speech brought to life for people what could be possible if the Civil Rights Movement was really a success.

I’m thankful Dr. King was the man he was, and I’m thankful for the way he has inspired so many people, including other leaders. Are you following in the leadership shoes of Dr. King, and if so what have you learned from his life and leadership?

The Success of Strategy

I’m a fan of freedom and being able to do whatever, whenever. Lots of people are. But there’s something to be said for strategy, order, schedules and procedure. If we didn’t use them your burger might never look like a burger. You could end up with the meat or “meat” on top of bread on top of bread on top of lettuce on top of mustard and other dressings! I can’t imagine trying to eat that. If we didn’t use strategy or procedures you might get dressed before getting in the shower, which means you’ll go through the day with wet clothes. Or you’d know how the story ends before you started reading the book. Not a really great idea, right?

So let’s be honest, even if we don’t really like the fact that schedules and order is necessary, sometimes it’s really helpful. So as much as you may not want to hear it, what you need isn’t (just) to set resolutions, but to set some schedules and strategies into action too. This is definitely the case if you’ve had the same resolutions for the past couple (or many) years and haven’t really been successful with them. Make 2018 the year that you have the plans and schedule to follow through with your resolutions.

The question is if you’re really committed to making your resolutions into reality this year or if it’s going to be another year that you make an attempt at your resolutions.  If you’re really committed I encourage you to take a look at what you’ve been doing, or not doing, to accomplish your resolutions, and make changes to your plans and procedures as appropriate. This could be as simple as choosing (planning) one thing you’ll do every day that will get you closer to your goal, hiring a coach to work with you on your resolutions, hiring an organizer or nutritionist to help you get rid of the bad and make room for the good, or making/joining an accountability group.  What will you do to make your resolutions a reality this year?

Relationship Possibilities

This month one of the things we’ll be talking about is the topic of possibilities. I’m a huge fan of this topic because I’m a dreamer, creative person and fiction lover. I love looking for opportunities rather than rehashing issues. I’m also a huge lover of relationships. I think it’s really important for each of us to have relationships and people we can trust and who support us in our lives. I don’t believe that we’re here to go through life and our struggles alone. However, I also know that we can be really good at getting ourselves stuck and sometimes life sets up roadblocks that we can’t always see around.

One of those areas we get stuck on is our romantic relationships. A romantic relationship can be one of the best things that ever happened to you, or it can be one of the most challenging. Sometimes those challenges exist because we are too stubborn to talk things out, or unwilling to change or find compromise, or because we’re with the wrong person. But if you and your partner enter into the relationship committed to being with each other and working out your differences, working through the challenges that arise and growing together, and actively practice all of those things, you’ve got a shot at the ultimate relationship.

Yes, you will both change and grow, and that’s part of the commitment you’re make when you commit to your relationship. Committing to really make the relationship work means that you understand that sometimes you’ll be working together towards a goal, sometimes you’ll be working on parallel goals, and sometimes you’ll each be doing your own thing. And with change being a constant in the world, you and your partner will both change over the years. The question is how you’ll approach and work through those changes, and whether they’ll make you stronger as a couple or not.

If you and your partner really embrace the attitude of possibility, it will typically overflow into other areas of your life, impacting them in a great way as well, which is a huge perk. When you see what’s possible in your life and for your family, you’ll be able to make better decisions about what to say yes to and what to say no to and avoid both personally and with your partner. Will you choose to make 2018 a year of possibilities with me?

4 Keys for Business Success in 2018

Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what you can do this year to be successful in business. These aren’t hacks, but they are things that are more relevant and important than ever to be doing in your business.

Consistency: one of the best ways to get the bang for your buck with marketing and being successful is to be consistent. Consistently maintaining a presence with your audience, updating and adding products, and consistently providing an awesome experience with you and what you’re selling are more important than ever. If you aren’t consistent you give someone else an opportunity to slip in and steal some of your customers.

Be up to date: having your website up to date with calendar dates as well as product/service information including pricing is only part of the challenge here.  We’ve also got tons of social sites to keep up to date and if we’ve got a physical business we have to make sure everything there is up to date as well. If you can’t keep up with everything yourself (although you can schedule in time monthly or weekly to keep up with things), there are tons of virtual assistants who can help you with the online updates for a very reasonable rate, and local college students who can help you in a physical location too.

Let your difference shine: in this day and age anyone can open an online storefront selling whatever they want. It takes very little experience or knowledge. While you may not be selling something different than anyone else, a logo designer is a logo designer and a dentist is a dentist for example, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t different, you don’t bring a different approach to the business and people don’t work with you for different reasons than they would work with other people who sell the same thing you do. Make sure it’s clear what’s different about you and what you’re selling, and be proud of that difference.

Care about your customers: This is something that’s been really developing and becoming front page news over the past year. More and more companies are tapping into specific targeting, creating customer-specific experiences, and it’s becoming harder to hold onto customers. One of the best ways you can hold onto a customer is to really show you care about them, show them you understand at least some of their situation, and make them feel special and appreciated. Give them not only a reason to work or shop with you again, but make their experience with you enjoyable and of good quality (don’t make the one opportunity you may have with them a bad one).

These are 4 very simple concepts that take some effort to bring to fruition, but are definitely worth it in the end. What’s your plan for making this your best year yet in business?

Making an Impact in 2018

As I was visiting the History website the other day, I noticed an article about the holiday of Kwanzaa, which is celebrated each year at the end of December. While it has ended for this year I thought that the lessons and reasons behind Kwanzaa were something we could start the year off talking about. Let’s take a look:

The Facts:
-It was begun in 1966 to bring African-Americans together as a community.
-“Kwanzaa” is taken from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which can be translated as ‘first fruits.’
-During Kwanzaa families gather together for 7 nights of celebrations including singing and dancing.

The 7 Principles of Kwanzaa:
Unity
Self-determination
Collective work and responsibility
Cooperative economics
Purpose
Creativity
Faith

Can you tell why I wanted to talk about Kwanzaa as we start this new year? Because many of the things that make this holiday what it is are things that could have an incredible impact on 2018 if we’re willing to take them on and apply them to our lives and the world we share. Over the past few years we have seen community develop, but we’re still miles away from where we could be. There are also more people than ever working towards a win-win-win world and win-win-win relationships, but there are still tons of people who are self-centered and not open to supporting others or helping them get a leg up in life.

Will this be the year that we really conquer the concept of community? Will this be the year that unity becomes a reality? Will this be the year that we incorporate purpose, creativity, faith and cooperation into all aspects of our lives? What will you make with this new year?

Dream A New Dream

Yes, we’re at the end of a year and beginning of a new year.  I think it’s one of the best decisions that was made many, many years ago to have a yearly calendar because it gives people a fresh start.  It helps us to organize and straighten out our lives and choose to make positive changes in our lives.  It’s also a reminder to each of us to reflect on what the past year of our lives has brought and what we’ve learned and helps us focus on what we need to improve.  If we lived our lives as one day after another we might live more in the present moment but we would miss out on the benefits of having a yearly schedule if you will to follow.

It’s funny because we really do well when we have a semi structured life.  We can’t live lives that are scheduled every minute of every day but with some structure in our lives we’re able to work jobs, spend time with our families and learn how to make each moment count.

But with this new year, and every new year, I’m reminded anew of the blessing that it brings us to be able to make changes in our lives and to dream a new dream.  It’s never too late to start fresh or make changes in your life.  Until, of course the day comes that you’ve run out of time and you’ve used up all your moments.  With this new year I want to encourage you to use your moments to the fullest.  It’s not too late for you to make your dreams come true, or to have new dreams that actually excite you.

I know that dreams get tired, I know that people get tired. Which is why it’s important to evaluate each year where you’ve been and where you’re going.  The awesome thing is you only have to set the goals you want to set.  Set goals for each day, set goals for each month, set goals for this year.  Make it manageable so that your dreams can become a reality.  This year, I challenge you to make this your year.  In addition to whatever words or themes you’re choosing for this year, choose to make this year the year that you become and show yourself to the world.  Take the wheel and make this new year your year.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Lewis